When a component is considered “the king of mushrooms,” you know that something special is going to happen. And while reishi mushrooms myriad benefits are not exactly going to transform you into the next Tom Brady, the fungus is known for its potential for cellular regeneration, immunity-boosting, and mood enhancement, all of which can do much to boost your quality of life.
Fan-shaped and ranging from orange to reddish-brown, reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum to us science-nerds) are a rare sight in the wild, typically reserved for royalty when first used by Asian cultures thousands of years ago. Today, they are grown commercially and sold in many formats, including teas, tinctures, capsules, and even hot cocoa, beauty products, and energy bars. And no, you won’t find them hanging around in Whole Foods produce aisle, although you can eat reishi mushrooms raw, their woody texture and bitter flavor are not that appealing.
So why are they suddenly everywhere? Reishi mushrooms are fantastic at stimulating your immune system and liver function, producing an anti-inflammatory effect on your body, and they are even been shown to decrease the growth of tumors. In fact, reishi mushrooms display a whole host of qualities that make medicinal mushrooms such buzzy choices: They are adaptogenic stress relievers and packed with antioxidants, so they have long been a staple in Eastern medicine. It is no surprise everyone in wellness seems to now hail the king.
The Main Reishi Mushroom Immune System Benefits
Historically, reishi mushrooms were used as an immune-system booster – in Asian cultures, they were even used as immunostimulants to treat patients suffering from HIV and cancer. The beta-glucans (complex sugars) in mushrooms are thought to boost the immune system, which can keep infections at bay.
Modern scientific studies have identified a diverse array of bioactive compounds responsible for the benefits of the reishi mushrooms that are so prized in Eastern medicine. Researchers have isolated hundreds of polysaccharide and triterpene compounds from reishi.
Polysaccharides have been shown to both activate and modulate the immune system – acting as support and counterbalance. Triterpenes demonstrate adaptogenic effects, supporting blood pressure control, helping regulate mood, and soothing allergies and inflammation. Reishi has also been reported to support endocrine functioning and hormonal balance.
Keeping the immune system healthy is a proactive, preventative strategy. Polysaccharide compounds found in reishi mushrooms are beneficial to your immune system in several ways. By activating immune cells like macrophages and T-helper cells, reishi influences cell-to-cell immunity. As a stimulant for increased immunoglobulin levels, reishi also influences humoral immunity. In this way, reishi contributes to the bodys protection from pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, supporting an increased immune response.
An overactive immune system may lead to allergic reactions and inflammation. Reishi helps down-regulate your immune system, avoiding these overreactions if it is appropriate. One way Reishi mushrooms shine in the world of health and wellness is by providing immune support. It is not the only mushroom to do this. Many mushrooms, including reishi, contain a particular polysaccharide called beta-glucan.
Beta glucans have been shown to support immune health and function. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reports that, “When animals are fed beta glucans, certain cells in their immune systems become more active”. With its immunomodulating effects, Reishi mushrooms may help maintain hormonal balance and aid in the regulation of the immune system. The Reishi mushroom is also considered to be a tonic to vital energy, which is called qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is the forcefield surrounding your body, which helps maintain your overall health and vitality.