Updated: Jun 26
Reishi, Reishi, Reishi – this mushroom is very dear to us. Not only is this the first mushroom we harvested together in the wild but there is also something very magical about how it has worked its way into our lives and consciousness throughout our journeys and growth as a company ( needless to say we have a whole bunch of plans when it comes to the Ganoderma family of mushrooms and how to explore them even more in the future ).
It seemed only fitting that as I begin this in-depth series of exploring medicinal mushrooms that we start with Reishi. In this series overall I will be exploring much of what the book says (download here), but also adding in some more details – such as some nice, simple ways to incorporate them into your health and diet other than using tinctures. I will be looking at each mushroom that we stock but pop us a comment below or via email if you have any specific mushrooms you want me to write about as well as any questions I can address.
The history of Reishi
Let’s start at the beginning - well as far back as we can see from records anyways:
Reishi has had a very intimate relationship with human beings and our various healthcare practices. It’s traditional Chinese name Lingzhi (靈芝) had its first known record written in a ‘fu’ or prose-poem by Zhang Heng a polymath of the Han Dynasty dated to CE 78-139. It contains a description of the mushroom being able to treat ailments and further become a symbol for immortality – Lingzhi can be translated into mushroom of immortality. It was used primarily as a revered medicine in the Fu Zheng medicinal practice where prevention and bringing balance to the body was the main priority.
It has been recognized as a potent medicine for 4000 years – most likely more however our resources and evidential findings of use are limited – being mentioned in ancient texts such as the “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing” also known as “The Classic of Herbal Medicine” which was written to document the medicinal plants used in China’s Eastern Han Dynasty (206BC-8CE). It is also mentioned in the “Ben Cao Gang Mu” or pharmacopeia written in the Ming Dynasty (CE 1590) which describes it’s therapeutic effects as being able to provide energy to the body, tonify, support cardiac health, increase memory, support immunity, prevent disease, reverse aging and balance blood sugar levels.
Although its use has been recorded extensively in these ancient texts it was exceptionally rare, being found on only one in 10000 plum trees (a common hard wood it loves to grow on in China), therefore coming with quite the price tag and being reserved for emperors or those in a very high social, political and economic standing - Chinese royalty, seeking it namely for longevity. It was only until the cultivation of Reishi in the 20th century that it became more accessible for the majority of the population.
Traditionally it has been used by Taoist monks in order to promote calmness, improve meditative practices, as well as to attain a long and healthy life. It has become immortalised throughout Chinese culture in paintings, statues, silk tapestries, furniture, pottery, and on the robes of emperors.
Although it can seem that Reishi is a Chinese or eastern medicine, we have been overjoyed and blessed in South Africa to have it be naturalised and inoculated in our very own forests. We have thus far found over five variants of the Ganoderma family on our doorstep. Our beautiful African Acacias are well loved for their hard wood by this fungi and can additionally be found on black wattle, knob thorns and other hard wood trees.
As we can all see from above this fungi is praised in Chinese medicine – it is considered a ‘Superior Herb’ one which is held in high regard for its ability to prolong life, prevent aging, boost Qi, make the body light and limber. It is further a three treasure tonic, which nourishes the Shen (神 the spirit, soul and metaphysical self), Jing (精 the nutritive essence, the physical being) and the Qi (氣 the lifeforce, vitality, breath also known as Prana in India).
Traditionally it is used to remove toxins, for its anti-cancer properties, aid heart health, treat the liver, as an anti-inflammatory and to treat ulcers. However thanks to modern medicine and science we can now understand why Reishi has been used for these purposes and further discover its full healing capabilities.
Currently scientists have isolated 130 different Polysaccharides, over 119 Triterpenes along with many phytonutrients ( including over 900 bioactive constituents identified thus far ) therefore creating a highly complex medicine which is able to benefit the human body in amazing ways. It has now been proven to nourish vitality, relax the nervous system, promote focus and more.
Over the past several decades, various countries such as Japan, the UK, China and more have conducted many research studies into Reishi which has shown that how it can protect the body from illness and disease. Test tube studies have shown that it has the ability to increase white blood cell count, as well as upgrading our immune response – this specifically relates to the process of phagocytosis.
In the many triterpenoids found in Reishi there are two compounds which specifically stand out – Ganoderic and Ganoderenic acids. These two compounds have shown amazing results when it comes to treating immune and auto-immune diseases, allergies, liver function as well as containing powerful antioxidant qualities which protect the body and cells from free radical damage.
