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Ultimate Guide to Reishi: Health Benefits, Uses & Medicinal Research

Ultimate Guide to Reishi: Health Benefits, Uses & Medicinal Research

For many years, the Reishi mushroom has been an essential part of traditional medicine in Asia. People believed it to be a powerful remedy for a long and healthy life. Emperors wanted its healing powers, and herbalists added it to healing tonics.

Now, modern science is starting to uncover the truth about the Reishi. Researchers are finding many special compounds in the mushroom that have shown interesting potential for our health. Through careful studies, we are learning more about Reishi's possible effects on both the mind and body, things that were once thought of as legends.

In this article, we will explore the fascinating history, examine its diverse applications, and offer guidance on choosing a top-notch Reishi mushroom supplement. 

In This Article:

  1. What are Functional Mushrooms?
  2. What are Reishi Mushrooms?
  3. The Science Behind the Benefits of Reishi
  4. Health Benefits of Reishi
  5. How to Buy a Good Quality Reishi Supplement?
  6. Dose, Safety, Side Effects
  7. How to Take Reishi Mushrooms for Health Support
  8. Reishi for Pets
  9. Frequently Asked Questions

What are Functional Mushrooms?

Referred to as 'functional mushrooms', these edible fungi boast a diverse range of bioactive compounds. Each type of functional mushroom possesses a unique bioactive profile, contributing to its ability to support specific bodily systems. Reishi, in particular, stands out for its remarkable capacity to enhance the immune system, among other health benefits.

If you're familiar with functional mushrooms, you've likely encountered the term 'beta-glucans' or 'beta-D-glucans.' These polysaccharides play a crucial role in the immune-modulating effects of mushrooms. A more detailed exploration of Beta-Glucans will be provided in a dedicated section.

What are Reishi Mushrooms?

Reishi belongs to the category of polypores, a woody variety of mushrooms that grow on trees and have a smooth underside consisting of numerous tiny pores instead of gills. Polypores are also known as bracket mushrooms or shelf mushrooms due to their horizontal growth from trees.

It might be surprising to learn that the term "reishi mushroom" doesn't specifically denote a single type of fungus. Reishi, known as Lingzhi in China and Korea and "mannetake" in Japan, serves as the common name for the scientific genus of mushrooms, Ganoderma.

The Ganoderma genus is widespread globally, with studies suggesting the existence of approximately 2,000 distinct species [1].

The most prevalent Reishi species worldwide is Ganoderma lucidum. The Latin origin "Lucidum," meaning bright, has been associated with the glossy appearance exhibited by these mushrooms. [2, 3]

Among Ganoderma species, Ganoderma lucidum is commonly used in mushroom supplements [4].

The form of Ganoderma lucidum is commonly fan-shaped, kidney-shaped, or semicircular, displaying predominantly dark red, reddish-brown, or reddish-black hues. Yellow or ochre tones tend to be more noticeable along the edges. The internal flesh of the mushroom typically presents in shades ranging from yellowish-brown to dark brown [3].

Historical Applications of Reishi Mushrooms

Historical records confirming the health benefits of Reishi date back about 2,400 years, with images of this mushroom often seen in ancient Chinese and Japanese artwork. It's likely that Reishi has been used as a medicinal herb for over 4,000 years across Eastern cultures, including Korean and Indian traditions [5]. The cultural respect for "the mushroom of immortality" is further highlighted by its depiction on two statues in China. Two of China’s esteemed ancient emperors, Yan and Huang, are shown holding Reishi, emphasising the deep admiration for this mushroom in Chinese culture.

In ancient Chinese herbalism, Reishi was called Lingzhi (灵芝), meaning "herb of spiritual potency." Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners used Lingzhi to influence the heart, lungs, liver, and kidney channels, aiming to balance Qi (pronounced "chee"), which is the body’s life force. It's believed that balancing Qi helps calm the mind and alleviate conditions like cough and asthma. Reishi earned the nickname "the mushroom of immortality" due to its perceived overall health support [6].

Reishi mushrooms have a recognized place in China’s State Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (2000), where they are praised for their ability to balance Qi, soothe the mind, and support respiratory health [7]. Ganoderma lucidum was even documented in the historical Chinese herbal encyclopaedia known as Shen-Nong-Ben-Cao-Jing. [8]

Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) Mushroom growing on a decaying log

The scientific name Ganoderma lucidum, with "lucidum" derived from Latin meaning "bright," alludes to the glossy appearance of the surface of the mushroom.

The Science Behind the Benefits of Reishi

Employing contemporary research methodologies, scientists have ascertained the wealth of benefits associated with Reishi mushrooms in promoting longevity and overall well-being. This fungus comprises a spectrum of over 400 distinct bioactive compounds, primarily in the form of polysaccharides, triterpenes and germanium, all of which play a multifaceted role in supporting various aspects of bodily functions [4,9. Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates made up of long chains of simple sugar molecules.

Studies have shown that the polysaccharides present in Reishi have various positive effects on the body. These effects include actions against cancer, antioxidant properties, protection against microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi), regulation of the immune system, assistance in managing blood sugar levels, and reducing inflammation. Additionally, these polysaccharides play a role in safeguarding the protective lining of the intestines [10, 11, 12].

Beta-Glucans

In the case of Reishi mushrooms, the polysaccharides present, particularly beta-glucans, have been a focal point of scientific interest due to their potential health-promoting properties. 

Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharide compounds found in the cell walls of certain grains, fungi, bacteria, and other sources. Reishi mushrooms, among other fungi like Turkey Tail and Lions Mane, are notable for their high content of beta-glucans. 

Beta-glucans play a pivotal role in fostering immune support and various medicinal attributes.

Widely recognized as Biological Response Modifiers (BRMs) [13], beta-glucans function by modulating the immune system, adjusting its activity as needed. These modifiers have the capacity to enhance the immune response, leading to a more effective defence against infections and various other benefits. 

Triterpenes

Reishi stands as the sole identified origin of a set of triterpenes referred to as ganoderic acids. These ganoderic acids possess a molecular structure that closely resembles that of steroid hormones. [14]

Triterpenes have several helpful effects, including fighting tumours, reducing inflammation, acting as antioxidants, combating hepatitis, working against malaria, regulating blood sugar, fighting microbes, and showing activity against HIV. [11]

Germanium

Reishi also contains high levels of germanium, which has properties that can help prevent mutations, fight tumours, boost the immune system, and act as an antioxidant [2]

Other Noteworthy Bioactive Components

Reishi contains many other bioactive compounds that are worth mentioning.

In Reishi, there are proteins like LZP-1, LZP-2, LZP-3, and Zhi-8, along with beneficial peptides such as lectins, ribonucleases, and laccases [15, 16]. These substances can influence cell activity and support the immune system. 

Reishi also provides essential enzymes like superoxide dismutase, lysozyme, and protein enzymes that help protect the body from diseases and support metabolism. [9]

Studies show that Reishi’s ganodosterone, a type of steroid, can protect the liver. Moreover, Ganoderma contains vitamins C and E, as well as β-carotene [15]. β-Carotene is a type of pigment and antioxidant that is important for maintaining healthy skin, vision, and immune function.

Health Benefits of Reishi

From traditional uses steeped in centuries of wisdom to cutting-edge scientific discoveries, read on to explore the unique attributes that set Reishi apart in the world of medicinal mushrooms.

Health Benefits At a Glance:

  1. Reishi as an Adaptogenic Mushroom
  2. Reishi Supports the Immune System
  3. Reishi’s Anti-Inflammatory Properties
  4. Reishi’s Antioxidant Properties
  5. Reishi May Help Control Allergies
  6. Reishi Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety
  7. Reishi May Help Combat Depression
  8. Reishi Promotes Restful Sleep
  9. Reishi Mushrooms for Lung & Respiratory Well-being
  10. Reishi May Help Manage Asthma
  11. Reishi May Help Balance Blood Sugar Levels
  12. Reishi Supports Liver Health
  13. Reishi May Help Manage Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  14. Reishi Supports Heart Health
  15. Reishi Can Help Manage Arthritis
  16. Reishi May Help Manage Menopause Symptoms
  17. Reishi May Improve Skin Health
  18. Reishi May Help Treat HIV
  19. Reishi Supports the Prostate and Urological Health
  20. Reishi Supports Brain Health
  21. Reishi and Cancer

Reishi as an Adaptogenic Mushroom

It's evident that stress levels have surged, with a reported 55% of American adults facing occasional stress, as highlighted by The New York Times in 2019 [17].

What makes this concerning is that episodes of stress can adversely impact various systems within our bodies. In such a scenario, the rise of medicinal mushrooms, including Reishi mushrooms, becomes particularly relevant. 

Renowned for their adaptogenic properties, these mushrooms aid the body in adapting to different stressors, whether physical, biological, or chemical. 

Reishi stands out as one of the most widely embraced adaptogens globally, aiding the body and mind in adeptly adjusting to health stressors and sustaining allostasis. Allostasis is the mechanism by which the body ensures homeostasis, dynamically adjusting its internal environment to meet both present and anticipated demands [18]. Homeostasis is the body's natural ability to maintain stability and balance in its internal environment despite external changes.

Reishi Supports the Immune System

Reishi has been found to exhibit immune-modulating properties. Initial studies, conducted, show promising results supporting Reishi's potential as an immune-system booster. Researchers credit the immune system support and modulation benefits of Reishi mushrooms to their abundance of beta-glucans.

In one study, beta-glucans from Reishi were found to enhance the activity of immune cells, including natural killer cells (NK cells) and T cells, in rats [19]. NK cells protect the body from infections and cancer cell growth. [20]

A systematic review of five well-designed human studies produced similar findings, indicating that Reishi significantly increased T cell levels while slightly elevating leukocytes (another type of white blood cell) [21]. The researchers concluded that Reishi stimulates host immunity, is well-tolerated, and shows no observed toxic effects.

Furthermore, research indicates that Reishi can modulate and enhance immune cells, such as natural killer cells, in individuals with chronic diseases  [22, 23].

In a cellular study, it was demonstrated that Reishi works collaboratively with cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug. This collaboration exhibited anti-tumor effects on ovarian cancer cells and increased the sensitivity of cancer cells to cisplatin [24].

Reishi’s Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Chronic inflammation is considered the underlying factor in numerous diseases affecting humanity. Extensive research has focused on substances known for their anti-inflammatory properties, such as curcumin and potent antioxidants.

Reishi, too, contains compounds with anti-inflammatory effects, offering potential benefits for overall health. These properties may provide relief from arthritis symptoms and play a role in reducing the risk of cancer. The anti-inflammatory attribute of this fungus is a key factor in its reported ability to assist in managing allergy symptoms [25].

