What is Reishi?
The reishi mushroom, otherwise known by its Chinese nomenclature língzhī or its binomial classification Ganoderma lucidum, refers to a species of fungus that falls under the fungal genus Ganoderma. The mushroom is particularly notable for its shiny, almost varnished-looking surface, which belies an inner texture that is often described as tough or “woody.” Its cap is typically fan-shaped, with a distinctive reddish-brown color. As the mushroom ages, its flesh becomes progressively tougher.
The reishi mushroom is a type of saprotrophic fungus, which indicates that it decomposes dead organic matter through a process called extracellular digestion. Thus, it can most often be found on stumps, logs, or aged decaying trees. It prefers warmer climates and can be found throughout Asia, Australia, South America, Southern Europe, and parts of the Southeastern United States.
This mushroom has a long and well-established history of medicinal usage in China, Japan, and many other Asian countries. The characters of its Chinese name língzhī represent “spiritual potency” and eternal life, and in the Chinese mythos the mushroom has been regarded as extremely beneficial for both spiritual and physical well-being. The earliest mention of língzhī in Chinese historical literature can be traced back to the Ch’in Dynasty (221-207 BCE), during which its consumption and use were reserved for the royal family alone. Now the reishi mushroom is commercially available in many different forms, including dietary supplements in powder and capsule form, tea extracts, broth, and dried slices. It remains a popular and well-regarded product used in traditional medicine in many Asian countries.
The reishi mushroom’s components can be broken down into approximately 90% water (by weight), with the remaining 10% consisting of the fungus’s proteins, fats, fibers, and vitamins/minerals (which include potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, iron, zinc, copper, and calcium). It is also heavily composed of bioactive molecules, including water-soluble polysaccharides, steroids, phenols, nucleotides, terpenoids, and amino acids. Of all its components, its specific polysaccharides and triterpenes are the most physiologically potent, and can be extracted from the mushroom’s spores, mycelia, and fruit body.
Bioactive polyglycans and water-soluble polysaccharides found in the reishi mushroom have been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-tumorigenic, hypoglycemic, and immunoprotective properties. Similarly, its triterpenes have been found to have anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, and hypolipidemic activity. These findings have emerged primarily from cell culture models, in vitro assessments, and animal studies (there have also been some clinical trials assessing reishi’s effectiveness in humans, though this type of research is somewhat limited).
Reishi Benefits and Uses
Cancer: In recent years, the reishi mushroom has gained much public and scientific attention for its anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties. A study published by the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer examined reishi’s cytotoxicity against metastatic breast cancer cells. Researchers found (using the cell culture method) that reishi extracts directly inhibited the genetic expression of metastatic cancer cells without harming noncancerous mammary epithelial cells. The study concluded that reishi supplementation has potential to be an effective adjuvant therapy in patients with inflammatory breast cancer. Other studies have drawn similar conclusions pointing to reishi’s anti-cancer potential. At Osaka City University in Japan, researchers observed that mycelium extract of Ganoderma lucidum inhibited metastatic expansion in mice with Sarcoma 180 tumor growth.
Ganoderma lucidum and its extracts are cited as potentially effective adjuvant treatments to various types of cancers by some research centers, including the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
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Weight Loss: The reishi mushroom is believed to possess weight-regulatory as well as anti-diabetic effects. In a 2015 study conducted at Chang Gung University in Taiwan, biomedical researchers tested the impact of a water-soluble reishi extract on obese mice (who demonstrated the same type of increased fatty deposits in liver and fat cells as is seen in obese humans). Compared to the subjects who did not receive the reishi supplement, the supplemented mice experienced an 8-16% decrease in overall body weight, as well as marked decreases in liver weight and in the fat content of adipocytes (or fat-storing cells). Overall, data indicated that high-molecular weight polysaccharides isolated from Ganoderma lucidum are capable of reducing body weight, inflammation (by acting on an inflammation inducer called nuclear factor-Kappa B), and insulin resistance. Further, other similar studies have confirmed that reishi extracts can inhibit the development of fat cells and lower blood glucose levels in diabetic animals.
