What is Reishi Mushroom?
The scientific name for Reishi mushroom is Ganoderma lingzhi, and it is also known as Lingzhi. Reishi, from the Japanese pronunciation, is a polypore fungus native to East Asia belonging to the genus Ganoderma. When we say ‘polypore’, whether in botany or mycology, that means that the fungus forms large fruiting bodies with pores or tubes on the underside. As an analogy, a strawberry is a botanical polypore. Reishi fruiting bodies appear as reddish-brown, kidney-shaped caps with bands. The stem, extending from a point along the edge, gives it a distinct fan-like appearance. When fresh, Reishi is soft and somewhat cork-like.
Reishi grows at the base and stumps of deciduous trees. Its favorite host is the maple tree, but it is relatively rare in the wild. It is cultivated for commercial purposes on hardwood logs, woodchips, and even in sawdust. Reishi is found in East Asia, and it has two close relatives in North America. Because of its bitter taste, it is usually dried and taken in capsule form, although historically it has been used in Asia as a tea, still quite bitter, but beneficial. As Mary Poppins might say, a spoon full of sugar helps this medicine go down.
What is Reishi good for, and how does it help my immune system?
First and foremost, Reishi has been shown to boost the immune system. Studies show that the polysaccharides in Reishi modulate immune function extensively, in several different metabolic pathways, including altering inflammation in white blood cells and increasing natural killer cells.
Reishi has also been shown to improve lymphocyte function in athletes under stress.
Historically, and currently, Reishi is consumed for its anti-cancer properties. It has been a popular herbal cancer chemotherapy agent in traditional Chinese medicine. Current studies show that the benefits of Reishi included increasing the activity of the body’s white blood cells, which help fight cancer, and improving quality of life in cancer patients. Nonetheless, researchers concluded that Reishi should be administered in combination with traditional treatment rather than replacing it.
Reishi has also been studied for the reduction of fatigue and depression. Researchers observed that participants were less fatigued and more well rested and had an enhanced feeling of well-being after taking Reishi supplements for 8 weeks.
Will Reishi mushroom promote healthy sleep?
Yes, in a roundabout but significant way:
Rather than making you drowsy, Reishi influences sleep by measurably reducing stress and increasing calmness. A study found that three days of Reishi mushroom use “significantly increased total sleep time and non-rapid eye movement sleep” in animal test subjects. Researchers observed an increase in levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), a key substance in sleep regulation.
Another animal sleep study detailed findings that Reishi extract decreased sleep latency, and increased sleeping time, noting that the test subjects fell asleep faster and slept longer after three days of use. The test subjects also displayed a decreased amount of spontaneous activity, like fidgeting or anxious behaviors.
Who should not take Reishi?
Reishi is a fungus, and that means that people with mushroom or mold allergies should not use it as a dietary supplement. Because there is no research on the safety of Reishi for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the safest option for those women is to avoid use.
Tree of Life Botanicals Products with Reishi:
1 Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation by Ganoderma lucidum; J Pharmacol Sci. 2005 Oct;99(2):144-53, Zhi-Bin Lin
2 The effects of two different ganoderma species (Lingzhi) on gene expression in human monocytic THP-1 cells; Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(5):648-58, Chun-Huai Cheng, Albert Y Leung, Chin-Fu Chen
3 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, Yihuai Gao, Shufeng Zhou, Wenqi Jiang, Min Huang, Xihu Dai
4 Effect of Ganoderma lucidum capsules on T lymphocyte subsets in football players on “living high-training low”; Br J Sports Med. 2008 Oct;42(10):819-22, Y Zhang, Z Lin, Y Hu, F Wang
5 Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in cancer treatment; Integr Cancer Ther. 2003 Dec;2(4):358-64, Daniel Sliva
6 Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment; Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Apr 5;4(4), Xingzhong Jin, Julieta Ruiz Beguerie, Daniel Man-Yeun Sze, Godfrey C F Chan
7 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, Wenbo Tang, Yihuai Gao, Guoliang Chen, He Gao, Xihu Dai, Jinxian Ye, Eli Chan, Min Huang, Shufeng Zhou
8 Extract of Ganoderma lucidum prolongs sleep time in rats; J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Feb 15;139(3):796-800, Xiang-Yu Cui, Su-Ying Cui, Juan Zhang, Zi-Jun Wang, Bin Yu, Zhao-Fu Sheng, Xue-Qiong Zhang, Yong-He Zhang
9 Extract of Ganoderma lucidum potentiates pentobarbital-induced sleep via a GABAergic mechanism; Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2007 Apr;86(4):693-8, Qing-Ping Chu, Li-En Wang, Xiang-Yu Cui, Hong-Zheng Fu, Zhi-Bin Lin, Shu-Qian Lin, Yong-He Zhang