Reishi’s Antioxidant Properties

The antioxidant properties of Reishi have been scientifically found to help fight oxidative stress. These properties are linked to its components, namely polysaccharides, glycoproteins, triterpenes, amino acids, and phenolic compounds. [9]

Oxidative stress is a condition characterised by an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) in the body and the ability of the body's antioxidant defences to neutralise them. This imbalance can lead to cellular damage and has been linked to various ailments, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, immune system disorders, and ageing [26, 27, 28].

The polysaccharides in Reishi have antioxidant effects, meaning they can help prevent damage caused by free radicals. Reishi’s polysaccharides also reduce oxidative products which are associated with oxidative stress and inflammation. Moreover, they positively affect the activity of glutathione peroxidase, a defence mechanism against free radicals in the body's cells. [29, 30]

Reishi May Help Control Allergies

The compounds in Reishi exhibit both anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties, functioning in ways similar to common allergy medications [31]. In a review published in the journal of Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery, scientists were quoted saying Reishi’s “unique array of compounds could play a major role in the treatment of histamine-mediated allergic responses.” [31]

They also mentioned how Reishi is a safer approach for allergic treatment, especially when traditional treatments also come with side effects.

In a 2012 study involving “hay fever”, scientists discovered that Reishi treatment reduced symptoms of pollen-induced nasal blockage [32]. 

Studies also revealed that oleic acid and cyclooctasulfur, two compounds found in Reishi, have the ability to reduce or suppress the release of histamine in the body. [33, 34]

Reishi also has the potential to modulate the immune system to reduce airway inflammation. A study conducted on mice with airway inflammation induced by allergens found reduced airway inflammation after Reishi was administered orally. [35]

Reishi Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Our response to stress involves the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, from the adrenal cortex and neurotransmitters like dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla. Reishi's polypeptides may play a role in regulating these responses, assisting the body in returning stress hormones to normal, appropriate levels.

Forgetfulness, insomnia, and palpitations are symptoms associated with significant stress, and these are the issues for which Reishi was and continues to be utilised in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) [36]. While there are no direct randomised control trials specifically showcasing Reishi's impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, studies have demonstrated benefits in other systems involved in the stress response. Neurasthenia, once a medical diagnosis characterised by physical and mental fatigue, poor memory, and sleep difficulties [37], may no longer be recognized in Western medicine, but these symptoms remain relevant in many traditional medical systems in Asia [38].

When combined with lifestyle adjustments encompassing nutrition, exercise, and stress management techniques like mindfulness or meditation, Reishi holds the potential to contribute to overall well-being. Ongoing research is exploring Reishi mushroom benefits in promoting general relaxation. Recent studies indicate that Reishi possesses a calming quality that can aid in maintaining a positive mood [39, 18]

A 2005 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food tested the effects of Reishi supplements in patients with symptoms of irritability, dizziness, aches, and headaches. The study concluded how fatigue was significantly reduced, and the mood was better after 8 weeks of supplementation. [38]

The same result was recorded in another study that made use of breast cancer survivors. The researchers also noted how the breast cancer survivors experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression afterwards. [40]

Reishi May Help Combat Depression

Reishi may contain antidepressant properties.

One study tested the effects of reishi on markers of stress and depression. Results showed Reishi possesses anti-depressant properties. Researchers found that Reishi extracts exerted the same receptor-antagonistic effects as drugs prescribed for depression [50]

In another study previously mentioned, scientists found a strong link between Reishi consumption and lower levels of anxiety, depression, mood, and sleep concerns in breast cancer patients [40]. They suggest Reishi has some anti-fatigue benefits, which then allowed the patients to do better at activities they have otherwise given up. [51]

The studies on the antidepressant-like effects of Reishi show promising results. However, it is important to note that more research is needed to fully understand and validate these findings before conclusive statements can be made regarding its effectiveness as an antidepressant.

Click here to learn more about which mushrooms can help with depression.

Reishi Promotes Restful Sleep

Sleep is one of the pillars of health, along with diet, exercise, and meditation/relaxation. Many studies suggest the body is unable to efficiently function if it lacks sleep, especially our immune system. Since sleep is also the time the body recovers, impaired sleep can therefore lead to chronic pains and mental stress. 

Reishi not only helps ease occasional stress but can also be taken as a supplement to promote better sleep. A recently published study in BMC Microbiology suggests Reishi supplements have an anti-insomnia effect. [41]

In a study with rats, Reishi was found to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency) and increase overall sleeping time [42]. Scientists believe that Reishi's influence on sleep might be linked to the gut bacteria (microbiome) and its connection to serotonin [43]. Serotonin is known to induce sleepiness while also providing an uplifting feeling. This is also known to affect our mood or how good or bad we feel throughout the day.

Based on these studies with rodents, it's suggested that Reishi may have an effect on GABA receptors, which are the same receptors targeted by sleep medications [42]. GABA (short for Gamma-Aminobutyrtic Acid) calms the nervous system, making it more relaxed. It also works as an anti-anxiety supplement.

Reishi Mushrooms for Lung & Respiratory Well-being

Reishi mushrooms have the potential to promote lung and respiratory health.

As mentioned previously, in one study involving mice, Reishi demonstrated support for a balanced inflammatory response, lowering the inflammation in the airways and thus lowering sensitivity of the airways [35]. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine utilised Reishi for bronchitis, a chronic lung condition affecting breathing [44].

Reishi May Help Manage Asthma

Research suggests that the Reishi mushroom can strengthen respiratory function, specifically by improving oxygen utilisation, which significantly reduces risks or the severity of asthma attacks.