Diabetes: Reishi’s hypoglycemic characteristics and capacity for weight management make it distinctive as a possible adjuvant treatment for diabetic patients. In a research study conducted by National Taiwan University, Taipei in conjunction with Fu Jen Catholic University and the Institute of Biological Chemistry and Genomics Research Center in Taipei, polysaccharides extracted from reishi demonstrated an ability to increase plasma insulin levels and decrease plasma sugar levels in diabetic laboratory mice. Further, Ganoderma lucidum triterpenoids (specifically, ganoderic acids) were found to have hypoglycemic capabilities by inhibiting an enzyme that suppresses postprandial hyperglycemia. Studies with laboratory animals yielded similar results at the Institute of Vascular Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as well as the Department of Pharmacology of Peking University in Beijing (the latter specifically assessed reishi’s impact on diabetic kidney disease, and concluded that reishi extract supplementation significantly lowered triglyceride and blood glucose levels). Reishi Mushroom is an AMPK Activator and promotes glucose uptake at similar rates as insulin. This makes sense that Reishi is an AMPK Activator as both of them have positive effects on diabetes.
Liver: As was previously mentioned, Ganoderma lucidum has been shown to ameliorate excess fat in the liver, which can cause inflammation, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and/or metabolic syndrome. In a study conducted at Hunan Normal University in Changsha, China, researchers evaluated the hepatoprotective capabilities of reishi extracts on mice with liver injury. Results indicated that reishi’s antioxidant characteristics (owed in part to the ganodermic acids A, B, C, and D, as well as ganodermanontriol and lucidenic acid B) countered lipid peroxidation in the liver.
Depression: There have been some clinical studies examining reishi’s neurological actions, specifically its potential anti-convulsant, antidepressant, and anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties. In a study conducted by the Department of Pharmacology at Ziauddin University in Karachi, Pakistan, an ethanol extract of Ganoderma lucidam was administrated orally to laboratory mice. Results indicated that the supplemented mice underwent antidepressant effects based on their performance in the subsequent forced swim and tail suspension tests. Otherwise, research into reishi’s ability to ameliorate mood disorders or other neurological disturbances is limited. That being said, the reishi mushroom enjoys a reputation among herbalists and practitioners of alternative or adjuvant medicine for potentially alleviating depression and/or anxiety alongside lifestyle changes and/or psychiatric medication.
Stress: The reishi mushroom and its extracts are often credited as being both rejeuvenating and calming, with potential anxiolytic capabilities. In fact, the neurological mechanisms of Ganoderma lucidum are not well-understood. However, there is some evidence that points to reishi as possessing neuroprotective abilities, though the exact mechanisms are unclear. In a cell culture study conducted by researchers at Peking University in Beijing and Zhengzhou University in Zhengzhou, China, Ganoderma lucidum’s bioactive polysaccharides were shown to suppress stress-induced neuronal apoptosis in cultured cerebellar granule cells. The researchers hypothesized that reishi may indeed have neuroprotective effects, particularly with respect to stress-induced illness or injury. Further, reishi supplementation may indirectly benefit sufferers of stress by improving overall health (thus ameliorating illness-related fatigue and/or anxiety). Reishi is classified as a natural mood stabilizer due to its ability to improve mood, anxiety and depression.
Sleep: Historically reishi has been utilized as a mild tranquilizing agent, leading eventually to long-standing interest in its extracts as possible agents to combat stress and anxiety. There is some evidence to indicate that reishi may be effective in treating insomniac patients. For example, in a study published by the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers at Peking University in Beijing, China found that an extract from the fruiting body of Ganoderma lucidum prolonged NREM sleep time in freely moving rats. Further, in a similar study conducted at Peking University, researchers found that a reishi water extract decreased sleep latency and increased sleep duration in pentobarbital-treated rats, indicating that Ganoderma lucidum may be, in part, a benzodiazepine receptor agent (inducing sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic effects).