This explicit action in the up-regulation of immunity is one of the cornerstones when we look at the next healing potential when it comes to this powerful fungi, that being for its anti-cancer properties
Used as both a preventative and treatment method, Reishi has shown powerful healing capabilities and results in recent scientific studies. In vivo and in vitro studies have explored compounds which are derived from this mushroom have cytotoxic effects on cancerous cells and their growth. Several studies have demonstrated that extracts decrease VEGF and MAPK signalling , induce cycle arrest , spur on apoptosis (the scheduled destruction of cancerous cells which occur as part of cell growth and development) and autophagy (the body’s cleaning out of dead cells). Many randomized controlled trials have shown that for patients who are already in treatment using chemotherapy or radiotherapy, using Reishi in conjunction with their treatment methods have improved their results as well as protected their healthy cells from damage.
Fighting Allergies & Bronchial issues
The healing capabilities in this sector of healing fall down into three main categories: the interaction Reishi has with the immune system (as discussed above), it’s ability as an adaptogen ( please check out our blog on adaptogens here ) and the healing effects which it has on the lungs. Research has shown that it increases the alveoli in the lungs ability to absorb oxygen – thereby meaning that it reduces majority of coughing reflexes as well as allowing for deeper breaths to take place (reducing attacks of asthmatic patients). Within its ability in the immune response it can act as a natural antihistamine, this allows for the body to react correctly against allergens such as mould, dust and pollens – even being able to potentially allow for the body to adapt to these stimuli preventing further allergic responses in the future.
According to a study of its ability to lower Cholesterol the findings proved that Ganoderma Lucidum has “the potential to reduce LDL cholesterol in vivo through various mechanisms”, this alongside with its interactions on the body as an adaptogen show promising results for further research and study.
Blood-sugar Control & Treatment of Diabetes
Reishi has the ability to lower blood- sugar levels according to numerous recent studies. A direct protein extract has shown the potential to lower blood-sugar levels for up to 8 hours, additionally it can reduce levels of damage caused to the cells which line the blood-vessels commonly found in patients who have Diabetes.
Anxiety, Fatigue and Depression
It makes sense when one looks to the traditional Taoist monks and their use of this fungi to create better sense of calmness in meditation that it has some interactions on mental health and wellbeing. The global state is one which promotes a lifestyle which is not always in alignment with maintaining healthy levels of stress which has caused to rapid increases in levels of depression, anxiety and fatigue syndromes. A clinical trial on patients who had neurasthenia – associated with fatigue, aches, pains, dizziness and irritability showed that after 8 weeks of treatment with Reishi their levels of well-being increased dramatically, while their levels of irritability and fatigue had diminished. An additional study on 48 breast cancer survivors showed that after 4 weeks of treatment they had significant results in decreasing signs of post-treatment anxiety, depression and improved their mental well-being.
We often hear of the healing capabilities of antioxidant rich foods, plants, roots and in this case mushrooms – but what does this mean? Antioxidants are molecules which help the body in preventing damage which takes place to the cells on a daily basis due to free radical damage. In reducing the damage which takes place to the cells it therefore prevents an array of illness and disease – from the common cold, degenerative diseases and cancer alike.
Liver & Kidney health
Reishi has many healing benefits when it comes to supporting the liver and kidneys. In the Traditional Chinese Medicinal practice this was one of its most well-known and cherished side effects on the body. This is namely due to the fact that the Kidneys and Liver are considered the life preserving organs, filtering, strengthening and revitalising the entire physical body. The high antioxidant status as mentioned above not only prevent the degeneration of the kidney and liver cells but they additionally aid in being able to reverse injury and damage. Chronic inflammation is one of the most taxing side effects of having a poor and unbalanced diet, this along with a stress-filled life are a recipe for inflammation in the kidneys – a study conducted in 2016 however showed that the use of a beta-glucan found in Reishi had an immunomodulatory effect on this inflammation caused by poor diet, therefore aiding in healing the kidney cells. There has also been significant research and results into how it can prevent chronic kidney diseases, aid in kidney health for diabetic people as well as boost overall liver health.
Ways to use Reishi
Our favourite way to use Reishi is in our extracts – not only are they easy to administer but they are additionally very strong.
Why is this?
There are two major groups of compounds within all plant medicines – one are alcohol soluble and the other water soluble. Through the duel extract method we use this allows for all of the necessary healing constituents to be bio-available and therefore provide the healing benefits.
Putting this aside there are lots of fun ways to use Reishi without having to worry about this duel extract method ,and they all start in the same way – going and finding Reishi in the forest!
Of course one could buy Reishi powders available at most health stores, however we encourage you to crawl through the forests and sniff one out for yourselves or with your local fungi enthusiast.
