The reishi mushroom has been used for over two thousand years in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM). Some of the original texts in TCM refer to reishi as the number one most powerful treatment for many disorders. Its unique properties earned it the term “queen of mushrooms”. Due to its proposed benefits it was reserved for use only by emperors and royalty and was also known as the “mushroom of immortality” and the “mushroom of spiritual potency.”
Reishi mushroom was considered to play an important role in promoting longevity and vitality. The historical significance of reishi mushroom has also led to it being one of the most widely researched mushrooms to date. There is a wide spectrum of benefits from reishi that have been established (1)Pubmed Ganoderma lucidum: Persuasive biologically active constituents and their health endorsement . These benefits include immunomodulation, anticancer, antidiabetic, antioxidant, antiatherosclerotic, antifibrotic, chemopreventive, antitumor, anticancer drug toxicity prevention, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, antimicrobial, hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective, antiandrogenic, antiangiogenic, antiherpetic, antiarthritic, antiosteoporotic, antiaging, antiulcer properties and estrogenic activity. Whew! That’s a long list. But that’s what makes reishi the “queen of mushrooms.” Up next, we will explore some of the more significant health benefits that may be provided by reishi mushroom.
1. Better Sleep
Traditionally, reishi mushroom has been used by Chinese herbalists not only to treat a variety of health conditions, but also to promote sleep. Because reishi seems to have an effect on the central nervous system and its adaptogenic properties may help with stress, it does appear to have some sedative effect which may help improve sleep quality (2)Pubmed Neuropharmacological Effect and Clinical Applications of Ganoderma (Lingzhi).
Research is still inadequate to determine the specific molecules or mechanism by which reishi mushroom may promote better sleep. However, there has been extensive research showing many positive effects on biological activity related to the polysaccharides and triterpenes found in reishi. This fact, along with thousands of years of TCM and other anecdotal evidence, suggests that reishi may at least help some people fall asleep faster and get better sleep quality.
2. Boost Immunity
The role of boosting immunity is probably one of the most widely acknowledged benefits of reishi mushroom. TCM has long regarded resihi as a powerful immune booster and this property is likely why it seems to have an effect on health and longevity. The polysaccharide molecules, specifically Beta-glucans, found in reishi have been shown to be powerful immunomodulators. Research shows that reishi increases levels of immune-related cells including B and T cells, macrophages, and natural killer cells (3)Pubmed Immunomodulating Effect of Ganoderma (Lingzhi) and Possible Mechanism. This results in an overall boost in our immune system’s ability to fight diseases and infections.
Regarding immunity, we have human clinical trials such as this one in children which show a marked improvement in T lymphocytes, natural killer cells, and other immune-related cells (4)Pubmed Randomized Clinical Trial for the Evaluation of Immune Modulation by Yogurt Enriched with β-Glucans from Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Agaricomycetes), in Children from Medellin, Colombia.
With all the reported positive effects on immunity from reishi, it is no wonder that there is also much research and some support for its role in fighting cancer and tumor growth. Reishi is believed to have some anti-cancer effects (5)Pubmed Ganoderma: insights into anticancer effects . It has been shown to be of some benefit at least as an adjunct treatment(helps in addition to chemotherapy) (6)Pubmed Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, reishi mushroom has long been known as the “mushroom of immortality.” The ability of reishi to promote vigor, vitality, and increase lifespan was reported as far back as 100 B.C. in the Chinese medicine text Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic.
Modern research seems to confirm that reishi mushroom has definite anti-aging properties (7)Pubmed Central Emerging Roles of Ganoderma Lucidum in Anti-Aging. Once again, these properties seem to be a result of the polysaccharide molecules found in reishi. These polysaccharides seem to exert there anti-aging effects mainly through their antioxidant and immunomodulary properties. The phyisiological process of aging is affected by factors such as oxidative stress due to the accumulation of free radicals. Though this process can not be reversed, it is believed that it can be slowed by controlling the cellular damage due to oxidative stress.
Reishi has been reported to have many antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties (8)Pubmed Antioxidative and Free Radical Scavenging Activity of Ganoderma (Lingzhi). Though the exact reasons for the anti-aging effects of reishi are still unclear, most evidence points these powerful antioxidant properties. The anti-aging effects of reishi may include increased life span, prolonged mental alertness and cognitive function, more energy, and even better skin appearance.
4. Cardiovascular Health
Reishi contains molecules known as sterols. The sterols found in reishi have been shown to reduce cholesterol, improve circulation, and possibly promote heart health. The previously mentioned antioxidant properties along with the cholesterol lowering properties of reishi have been proposed in a recent study as possible treatment for the reduction of heart disease (9)Pubmed Evaluation of the Antioxidative and Hypo-cholesterolemic Effects of Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Agaricomycetes), in Ameliorating Cardiovascular Disease.
5. Seasonal Allergy Relief
The powerful immune system effects of reishi may also help in the treatment of seasonal allergies and asthma. The triterpenes found in reishi also seem to reduce the prolonged histamine response seen in people with seasonal allergies. Modern research suggests that reishi is able to control the allergic response by affecting cytokines known as TH2 (10)Pubmed New advances and potentials of fungal immunomodulatory proteins for therapeutic purposes. Cytokine TH2 is responsible for the pro-inflammatory state seen in seasonal allergies and asthma. It this ability to reverse the TH2 response that suggests reishi may be helpful in treating conditions such as seasonal allergies and asthma.
The many health benefits of reishi mushroom validate its title as the “queen of mushrooms.” Traditional Chinese Medicine has known for a long time that reishi mushrooms have at least some positive effects on health and well-being. Ongoing research shows that reishi has many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that make it suitable for a possible treatment option for many health conditions.