9 Proven Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The most important health benefits of reishi mushrooms include their ability to boost energy, reduce blood pressure, and slow the aging process. It is also known for its anti-cancer potential. They also detoxify the body, eliminate inflammation, and improve your cognitive ability.

What is Reishi Mushrooms?

Reishi mushrooms are one of the most popular and beneficial types of fungi on the planet. These mushrooms, in particular, have been relied upon for thousands of years in the Asian region, but have recently come to the attention of the wider world. Scientifically known as Ganoderma lucidum, “reishi” is the name by which these beneficial mushrooms are known in Japan, while in China, they are called lingzhi mushrooms. Lingzhi mushrooms, as a group, actually represent a species of complex fungal entities, many of which are in use throughout the world. These fascinating fungi are potent because of their unique collection of organic compounds and components, which include triterpenes, alkaloids, sterols, and various essential polysaccharides.

Uses of Reishi Mushrooms

Although mushrooms are eaten in order to enjoy the health benefits, the most popular means of using reishi mushrooms includes crushing dried mushrooms and steeping them in water. These mushrooms are extremely bitter in taste, which makes them unpleasant to consume directly or in a highly concentrated liquid form. For this reason and because traditional herbal remedies have been replaced by efficient herbal supplements, you can mainly find reishi mushroom supplements in a pill or capsule form. However, there are plenty of places in the world where this type of mushroom is still processed and administered directly. 

Close up of reishi mushrooms on a wooden table

Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the fascinating health benefits of reishi mushrooms.

Anti-aging Properties

With popular names such as “king of herbs” and the “10,000-year old mushroom”, reishi mushrooms have been highly praised in herbal medicine for thousands of years for their effects on longevity. In ancient times, those seeking immortality often used reishi mushrooms because of this belief. However, modern studies have positively linked reishi mushrooms to certain lifespan expansion, namely due to the impressive polysaccharide content of these fungi. This is accomplished by boosting the health of the immune system and preventing certain abnormal blood vessel formation. Furthermore, certain antioxidant properties of other organic compounds in reishi mushrooms neutralize free radicals, which can cause chronic diseases and premature aging.

Anti-cancer Potential

Most people consume reishi mushrooms due to their anti-cancer properties.  According to Xingzhong Jin, Julieta Ruiz Beguerie, Daniel Man‐yuen Sze et al’s report on reishi mushrooms published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the triterpenoids found in this type of fungus has the ability to reduce the metastasis of cancerous cells and slow the progression of tumor growth. Furthermore, a second study found that the active ingredients of reishi mushroom extract can seek out and neutralize cancerous cells within the body.

Detoxification of Body

Our liver is a delicate and essential organ, so decreasing the level of toxins in it is a huge goal for humans. Studies have linked reishi mushroom extracts to faster regeneration of healthy liver cells and a release of free radicals that have built up in the organ, thereby promoting overall health and wellness.

Improved Cognitive Activity

Neurological diseases are the most painful and unsolvable mysteries and for cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease, there is no proven cure. However, research has shown that the extracts of reishi mushrooms can stimulate cognitive activity and display certain neuroprotective effects, particularly in the stimulation of nerve growth factor, which is a key part of a healthy cognitive function.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

One of the most important side effects of reishi mushroom extracts is their anti-inflammatory capacity. This is partially why it can help with cognitive disorders, by increasing the amount of blood flow to the brain. For people suffering from arthritis or gout, reishi extracts can be very helpful. Reishi mushrooms have also been relied on for relieving headaches and healing injuries.

Healthy Respiration

For those suffering from asthma, bronchitis or other chronic respiratory conditions, reishi mushroom extract can have a strong effect on reducing irritation and eliminating the allergic reactions from the body. By preventing the release of histamine from mast cells in the body, reishi mushrooms prevent allergic reactions, from mild skin irritation to potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Lowered Blood Pressure

Hypertension is one of the most common and pervasive problems in the world today, and cardiovascular diseases remain the major killer in our society. Reishi mushrooms have been proven to improve the efficiency of blood flow to the heart and lower blood pressure; they also reduce the amount of oxygen consumed by the heart, which means that there is more oxygenation for the rest of the body and organ systems. Furthermore, certain elements of reishi mushroom extract can reduce the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your system, further protecting you from strokes and heart attacks.

Immune System Aid

Although we’ve already mentioned antioxidants, which are a key component of the immune system, reishi mushrooms also contain beta-glucans, one of the most effective and powerful immune system boosters that we know of. By increasing the number of beta-glucans in your body, you can protect yourself against a vast range of potential diseases and reduce the signs of aging. Some experts believe that it is this high glucan content that linked it historically with immortality and vitality.

Boosted Energy

In addition to immortality, traditional medicine also suggested reishi for energy-boosting. As we age, our energy levels do tend to drop, but adding a spirit in our golden years with the help of this mushroom would be wonderful.

Side Effects

As anything with so many good qualities, there is inevitably a flip side. Extended use of reishi mushrooms (for 1-2 months) has been connected with some side effects throughout history. Some of them include:

Although these side effects seem mild, it is still a good decision to speak with a medical professional or trained herbalist before adding reishi mushrooms to your diet.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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