Reishi mushroom is all over the health world. Most likely, you’ve seen it stamped across a tin of mysterious superfood powder in the health aisle or listed as an ingredient in your new tincture or elixir. So, what’s up with reishi mushroom, and why is it so friggin’ popular?
Well, the reishi mushroom is … well … a mushroom, but it happens to be one that’s got quite a long lineage. Reishi mushroom has been noted in ancient and alternative medicines thousands of years old. This fungi has some powerful health benefits and also happens to be high in those body-loving antioxidants.
Let’s take a deep dive into this wonderful ingredient!
What is Reishi Mushroom?
Alright, reishi mushroom is a mushroom, but where does it come from, and how are you supposed to consume it?
Reishi mushrooms — referred to as Ganoderma lucidum — are most commonly used in Eastern medicines and have been used in “traditional medicine practices for more than 2,000 years.” As popular as these mushrooms have become in the western world, they’re quite rare, growing “at the base of deciduous trees,” preferring various “hot and humid locations in Asia.”
As is similar to most plant-based foods, reishi mushrooms “contain dietary fiber and various minerals, vitamins, and amino acids,” yet what makes these little fungi so special is their high content of “polysaccharides, peptides, and triterpenoids,” which may be linked to their positive health effects. The most common way of consuming reishi mushroom is in powder form — a dried mushroom that is ground into a powder — as well as in supplements, but you can also find reishi mushroom in teas, herbal tonics, elixirs, and tinctures. Of course, if you can get your hands on safely foraged, cleansed, and packaged reishi mushrooms, then you can consume the mushroom itself.
Health Benefits of Reishi Mushroom
There’s a reason our forebearers relied on reishi mushrooms for many of their alternative medicines. There’s also a good reason why it’s had a resurgence in the western world. This mushroom is used in superfood mixes and health-boosting tinctures and elixirs due to its powerful health benefits. From giving your immune system and energy supply a boost to increasing heart health and leveling blood sugar levels, the reishi mushroom pretty much does it all.
While human studies are limited, there are a few to note that illuminate the positive health powers of this mushroom!
1. Immune System
When it comes to boosting your immune system, there are a few studies that have shown how reishi mushroom affects “white blood cells, which are critical parts of your immune system.”
A study performed in the School of Basic Medical Sciences at Peking University Health Science Center entitled Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation by Ganoderma lucidum — the scientific name for reishi mushroom — found that the “immuno-modulating effects of G. lucidum polysaccharides were extensive, including promoting the function of antigen-presenting cells, mononuclear phagocyte system, humoral immunity, and cellular immunity.”
On top of that, another study performed at Clemson University here in the U.S. entitled The effects of two different Ganoderma species (Lingzhi) on gene expression in human monocytic THP-1 cells found that “some forms of reishi may alter inflammation pathways in white blood cells.”
With that said, it’s important to note that both of these studies were performed on those that were already ill. While more research is necessary to substantiate the claim that the reishi mushroom boosts the immune system of healthy people, it’s obvious that the natural agents in the mushroom have a positive effect on those immune system-crucial white blood cells.
2. Anti-Cancer Properties
The “anti-cancer properties” of reishi mushrooms were slightly touched upon in the studies performed on the immune system, yet there’s more to the story. There are several non-human, test-tube studies that “have shown that [reishi mushroom consumption] can lead to the death of cancer cells.”
The most aggressive evidence for reishi’s cancer-fighting properties was done in a study at the Hiroshima University Hospital in the Department of Endoscopy entitled A water-soluble extract from the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia suppresses the development of colorectal adenomas. The study looked at reishi’s “role in preventing or fighting colorectal cancer” and found that “one year of treatment with reishi decreased the number and size of tumors in the large intestine.”
Studies have also found that reishi mushrooms may have overall positive benefits for cancer patients, including “increasing the activity of the body’s white blood cells, which help fight cancer, and improving quality of life in cancer patients.”
3. Fighting Fatigue
While the reishi mushroom isn’t necessarily proven to boost energy, it has been well documented to have fatigue-fighting effects. Two studies, in particular, show the fatigue-fighting effects of this mushroom.
The first study performed at the New Zealand Institute of Natural Medicine Research, entitled A randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study of a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia, “examined [reishi mushroom’s] effects in 132 people with neurasthenia, a poorly defined condition associated with aches, pains, dizziness, headaches and irritability” and found that “fatigue was reduced and well-being was improved after [eight] weeks of taking the supplements.”
The second study performed at the Third Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, entitled Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial “found that fatigue was reduced and quality of life was improved after [four] weeks of taking reishi powder in a group of 48 breast cancer survivors.”
4. Heart Health
Cardiovascular health is one of those burgeoning issues that we’re finding is linked to a variety of other health concerns. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re keeping your heart as healthy as possible!
A small 26-person, 12-week study performed by the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong entitled Study of potential cardioprotective effects of Ganoderma lucidum found that “reishi mushroom may increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and decrease triglycerides” — a “type of fat (lipid) found in your blood” that are used as energy — both of which are indicators of overall heart disease risk.
