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5 Health Benefits of Reishi

The reishi mushroom, also known as the Lingzhi mushroom, is a medicinal mushroom that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. In modern times, it is valued for its properties as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are ingredients that help with stress management, with the end effect being a reduction in cortisol, which is the stress hormone.

What is Reishi? What are the active ingredients found in Reishi? What are some benefits of taking Reishi supplements? Read on to find out.

What is Reishi Mushroom?

Also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, the reishi mushroom grows in many hot and humid locations throughout Asia. For hundreds to thousands of years, the use of reishi mushroom in Eastern medicine is well documented, with some cultures still keeping the tradition alive to this day. 

Those who use reishi mushroom say it can help improve immunity, has anti-cancer properties, lowers fatigue and relieves symptoms of depression, good for the heart, and helps manage blood sugar levels.

Active Ingredients in Reishi

There are several active ingredients found in reishi responsible for its many health benefits, but studies mostly revolve around its three most dominant compounds: polysaccharides, beta d-glucans, and triterpenes.

  • Polysaccharides: Polysaccharides are derived from plants and are major components of the human diet. However, mushrooms also have it and reishi is one of the best sources of polysaccharides. Many health benefits associated with polysaccharides are due to anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties. 

  • Beta d-glucans: Beta d-glucans are soluble fibres found mostly from the cell walls of bacteria, yeasts, some plants, and mushrooms. They’re mostly known to help with cardiovascular health, specifically by helping with cholesterol management. They also have benefits for immunity.

  • Triterpenes: Triterpenes are known to help with diabetes management, as well as possessing high antioxidant activity. They are also known to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Reishi’s triterpenes are called ganoderic acids and have been cited for their antitumor and antiviral properties. They also have the ability to reduce allergies and histamine reactions, as well as induce a calming effect.

Now that we have explored the active ingredients, let's move on to the mushroom's benefits:

Reishi's Top 5 health benefits

1. Reishi can reduce stress and anxiety

Everyone’s experienced what it’s like to feel stressed out or be anxious about something. It’s never a good feeling and if it persists, it can negatively affect our mental health and wellbeing. This can also lead to physiological side effects that can impair our immunity.

The reishi mushroom is thought to help reduce stress and anxiety by helping to balance the hormones and chemicals in the body. 

A 2005 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food tested the effects of reishi supplements in patients with symptoms of irritability, dizziness, aches, and headaches. The study concluded how fatigue was significantly reduced, and the mood was better after 8 weeks of supplementation. [1]

The same result was recorded in another study that made use of breast cancer survivors. The researchers also noted how the breast cancer survivors experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression afterwards. [2]

2. Reishi boosts overall immunity

The biggest benefit reishi is known for is how it positively impacts the immune system. 

Studies show that the polysaccharides in Reishi stimulate the production of helper "T" cells, which attack infected cells. This is due to its ganoderic acid content. Ganoderic acid helps modulate the immune system, helping it to function more effectively and assisting to fight infections and disease. [3]

Research in cancer patients suggests some molecules found in the reishi mushroom boost white blood cell activity, specifically natural killer cells or NK cells. NK cells protect the body from infections and cancer cell growth. [4]

3. Reishi has anti-inflammatory properties

Chronic inflammation is thought to be the root of just about every disease known to humanity. It’s why there has been extensive research conducted on substances that can reduce inflammation, such as curcumin and other powerful antioxidants. 

Reishi also has compounds that can reduce inflammation, which can lead to better overall health. Its anti-inflammatory properties can also help people find relief from symptoms of arthritis and may contribute to lowering cancer risks. 

The fungus’ anti-inflammatory property is also one of the main reasons why taking reishi has been cited to help manage allergy symptoms. [5]

4. Reishi improves sleep and brain processes

Sleep is one of the pillars of health, along with diet, exercise, and meditation/relaxation. Many studies suggest the body is unable to efficiently function if it lacks sleep, especially our immune system. Since sleep is also the time the body recovers, impaired sleep can therefore lead to chronic pains and mental stress. 

A recently published study in BMC Microbiology suggests reishi supplements have an anti-insomnia effect. [6]

Reishi works on insomnia by directly affecting biological and neurological processes related to insomnia, which led scientists to believe the fungus “has potential as an adjuvant treatment for insomnia or for treating neurological, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and digestive system diseases…”

On top of its sleep benefits, reishi has also been cited as a powerful brain supplement, with research pointing to how it can be used to energize the brain, enhance mood, and even support concentration and focus. 

5. Reishi Supports Liver Health

Reishi has shown to assist in improving liver health, which could be linked to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

In a 2013 study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, researchers observed that the reishi mushroom can confer hepatoprotective effects on acute liver injury. They speculate the effects to be mostly due to its high antioxidant property. [7]

In conclusion, the reishi mushroom is a powerful medicinal mushroom with a wide range of health benefits. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, boost the immune system, fight inflammation, support cardiovascular health and reduce cancer risk. The research on reishi is still young, but it holds potential, especially when paired with conventional treatments.

References 


1. Tang W, Gao Y, Chen G, Gao H, Dai X, Ye J, Chan E, Huang M, Zhou S. A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia. J Med Food. 2005 Spring;8(1):53-8. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2005.8.53. PMID: 15857210.


2. Zhao H, Zhang Q, Zhao L, Huang X, Wang J, Kang X. Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:809614. doi: 10.1155/2012/809614. Epub 2011 Dec 10. PMID: 22203880; PMCID: PMC3236089.


3. Gao Y, Zhou S, Jiang W, Huang M, Dai X. Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients. Immunol Invest. 2003 Aug;32(3):201-15. doi: 10.1081/imm-120022979. PMID: 12916709.


4. Guggenheim AG, Wright KM, Zwickey HL. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):32-44.


5. Bhardwaj N, Katyal P, Sharma AK. Suppression of inflammatory and allergic responses by pharmacologically potent fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Discov. 2014;8(2):104-17. doi: 10.2174/1872213x08666140619110657. PMID: 24948193.


6. Qiu Y, Mao ZJ, Ruan YP, Zhang X. Exploration of the anti-insomnia mechanism of Ganoderma by central-peripheral multi-level interaction network analysis. BMC Microbiol. 2021;21(1):296. Published 2021 Oct 29. doi:10.1186/s12866-021-02361-5


7. Wu X, Zeng J, Hu J, Liao Q, Zhou R, Zhang P, Chen Z. Hepatoprotective effects of aqueous extract from Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (higher basidiomycetes) on α-amanitin-induced liver injury in mice. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(4):383-91. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i4.60. PMID: 23796220.

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