Reishi mushrooms, known as “the mushrooms of immortality” in some cultures, have been used to boost vitality, strengthen the immune system, support cardiovascular health, and promote longevity for thousands of years. Does it live up to its reputation? Can taking reishi mushrooms supplements truly help to boost your internal balance and transform your immune system into a unstoppable force? We have been digging deep into the history and science behind Reishi to uncover its secrets, and we are going to take you on our journey in this guide.
What is Reishi Mushroom
Ganoderma lucidum, popularly known as reishi, is a wonderful and unique species of mushroom. Also called the Lingzhi (the sacred or spiritual mushroom) in China, and mannetake (the mushroom of immortality) in Japan, Reishi has long been revered for its medicinal properties.
History of Reishi in Medicine
Asian cultures have used reishi mushrooms for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is part of a group called the Fu-Zheng, which includes herbs and foods considered some of the strongest in improving strength, health, and longevity. The Materia Medica classics written during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) mentions this mushroom, and it is still listed as a medicine in the Peoples Republic of Chinas state pharmacopoeia as treating a number of conditions.
Before the advent of large-scale additional cultivation in the 1970s, reishi was restricted to nobility. Its relatively rare appearance in the wild made the mushroom a precious commodity, giving it a near-mystical aura and price points that only the wealthy could afford.
What Are The Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms?
Reishis reported benefits to health are nothing short of spectacular.
That is why it is the worlds most widely used medicinal mushroom. Research is underway on its alleged health effects, with scientists trying to discover the precise mechanisms of action that make Ganoderma lucidum so potent. There is plenty of information on the internet promoting the benefits of reishi mushrooms, but what does science have to say about it. A growing number of rigorous studies are available that assess Reishi’s reported health benefits. Heres what research shows about the 10 potentially potent effects that Reishi mushrooms have been shown to have on health.
1. Regulates the Immune System
Reishis immunological effects are among its most widely quoted and celebrated properties, and may be considered to be a central, or fundamental, element to other benefits the mushroom provides.
- It influences genes in white blood cells, increasing production of natural killer cells. Increasing T-cell and B-cell counts to enhance cell-mediated immunity and enhance antibody responses.
- Activating expression of interleukin genes to regulate immune responses.
- Enhancing production of tumor necrosis factor to regulate the cell cycle, including cell death.
- Reducing inflammatory responses involved in allergic reactions.
2. May Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation gets a bad reputation, but it is actually a helpful process. When there is injury or pathogens invading, your body sends an army of immune cells to deal with the problem. The resulting inflammatory cascade may produce symptoms such as pain, swelling, and redness. The process should be stopped as soon as you treat the trigger.
When this does not happen, it creates chronic inflammation. The damage that results appears to play a role in a substantial number of chronic, age-related conditions. One animal study suggests that a particular protein in reishi may help modulate the immune response, increasing production of anti-inflammatory cytokines and regulatory T cells. Some studies in cancer suggest that the terpenes can have anti-inflammatory effects as well.
One study of healthy subjects given a commercially produced reishi capsule showed no changes in inflammation-related biomarkers. Another study showed significant increases in antioxidant capacities of the bloodstream following supplementation with Reishi. It is possible that some of this controversy could stem from the way that the various methods for making Reishi affect the levels of the beneficial compounds.
3. May Improve Cardiovascular Health
Any weapons that can be added to the arsenal to combat the number-one killer of all – heart disease – are worth exploring.
Research on this aspect of the Reishi mushrooms health benefits is mixed, but shows some promising effects. Reishi can have positive effects on blood lipid levels, though results might vary in those who have other chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Antioxidant activities could decrease or prevent lipid peroxidation, the first step in plaque formation. Consuming reishi mushrooms may have beneficial effects on blood pressure. Reishi has the potential to prevent the heart damage caused by chronic diseases and unhealthy lifestyle factors.
Some data indicates that these mushrooms can also provide added benefits through reduction of LDL and total cholesterol, reduction of triglyceride production, and increased HDL. The mechanism of action is unclear here, but researchers believe that the combined effects of the beta-glucans and the triterpenes could play a role in reducing the risk of oxidative stress, thus decreasing cellular damage.
4. Improves Sleep Quality
According to the American Sleep Association, between 37% and 40% of adults between 20 and 59 years old report that they are getting insufficient sleep. Sleep deprivation can have a number of severe side effects, including reduced productivity, increased chances of being involved in car accidents, and increased risks for chronic diseases. Taking reishi mushrooms to help with sleep may help to prevent these problems.
That is why some people swear by having Reishi mushroom tea before bedtime.
5. Helps Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Some of the same properties that make Reishi great for sleep can also decrease general stress, which allows better responses to emotional triggers. Animal studies have suggested a potential antidepressant effect, which may, in turn, decrease or protect against symptoms of anxiety.
One study on breast cancer patients found that those who received spore powder from reishi mushrooms reported “less anxiety and depression, and better quality of life. This suggests the added benefits of Reishi mushrooms to people experiencing disease-related struggles with mood and mental wellbeing.
6. Neurodegenerative and Brain Inflammation Protection
Brain ageing and the development of amyloid-beta plaques seem to be closely linked. Some of the ways reishi helps the brain are:
- The accumulation of these proteins is thought to be a first step in cognitive decline, and is the primary feature of Alzheimers disease.
- Reduce or prevent the inflammation caused by amyloid beta.
- Inhibiting the toxic effects of amyloid-beta on synapses.
- Reducing brain inflammation, to prevent the cellular changes associated with brain ageing.
These effects are probably due to the general anti-inflammatory activities of Reishi.
7. Helps Balance Hormones
Because hormones are involved in everything from metabolism and appetite to the sleep cycle and temperature, keeping things in balance is crucial.
What Reishi Mushrooms Do for Hormones:
- It appears that an active compound has the ability to normalize hormonal levels.
- Regulating hormones at the estrogen receptors, this may help to protect against breast and other estrogen-related tumors.
- Improve lymphatic and endocrine health of immunocompromised patients.
- Reduce levels of 5-alpha-reductase, which keeps testosterone from turning into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the stronger form that is sometimes associated with increased prostate risk.
- Reduce prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in cases of benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate).
Support healthy function by showing estrogen-like activity in individuals with low estrogen levels, such as menopausal women.
8. May Prevent Liver Damage
Data about reishi mushrooms and liver health are mixed. While in the past, there has been some evidence of some potential toxicity from some supplements, the reishi mushrooms themselves may in fact have liver protection benefits. Studies in the field suggest a potential benefit for those suffering with liver damage or Hepatitis B, perhaps because of the positive effects on immune responses. Reishi can also inhibit cells playing a key role in liver fibrosis.
9. May Help to Stabilize Blood Sugar
When tested on a model of diabetes mellitus, the Reishi mushrooms beta-glucan seemed to show a beneficial effect. However, the results of the research on humans are mixed. So far, the science has failed to identify any definitive benefits in controlling blood sugar levels for people with diabetes or those suffering from metabolic syndrome.
10. Can Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria Balance
Research on Ganodermas benefits to gut microbiome is in its early stages, but one study on mice showed potential positive results. Giving mice a reishi preparation made from water to feed on high-fat diets reversed intestinal dysbiosis and protected them from metabolic endotoxemia. In other words, Reishi could redress intestinal balance and keep bacterial toxins out of your bloodstream. These findings indicate that Reishi could be a useful ally to combat obesity and insulin resistance, but further studies are needed to find out for sure.