One animal study indicates how Reishi acts as an immunomodulator (stimulates the immune system) and anti-inflammatory agent against markers of asthma [53].

Another study also found that taking Reishi reduces inflammatory cell activity caused by asthma, which lowered airway hyperactivity and decreased the presence of inflammatory cells in the lung tissue of mice with asthma [54].

Click here to learn more about which mushrooms can help manage asthma.

Reishi May Help Balance Blood Sugar Levels

Reishi mushroom has components like polysaccharides and triterpenoids (triterpenes) that researchers have studied for their potential to help balance blood sugar levels.

Polysaccharides affect enzymes involved in glucose metabolism, while triterpenoids inhibit enzymes that convert glucose. These components show antidiabetic properties, and specific substances like Ling Zhi-8 protein and ganoderic acids contribute to these effects. [45, 46]

In a study with rats, an ethanol extract of Reishi positively influenced free fatty acid metabolism and helped lower blood glucose levels [47]. Another study in mice found that Reishi polysaccharides significantly reduced fasting blood glucose and insulin levels. [48]

These findings suggest that Reishi may play a role in managing diabetes and maintaining balanced blood sugar levels.

Reishi Supports Liver Health

Reishi has demonstrated its ability to enhance liver health, potentially attributed to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics.

A study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms in 2013 found that the Reishi mushroom exhibits hepatoprotective effects in cases of acute liver injury, meaning that it can help keep the liver healthy and help protect it from damage or injury. The researchers hypothesised that these effects are largely attributed to its potent antioxidant properties [49].

Reishi has also shown potential to help treat hepatitis B. One study found that Ganopoly, derived from Reishi, has beneficial effects on hepatitis B. [66]

The findings showed positive changes in specific measurable parameters related to both the viral infection and the health of the liver. 13% of the treated patients were cleared of HBeAg within 6 months. HBeAg (Hepatitis B e Antigen) is a protein produced by the hepatitis B virus during active replication. A reduction in HBeAg levels is considered positive, as it indicates a decrease in viral replication and potential containment of the infection.

Reishi May Help Manage Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term to describe two conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both are long-term diseases associated with gut inflammation. Reishi’s anti-inflammatory properties may help combat inflammation associated with IBD.

A study in 2012 confirmed Reishi supplementation can help ease colon inflammation, a marker for IBD. Reishi worked by reducing colon shortening, which is a symptom of colon inflammation, while also inhibiting other markers of inflammation in colon tissue. [52]

Click here to learn more about how mushrooms can help ease IBD.

Reishi Supports Heart Health

Reishi's triterpenes and other bioactive compounds contribute to heart health by protecting blood vessels, regulating blood pressure, and improving the body's ability to manage sugars and fats.

Lowering Cholesterol

Reishi has been noticed to have a positive impact on lowering cholesterol, these effects have been linked to the antioxidant activities of Reishi. 

Studies show that Reishi prevents blood platelets from sticking together. This action leads to a reduction in LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol), total cholesterol, and triglycerides. [55, 56, 57, 58]

LDL-C is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol. When LDL-C levels are high, it can contribute to the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Total cholesterol includes LDL-C and HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Lowering total cholesterol is generally associated with better heart health. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. Elevated triglyceride levels can also be a risk factor for heart disease.

Lowering Blood Pressure

Reishi has been discovered to help lower high blood pressure and enhance the body's ability to manage fats (lipid metabolism) [56].

Studies on rats and mice showed that Reishi has antioxidant properties and can help lower high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high levels of fats in the blood (dyslipidemia) [59, 60].

Preventing Heart Disease

Triterpenes in Reishi have special properties that help prevent cardiovascular diseases by inhibiting certain processes, reducing inflammation, and acting as antioxidants.

Reishi contains various helpful compounds like polysaccharides and peptides. These substances protect the cells lining blood vessels, preventing cardiovascular diseases [56, 61].

Reishi Can Help Manage Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term condition where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, leading to inflammation and damage. 

Reishi’s polysaccharides show promise in helping manage rheumatoid arthritis by reducing inflammation, influencing immune responses, preventing excessive blood vessel growth, and protecting bones and cartilage. [62]

Reishi’s polysaccharides have been found to help manage arthritis in the following ways:

  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Reducing the growth and movement of cells causing inflammation in the joints, as well as adjusting the balance of different chemicals that contribute to joint inflammation.
  • Immunomodulatory effects: Influencing cells responsible for presenting antigens, affecting how immune cells function. Polysaccharides also balance immune responses, regulating the production of antibodies and the activity of immune cells.
  • Anti-Angiogenic effects: Hindering the formation of new blood vessels, which is beneficial in preventing excessive growth of blood vessels in inflamed joints.
  • Osteoprotective effects: Inhibiting the production of substances that harm bone and cartilage, as well as promoting the formation of bone cells, thus protecting joints and bones.

Reishi May Help Manage Menopause Symptoms

Reishi has shown potential to aid with the management of symptoms associated with menopause.

Many menopause symptoms have to do with inflammation. Taking into account Reishi’s potent anti-inflammatory effects, it has gained great interest in helping with common menopausal symptoms. [31]

Reishi also contains adenosine, a molecule with anti-stress effects. It’s been shown to help protect against symptoms of fatigue and depression. It can also mitigate sleeplessness or other symptoms of insomnia. [63]

Click here to learn more about the best mushrooms for menopause.

