Herbal Spotlight: Reishi Mushroom

Reishi mushroom has been used for thousands of years in Asia to heal and support immune defense.  This mushroom has gain recent popularity in America with the rise of adaptogen lattes, coffees, powders, and capsules. Here is what you need to know about this potent fungus.

What is it?

The Reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is a fungus with a slightly bitter taste that grows in various hot and humid locations. Usually found naturally in Asia and can be considered hard and rare.

Reishi is cultured on logs that are buried in shady, moist areas and can also be inoculated onto hardwood stumps. However, in commercial cultivation conditions, it is usually grown on artificial sawdust logs1.

Within this powerful mushroom, the active constituents include polysaccharides, dietary fibers, oligosaccharides, triterpenoids, peptides and proteins, alcohols and phenols, mineral elements (such as zinc, copper, iodine, selenium, and iron), vitamins, and amino acids2. While more research is needed on the specific pathways, promising research shows that this unique blend has healthful properties.

History of Reishi

Utilized for more than 4,000 years as a Traditional Chinese medicine, Reishi has been commonly used for treating fatigue, asthma, cough, and liver ailments, and to promote longevity3. The Chinese name for Reishi is lingzhi, and means "herb of spiritual potency”3. A Japanese name for the Reishi is mannentake, meaning "10,000-year-old mushroom”. Furthermore, Reishi's use is documented in the oldest Chinese medical text, which is more than 2,000 years old. Cultivation of this mushroom began in the 1980s. A survey conducted in Hong Kong found G. lucidum to be the third most common herbal preparation taken by preoperative surgical patients, signifying it's significant use4.

Uses & Studies

The bioactive components found in the G. lucidum (Reishi) mushroom have numerous health properties to treat conditions such as hepatopathy, chronic hepatitis, nephritis, hypertension, hyperlipemia, arthritis, neurasthenia, insomnia, bronchitis, asthma, gastric ulcers, atherosclerosis, leukopenia, diabetes, anorexia, and cancer2. Although there is literature to support use available, G. lucidum is used largely as an immune enhancer and a health supplement. More clinical studies should be performed to test each condition listed above.

Immune Health

     One of the most well-known and studied benefits of Reishi is its role on the immune system. Previous studies have found that Reishi can positively support the immune system. The immuno-modulating effects of G. lucidum polysaccharides were extensive, including promoting the function of antigen-presenting cells, mononuclear phagocyte system, humoral immunity, and cellular immunity5. Furthermore, certain forms of Reishi may affect inflammation. The pathways facilitated by purple lingzhi concentrate on inflammation and immune response, whereas red lingzhi modestly increases levels of expression for genes involved in macromolecule metabolism6. Studies on immune health have found that Reishi can increase natural killer cells, a form of white blood cells, on cancer patients. Furthermore, an additional study found that reishi can increase the number of other white blood cells, lymphocytes, in those with colorectal cancer7. Lastly, the effects of G. lucidum was tested on a variety of athletes during stressful training conditions. Studies found that this fungus significantly improved lymphocyte function8,9.

Cancer

     Currently available data from numerous in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that the cancer-preventive and tumoricidal properties of Ganoderma Lucidum might be ascribed to its antioxidative and radical-scavenging effects, enhancement of host immune function, induction of cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis, and other biological effects10

     Ganoderma lucidum demonstrates anticancer activity in experiments with cancer cells and has possible therapeutic potential as a dietary supplement for an alternative therapy for breast and prostate cancer11

     However, a 2016 meta-analysis of studies performed on cancer and Reishi found that there was not find sufficient evidence to justify the use of G. lucidum as a first-line treatment for cancer and that it remains uncertain whether G. lucidum helps prolong long-term cancer survival12. Nevertheless, G. lucidum could be administered as an alternative adjunct to conventional treatment in consideration of its potential of enhancing tumor response and stimulating host immunity12. Future studies should put emphasis on the improvement in methodological quality and further clinical research on the effect of G. lucidum on cancer long-term survival are needed12

Contraindications

Talk to your doctor before taking Reishi if you have any of these conditions13:

  • Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if reishi mushroom is safe to use when pregnant or breast feeding.
  • Bleeding disorders: High doses of reishi mushroom might increase the risk of bleeding in some people with certain bleeding disorders.
  • Low blood pressure: Reishi mushroom might lower blood pressure. There is a concern that it might make low blood pressure worse. If you have low blood pressure, it may be best to avoid reishi mushroom.
  • Surgery: High doses of reishi mushroom might increase the risk of bleeding in some people if used before or during surgery.