Cholesterol: In recent years, there has been some attention dedicated to the cholesterol-lowering abilities of Ganoderma lucidum. In a European study (conducted across various universities in Germany, France, and Switzerland), researchers explored reishi’s ability to inhibit cholesterol synthesis in hamsters and minipigs (or the Göttingen minipig, a very small species of the domestic pig). They found that Ganoderma lucidum extracts significantly reduced TV, LDL and HDL cholesterol in pigs, and also decreased overall cholesterol in hamsters (though there was no effect on LDL cholesterol at a low 5% supplementary administration). Another cell culture study published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that Ganoderma lucidum’s various ganodermic acids had inhibitory effects on cholesterol synthesis in the human hepatic cell line in vitro.
Skin: Research into reishi’s capacity to treat skin diseases is very new; in fact, prior to 2016 there was no recorded data to evidence any sort of investigation into this topic. However, in February of 2016, pathologists and dermatologists at the Konya Training and Research Hospital in Konya, Turkey administered a treatment of soap enriched with Ganoderma lucidum and goat’s milk to a 44-year-old patient with cutaneous sarcodiosis, a disease characterized by inflammation of skin cells that form lumps called granulomas. Within three days, researchers noted that the patient’s inflamed lesions were almost entirely regressed. However, this observation only addressed one patient and thus would require further clinical research in order to come to any sort of demonstrable conclusion regarding reishi’s effectiveness in treating cutaneous sarcodiosis or similar ailments.
Though investigation into reishi’s effectiveness in treating skin diseases is very limited, there is some existing research that addresses Ganoderma lucidum’s biological activities on the skin in general. A 2013 Korean study determined that Ponciri fructus extract combined with Ganoderma lucidum mycelia increased collagen biosynthesis in human dermal fibroblasts, indicating that reishi may be effectual as a skin-smoothing ingredient. These and similar findings may substantiate Ganoderma lucidum’s reputation as a successful topical cosmetic agent with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and smoothing properties.
Anxiety: In a study published by the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine open-access journal, researchers at Josai University in Saitama, Japan found that a water-soluble extract from reishi mycelia had possible anti-depressant, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective effects on rats. The animals were subjected to several trials, including forced swimming, open-field, elevated plus-maze, contextual fear-conditioning, and head twitch tests. Those who were treated with the reishi supplement demonstrated fewer locomotive activities characteristic of stress-induced anxiety in rats. These and other researchers who have conducted similar studies related to the cerebroprotective abilities of Ganoderma lucidum have recommended that further research be invested in reishi’s ability to alleviate depression, anxiety, and stress-induced illness.
Psoriasis: In a Taiwanese study published by the US National Library of Medicine, researchers tested Ganoderma lucidum-derived polysaccharides’ immunologic effects on monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MD-DCs) from asthmatic children. Results indicated that the polysaccharides directly promoted MD-DCs to produce IL-12 p70, IL-12 p40, IL-6, IL-23, and IL-10 cytokines and thus shift the immune balance towards Th1-type cell cytokine production when incubated. Th17 helper cells are critical toward cellular immune response and highly involved in the pathogenesis of psoriasis. Though this study did not directly examine Ganoderma lucidum’s impact on psoriasis, its results do warrant further research into the fungus’s capabilities in managing the condition.
Blood Pressure: Ganoderma lucidum has been regarded as a potential adjuvant treatment for individuals suffering from metabolic, diabetic, and cardiovascular disorders, due to its ability to regulate blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Overall, reishi is hypothesized to ameliorate cardiovascular risk factors in affected individuals. Though further clinical trials are recommended, the mushroom’s extracts may be effective in treating hypertension if taken alongside physician-recommended medications (if applicable, such as diuretics, beta-blockers, vasodilators, etc.) and lifestyle modifications. Again, more clinical research into both the fungus’s efficacy and safety is needed.