Reishi May Improve Skin Health

Reishi contains various skin-protective compounds such as polysaccharides, triterpenoids, and polyphenols that act as antioxidants and help protect the skin from oxidative damage. [64]

Reishi has also been observed to help strengthen skin elasticity, reduce skin cell turnover, as well as reduce skin irritations. It can also lower stress levels, which is critical as stress can accelerate signs of ageing and hormonal imbalances that lead to skin concerns. [65]

Click here to learn more about the other medicinal mushrooms that can help improve skin health.

Reishi May Help Treat HIV

Study findings suggest a possible avenue for the development of natural products or compounds derived from Reishi in the context of HIV treatment.

In two separate studies, triterpenes were found to exert inhibitory effects on HIV-1 and its protease enzyme [67, 68]. This suggests that these natural compounds may have the potential to interfere with the virus's replication process by targeting the protease enzyme.

Reishi Supports the Prostate and Urological Health

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia 

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, a walnut-sized organ located just below the bladder in men. The prostate surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. As the prostate enlarges, it may squeeze or partially block the urethra, causing various urinary symptoms.

The exact cause of BPH is not well understood, but it is generally associated with ageing and changes in the balance of sex hormones. BPH is a common condition in older men, and while it is not cancerous, it can lead to bothersome symptoms such as a frequent or urgent need to urinate, difficulty starting or stopping urination, weak urine stream, incomplete emptying of the bladder or urinary retention (the inability to urinate).

Several studies have found that Reishi may aid in the management of BPH. 

Reishi has the ability to reduce the activity of male hormones, as well as counteract the effects of male hormones [69, 70]. Male hormones play a role in prostate enlargement, and Reshi’s anti-androgenic (anti-male hormone) properties suggest a potential influence on BPH.

Triterpenoids found in Reishi also have the ability to inhibit the 5-alpha reductase enzyme [71]. 5-Alpha reductase is an enzyme that plays a crucial role in the conversion of testosterone, a male sex hormone, into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This conversion is significant because DHT is more potent than testosterone and is associated with various physiological processes in the body, including the development and enlargement of the prostate gland. Inhibiting this enzyme may impact the conversion of hormones related to prostate enlargement, indicating a potential role in managing BPH.

The findings stated above are further supported by an animal study to determine whether Reishi can prevent prostate enlargement induced by male hormones [72]. The study found that Reishi inhibited the enlargement of the prostate induced by male hormones, thus further supporting Reishi’s potential to manage BPH.

Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms

Conditions like Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH), issues with the bladder's structure, and other pelvic problems can lead to Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS). These symptoms include difficulties in urination, such as hesitancy, straining, feeling of incomplete bladder emptying, frequent urination, urgency, and dribbling.

Medical professionals use a tool known as the International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS) to assess these symptoms. While not a diagnostic tool, the IPSS helps gauge the effectiveness of treatments. In a clinical trial, Reishi supplementation showed improved IPSS scores in men with LUTS [73].

Researchers tested 19 different types of mushrooms, and among them, Reishi showed the strongest ability to inhibit the 5-alpha reductase enzyme [71]. This inhibition suggests that Reishi may have a mechanism that could be important for maintaining the health of the prostate and urinary system.

Reishi Supports Brain Health

Various studies have been conducted to investigate Reishi’s impact on brain health. The results have shown Reishi’s neuroprotective, anti-epileptic and cognitive enhancing effects.

Neuroprotective Effects

In particular, Reishi polysaccharides and triterpenes have been shown to have neuroprotective effects. This means they can help protect the brain and nervous system from damage from various factors, including ageing, disease, and injury.

One study found that Reishi polysaccharides could protect neurons from damage in a laboratory setting. The researchers concluded polysaccharides found in Reishi might effectively treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. [74]

Like polysaccharides, researchers also found triterpenes to have cognitive health benefits.

One study found that a specific triterpene called ganoderic acid could protect neurons from damage in a laboratory setting. This suggests Reishi triterpenes may effectively treat neurodegenerative diseases and other conditions that affect the brain and nervous system. [75] 

The Reishi mushroom is also a rich source of antioxidants, which can help protect the brain from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage and contribute to developing chronic diseases, including cognitive decline. [64]

By neutralising free radicals, the antioxidants in the Reishi mushroom can help maintain healthy brain cells and support overall brain health.

Click here to learn more about the best mushrooms for your brain.

Reishi for Alzheimer’s Disease

Reishi is a source of powerful antioxidants and has been cited to reduce cell ageing. [76]

In fact, Reishi is credited to have some of most anti-ageing effects of all medicinal mushrooms. Reishi extracts are also known to protect cellular DNA from oxidant damage, which can lead to early signs of ageing and cancer.

What about Alzheimer’s? Because Alzheimer’s is largely a cell-ageing disease, experts suggest taking reishi can slow down its progress primarily by promoting neurogenesis. 

Neurogenesis refers to the process by which new neurons (nerve cells) are generated in the brain. This is an important process necessary for maintaining brain functions like mood and cognition. Moreover, enhancing neurogenesis can help counteract neurodegeneration, which leads to Alzheimer’s disease. [74]

The contents found in Reishi can also limit the damage done by advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are proteins whose malfunction promotes ageing and inflammation and contribute to Alzheimer’s risk. [77]

Click here to learn more about how mushrooms can help manage Alzheimer’s Disease.

Reishi for Epilepsy 

The polysaccharides and oligosaccharides found in Reishi have demonstrated anti-epileptic properties.

