Reishi mushrooms, also known as the Lingzhi mushroom, is a red kidney-shaped fungus that is widely used for its medicinal qualities.
Primary delivery is through dietary supplements as the taste tends to be a bit bitter, even for those who swear by its positive qualities.
The most common refrain from critics of the taste is that it tastes like tree bark. Not a good quality to have, even though we have admittedly never known what tree bark actually tastes like. (Sorry, readers, research has its limits.)
That said, you can eat reishi mushrooms if you are a purist. Knock yourself out. When you look at the benefits, which we will get into in a moment, it becomes clear you do not have a heck of a lot to lose.
But first, let’s talk about the building blocks.
What Do They Contain?
Mushrooms can sometimes be looked at as a dietary boogeyman. It probably doesn’t help that it is a fungus, and fungi are usually discussed with terms like “fungal infection” and “Athlete’s foot.”
There also are the occasional stories about deaths that occur due to the deceased consuming a poisoned mushroom.
The reality for reishi mushrooms, however, is that they are largely safe. And that is especially true when you’re going through grocery and health food stores to get your fix.
Nevertheless, let’s take a deeper dive now and look at what’s in the reishi mushroom. What are its components, and how can they help us get to the benefits? Read on!
This is a fiber, and as many of you know, fiber can help suck out some of that bad cholesterol that can too often cause heart disease. But Beta-Glucans don’t stop there.
According to Healthline, they also have qualities that can assist in regulating blood-sugar levels and aid in stimulating the immune system.
Your immune system is the part of your body that fights off bad bacteria, viruses, and other potentially deadly pathogens.
Some have called Ganoderans the “king of herbs.” That’s because they provide a number of supportive qualities for the body, including the ability to aid in cancer prevention, boost cardiovascular health, protect the liver from outside disease, and offer urinary tract support.
Reishi mushrooms contain Ganoderans in such abundance that they are sometimes referred to as the Ganoderma lucidum. Many believe this is why the reishi has been a staple of Chinese medicine for at least one millennium.
These chemical compounds are generally produced by animals, plants, and fungi. The reishi mushroom is one of the biggest producers. While there is much work to be done in-clinic, a 2011 study found that these showed considerable promise in the “chemoprevention and treatment of mammary tumors.”
Considering that about “40,920 women in the US are expected to die in 2018 from breast cancer” and many hundreds of thousands are expected to be diagnosed annually in the US alone, according to BreastCancer.org, any advancement or signs of promise are welcome.
Ling Zhi-8 Protein
LZ-8 proteins have an immunomodulatory effect on dendritic cells (DCs), which are antigen-passing cells within the immune system.
According to the British Society for Immunology, modulation of “immune-regulatory capacities of DCs holds great promise for the treatment of cancer, autoimmune diseases and the prevention of transplant rejection.”
A 2009 study identified the effectiveness of LZ-8 in being able to serve this function. While it’s not a cure-all, it certainly carries the possibility of improving immunotherapy treatments moving forward.
Understanding what resides inside of these mushrooms can shed light on its effectiveness in providing health benefits. In the next section, we will be discussing the benefits in greater detail. Get ready because we have a lot of ground to cover.
The Benefits Reishi Mushrooms Provide
While the science folks among you drawn to fancy names that are hard to pronounce may prefer the previous section, this is for the rest of us. This is where we get into the brass tacks. How can these things actually improve our lives?
The following list is by no means exhaustive. However, it’s a pretty comprehensive look into all the ways reishi mushrooms can enhance your health, prolong your life, and strengthen the quality of your life in the process. And we start with:
1. Reishi Mushrooms As an Antioxidant Source
One thing you’ll hear a lot about reishi mushrooms is this: “they’re a great antioxidant!” But what the heck does that even mean?
In short, the word “antioxidant” is a general description for macronutrients like selenium, vitamin A/carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, and various phytochemicals like lycopene, quercetin, and lutein.
These primarily serve the function of cell protection from free radicals, which can cause diseases like a variety of potentially lethal cancers. Reishi mushrooms should not be your only source for antioxidants.
And if you do get them via this method, consider the traditional way (eating) as opposed to supplements. But either way, they’re a pretty rich source.
2. May Deliver Heart Benefits
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is the number one killer of people in the US, and each year around 610,000 people will die from it.
That said, it’s starting to see some pretty stiff competition from cancer (which we’ll get into in a moment). But for now, it’s important to be aware of the major risk factors of developing this lethal condition.
It starts “small” by having too high of cholesterol or too high of blood pressure. You think it’s a small issue that you’ll get around to addressing. Maybe even you do address it and get a medication.
But then, you forget to take the medication. You let prescriptions run out. Throw in a genetic link, poor diet, and poor exercise habits. Pretty soon, it’s heart attacks, artery buildup, and loss of heart function.
How can a mushroom prevent this from occurring? Well, it can’t by itself. You’ll need to mind your diet and exercise and take whatever medicines are prescribed unless or until the doctor says otherwise.