5. Controlling Blood Sugar
Blood sugar is linked to various health issues and is also a large indicator of diabetes risk. Much like heart health, it’s incredibly important to keep blood sugar levels balanced, level, and healthy.
A few studies have shown that reishi mushrooms may contain molecules that decrease blood sugar. The human-based studies are preliminary, yet one study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms did find some effects of blood sugar regulation in humans.
While a few studies are promising, far more research is necessary to unravel the mysterious connection between reishi mushrooms and blood sugar control.
Safely Consuming Reishi Mushroom
While the reishi mushroom is known for its health benefits, it’s also a mushroom meaning it’s got a toxic component to it, and it’s known for some unwanted side effects, including a few non-urgent— such as an upset stomach, skin rashes, and nausea — and some very urgent — such as liver damage and liver toxicity, chronic diarrhea, blood stool, and nose bleeds.
The issue arises that most of the human-based evidence for reishi mushrooms centers around traditional medicine records that are thousands of years old. This makes dosage a bit of a difficult hurdle.
For instance, the Susan G. Komen Foundation notes that “reishi mushroom extract is possibly safe for up to [one] year when a person takes it orally.” On the other hand, “taking powdered reishi mushroom for longer than [one] month may be toxic to the liver.” When it comes to dosage, it all depends on the specific product and, of course, your individual bodily needs. Yet, with the risk of liver toxicity, it’s incredibly important to make sure you’re taking this mushroom correctly.
The best way to moderate your reishi mushroom intake is to team up with a health professional of your choosing, whether that’s an herbalist, naturopath, dietitian or nutritionist, or your medical doctor. Not only will these professionals be able to moderate how the substance is affecting your body, but they can also be a guide to help you with any challenges your face with reishi mushroom.
Reishi Products to Try
Alright, you’ve spoken with your medical professional and gotten the go-ahead to give reishi mushroom a try, so no what? When looking for a product, first decide how you want to consume the mushroom. Are you a protein shake junkie? Is a simple supplement the easiest? Do you want to give a tincture or elixir a whirl? Once you figure out the method, make sure to look for products that have been certified with care such as certified USDA organic, non-GMO project verified, and, of course, vegan!
1. Four Sigmatic Reishi Mushroom Elixir
Four Sigmatic happens to be one of the leading health food supplements when it comes to getting those mysterious and powerful mushrooms into your body safely! This Four Sigmatic Reishi Mushroom Elixir provides a 1,500-milligram dose of organic reishi mushroom to support sleep and promote stress relief. This unique blend incorporates the adaptogen tulsi for stress relief and rose hips and mint for a bit of delightful flavor. This product is vegan, keto, and Whole30-friendly, certified USDA organic, sources its ingredients from natural farms or wild harvesting, and is free of carriers, fillers, and artificial flavors. One 20-count box costs $28.16.
2. Micro Ingredients Sustainably U.S. Grown Organic Reishi Mushroom Powder
If you love those east-to-make and on-the-go shakes packed with nutrients and energy, then powder reishi is the way to go! This Micro Ingredients Sustainably U.S. Grown Organic Reishi Mushroom Powder offers a 100:1 extract to support a strong cardiovascular system, boost energy endurance, and aid in stress relief. This product is sustainably grown here in the U.S., is certified USDA organic, non-GMO, and contains no additives, preservatives, fillers, or artificial colors. Along with being vegan, this product is also gluten-free! An 8-ounce package costs $23.95.
3. New Chapter Reishi Mushroom Supplements
Supplements are probably the easiest way to go when you’re trying to get all the nutrients necessary for a healthy body! You can pop them in your purse, hide them in a medicine cabinet, and travel easily. This New Chapter Reishi Mushroom Supplement is not only organic but also 100 percent certified vegan, non-GMO project verified, certified kosher, and gluten-free. This reishi blend aims to support healthy aging by maintaining vitality, longevity, and wellness. A 60-count bottle costs $17.09.
4. Herb Pharm Reishi Mushroom Liquid Extract Immune System Builder
Tinctures are a great way to receive a potent dose of those hard-to-get ingredients that you can’t quite cook with. With that said, it’s always a good idea to be on the lookout for unsafe tinctures, as they’re not highly regulated by the government. This Herb Pharm Reishi Mushroom Liquid Extract Immune System Builder is created by highly-trusted, Oregon-based Herb Pharm, known for its high-quality products. This product is vegan-friendly, certified USDA organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO. The liquid tincture allows for rapid absorption into the body and focuses specifically on building the strength of your immune system. A 1-ounce bottle costs $14.05.
5. Traditional Medicinals Organic Reishi Mushroom with Rooibos & Orange Peel Herbal Tea
One of the most popular ways to consume reishi mushrooms is via a beverage. Tea is a comforting ritual that you can integrate into your daily routine as a moment of reflection, peace, or simple relaxation. This Traditional Medicinals Organic Reishi Mushroom with Rooibos & Orange Peel Herbal Tea supports the immune system through a blend of sun-kissed citrus earthy notes. This product is non-GMO verified, certified organic, kosher, and caffeine-free. Go bulk with this one! A 6-box pack (16 tea bags apiece) costs only $25.81.
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