One study explored whether polysaccharides could help in preventing seizures by affecting the levels of calcium inside cells and by influencing the expression of a specific protein called CaMKII α in the hippocampus [78]. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that plays a crucial role in the formation of new memories and spatial navigation.

CaMKII α in the hippocampus is a key player in the molecular processes associated with learning, memory formation, and synaptic plasticity, which is the ability of synapses (connections between neurons) to strengthen or weaken over time.

The study revealed that the polysaccharides had an anti-epileptic effect. This effect seemed to be related to the inhibition of calcium build-up inside cells and the stimulation of the expression of the CaMKII α protein in the hippocampus. This suggests a potential role in managing epilepsy or conditions involving abnormal calcium levels in the brain.

Another study aimed to investigate whether certain substances (oligosaccharides) extracted from Reishi could have a protective and calming effect on the brain, specifically in terms of preventing seizures and protecting neurons. [79]

The study found that the oligosaccharides from Reishi had anticonvulsant (seizure-preventing) and neuroprotective (protecting nerve cells) effects. 

While both polysaccharides and oligosaccharides are both types of carbohydrates composed of sugar, polysaccharides are composed of long chains of sugar molecules, whereas oligosaccharides are composed of a short chain of sugar molecules.

Reishi and Cancer

General Anti-Cancer Benefits:

Reishi contains a number of compounds that have exhibited anti-cancer benefits.

Polysaccharides

Polysaccharides from Reishi stimulate the immune system, leading to the production of cytokines and activation of immune cells against cancer  [80, 81]. Cytokines, as signalling proteins, serve as messengers between immune cells, aiding in the coordination and stimulation of their activities.

These polysaccharides also exhibit anticancer activity by inducing a toxic effect on cancer cells, reducing tumour cell adhesion, promoting apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells, and inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis)  [10, 12, 82].

Certain beta-D-glucans in polysaccharides have shown anticancer activity Other polysaccharides like glucuronoglucan, glucogalactan, mannogalactoclucan, and arabinoglucan also exhibit antitumor activity [10, 83]

Triterpenoids

Triterpenoids encompass a wide range of compounds derived from triterpenes and have important benefits.

Triterpenoids from Reishi, especially ganoderic acids, demonstrate anticancer activity by inhibiting the spread of cancer cells, suppressing their attack, and inhibiting specific cellular activities [81, 56, 84]

Ganoderic acids have been shown to be harmful to various cancer cells [56]. 

Triterpenoids are considered valuable because they can be used as a natural supplement to support or lessen the harmful effects of standard cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Additionally, these triterpenoids can boost the immune system in people undergoing cancer treatment [56].

Phenolic Compounds, Flavonoids, and Terpenoids

Phenolic Compounds, Flavonoids, and Terpenoids are other compounds found in Reishi that have also exhibited anti-cancer properties.

Phenolic compounds help prevent the spread of cancer cells [9].

Flavonoids inhibit the growth of blood vessels that supply tumours, increase DNA damage in cancer cells, and affect various cellular processes [9].

Terpenoids interfere with cell signalling, promote programmed cell death (apoptosis), and arrest the cell cycle, contributing to both the formation and prevention of cancer [85]. 

Terpenoids should not be confused with Triterpenoids.Triterpenoids specifically belong to the subgroup of terpenoids and are derived from triterpenes within Reishi. Terpenoids are a broad class of naturally occurring organic compounds derived from isoprene units within Reishi.

Reishi and Breast Cancer

Triterpenoids found in Reishi have been found to have the ability to damage or kill cells, specifically cells related to breast cancer and liver cancer, according to a particular study. [86].

Another study supports these findings, stating that Reishi has been found to significantly reduce the activity of a protein (NF-κB) in aggressive breast cancer cells, which is very beneficial as it might help in controlling or slowing down the growth and spread of these cancer cells [87].

Reishi may also help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. A study analysed a person with stage IIIa breast cancer who used Reishi alongside standard breast cancer treatments (chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, and post-surgery prevention).

The use of Reishi had several benefits for the patient. These benefits included shrinking the tumour effectively, experiencing fewer and temporary side effects from chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and overall improving the person's quality of life. This was compared to people who only used traditional cancer treatments [88]. 

Reishi and Colorectal Cancer

Studies on Reishi and colorectal cancer show promise.

In one study, researchers studied the effects of a substance called Ganopoly from the Reishi  mushroom on patients with advanced colorectal cancer [89]. They gave Ganopoly to 47 patients for 12 weeks and observed some positive changes in their immune system, like increased responsiveness to certain substances and higher counts of certain immune cells. 

Another study suggests that Reishi might aid in the protection of the small intestine from damage caused by anti-cancer drugs [90]. 

The study tested if a substance called MAK, extracted from Reishi, can protect the small intestine from damage caused by anti-cancer drugs. They gave mice MAK before treating them with different anti-cancer drugs. The results showed that MAK helped protect the small intestine from injury caused by some drugs, including 5-fluorouracil, UFT, and cisplatin (medications given to cancer patients). This suggests that MAK could be a potential way to prevent the common side effect of chemotherapy, which is damage to the small intestine.

Reishi and Liver Cancer

Several studies have shown that Reishi has a positive effect on liver cancer cells.

One study conducted in 2003 found that Triterpene-enriched extracts from Reishi blocked the growth of liver cancer cells through different mechanisms [91]. 

Studies conducted in 2005, 2006 and 2009 supported these findings, suggesting that Reishi can stop the growth and spread of liver cancer cells in both cell cultures and animals, specifically by causing the cells to stop dividing and having a toxic effect on the liver cancer cells [92, 93, 94].

