Reishi mushroom (aka Ling Zhi in traditional Chinese Medicine, latin name Ganoderma lucidum) is an amazing Chinese Herb that has become widely known for its nourishing properties and extensive health benefits… Learn more below.
Used in traditional Chinese Medicine for calming & aiding sleep
Reishi mushroom is known as Ling Zhi in Chinese Medicine, which translates as ‘herb of spiritual potency’ and there are two main types – red and black. These are different varieties of Ganoderma mushroom and are said to have different properties in traditional Chinese Medicine.
Red reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is thought to be more calming and for the traditional Chinese concept of ‘heart symptoms’ – so in that philosophy it will help anxiety, calm the mind, aid sleep and insomnia, memory and concentration, and soothe palpitations. This is the more commonly available form of reishi and the one that is discussed here.
Black reishi (Ganoderma sinense) is thought to be better for the traditional Chinese concept of ‘kidney’ (different than the medical kidney) and so is deeply nourishing, helping restore us after illness and supporting urinary symptoms, supporting healthy ageing and reducing back pain, and bone and joint problems.
It is traditionally used for low energy and to help digestion
It is classed in traditional Chinese Medicine as a herb that tonifies Qi and nourishes the blood. This means it helps our energy levels, can aid exhaustion, lack of appetite, palpitations. insomnia, shortness of breath, cough and wheezing.
Studies support its benefit for fatigue (low energy) with a significant improvement over 2 months treatment (1). A recent study also demonstrated its benefit over 6 weeks in improving physical fitness and flexibility in a group of women with fibromyalgia (2) (a condition characterised by muscle pain and fatigue).
Animal studies show reishi mushroom can improve natural gut flora and help reduce obesity (3). It is also shown to improve the barrier of the gut wall and secretory IgA, both very important in restoring bowel health and a factor in ‘leaky gut’ (4).
It is said to help general health and longevity
Reishi mushroom is commonly referenced in ancient Chinese medical texts and is referred to as the ‘Mushroom of Immortality’ and ‘Elixir of Life’. It was prized and revered for its benefits to health and has been used as a medicine for thousands of years in China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.
Studies of healthy patients show reishi is a powerful anti-oxidant that protects the liver and reduces the impact of ageing (5).
Research shows it is very safe
Reishi mushroom has been granted GRAS status which means it is Generally Regarded As Safe by the FDA and has a very low risk of side effects. Trials show no adverse effects from high doses of reishi mushroom (6).
Although studies are limited it may help the immune system and cancer
Traditionally herbs that nourish the lung Qi – like reishi – are seen to improve our defence against pathogens. In modern language we would consider them immune boosting herbs.
In studies a benefit in immune system function can be measured by blood test when taking reishi for only a month (7).
Small studies show it may be beneficial for helping pain and symptoms in autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis (8), effective in helping the immune system fight lung cancer (9) and effectively suppressed the development of cancerous lesions in the bowel (10). Small studies show it can help suppress breast cancer growth and metastases (11) and may help prostate cancer (12).
Chemicals in reishi significantly improved the cancer-fighting ability of the immune system even in advanced cancer patients (13).
Healing from herpes infections & HPV virus…
Genital herpes infections are shortened and symptoms are relieved when taking reishi mushroom (14).
It has also been shown to be very effective (88% successful over 2 months) at clearing strains of HPV (a virus implicated in cervical cancer) when combined with another mushroom (Tramates versicolor) (15).
Studies show reishi mushroom can potentially reverse fatty liver disease and improve liver enzyme blood tests showing its benefit to the liver (16).
Kidney and prostate problems…
It may also help kidney disease (glomerulonephritis) and improves all markers and protein levels in the urine(17). It likely also helps urinary symptoms in men with enlarged prostate called BPH, Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (18,19).
It tastes great in coffee!
Dr Jess says: I have seen reishi have fantastic results in a patient with nephrotic syndrome and use this herb regularly – often in combination with cordyceps to strengthen weakened patients or boost general health and immunity. It is also a big part of one of the combinations I use to help sleep quality.
It is a lovely safe, gentle but powerful herb, we add it to our coffee machine grinder in small amounts to boost our health with our morning coffee – although it is bitter so don’t add too much!
Dosage: Studies have used from 3-12g daily of dried ground mushroom powder which can be added to hot drinks or taken with hot water. You can buy a good quality powder or alternatively grind the dried mushrooms in a coffee grinder yourself.
Alternatively there are many reishi supplements available. Dr Jess likes the quality of the powder and capsules from Myconutri who do an Organic Reishi.
Side Effects: Reishi can upset your stomach or cause diarrhoea in large doses but is generally very safe. Despite warnings reishi does not seem to impact or increase risk of bleeding(20).
Don’t Take If: You are allergic to reishi.
HOW TO TAKE REISHI MUSHROOM
Buy organic reishi powder and add it to your coffee – add 1/2 a tsp to your cafetière with the coffee grounds and make your coffee as normal.
Make a chocolate reishi latte – Heat 1 cup of organic full fat milk (or almond/ coconut milk) whisking in a pan as you add 2 tsp of cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp of reishi, a pinch of cinnamon, a bit of cream (optional) and honey or stevia to taste (alternatively blend all ingredients together and heat up).
Take it in capsules as a supplement – check with your healthcare provider that it is OK for you with any current medications.
Add a teaspoon of powder to your soup – Add to nourishing bone broths or chicken soup. Be careful not too add too much as you do not want to overpower with its bitter flavour. However the black reishi mushroom is much more pleasant tasting and has been used to make a stock for soups for thousands of years, and has many of the positive medicinal properties of the red mushroom.