Energy: It may seem contradictory discuss reishi as an energy-stimulating substance given its hypnotic and anxiolytic properties, but in many patients its extracts can also be energizing. Ganoderma lucidum enhances innate immunity, which is beneficial to all but in particular those who suffer from immunodeficiency-related fatigue. Further, its hypoglycemic capabilities may ameliorate weariness related to high blood glucose in diabetic patients.
Anti Aging: A variety of Ganoderma lucidum extracts are reputed to have anti-aging effects, particularly in relationship to their anti-oxidation, immunomodulation, and anti-neurodegenerative properties. Ethanol and aqueous extracts from reishi’s fruiting body have been evidenced to modulate several cytokine types that are released during lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammatory responses. To put it briefly, Ganoderma lucidum’s bioactivities may slow down the process of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Further, researchers have identified particular polysaccharides extractable from Ganoderma lucidum that possess lifespan extension effects, the most notable being Reishi Polysaccharide Fraction 3 (RF3). RF3 is able to increase the expression of Toll-interleukin 1 receptor intracellular domain, which is associated with aging and innate immunity.
Brain: Evidence points to reishi as possessing both neuroprotective and anti-seizure capabilities. In a study conducted at Peking University in 2004, researchers found that a water-soluble reishi extract inhibited neural apoptosis and reduced oxidative stress in rats with ischemic brain damage. A very similar study confirmed these findings in October of 2017 when researchers at Dicle University in Diyarbakir, Turkey, found that Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract demonstrated neuroprotective activity in the brain tissues of rats with trauma-induced oxidative stress. Oxidative stress damage contributes to many neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
AutoImmune: Ganoderma lucidum has been demonstrated to possess some potential therapeutic activity in terms of immunodefense. In other words, there is some evidence to indicate that reishi can aid in stimulating a depressed immune system and/or moderate overactive immune function. In a 2007 study conducted at the University of Hong Kong, Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide peptides were evidenced to have some unique ability to modulate proinflammatory cytokine production in rheumatoid arthritis. Similar studies have pointed to Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides in terms of effectively promoting antigen-presenting cells, humoral immunity, and cellular immunity.
Hair Loss: Though fungus is not thought of as a typical treatment for hair cell regeneration, there are those who laud reishi mushroom extract as a potential hair regrowth agent. There is some scientific backing for this belief, though its active mechanisms are quite loosely explicated. In a study published by the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in February 2012, Thai researchers explored the relationship between 5α-reductase inhibitory activities in several plants, and their hair-growth stimulatory capabilities. Though this study did not specifically address Ganoderma lucidum, an earlier study (conducted in 2006 at Kyushu University), demonstrated that reishi extract (from the fruiting body) also enacted 5α-reductase inhibitory activities. This may point to the reishi mushroom as a potential hair regrowth agent, though trial-based evidence is needed to substantiate this hypothesis.
HPV: In recent years, extracts from medicinal mushrooms have come forth as effective treatments for Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is known to cause cervical cancer. In a 2014 study published by the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, French researchers studied the efficacy of several medicinal mushrooms in the eradication and/or treatment of HPV, serotypes 16 and 18. The mushrooms clinically tested included Trametes versicolor, Ganoderma lucidum, and Laetiporus sulphureus. After two months of treatment, HPV-afflicted patients who were administered Ganoderma lucidum and Trametes versicolor supplements saw an 88% clearance in oral HPV. Researchers concluded that the evidence merited more research.
Further research was conducted soon thereafter. Also in 2014, researchers from the National Institute of Public Health and at the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos in Morelos, México specifically tested the effects of water-soluble extracts of reishi on cervical cells transformed by HPV and C-33A cancer cells. Results indicated that reishi extracts induced cell apoptosis and cell cycle inhibition in both HPV and C-33A cancer cells. Both clinical and pre-clinical research indicates that both reishi and other mushroom extracts may be effective in the treatment of HPV.
