What are the Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms?

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    Reishi mushrooms have a bitter, unpalatable taste and an unappealing, woody texture. Still, their proponents say they’re good for you. Get the details here.

    What are reishi mushrooms?

    Reishi mushrooms are a bitter-tasting polypore fungus that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for medicinal purposes for more than 2,000 years. They are also known as Ganoderma Lingzhi, and have often been referred to as the “mushroom of immortality.” Their shiny reddish brown color, kidney-shaped cap with bands, and unusually placed stem give them a distinct fan-like look that makes them easily recognizable.

    Reishi mushrooms are native to East Asia and are typically found growing in tree stumps and on decaying logs. Their distinct, bitter taste and woody texture make them less desirable culinarily than most other mushrooms. They contain a number of active compounds including beta-glucans, polysaccharides, and triterpenoids, all of which have been shown to have antioxidant and immune-boosting properties. Proponents of reishi mushrooms contend that they support overall health and well-being by promoting immune function, and protect against cellular damage.

    Reishi mushrooms are available dried, in extracts, and as a dietary supplement.

    How do reishi mushrooms differ from other mushrooms?

    Reishi mushrooms were traditionally used by Taoist monks in China to promote a centered calmness, improve meditation, and attain a long, healthy life. They were also highly regarded in Japanese culture as their most important medicinal polypore. Their bitter taste makes them much less palatable than other mushrooms and, as a result, they are typically consumed in extract, powder, capsule, or tea form rather than eaten whole.

    Reishi mushrooms are known as bracket fungi, which means they grow out from trees rather than up from the ground like most mushrooms. Being polypore, rather than gills, the underside is composed of thousands of pores and is lined with basidia cells that make spores. When it’s time for reishi mushrooms to reproduce, the basidium releases the spores into the air for dispersal into new areas.

    They have a distinct appearance and a bitter, unpalatable taste when compared to other mushrooms. They also lack significant nutritional benefits, unlike the shiitake or portobello, and are primarily known for their medicinal properties.

    Reishi mushrooms and adaptogenic mushrooms

    Adaptogenic mushrooms are a group of mushrooms that may help the body to adapt to stress and to maintain homeostasis in the body. They are thought to work by supporting the body’s natural defenses against stress and enhancing its overall well-being. They contain beta-glucan compounds which have been shown to have properties to modulate the immune system. Adaptogenic mushrooms include chaga, lion’s mane, and cordyceps. Reishi mushrooms are believed to have adaptogenic qualities.

    Health benefits of reishi mushrooms

    Aids the immune system

    Reishi mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for 2,000 years for their ability to boost the immune system. One of the active compounds in them is polysaccharides, a complex carbohydrate that has immunomodulatory effects, which means they can help strengthen or regulate the immune system. They also contain triterpenes, which have also been shown to have antioxidant properties.

    Fights against fatigue and boosts mental clarity

    This study of the Antifatigue Functions and Mechanisms of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms demonstrates that edible and medicinal mushrooms can promote the proper function and balance of the biological systems to maintain the basic harmonious pattern of the body for anti-fatigue. Researchers call for further studies for better understanding of the mechanism for the antifatigue function of edible and medicinal mushrooms.

    Supports a healthy heart

    Reishi mushrooms contain beta glucans and triterpenes, which have antioxidant properties that may help prevent oxidative damage to the cells and tissues. They also contain polysaccharides which have immune-boosting properties that can contribute to overall health. More research is needed to establish the specifics, if any, of how reishi mushrooms support a healthy heart.

    Helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels

    Research on the effect of reishi mushrooms on blood sugar levels is extremely limited and has not shown any direct correlation with reishi helping blood sugar levels. This study, a meta-analysis of the effect of beta glucan intake on blood cholesterol and glucose levels, found that beta glucans from food in general can help to maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels already within normal range.

    Helps support healthy blood pressure levels

    Research on the potential effect of reishi mushrooms on healthy blood pressure is limited and more research is needed.

    Powerful Antioxidant Properties

    Reishi mushrooms have been used for their antioxidant properties and immune-boosting function in traditional Chinese medicine for 2,000 years. They contain several antioxidant compounds including triterpenoids, ergothioneine, and polysaccharides, all of which have strong immune-boosting effects. There is a potential for innovation, development, and expansion of reishis’s applications in food and pharmaceuticals due to its promising nutritional and health characteristics.

    Supports liver health

    Reishi mushrooms have powerful antioxidant properties which may help protect the liver from oxidative stress. This study found that reishi medicinal mushrooms supported liver health in mice. More research is required.

    How to take reishi mushrooms

    Proper dose of reishi mushrooms

    There is no standard dose of reishi mushrooms, as there are a number of subjective factors that will determine the proper type and amount of reishi to take. Age, height, weight, general health status, and the reason for taking the reishi mushrooms will figure into the dosage. The type of reishi will also be a contributing factor to how much is to be taken. The highest dosage usually occurs when it’s the mushroom itself that is being consumed. In this case, dosage can range from 25g-100g, depending upon the size of the mushroom and how much of it is being used. The dosage of dried reishi mushroom is generally 6g-12g per day, while reishi mushroom extract in supplement form is typically 1.5g-9g per day and 1-1.5g per day in powder form. In extract form, the dosage may vary according to how much of the actual extract is contained in each specific product.

    Best time to take reishi mushrooms

    There is no one best time to take reishi mushrooms, though many prefer to take it close to bedtime because of its purported calming effect. The key is to take them consistently, per the recommendation on the package or the advice of your healthcare practitioner.

    Can you take reishi mushrooms every day?

    Reishi mushrooms are generally considered safe to be taken daily, though it is important to consult your physician before doing so – especially if you are taking medications for a chronic health condition.

    Potential side effects, risks, and interactions of reishi mushrooms

    Side effects of taking reishi mushrooms are uncommon, but they may include gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, nausea, nose bleeds, and allergic reactions such as itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing. If you are taking any medication, are pregnant, or lactating, talk to your physician before adding any new supplement to your current protocol.

    Final takeaways

    Reishi mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for their medicinal properties for 2,000 years. With names that translate to “Mushroom of Immortality,” “Divine Mushroom,” “Herb of Spiritual Potency,” and “the Great Protector,” it should not be surprising that it is one of the most popular and highly revered medicinal mushrooms in the world. It is classified as an adaptogenic in Western culture and is believed to help restore balance, harmony, and transcendence to those who consume it.

    It may be consumed fresh, though its bitter taste and woody texture usually lends to its being primarily taken in supplement form, or as a tea. Proponents contend that it helps promote immunity, improve mental clarity, and support healthy blood pressure, blood glucose level, and liver health, though there is not much scientific research to date to substantiate their claims.

    There is no doubt, however, that reishi mushrooms have powerful antioxidant properties, and used worldwide for a variety of reasons. If you are looking to supplement with reishi mushrooms, Care/of has a premium blend of reishi, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms called Adaptogenic Mushroom The Royal Treatment.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.