But reishi mushrooms contain fiber, and fiber is beneficial in being able to remove plaque from arteries, thus lowering LDL (read “bad”) cholesterol. Lower cholesterol makes it easier to regulate things like blood pressure and an overall more active lifestyle.
3. Plays a Role in Stress Reduction
Stressors — whether internal or external — can produce a harmful effect on your long-term health and lead to more serious conditions and diseases. Having stress in life is unavoidable. But you can control how your body responds to it.
When you experience a stressor — driving in crazy metropolitan traffic at rush hour, finding out your spouse wants a divorce, biting off more than you can chew at work — your body undergoes a chemical reaction that leads to physical manifestations.
It also can influence the decisions we make (i.e., overeating, drugs, etc.). Reishi mushrooms have chemical compounds that push back against the effects of stressors.
While the feelings will vary from one person to the next, this is one of the most popular uses that reishi mushrooms possess.
4. Offers Support for the Immune System
Your immune system is your first, best, and last line of defense against outside pathogens. Be kind to it, and it will be kind to you. Mostly.
Eating reishi mushrooms or taking them through an extract or supplement can offer the needed support, and it also can be beneficial for keeping a person’s system strong and active while undergoing immunotherapy for a variety of cancers and other diseases.
5. Assists in the Prevention and Fight Against Diabetes
The Beta-Glucan content found within reishi mushrooms can be a source of support for regulating blood-sugar levels. This especially is beneficial to men and women dealing with diabetes, or who have a history of it in their families.
According to numbers from 2015, that was close to 10 percent of the country, or around 31 million.
6. May Ease Joint Pain
Each year, thousands are diagnosed with osteoarthritis or the more serious osteoarthritis. Joint pain is not the same thing, but it is certainly a symptom of each.
It’s also something that can keep us from taking adequate care of our bodies and following healthy exercise routines.
In time, such neglect can lead to the development of osteoporosis or a brittleness of the bones. And while osteoporosis itself isn’t a killer, Medscape observes that residual life expectancy for men is 18.2 years if they start treatment at 50 and about half of that if started at 75.
For women, it’s 26.4 years and 13.5 at ages 50 and 75, respectively.
7. Could Guard Against Prostate and Colorectal Cancers
Studies have proven that you have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer if you are being treated for prostate cancer. The spread of colorectal cancer is often a precursor by the presence of benign adenomas in the colorectal area.
All of this sounds like incredibly bad news, and it can be if you don’t get to it in time. Fortunately, prostate cancer is easily detectable and curable with regular checkups.
That said, you can do some things on your own to improve your odds. Taking reishi mushrooms or reishi mushroom extract is one of those things.
The immunomodulatory properties of the LZ-8 protein (see above) also helps your body adapt better to cancer treatment, particularly with immunotherapies.
8. May Counteract Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a virus that can attack the liver. You can prevent it pretty easily by getting vaccinated. It also sometimes clears up by itself. That said, it isn’t something you want to be complacent about.
Symptoms may include abdominal pains, darkened urine, and a yellowness in the eyes.
Reishi mushrooms are antivirals. Taking them may not provide a cure for hepatitis B, but it may counterbalance and give your body’s immune system the extra strength it needs to fight off the infection.
9. Used by Some Lung Cancer Patients
We’ve already discussed some of the preventative aspects of reishi mushrooms on cancer. We’ve also discussed how they can help modulate your body to better respond to treatments. Something else we’ll be getting into later is the respiratory support.
Combine all three of these elements, and you have a pretty strong component in the fight against lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates the country will experience
“About 234,030 new cases of lung cancer (121,680 in men and 112,350 in women)” and “About 154,050 deaths from lung cancer (83,550 in men and 70,500 in women)” in 2018.
10. Addresses Pains Related to Shingles
Shingles manifest in the form of an often-painful rash that persists even after the rash clears up. The most commonly affected areas are the trunk of the body, back, and shoulders.
Since it’s caused by a viral infection, reishi mushrooms may be beneficial in helping ease some or all of the pains.
11. Could Reverse or Guard Against Viral Infections
Everything from the common cold to flu to warts also is caused by viruses. So we’ll go ahead and group those into the list of maladies reishi mushrooms can guard against or counterbalance.
12. Helps with Asthma, Bronchitis, and Other Respiratory Issues
Hundreds of millions worldwide are affected by respiratory conditions. While each one differs, some of the common symptoms include chest tightening, wheezing, coughing, and allergy symptoms.
In the case of asthma, which affects about 300 million globally, outcomes can range from your inability to lead an active life to death.
Reishi mushrooms’ support for the immune system and coping with stress make it a natural consideration to any self-treatment plan. However, first seek medical attention and talk with your doctor about what you can do to improve the condition.
13. Offers Support for the Kidneys
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that this kidney-shaped mushroom also may help improve the condition of your kidneys. It is said to be effective at this thanks to it’s counterbalancing qualities of kidney disease, which may manifest (in the early stages) through high blood pressure, fatigue, troubles sleeping, and muscle twitching or cramps.