Anti Androgen: There is research-based evidence to indicate the reishi mushroom as a potent antiandrogen, or a testosterone-blocker. In a research study published by the International Journal of Ethnopharmacology, scholars from Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan studied the anti-androgenic effects of approximately twenty species of mushrooms. The extract of Ganoderma lucidum was overwhelmingly the most effective in inhibiting levels of 5-alpha reductase, which stimulate the conversion of testosterone into DHT, an endogenous androgen sex steroid/hormone. It was also found that both reishi’s fruit body and its extracts significantly reduced growth of the ventral prostate in castrated rats.
HIV: Reishi may be effective in the treatment of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). In 1998, a triterpene titled ganoderic acid α was isolated from a methanol extract of Ganoderma lucidum and subsequently determined to have significant anti-HIV-1 protease activity.
Fertility: While there has been some research addressing reishi’s ability to alleviate menopausal symptoms, dysmenorrhea, endometrioris, and pelvic inflammation in women, little clinical attention has been dedicated to the mushroom’s direct impact on reproduction and fertility. The mushroom’s immunoprotective properties may indirectly increase the chances of successful pregnancy by reducing inflammatory damage in the pelvic organs, but there is little supporting evidence to point towards the mushroom as a natural fertility drug. It is also important to note that reishi and its supplements have not been clinically proven safe to ingest while pregnant or nursing.
Where Does Reishi Grow?
Reishi thrives in warmer climates and can be found throughout Asia, Australia, South America, Southern Europe, and parts of the Southeastern United States. It prefers decaying oak wood, but can also be found growing on the Japanese plum tree. Differentiation of Ganoderma mushroom species is notoriously difficult, but recent taxonomic research has found that all strains of Korean Ganoderma lucidum can be clustered in one group together with Chinese, Japanese, and Thai strains of reishi. Ganoderma lucidum from North America and Europe, however, has different morphological characteristics.
Types of Reishi
The term “reishi” or língzhī (scientific name Ganoderma lucidum) also colloquially refers to red reishi as a result of its usual brick red hue. It can be differentiated from its relative Ganoderma sinensis, or “black reishi” for the latter mushroom’s jet-black outer skin. However, Ganoderma lucidum and Ganoderma tsugae are more difficult to distinguish, as they both exhibit tough but sleek dark red skin. Further, no two Ganoderma mushrooms are identical, and their shapes can change dramatically depending on temperature conditions and environmental microbes.
Wild-growing red reishi is highly coveted for its potency, resiliency, and vital bioactivity. However, cultivated red reishi has the benefit of being highly standardized. In other words, reishi harvested and cultivated by a single grower or team of growers is likely to be very uniform and measurable in terms of its nutritive properties. The standard and most esteemed method of reishi cultivation in East Asia involves growing its fruiting body on Duanmu (hardwood) logs, using only the wood type that reishi gravitates toward. Growers of Duanwood reishi do not use harmful chemicals or pesticides. In other words, legitimate Duanwood reishi should be entirely organic and semi-wild grown.
How to take Reishi? (Methods of Consumption)
Reishi Spore Oil: The reishi mushroom releases spores through small pores on its underside. Its spores contain a much higher content of ganoderic acids and bioactive polysaccharides per strain than its fruiting body. In fact, the spore is the most bioactive component of the reishi mushroom. Thus reishi spores are popularly harvested for their nutritive properties. However, a reishi spore contains an external “shell” that is indigestible, and must be removed in order to access the spore’s essential oils. Spore oil is typically sold in softgel capsules or in liquid form. The typical standardized dose is 500 mg of active ingredient, with a 150 mg dose of triterpenoids.
Researchers are presently investigating spore oil’s capabilities to act against cancer cell lines, support cardiovascular health, moderate blood glucose levels, and promote immunodefensive activity. However, no food and drug regulatory bodies have yet recommended any specific therapeutic use of reishi spore oil.
Reishi Extract: Ganoderma lucidum extract in capsule form is commercially available and a popular option for those who prefer oral nutritive supplements as opposed to reishi in the form of dried slices, tea, or coffee. It is very important that any reishi supplement has a “standardized” label, meaning the nutritive components of the capsule are measurably accurate. Individuals often take reishi extract to boost immune function, enhance production of antioxidant enzymes, ameliorate various types of inflammation, and manage sleep and mood disorders. Individuals should speak to their respective physicians and conduct sufficient research regarding the extract’s possible effects based on their overall health and existing medications. Reishi extract capsules are not advisable for individuals taking anti-coagulant medications.
