Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Although the health benefits of the Reishi Mushroom might just now be starting to garner some fresh attention, this wonderful fungus has long been revered as a medicinal powerhouse. Known by some cultures as the “mushroom of immortality”, Reishi has been used for thousands of years to increase vitality, bolster the immune system, support cardiovascular health and promote longevity. So, can this mushroom really stand up to these incredible claims?
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What is the Reishi Mushroom?
Let me introduce the Reishi Mushroom.
If nothing else, the Reishi Mushroom is stunningly beautiful. It doesn’t take the shape of your typical cap and stem mushroom, but rather starts as a pencil like “antler” and forms a fan like formation, or “conk”. Because of this, Reishi Mushrooms are easily identifiable, even though they can take on a variety of deep and vivid colors.
In nature, the mushroom grows on dead or dying hardwood trees in deciduous forests all over the world. It can generally be found throughout the warmer seasons, but is most commonly found fruiting in the fall. The fruiting body of the Reishi grows much slower than other mushrooms, but it also takes much longer to decay, sometimes even remaining on trees throughout the winter.
The scientific name for the Reishi is Ganoderma lucidum. It is classified as a “polypore” mushroom, meaning that, rather than gills, its underside is composed of thousands of pores in which it releases its spores. The cap, or “conk”, is exceptionally tough and woody, and the taste is extremely bitter, making the mushroom completely inappropriate for culinary use.
Even though the Reishi mushroom will likely never earn a spot at the dinner table, it’s amazing powers to heal and support the body make it a perfect candidate for regular supplementation.
Health Benefits of the Reishi Mushroom
The reported health benefits of the Reishi Mushroom are nothing short of impressive. That is why it is the most commonly used medicinal mushroom in the world. With a long history of reported use, and some rigorous science to back it up, one might believe these claims have some serious clout.
These are some pretty impressive health claims- and suggest that almost anyone could benefit from regular supplementation with Reishi. The common theme from the above health benefits is that Reishi seems to be able to improve overall health, by improving the immune system- supporting the body’s natural ability to fight disease and illness. You can easily see why this leads to the thesis that Reishi mushroom helps promote vitality and longevity, harmonizing the natural rhythms of the body and supporting overall wellness. So what is actually in the Reishi mushroom that can cause these incredible benefits?
1. Potential Anti-Viral Lab studies have shown promise for extracts from Reishi mushrooms to have an inhibitory effect on certain viruses. (1) 2. Stress And Anxiety Reishi is thought to reduce overall stress by calming and relaxing the mind, allowing for a better response to emotional triggers. 3. Blood Pressure Animal studies have shown that Reishi may have a positive effect on maintaining a healthy blood pressure. (2) 4. Heart Health Reishi is thought to support an overall healthy heart by reducing stress and improving blood circulation. (3) 5. Immune System Support The most well known health benefit of Reishi is to support the immune system, effectively supporting the foundation for overall health.
Beta-D Glucans and Triterpenes The two major components that researchers have extracted and identified as beneficial from Reishi are the water-soluble polysaccharides(beta-glucans) and the triterpenes. The beta-glucans are thought to be responsible for the anti-cancer effect of Reishi mushrooms. They do this by stimulating and strengthening the immune system, which can reduce tumor proliferation and prevent tumor metastasis. Stimulating and strengthening the immune system also has other benefits, such as reducing susceptibility to colds and flu, and preventing other diseases and ailments. Reishi also contains a group of triterpenes known as “ganoderic acids”. Other than causing the mushroom to have an extremely bitter taste, these ganoderic acids are thought to be responsible for supporting organ health, notably the liver and heart, improving blood circulation and reducing the incidence of allergies. Traditionally, Reishi is not taken to combat a specific disease or illness after it has taken hold- but is rather intended to be taken regularly, along with proper diet and exercise. This helps to support overall health and harmony in the body, which is much harder to define and pin-point with medical terminology. The idea is that it is much easier to prevent disease than to treat illness, and better maintain overall balance in the body than to heal to heal it from sickness.