Reishi was also shown to specifically reduce the invasiveness of liver cancer cells [95]. Invasive behaviour is a characteristic of cancer cells, where they can penetrate and spread into surrounding tissues. The anti-invasive effects suggest that Reishi may have additional therapeutic benefits in preventing or limiting the spread of liver cancer cells.

Reishi and Lymphoma

One study found that Reishi caused apoptosis (cell death) in leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma cells [96].

Another study found that Reishi potentially contributed to the regression of gastric large B-cell lymphoma, thus meaning it might have immune-system-modifying effects that caused the cell to shrink [97].

Reishi and Lung Cancer

One study focused on the impact of Reishi’s polysaccharides (Ganopoly) on the immune functions of patients with advanced lung cancer [98]. 

Thirty-six patients took Ganopoly daily for 12 weeks. While the average immune response did not change significantly in all patients, some individuals showed noticeable improvements. The study suggests that certain lung cancer patients might benefit from Ganopoly alongside traditional treatments.

Reishi and Prostate Cancer

A study investigated how Reishi affects the growth, cell cycle, and death of prostate cancer cells called PC-3 [99]. Results show that Reishi slows down cell growth. It does this by changing the levels of certain proteins involved in cell division and stopping cells from progressing through the cell cycle. 

Reishi also encouraged cell death in PC-3 cells, partly by changing the levels of certain proteins that control cell survival.

Other studies have found that Reishi specifically interferes with male hormones (androgens) that can contribute to prostate cancer growth [100, 101].

Another study investigated whether Reishi can stop the formation of new blood vessels (a process called angiogenesis) in prostate cancer cells [102].

Reishi was able to prevent angiogenesis in prostate cancer cells by reducing the release of certain substances called VEGF and TGF-beta1 from the cancer cells. This is important because angiogenesis is a process that helps cancer cells grow by forming new blood vessels, and by inhibiting it, Reishi might have a positive effect in slowing down prostate cancer.

These findings suggest that Reishi may have potential in influencing prostate cancer cells, providing different avenues for research and potential therapeutic use.

How to Buy a Good Quality Reishi Supplement?

Choosing a good quality mushroom supplement can be a daunting task, as there are many options available in the market. However, there are a few key things to consider when selecting a high-quality mushroom supplement:

Fruiting Body vs. Mycelium

Quality control standards for functional mushroom products are currently lacking, highlighting the urgent need for systematic scientific verification of active compounds in these nutritional supplements. This is crucial for ensuring greater accountability regarding ingredient integrity and transparency.

When a product fails to specify the source of its Reishi, there's a risk that it relies on mycelium (the fungal root structure) rather than the Reishi fruiting body (the actual mushroom we see above the ground). To ensure the highest quality Reishi mushroom supplement, it is advisable to choose products with an ingredients label indicating the use of only organic fruiting body, free from mycelium or grain contaminants.

Explore the notable distinctions between supplements crafted from mycelium and those derived from the fruiting body by clicking here.

Beta-Glucan Content

Beta-glucans are one of the primary compounds responsible for the unique immune system-supporting function and other health benefits of Reishi.

Many brands incorporate various starch, fillers, colorings, unnecessary additives, and other ingredients into their supplements, which offer no health benefits. Moreover, these additions suggest a low percentage of actual Reishi extract in the product, resulting in a diminished concentration of beta-glucans (medicinal compounds) and, consequently, lower therapeutic potency.

To obtain the most potent and high-value functional fungi supplement, scrutinise the product label for specific beta-glucan content. To ensure the optimal quality of your Reishi mushroom supplement, verify that the product specifies a beta-glucan concentration of at least 25%. This ensures you receive the full spectrum of health benefits associated with this mushroom.

Antioxi's Reishi Extract boasts a beta-glucan content exceeding 30%, guaranteeing that you receive the necessary benefits.

Organically Certified

Opt for certified organic options as mushrooms tend to absorb pollutants from their surroundings. Mushrooms that are organically grown refer to mushrooms cultivated in a natural manner, devoid of herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides.

Safety Tests

Heavy metals and pesticides tests are safety tests which will indicate whether mushrooms are safe to consume.

Extraction Method

Understanding the ingredients in your diet is crucial, especially when it comes to functional mushrooms and their quality. Opting for a low-quality mushroom supplement poses a risk to experiencing the full range of potential benefits, making your health a priority.

A key indicator of a high-quality functional mushroom product is its extraction from the mushroom (fruiting body) and using the appropriate method. Three commonly used extraction methods for functional mushrooms are hot water, alcohol, and dual extraction (involving both hot water and alcohol). 

The choice of the extraction method can impact the quality, and research indicates that not all methods are equally effective for every mushroom. Some methods may even remove medicinal constituents during the process. Therefore, it is crucial for supplement producers to understand which extraction method ensures maximum benefit and efficacy for their product.

Hot water extraction involves heating the mushroom in water to draw out water-soluble compounds like polysaccharides and beta-glucans. The resulting liquid can be consumed directly or dried to create a powder concentrated with the beneficial compounds.

Alcohol extraction follows a comparable procedure but utilises alcohol instead of water to eliminate non-water-soluble compounds such as triterpenes.

Determining the optimal extraction method, whether hot water or alcohol, depends on the mushroom in question. Antioxi employs a double (or dual) extraction approach for Reishi, as it contains beneficial compounds that are soluble in both water and alcohol.