Reishi Tincture: A tincture refers to a liquid extract that can be administered orally. They are typically packaged in milliliter dropper bottles, which allow consumers to take the supplement directly under the tongue. Reishi tinctures are commercially available, but it is also possible to extract a homegrown tincture. To do so, the consumer will require a pint or a quart mason jar with ground reishi and 2-3 cups of high-proof alcohol. For legitimate therapeutic impact, a tincture should only be produced via the multi-stage dual extraction method, which involves boiling reishi in hot water, properly straining the contents, fermenting the contents in alcohol, and properly straining again.
Reishi Tea: Reishi tea and reishi tincture are produced similarly. In order to create homemade reishi tea, take 1-2 large slices of mushroom and boil them in about a quart of water in a ceramic or stainless steel pot, following up with the alcohol fermentation steps characteristic of the dual extract method. Some recommend adding a sweeter herb (such as licorice root) in order to counteract any bitterness in the tea. Reishi cannot be translated into tea via a simple infusion (as in a standard tea bag) because the chitin carbohydrates in its cell walls must be strained (this process is also known as decoction). Chitin is what gives reishi its tough, indigestible exterior.
Reishi tea is often consumed for the purposes of boosting immunity and stabilizing blood glucose levels. However, it is recommended that consumers drink cautiously, and abstain from drinking more than one cup until confirming that the tea does not have adverse effects on the stomach. Reishi tea is also commercially available in powdered form (which again should be standardized and produced with the dual extract method).
Reishi Coffee: Reishi coffee tastes surprisingly similar to ordinary coffee, and is created simply by brewing coffee beans that have been infused with Ganoderma lucidum extract. “Mushroom coffee” is less acidic than its alternative, and its caffeine content is minimal (most coffee contains roughly 150—200 milligrams of caffeine, whereas reishi coffee ranges from about 9 – 75 milligrams in caffeine content). Lion’s mane mushrooms and cordyceps are also often brewed with coffee beans in order to create an antioxidant-rich coffee beverage. Reishi tea may be unsafe for individuals taking anti-coagulant medications.
The appropriate dosage of reishi is dependent on several factors, including the age of the consumer, the form in which its supplement is extracted, the condition for which the supplement is being prescribed, and the consumer’s overall health. For this reason, it is important to consult a physician before beginning a supplementation regimen of Ganoderma lucidum. However, from a standardized perspective, the following constitutes a typical daily dose for each extracted form of reishi:
Crude dried mushroom: 1.5 – 9 grams.
Extract: Depends on the extract ratio but generally 1-1.5 grams (powder should be ingested with particular caution, please see below under Side Effects, Safety, Dangers and Warnings).
Tincture: 1 milliliter.
Spore Oil: 0.4 – 1.8 grams.
Tea: 1 mg per teabag (1 – 3 cups per day).
Coffee: 9 milligrams per cup (much lower than traditional coffee due to its blood-thinning effects).
Some consumers have cited benefits from consuming reishi or its extracts in the morning on an empty stomach. However, this may cause stomach upset in other consumers. There does not appear to be an overall consensus, but many physicians actually recommend consuming reishi extract with warm water, after or during meals.
Reishi Side Effects, Safety, Dangers and Warnings
Ganoderma lucidum extract has received the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) designation from the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, and is generally recommended as a supplement with few side effects and very limited reports of toxic after-effects. The most typically reported side effects associated with reishi supplementation are dizziness, dry nose and throat, and skin irritation and/or inflammation. A smaller number of patients have reported nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Though side effects are typically mild and/or rare, it is very important to consume the appropriate dose of reishi in all its forms. Patients with bleeding disorders or those taking anticoagulant medications should carefully discuss reishi supplementation with their physicians, as Ganoderma lucidum can cause blood thinning via a component called adenosine. Individuals taking antidiabetes, antihypertensive, and anticoagulant/antiplatelet medications should exercise caution and refrain from taking reishi supplements until consulting their respective physicians.
