The reishi mushroom or lingzhi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), which is an oriental fungus, is a polypore mushroom that has long been used to promote longevity and health in Japan, China, and other Asian countries.
For over 2000 years, the lingzhi mushroom has been recognized as a medicinal mushroom and its potent effects have been recorded in ancient scripts. Lingzhi images have started to proliferate in 1400 AD when they were associated with Taoism. Lingzhi images, however, have extended beyond religion and appeared in furniture, carvings, paintings, and women’s accessories.
Before the years that lingzhi was cultivated, it was only the nobility who could afford and use it. Nowadays, it can be cultivated commercially and lingzhi continues to be a popular medical tradition in Asia. The medicinal mushroom’s popularity spread to the West as well.
What does Ganoderma lucidum look like?
Ganoderma lucidum belongs to group of fungi identified by the presence of pores, not gills, on the fruiting body’s underside. Reishi, deemed by mycophiles to be one of the world’s most beautiful shelf fungi, is characterized by its red, varnished surface.
When the mushroom is young, it has yellow and white shades on the shiny surface. Reishi is a saprophytic fungi that tends to be more prolific on decaying hardwood stumps and logs.
Where can Ganoderma lucidum be found?
Once considered to be rare to find in natural settings in Japan and China, Ganoderma lucidum is now widely cultured. The reishi mushroom can be grown on logs buried in moist, shady areas. The mushroom can also be injected into hardwood stumps. Ganoderma lucidum, under cultivation conditions that are commercial, can be grown on sawdust logs that are artificial.
Most of the lingzhi mushrooms are composed of 90% water. The remaining 10% is comprised of 2 to 8% fat, 10 to 40% protein, 3 to 32% fiber, 3 to 28% carbohydrate, 8 to 10% ash, and certain minerals and vitamins, with calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, copper, and zinc comprising most of the reishi mushroom’s mineral content.
The three major constituents of Ganoderma lucidum that are physiologically active are:
- Polysaccharides (may help to treat chronic diseases like liver disease and cancer)
- Peptidoglycans (immunomodulating)
- Triterpenes (found to contain anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic, and antitumorigenic activity)
Benefits of Ganoderma Lucidum
While the lingzhi mushroom can be beneficial to your health, it is best you consult with your doctor before taking it. You can purchase the mushroom in concentrated tablets, capsules, dried, or even in extract form. Some benefits are:
- Antioxidant properties
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Potential to prevent cancer
- Lowers cholesterol
- Relief for respiratory conditions
Antioxidant properties. The lingzhi mushrooms have potent antioxidants that protect the body against free radicals or negative effects that are formed inside the human body by daily exposure to pollutants, chemicals, and the sun. Lingzhi mushrooms are known to boost immunity, especially if it’s taken together with other antioxidant supplements.
Anti-inflammatory properies. Ganoderma lucidum has anti-inflammatory properties and is sometimes taken by patients who have heart disease or Alzheimer’s. It is based on the notion that inflammation has a role in such medical conditions. The pain that comes with inflammatory conditions like arthritis or neuralgia may also be alleviated with lingzhi supplements.
Potential to prevent cancer. It is widely believed that Ganoderma lucidum can suppress tumor growth in cancer patients. Lingzhi can reinforce cancerous cells’ membranes to stop the tumor from spreading. For such reason, lingzhi is used in treatments to prevent cancer.
The dosage of Ganoderma lucidum (reishe, lingzhi) if used as a dietary supplement is 150-900 mg when taken in capsule or tablet form. One can take 1.5 to 9 g of the dried lingzhi variety. While side effects from taking Ganoderma lucidum are rare, people taking the mushroom for a few months may experience dizziness, dry mouth, nosebleeds, or stomach discomfort.
The lingzhi or reishi mushroom is a renowned Asian herbal remedy with an impressive and long range of applications. Worldwide consumption of the mushroom is high and there are many products that incorporate lingzhi as an active ingredient for food supplements.
Many studies on Ganoderma lucidum are being done and there are data that support the mushroom’s positive health benefits, including blood glucose regulation, anticancer effects, antiviral effects, and antibacterial and antioxidant effects. There are also studies that lingzhi protects against gastric and liver injury.
However, most of the research has been performed in cell-culture models and on animals. Experiments on humans have been small. While there is no harm in taking a Ganoderma lucidum supplement, you should still tell your doctor that you are doing so.
Even if the lingzhi supplement is not yet medically approved, users would still be reassured of the mushroom’s long history that documents the mushroom’s many health benefits.