Reishi mushrooms are a medicinal fungus from Asia that has been used in traditional eastern medical systems for thousands of years. Recently, they’ve been studied extensively in Western medicine and found to offer a huge array of health benefits. Reishi mushrooms help counter inflammation, infections, allergies, asthma, insomnia, anxiety and depression. They protect against several diseases, including heart disease, autoimmune diseases, skin disorders, cancer, and liver disease. They also promote homeostasis throughout the body, helping restore hormonal balance and normalize immune function. Despite being an edible “superfood,” Reishi mushrooms have a bitter taste and tough, woody texture that makes them more consumable in capsule or extract form. This supplement boosts your energy and mood with no side effects, making it great for daily use.
1. Helps the Body Respond to Stress
Reishi mushrooms are considered adaptogens, which means they have medicinal properties that work to restore balance in the body’s systems. They promote homeostasis in your cardiovascular system, adrenal glands, nervous system and immune system in the face of external stressors that disrupt your physical and emotional state. Reishi mushrooms lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your bloodstream, in effect, improving your mood and countering the effects of stress on the body.
2. Supports Immune Function
The adaptogenic compounds in reishi mushrooms act as immunomodulators, which means they regulate immune function. They stimulate the production of immune cells the case of impaired or low immune function. Meanwhile, they lower the production of immune cells when needed. For example, in the case of autoimmune diseases, white blood cells are overproduced and attack the body itself. With allergic reactions, the immune system reacts to triggers that are not truly threatening. In these instances, reishi mushrooms work to downregulate the immune system’s response, restoring balance.
3. Boosts Liver Health
Reishi mushrooms contain ganoderic acids, which are powerful antioxidants that work as a tonic for the liver. Ganoderic acids inhibit enzymes that play a major role in the development of liver pathologies, including cirrhosis and hepatitis. They also help the liver better process nutrients and toxins and boost its performance of metabolic functions that are key to good health.
In a 2013 study, mice were injected with an extract from a poisonous mushroom and then administered reishi mushroom extract so that the effects of reishi mushrooms on liver function could be observed. Compared to a control group, the mice given reishi mushroom had less liver damage from the poison. Researchers also saw that reishi mushroom suppressed harmful immune responses that slow down the liver’s natural detoxification mechanism.
4. Helps Fight Cancer
Reishi mushrooms contain powerful anti-cancer compounds called polysaccharides. These are antioxidants known to help stop the growth of tumors and protect DNA and cells from unhealthy mutation. Polysaccharides stimulate the immune system, boosting tumor necrosis factors that cause apoptosis, which is the programmed death of malignant cells. Also, polysaccharides help protect against damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
According to studies, reishi mushrooms are effective against breast, ovarian, prostate, liver and lung cancer. Through their immune-boosting and chemoprotective qualities, reishi mushrooms also make medical treatment of cancer more effective.
5. Reduces Depression and Anxiety
Research suggests that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of reishi mushrooms contribute to protecting the brain from neurodegenerative responses that play a role in depression. In a study on rats, reishi mushrooms were found to increase levels of serotonin (the “happiness hormone”) and have an overall antidepressive effect. Low serotonin levels are also associated with anxiety, chronic stress, and insomnia.
6. Provides Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Actions
Oxidative stress is the oxidation of cells, which causes faster aging and is linked to the onset and progression of chronic diseases, such as heart disease. The antioxidants in reishi mushrooms fight oxidative stress and lower your risk of heart disease in other ways as well. Ganoderic acids in reishi mushrooms have been found to reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and high blood pressure, defend against abnormal blood clotting and correct heart arrhythmia. Meanwhile, the anti-inflammatory action of reishi mushrooms also helps protect against heart disease, as well as the numerous other diseases associated with inflammation.
7. Helps with Allergies and Asthma
Triterpenes are a type of ganoderic acid in reishi mushrooms that work as a natural antihistamine, reducing the body’s response to allergens. By inhibiting the release of histamine, modulating the immune system, lowering inflammation and improving oxygen utilization, reishi mushrooms help with both allergies and asthma. Through these same actions, the triterpenes in reishi mushrooms also help with food intolerances that result in inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
8. Helps Fight Infections
Like many bitter herbs, reishi mushrooms have an antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal action that helps resolve infections. According to research, reishi mushrooms also help your body fight off infections by encouraging the proliferation of good bacteria, strengthening the lining of your digestive tract, improving circulation and fighting inflammation. Traditionally, they’ve been used to treat urinary tract infections, sinusitis, hepatitis, respiratory infections, and bronchitis.
Tips for Safe Usage
Whether you have a medicinal need for reishi mushrooms or just want to enjoy better energy levels and help prevent disease, they’re generally considered safe to take every day. However, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or taking medications, be sure to check with a health professional before trying them. Make sure you find a reishi mushroom supplement that is 100 percent pure and that the label has the scientific name, Ganoderma lucidum. Don’t exceed the recommended dosage on the product label, because high doses can tax the liver and cause side effects. According to experts, you should take reishi mushrooms on an empty stomach for maximal absorption.
The reishi mushroom, known as “Lingzhi” or “mushroom of immortality” in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is an edible fungus gaining popularity for its numerous medicinal qualities. It works to correct imbalances in immune function, and as a result helps with allergies, detoxification, cancer, infections, and autoimmune diseases. Reishi mushroom is used as a general tonic to help reduce the effects of stress and improve energy and mood. It also seems to help counter depression and anxiety without side effects, making it an impressive natural supplement that can benefit virtually anyone.