Fungi are getting a lot of wonderful attention lately. Still, when some people imagine mushrooms, their minds go to either slimy mushrooms in food, to psychedelic “magic” mushrooms, or to poisonous mushrooms you need to keep your children and dogs away from.
However, there are millions of species of mushrooms in the world, many of which are edible and/or medicinal. Because there are so many wonderful mushrooms, I’m going to focus here on one I tend to use most in my practice: the Reishi mushroom, or Ganoderma lucidum.
Reishi has been used medicinally in China and Japan for over 4000 years, and is one of the oldest and most valued of all Eastern traditional medicines.1 The name Reishi originates from Japanese and means “divine and spiritual mushroom” .1 In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reishi is prescribed for longevity and is known as the “mushroom of immortality” .1
In the wild, Reishi grows on forest trees in very small quantities. However, since the 1970s, it has been commercially cultivated for its medicinal use, making it readily available, and is now cultivated in at least 15 countries.1
What makes Reishi such a popular and renowned natural medicine?
This fabulous fungi has many medicinal uses - many of which are scientifically supported - with no known side effects.2 Let’s discuss the ways it is currently used, and ways it has been used throughout history.
NERVOUS SYSTEM SUPPORT
A nourishing adaptogen and nervous system tonic, Reishi can reduce stress and anxiety when taken regularly. It can help with insomnia, fatigue, reducing the effects of caffeine, dizziness, cognitive function, and can also help treat addiction, as well as debility due to prolonged sickness.2,3
Texts from the 16th Century Ming Dynasty say Reishi “mends the heart”;4 in Western herbal medicine, we call this a cardiotonic. Studies have found Reishi to improve blood flow to the heart, decrease coronary demand for oxygen, and relieve chest pain caused by angina.4 It is also used for prevention and treatment of arrhythmia,4 while helping in cases of high blood pressure, reducing risk of blood clots, and lowering blood sugar and cholesterol.2,4
Taking Reishi regularly enhances and regulates immune activity.3,5 It is one of those deep immune activators we discussed in my last blog post. It inhibits histamine release, making it useful in most allergies, most notably food allergies and allergies affecting the lungs, such as asthma.1,2 Reishi is helpful in auto-immune disorders, with known use in assisting in both chronic and acute phases of Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis.1,3 Reishi is also useful for treating viral infections, such as hepatitis, chickenpox, and herpes.1,2 Reishi also protects the liver and kidneys, helping the detoxification systems of our body work optimally.5
In Japan, Reishi is officially recognized as a cancer treatment.2 Animal studies have shown Reishi to actively reduce tumour size and enhance white blood cell counts.2,3 Reishi is even relieving to the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.2 Reishi’s safe and protective nature makes it an excellent addition to those undergoing medical cancer treatments.
Reishi is used for both prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers.3 It is protective to the digestive lining, restorative, and anti-inflammatory, and can also be used in cases of food sensitivity.1,3
Reishi can be used for chronic bronchitis, chronic asthma, and emphysema.1,2,3 In fact, Reishi syrup is a common Chinese remedy for bronchitis.2 It can help relieve congestion and excess mucous, as well as reduce coughing.2
REMEDY FOR ALTITUDE SICKNESS
People in the mountains of Asia use Reishi for aiding altitude sickness 4. A scientific study on Chinese workers who consumed Reishi while they climbed to over 15,000 feet over three days in Tibet had reduced rates of altitude sickness.4 It is theorized that Reishi improves the body’s overall oxygen consumption.4
The above mentioned Reishi remedies touch on what Reishi can do for us. And it is not the only mushroom with these healing abilities. One of Reishi’s relatives, Ganoderma applanatum, or the Artist’s Conk, is found more commonly here in North America and is also used medicinally for similar purposes.1 However, Reishi appears to be the most studied of the Ganoderma genus.
How to get your hands on some Reishi?
It can be consumed as a tincture, tablets, tea, or powder, and absorption is improved when it is consumed with Vitamin C.1
Most commonly, it is consumed as a powder decocted in boiling water, taking 1 to 3 teaspoons per day.2,4 Note that it is important to discuss use and dosage with your healthcare professional before consuming Reishi, to determine what amount is suitable for you.
The information written in this blog is not intended to prescribe. Please seek health professional for specific guidance.
Lauren Truscott Waddell, RHT, CHHC
Rogers, R. (2006). The Fungal pharmacy: Medicinal mushrooms of western canada. Prairie Deva Press.
Bartram, T. (1998). Bartram’s enzyclopedia of herbal medicine; The definitive guide to herbal treatment of diseases. Robinson Publishing Ltd.
Winston, D. & Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Healing Arts Press.
Duke, J.A. (1997). The Green pharmacy: New discoveries in herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world’s foremost authority on healing herbs. St. Martin’s Press.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalist: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press.