Reishi, also known as Ganoderma lucidum or Lingzhi, is rapidly gaining recognition for its numerous benefits on the body. While in the past many of these benefits have been owed to anecdotal accounts, there is now ample high-quality scientific research to support these claims.
What is Reishi?
Before we dive into the wondrous world of Reishi mushroom benefits, we would first like to make the introduction to the Mushroom of Immortality.
Reishi mushroom has been heavily documented in Ancient Chinese scripts, dating back to over 2000 years (1). The fungus made its appearance in paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and eventually literature. In fact, the earliest medical text of the Han Dynasty in China, Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, was the first to record reishi mushroom (or Lingzhi) and its medicinal properties.
Because of its rarity in nature, reishi was mainly reserved for the elite, who sought after the mushroom for its perceived benefits ranging from improving strength and memory to enhancing vitality (2). Consequently, reishi became a staple in traditional Chinese medicine and continues to be the go-to remedy today. The word Lingzhi actually means “herb of spiritual potency”, highlighting its reverence amongst the Chinese population.
It is not surprising, then, that the anecdotal benefits of reishi sparked the interest of the scientific community. Is it all just folklore, or is reishi indeed a mushroom of great healing power?
Reishi Mushroom Benefits
You’ll be pleased to hear that many of the claims surrounding reishi are, in fact, warranted. As the research now shows, the Ganoderma lucidum strain has various health benefits owed to its biologically active compounds.
Reishi Mushroom Benefits for Immunity
Reishi is mostly associated with its immune-boosting benefits, hence the name “Mushroom of Immortality”.
According to research, the polysaccharides in reishi have immunomodulatory effects, mainly related to evoking immune responses against viruses, bacteria, fungal pathogens, and tumor cells (3). Mainly, these responses seem to be triggered by the activation of immune cells known as lymphocytes (4). These cells fight tumors and infections in the body, making them crucial for a healthy immune system. The mushroom has also been shown to stimulate the production of proteins known as cytokines, which are responsible for activating macrophages- the white blood cells that protect the body by engulfing foreign materials (5).
The antiviral and antibacterial properties of reishi are some of the reasons why many users reach for the mushroom in supplement form during flu season (6). And, considering the research, we definitely understand why!
And if that isn’t impressive enough, studies have also highlighted that the polysaccharides in reishi promote powerful antioxidant activity, which in turn promotes health and longevity (7).
We’re not even done yet. Ganoderma lucidum also contains a range of minerals, with potassium, magnesium, and calcium as the major components (8). As you may already know, these minerals come with their own set of immune-boosting benefits, too.
As the research into the benefits of reishi continues, more mechanisms of action are slowly being uncovered to further prove the immune-supporting benefits. We’ve had to refrain from listing them all, otherwise this article may last forever…
With that being said, it’s clear why reishi has garnered the reputation as an immunity booster. Try pairing it with immune-supporting vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin c and zinc, and you’ll have a powerful tonic in your hands.
Reishi Mushroom Anti-Cancer Properties
Another potential benefit of reishi mushroom has been peaking the interest of the scientific community, and for good reason: the bioactive compounds of reishi have been demonstrating significant anti-cancer properties (9).
More specifically, research has shown that reishi inhibits protein synthesis and tumor growth by affecting cell signaling pathways (10).
Human studies have also been carried out in both China and Japan, and the results were astonishing. The most notable study involves 123 (of which 96 were eligible) patients with colorectal cancer who were administered 1.5 g of a reishi extract every day for 12 months (11). Following this, the cancer patients were compared to a control group who did not receive any of the extract. The number and size of the tumours decreased in the group that was administered the reishi, whereas the control group experienced an increase in the number and size of their colorectal tumours.
Following these studies, it is no surprise that Ganoderma lucidum extract is officially approved as an adjunct therapy to standard cancer treatment in both China and Japan (12).
While research into reishi’s anti-cancer and immune boosting benefits looks promising, experts still suggest using the mushroom as an adjunct treatment to support the body holistically.
Reishi Mushroom Benefits for Fatigue
While most of the focus is on reishi’s incredible benefits on the immune system, the mushroom may provide other forms of support to the human body.
One study highlighted reishi’s positive effects on fatigue. According to the clinical trial, 48 breast cancer survivors (who are commonly known to struggle with fatigue) were divided into a control and trial group. The trial group were administered an extract of Ganoderma lucidum and their fatigue levels were studied after four weeks. The trial group demonstrated significant improvements in physical well-being and reduced levels of fatigue (13).
Other studies carried out have studied the effects of reishi and cordyceps on athletes, revealing improved endurance, enhanced performance, and a reduction in oxidative stress (14).
While most other studies were carried out on mice, the results suggested positive effects on fatigue and overall quality of life. This may highlight a potential anti-fatigue benefit of the mushroom on healthy adults.
Reishi Mushroom Benefits for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
The usual go-to adaptogen for dealing with matters of stress is ashwagandha. However, due to the latest research, reishi is slowly gaining acknowledgment for its potential to produce the same effects!
In a double-blind, controlled study on women with fibromyalgia, the group that were administered an extract of reishi expressed improved levels of happiness and reduced depression as opposed to the placebo group (15).
While human trials on reishi and its effect on mental health are limited, this does highlight an opportunity for further research. Besides this, there’s ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that we might be onto something here!
Reishi Mushroom Benefits for Hair and Skin
While reishi is known for its healthful benefits, many users are now shedding light on its effects on hair and skin.
The mushroom has been shown to inhibit hair loss by reducing the amount of DHT-a hormone associated with hair loss- in the blood (16). Many users swear by reishi’s positive effect on hair growth, but research is still limited.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of reishi have also been shown to have positive effects on the skin (17). The beauty community is definitely picking up on this as they incorporate more of the mushroom into their skincare routines.
Is Reishi The Real Deal?
We’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions, but we definitely think so!
We know what you’re thinking. This mushroom can do absolutely anything, it seems. And here’s the thing: we haven’t even covered all of its potential benefits in this article. Whew!
Our main takeaway here is that Ganoderma lucidum is an absolute treasure, a natural gift directly from the earth to humankind.
Ah, how we love it when natural remedies are reinforced by the scientific community… It’s the perfect example of how these two polarised worlds can come together to find a healthy middle ground.