Form

     Commercially available products of Reishi mushroom and those that incorporate Reishi as an active ingredient are available as food supplements. These extracts are available in various formulations ranging from capsules, creams, syrups, and powders. Forms of Reishi mushroom products include1:

  • Powder of intact Reishi mushroom
    • The simplest type, consists of intact fruiting bodies
    • Pros: all inclusive
    • Cons: low concentration of active components
  • Powder of spore
    • Intact fungal spores
    • Pros: high concentration of active components
    • Cons: limited production
  • Powder of broken spore
    • Spores broken mechanically or walls removed
    • Pros: better bioavailability
    • Cons: limited production and more expensive
  • Extracts of Reishi mushroom
    • Extractions
    • Pros: highest concentration of active components
    • Cons: limited production and more expensive

ImmuneSupport

     Developed by Naturekue in collaboration with leading healthcare researchers, ImmuneSupport contains 600 mg of G. lucidum to enhance immune function. Naturekue utilizes quality, tested, Reishi extractions to give you the purest concentration of active components.

Main Takeaways

     Reishi mushroom has studied benefits on supporting one’s immune health. Extracts of Reishi have been shown to have positive immunomodulatory14–16 and anti-inflammatory effects17.

     If you are concerned about your immune health or risk of infection, consider supplementing with this powerful mushroom. Speak with your healthcare provider if you are initiating supplement use.

 

Citations

  1. AUTOIMMUNITY, CHRONIC DISEASE, AND The Role of the Reishi Mushroom - ProQuest. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://www.proquest.com/openview/5cc322cd485d6f3da26b26ce2f522a51/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2030010
  2. Batra P, Sharma AK, Khajuria R. Probing Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (higher Basidiomycetes): a bitter mushroom with amazing health benefits. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(2):127-143. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i2.20
  3. Reishi Mushroom Uses, Benefits & Dosage - Drugs.com Herbal Database. Drugs.com. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://www.drugs.com/npp/reishi-mushroom.html
  4. Li EK, Tam L-S, Wong CK, et al. Safety and efficacy of Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi) and San Miao San supplementation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2007;57(7):1143-1150. doi:10.1002/art.22994
  5. Lin Z-B. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation by Ganoderma lucidum. J Pharmacol Sci. 2005;99(2):144-153. doi:10.1254/jphs.crj05008x
  6. Cheng C-H, Leung AY, Chen C-F. The effects of two different ganoderma species (Lingzhi) on gene expression in human monocytic THP-1 cells. Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(5):648-658. doi:10.1080/01635581003605516
  7. Chen X, Hu Z-P, Yang X-X, et al. Monitoring of immune responses to a herbal immuno-modulator in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Int Immunopharmacol. 2006;6(3):499-508. doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2005.08.026
  8. Zhang Y, Lin Z, Hu Y, Wang F. Effect of Ganoderma lucidum capsules on T lymphocyte subsets in football players on “living high-training low.” Br J Sports Med. 2008;42(10):819-822. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2007.038620
  9. Zhang Y, Hu Y, Wang F. Effects of a 28-day “living high--training low” on T-lymphocyte subsets in soccer players. Int J Sports Med. 2007;28(4):354-358. doi:10.1055/s-2006-924351
  10. Gao Y, Zhou S. Cancer Prevention and Treatment by Ganoderma, a Mushroom with Medicinal Properties. Food Rev Int. 2003;19(3):275-325. doi:10.1081/FRI-120023480
  11. Sliva D. Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in cancer treatment. Integr Cancer Ther. 2003;2(4):358-364. doi:10.1177/1534735403259066
  12. Jin X, Ruiz Beguerie J, Sze DM-Y, Chan GCF. Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;4:CD007731. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007731.pub3
  13. Reishi Mushroom: MedlinePlus Supplements. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/905.html
  14. Hsu M-J, Lee S-S, Lin W-W. Polysaccharide purified from Ganoderma lucidum inhibits spontaneous and Fas-mediated apoptosis in human neutrophils through activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3 kinase/Akt signaling pathway. J Leukoc Biol. 2002;72(1):207-216.
  15. Wang SY, Hsu ML, Hsu HC, et al. The anti-tumor effect of Ganoderma lucidum is mediated by cytokines released from activated macrophages and T lymphocytes. Int J Cancer. 1997;70(6):699-705. doi:10.1002/(sici)1097-0215(19970317)70:6<699::aid-ijc12>3.0.co;2-5
  16. Chen H-S, Tsai Y-F, Lin S, et al. Studies on the immuno-modulating and anti-tumor activities of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) polysaccharides. Bioorg Med Chem. 2004;12(21):5595-5601. doi:10.1016/j.bmc.2004.08.003
  17. Joseph S, Sabulal B, George V, Antony KR, Janardhanan KK. Antitumor and anti-inflammatory activities of polysaccharides isolated from Ganoderma lucidum. Acta Pharm Zagreb Croat. 2011;61(3):335-342. doi:10.2478/v10007-011-0030-6

 

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