Caution is particularly recommended when supplementing reishi in its powdered form, which should never be ingested for an excess of one month. In a 2007 study issued by the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, researchers observed an extremely rare case in which two patients underwent liver toxicity after consuming reishi powder for two months. Neither patient had experienced the same toxic effects when consuming non-powdered reishi. Though Ganoderma lucidum is well-known for its hepatoprotective properties, it can become fatally hepatotoxic if consumed in its powdered form for a period exceeding one month.
Why a Dual Extract?
Single-steam extracted mushroom powders are extracted solely from boiling water, which means that only the water-soluble compounds of the plant can be cultivated. The dual extraction process, however, is multi-stage. It involves the extraction of water-soluble compounds via boiling water and the subsequent extraction of fat-soluble compounds via alcohol fermentation (as was previously mentioned during the discussion on tincture and tea production). Dual extraction guarantees the highest effectiveness in terms of therapeutic potency. Consumers are advised to purchase supplements that guarantee at least one high-potency bioactive ingredient, which has been efficiently cultivated via the dual extraction process. For this reason, it is very important to pay thorough attention to the supplement facts label on any reishi product.
Beta D Glucans vs. Polysaccharides
Polysaccharides are linked to the therapeutic effects of the reishi mushroom in many research studies and are considered to be among the most bioactive of the fungus’s components. However, it is important to note that not all polysaccharides are therapeutically effective or even useful. Chitin, for example, makes up the cell walls of the reishi mushoom and is neither nutritive nor digestible for humans. The only truly beneficial polysaccharides in the reishi mushroom are beta D-glucans (also found in the cell walls of the mushroom), which are specific to yeast and fungi. These are the bioactive compounds with immunomodulatory, glucose-modulatory, and cardioprotective properties.
Consumers are advised to be wary of polysaccharide “fillers,” or alpha-glucans, in Ganoderma lucidum products. A poor-quality reishi extract might tout high numbers of polysaccharides, but if its alpha-glucan content outweighs or even eclipses its beta-glucan content, the therapeutic effectiveness of the extract is likely to be negligible. A good quality producer will have quantified its extracts beta-glucan content, preferably via the Megazyme method, in order to ensure nutritive potency
Fruiting Body vs. Mycelium on Grain
In fungi, the fruiting body refers to the multicellular entity upon which spore-producing structures are formed. The mycelium of a mushroom refers to the vegetative body of the fungus, which is meant to absorb enough nutrients to support the body of the mushroom. In order to cultivate mushrooms, growers will often nurture a culture of pure mycelium on a particular carrier material, such as grain. Once the mycelium culture has grown out and fully colonized its grain carrier, the material is considered to be pure-culture grain spawn. However, many companies manufacture and grow grain spawn in order to sell it as a nutritional supplement. In fact, the nutritive benefit of the mushroom mycelium in these instances is nil, as the product ends up being mostly grain powder. Caution is recommended when attempting to purchase reishi products from companies selling grain spawn as a supplement.
Triterpenes belong to a class of chemical compounds produced by plants, fungi, animals, and resins. Ganoderic acids comprise a sub-class of triterpenoids found commonly in various species of Ganoderma mushrooms. The triterpenes found in Ganoderma lucidum spores have attracted the attention of many microbiologists and chemists, and various research endeavors have indicated that Ganoderma spore ganodermic acids contain measurable anti-HIV-1 protease, anti-tumor, and hepatoprotective properties. Further, they are believed to play a role in lowering blood pressure/cholesterol and preventing platelet clumping, which leads to cardiovascular disease. There is evidence to indicate that ganoderic acids are key players in cancer cell cycle apoptosis, prompting many scientists to recommend further isolation and examination of reishi’s triterpenoids for cancer research purposes.