Once you have your mushroom, cut it up and place it in a pot, fill the pot with water and allow it to simmer for at least one hour. From there the opportunities are endless but here are some of my favourite ways to use it:
1. Making stock – in this pot you can place all your vegetable offcuts, or if you want you can use the whole vegetables too, (tomatoes, butternut, squash, marrow, onion, garlic, herbs etc.. whatever you want really) and allow them to simmer with the Reishi for a further 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and allow for it to cool down until it is around room temperature. Pour into ice trays keep in the freezer until needed for use in stews, curry’s, soups etc –use 2-3 blocks depending on preference.
2. Reishi tea – This is by far the easiest method… once your Reishi is cooked you simply strain and drink, viola! One can keep cooking the mushrooms for longer until the tea is finished. Alternatively top the pot up and keep it simmering until the mushrooms are spent.
3. Reishi Cacao – extending on the Reishi Tea one can add whichever superfood powders to create a yummy, healthy and nourishing drink. My favourite is adding Cacao, Shatavari and Maca for extra support and hormonal balance.
As said the possibilities are endless for Reishi use – comment below some of your favourite ways to use it
Sending you all blessings of radiant health
EDIT - DUE TO THE AMAZING RESPONSE WE HAVE GOTTEN ON THIS BLOG WE HAVE DECIDED TO GIVE OUR READERS AND SUPPORTERS A UNIQUE DISCOUNT CODE ON REISHI FROM TODAY 26/06/2020 to 03/07/2020 - USE "WeLoveReishi" at check out for 10% our (and hopefully your) favourite mushroom medicine
 Johnson, M., 2020. CHOQ™ TALK: Reishi Mushroom – “The Divine Fungus" | CHOQ™. [online] CHOQ™. Available at: <https://choq.com/choq-talk-reishi-mushroom-the-divine-fungus/> .
 Long chain carbohydrate molecules (starch, cellulose, glycogen) whose molecules consist of bonded sugars which are water soluble – These Polysaccharides provide energy to the body their benefits are numerous however they notably are known for their ability to “support a positive mood, stops the effects of fatigue, promotes a healthy libido, supports healthy blood pressure, encourages healthy blood sugar levels and increases calcium absorption, lower cholesterol and blood lipids, inhibit tumor growth, help prevent certain cancers and neutralize the side effects of Chemotherapy, supports healthy energy levels, reawaken the body's energy reserves, as an anti-inflammatory by supporting the body's anti-inflammatory processes, balance immune function, combat autoimmune disease and encourages healthy immune function, promote cardiovascular health and healthy liver function” (http://www.alchemynutritionusa.com/Publicity/Benefits%20of%20polysaccharides.pdf)
 Triterpenes are bitter active components found in most plants. In Ganaderma species these help the body’s digestion, combat allergies, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral processes. Further it has shown to enhance central nervous system function, balance hormones, and stimulate the immune system - Ganoderma-for-health.com. n.d. Triterpenes In Ganoderma | Ganoderma • Lingzhi • Reishi. [online] Available at: <http://www.ganoderma-for-health.com/triterpenes.html> .  the mechanism by which lymphocytes, macrophages & killer cell roam the body picking up debris & consuming toxins & harmful organisms
 beta- glucoronodase inhibitor - an enzyme linked to sclerosis & hepatitis  In vivo meaning on living organisms themselves, in vitro meaning on microorganisms usually in test tubes.
 Vascular endothelial growth factor – simply put is a signal protein produced by cells which stimulate formation of blood vessels. Solid cancer cells cannot grow without blood supply and therefore when VEGF is expressed with these cancerous cells it can cause them to more easily spread and grow.
 Also known as the Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK pathway contains a chain of proteins within the cell which communicate signals from receptors in the surface of the cells to the DNA within the nucleus. When one of these pathways mutates it can become ‘stuck’ in the signalling which can cause one of the steps in the development of cancer cells
 Also known as cell cycle checkpoint – the intermediary points within the four stage cell growth process in which a cell assesses current state of health up until that point of progression to ensure that there have not been any cell mutations. In the case of rapid transition from A to B and so on there can be issues which are not addressed.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27045603/ Dr. Melissa Carr, D., 2016. Mikei - Red Reishi For Respiratory Health. [online] Mikei.ca. Available at: <https://mikei.ca/en/articles/reishi-respiratory-health.html> .
 Oxidative stress is something our bodies face on a daily basis – oxygen when in the body splits into single atoms which have unpaired electrons. Electrons function best in pairs and therefore these atoms (referred to as free radicals) scavenge the body to in order to find other electrons to pair with – this process causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA- https://www.livescience.com/54901-free-radicals.html
 They have released all of the water soluble chemicals possible – easy way to tell this is by the richness of the colour of the water, when it doesn’t have much colour it’s near the end of use and then can be put into composting.