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While the Western world has only recently woken up to the benefits of reishi mushrooms, these health-boosting shrooms have been used medicinally in Asian countries like China and Japan for thousands of years.

The scientific name for reishi is Ganoderma lucidum but it is better known by its Japanese name, reishi, or its Chinese name, lingzhi.

Traditionally, reishi mushrooms are associated with health and longevity, so it is no surprise that they are one of the most popular herbs in Asia. Now, news of these adaptogenic mushrooms has spread and many are hailing them as a superfood.

As interest in holistic medicine continues to grow, more research is being done into reishi and other functional mushrooms, such as lion’s mane and chaga. It is still early days, but there’s plenty of positive evidence that these mushrooms really do have benefits for our health and wellbeing.

What Are the Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms?

Reishi mushrooms have been revered in China and Japan for thousands of years as a type of functional mushroom – mushrooms that have benefits for our health beyond simple nutrition.

Also known as lingzhi, reishi mushrooms grow on trees in the hot and humid areas of Asia. It has a distinctive fan shape and a shiny red exterior. There are a few different species, but red reishi is the best known and most used.

As early as 206 BCE, Chinese texts were touting the benefits of reishi mushrooms as a tonic against aging. Believed to boost the memory, strengthen the heart, and replenish the Qi (lifeforce), they were so prized that only the rich could afford them – at least until someone worked out how to cultivate lingzhi mushrooms, making them a little easier to get hold of.

Reishi is still a vital ingredient in many forms of traditional Eastern medicine today. And Western practitioners increasingly value the therapeutic applications of these functional mushrooms too.

As well as its traditional uses as a stressbuster and protector against the effects of aging, reishi is gaining attention for its potential as an ally against a wide range of health issues, from cancer to bowel disease.

Many people use reishi regularly to support their day-to-day wellbeing. It is thought to reduce stress, boost the immune system, and promote sleep and relaxation.

The list of potential benefits of reishi mushrooms could span several pages, so we’ll limit ourselves to describing the best-supported.

1. Cancer Prevention

Studies into the effects of reishi mushrooms on cancer cells suggest that they have anti-cancer properties. They contain active components like Ganoderic Acids, which are known to disrupt the development and growth of tumor cells.

Further research is needed, but a 2020 review of the evidence concluded that functional mushrooms, including reishi, show benefits for people with cancer. The researchers suggested that these mushrooms could be used alongside conventional treatments to improve outcomes for cancer patients, although they call for better quality research to support their conclusions.

2. Boosting the Immune System

Part of reishi’s ability to fight cancer may come from its effect on our immune systems. Studies show that reishi can help our bodies to produce more white blood cells, supporting our natural ability to fight off diseases. 

In particular, researchers found that reishi boosts the number of white blood cells that are involved in protecting us against cancer, such as natural killer cells and macrophages.

3. Reducing Inflammation

It is becoming increasingly clear that inflammation is the mechanism underlying most common chronic diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. But reishi mushrooms may help reduce the inflammatory response. 

For example, research shows that the active compounds found in these mushrooms reduce levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in patients with Crohn’s disease.

4. Fighting Stress and Boosting our Mood

Our busy lives have many of us fighting an overload of stress, which can have a devastating impact on our health and quality of life. Reishi mushrooms are adaptogens – a group of herbs and mushrooms that are believed to reduce stress and support our physical and mental wellbeing.

This is because reishi helps to support the healthy function of our adrenal glands, the glands responsible for making the stress hormone, cortisol. 

Although studies on healthy people are limited, research found that taking reishi helped to reduce anxiety in breast cancer patients and improved the energy levels and mood of people with neurasthenia.

How to Use Reishi

Reishi mushrooms can be eaten as they are. But you are unlikely to see them sold in stores in their unprocessed form. To be honest, their woody texture is pretty unpleasant - not the best for adding to your stir-fry.

As a result, you are most likely to find reishi sold as tea, powder, or capsules. These are made from the dried mushrooms.

Unfortunately, reishi mushroom tea can be bitter and it takes some time to prepare. The mushrooms need to steep for at least half an hour to release their medicinal properties into the tea.

Although tea is the traditional method of taking reishi, many people now find it easier to use the powdered form. You can add reishi supplements to a hot drink, sprinkle it over food, or take it as a capsule. It is also sold as a tincture.

Like other adaptogens, reishi is used to support the healthy function of your body and mind. Western medicine has traditionally taken a curative approach to health – we wait until something is wrong and then try to cure it.

But reishi is part of the Eastern medicine tradition, which puts the emphasis on prevention before cure. The idea is that you should take small amounts over a long period of time. Ideally, you’ll take reishi daily – perhaps as part of your morning or evening routine. 

Some people find that reishi helps them relax and wind down for sleep, in which case you may prefer to take it in the evening. However, many of us start our days with a cup of hot tea or coffee, which is the perfect opportunity to add some reishi powder.

How long it takes for reishi to work varies from person to person. But you will usually start to experience the benefits within a couple of weeks. They should increase over time as well.

Reishi can also be combined with other functional mushrooms, such as lion’s mane or oyster mushrooms. By carefully mixing various types of adaptogenic mushrooms together into one supplement, you can gain the benefits of all of them in one go.

How to Grow Reishi Mushrooms

Although reishi is native to Asia, you can easily grow this health-boosting mushroom at home too. It is a slow grower, so expect to invest a few months before you take your first harvest.

Buying a kit is the best way to grow reishi at home. These will come with everything you need, including instructions on how to grow and harvest your mushrooms.

Once your mushrooms have grown large enough to harvest, you can dehydrate them to make reishi mushroom tea or steep them in alcohol to make a tincture. You could also grind the dried mushrooms to make reishi powder.

Dried reishi mushrooms can be added to soups, stews, and broths too. They just need to steep long enough to infuse the liquid. 

If that sounds like too much effort, reishi mushroom supplements are increasingly available from health food stores and online retailers too. Just make sure you look out for supplements made with high-quality reishi mushrooms to get the full benefits.

Gwella Mushrooms |
Gwella Mushrooms |


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