14. Chosen by Some with Liver Disease
Cirrhosis, commonly caused by damage due to excessive alcohol consumption, is one of the leading liver diseases out there. It kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, according to Hopkins Medicine.
The Ganoderans present in reishi mushrooms are natural counters to that. However, dealing with a liver disease of any kind requires immediate medical attention.
That’s because your body is the center of waste disposal in your body, and its inability to function will cause life-threatening illnesses.
15. May Ease Altitude Sickness
A smaller issue, for sure, but something that millions of us who fly every year have to deal with. Consider taking reishi mushrooms in extract form ahead of a flight to ensure the stressors that cause altitude sickness are kept properly in-check.
16. Could Counteract Fatigue and CFS
We’ve discussed kidney disease earlier in this article. One of the symptoms of that is excessive fatigue. But just because you’re feeling sluggish all the time, that doesn’t mean something is wrong with your kidneys. It could just be an issue of diet or a condition unrelated to kidneys.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is one such condition, and reishi mushrooms have mood-boosting qualities that help you to push back against it.
If you’re wondering whether you have CFS, ask yourself how long the fatigue has persisted. Is it for six months or longer? If so, you’re likely a candidate.
With CFS, it can last for a period of your life or for your entire life. It just depends, and you can never be sure. Since fatigue may also be an indicator of something more serious, do speak with your doctor before deciding to treat this yourself.
17. Soothes Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers usually occur due to bacteria or inflammatory drugs like NSAIDs. Reishi mushrooms can counteract these effects if taken by extract or whole.
As previously mentioned, they also can help you to better deal with stressors, which are commonly associated with the development of ulcers of all kinds.
18. May Sharpen Cognitive Function
One of the greatest determiners of quality-of-life is the cognitive function. The longer you can hold onto it, the better your later years are going to be. It helps you enjoy your family and quality time in greater depth.
It also helps you keep tabs on your physical health. While we know more about the moon than we do our own brains, we do know that it is our decision-making center. Keeping it happy is a good thing.
Reishi mushrooms often are spoken about as if they are mind-altering in some way. While we won’t say that we’ve ever experienced that outcome from taking them, personal experience teaches us that they can put the mind at ease and improve focus levels when reading or locked into a task of some kind.
If you’re uncertain of what to expect, just carve out about a month of your life. Do two weeks observing yourself without reishi mushrooms, and then do two weeks on. Keep notes. You might just notice an impact!
Possible Side Effects
So now you know what good reishi mushrooms might be able to do for your life. We wished we could say it stops there, but in every case, there may be some fallout that you are not prepared to deal with.
Your body may react in some ways that are intolerant of it and actually worsen whatever conditions you may be experiencing.
While the list on reishi mushrooms is a short one, we felt it should be included here in the interests of clarity. Before moving ahead, let us note that you should definitely stop consuming them and (possibly) seek medical attention if you experience the following.
- Dryness: Perhaps the least severe of the possible fallout from reishi is dryness of the mouth, throat, and/or nasal passages. While none of these issues will kill you, they can certainly affect sleep patterns and overall comfort.
- Itchiness: In some, a reaction might occur due to consumption of reishi mushrooms or extract. If it’s just a mild thing that goes away, that’s not a cause for concern. If it persists, you should stop taking them.
- Upset stomach: Keep a close watch on this one. Reishi mushrooms should not cause an upset stomach, but if they do, it may be indicative of an allergic reaction or a tainted supply. Flush out with lots of water and consider stopping by an urgent-care clinic, especially if the problem persists.
- Nosebleeds: This is a natural next step if you’re prone to the dryness side effect mentioned above.
- Bloody stools: Few things can cause you more terror than looking down into the bowl and having a bloody stool staring up at you. (Or, blood on the toilet paper.) But if you should experience this, don’t automatically think it’s cancer as so many do. If you’ve been taking reishi mushrooms in any form, it may just turn out to be a harmless side effect. Either way, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately, stop taking the mushrooms, and see whether the issue clears up with subsequent bathroom trips.
- Allergies: With any plant or fungus, you’re going to have a small possibility of allergic reaction. Most reactions will be mild in nature, but keep an eye on it and don’t take any chances.
- Thrombocytopenia: Thrombocytes are found in the blood and more popularly known as “platelets.” The condition of thrombocytopenia is when you have a low platelet count. It’s also commonly grouped into the “potential side effects” section of the reishi mushrooms video store. Now, what does it mean if you have low platelet count? It means your blood will have trouble clotting. Therefore, you’ll definitely want to avoid if this arises from your consumption of reishi. And avoid it either way if you have a surgery scheduled in the next month or so.
Reishi Mushrooms Are a Must-Try
Reishi mushrooms are harmless to most and an absolute must-try if you’re dealing with any of the conditions mentioned above (and don’t experience any of the side effects).
Have you tried these mushrooms? If so, what forms do you find to be the most palatable? And what effects have you noticed?