Through both extraction processes, the liquids obtained are merged and then evaporated, resulting in a single extract powder. This method ensures the highest potency and health benefits in the final product.

To guarantee the top-notch quality of your Reishi mushroom supplement, check whether the product has utilised a dual extraction method.

Click the link below to learn more about what to look for when choosing a high-quality mushroom supplement. 

Learn More

Dose, Safety, Side Effects

Dose

General Health Maintenance:

For those incorporating mushrooms into their routine for overall health benefits, a suggested dose of 3g or 6 capsules is recommended. This non-treatment use aims to promote well-being and vitality.

Treatment-Targeted Use:

If you are utilising mushrooms as part of a treatment plan for a specific health condition, a suggested dose of 5g or 10 capsules is advised. This higher dose is intended to address targeted health concerns.

Flexible Dosage Regimen:

Whether you prefer splitting the dose throughout the day or taking it all at once, the choice is yours. For optimal absorption, it is recommended to consume mushrooms on an empty stomach. However, if you have a sensitive constitution, consider splitting the dose and taking it after a meal.

Why the Discrepancy in Recommended Doses?

You may have noticed that some mushroom distributors recommend lower doses, such as 1g. This is often as large companies typically suggest consulting with a health practitioner to ascertain the right dosage for individual health conditions, which can result in recommendations for lower quantities. However, our dosage recommendations are directly informed by clinical literature, enabling us to provide specific dosing instructions with a solid foundation in research.

Safety

Individuals with diabetes are advised to seek guidance from their healthcare provider before incorporating Reishi into their diet, as it may impact blood sugar levels. 

While some studies suggest that Reishi may have anti-inflammatory effects, it can also stimulate the immune system. Therefore, individuals with autoimmune diseases should seek medical guidance before considering the use of Reishi [22].

Additionally, Reishi has the potential to lower blood pressure, making it essential to discuss its usage with a doctor, especially for those with a history of low blood pressure.

Do not consume Reishi mushrooms within two weeks of undergoing surgery or if you suffer from a bleeding disorder.

For individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have an autoimmune disease, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before considering the use of Reishi mushrooms.

Do not consume Reishi if you are allergic to mushrooms.

Medication Interactions

While Reishi mushrooms boast potential health benefits, it's crucial to be mindful of potential interactions with medications. Understanding how Reishi may interact with certain conditions and medications can guide individuals in making informed decisions regarding its inclusion in their routine.

Individuals who are taking the following medications should also consult their healthcare provider before incorporating Reishi into their regimen:

  • Medications for diabetes management
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Blood pressure-lowering medications
  • Medications to suppress the immune system

If you have any concerns regarding the interaction between Reishi and your medications, it's a good idea to discuss it with your healthcare provider. They can offer you the most appropriate guidance.

Please bear in mind that the information we provide is for educational purposes and shouldn't be considered a replacement for professional medical advice. 

Your health and safety are important to us and we want to ensure all our customers use our products to their benefit, not detriment.

Side Effects

Like any dietary supplement, the use of Reishi mushrooms may have potential side effects. Fortunately, reported instances of side effects are infrequent and typically mild. While it is commonly used and generally safe, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before incorporating Reishi mushrooms into your routine.

It's essential to note that when assessing scientific data on the safety of Reishi supplements, many reports and safety concerns do not specify the source. In two case studies reporting adverse side effects of Reishi supplementation, some uncertainties included the source, potential interactions with other herbs or medications, and existing health conditions [103, 104]. 

Possible side effects may include dry mouth, upset stomach/diarrhoea, rash, and headache. Although uncommon, individuals experiencing side effects should cease use immediately and seek advice from a physician.

One of the benefits of Reishi mushrooms is their immune system-modulating effects. Consequently, potential side effects may arise as the immune system adjusts or due to the reactivation of a dormant immune system response. These side effects are generally harmless, except in the rare occurrence of a true allergic reaction. 

How to Take Reishi Mushrooms for Health Support

Powders vs. Capsules

Antioxi Organic Reishi Mushroom Extract Capsules & Powder

For those with a fast-paced lifestyle, intricate recipes might not be in the cards. That's precisely why Antioxi has crafted an Organic Reishi Extract available in convenient capsule form.

If you're a cooking enthusiast or favour the convenience of a powder, our Organic Reishi Extract in powder form could be an ideal option for you. Our Reishi can be seamlessly incorporated into smoothies, stews, coffee and all your other favourite meals and drinks. 

It's essential to note that there is no difference in potency between our powdered extracts and capsules. Our capsules contain the exact same powdered extract, guaranteeing uniform effectiveness throughout our product line.

     

    Reishi for Pets

    Anxiety Blend for Pets

    Pets, especially those dealing with anxiety or ageing, may experience low moods. It's essential to support your pet's relaxation, as stress can negatively impact their immune system and brain health, increasing the risk of diseases. 

    Introducing our Anxiety Blend for Pets, crafted with Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms, this blend aims to enhance your pet's well-being by fortifying their immune and nervous systems, promoting a more relaxed state.

    Allergies Blend for Pets

    It can be upsetting to see your furry friend struggle with allergic reactions. Causing itchy skin. Wheezing. Infections. Stomach upsets.

    But you can help ease that struggle. Question: what are allergic reactions often caused by? Answer: your pet’s oversensitive immune system.

    Help ease your pets allergies by supporting your pet’s oversensitive immune system with our Allergies Blend for Pets.

    Click here to learn more about how to manage your pet’s allergies.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Are the Mushrooms Organic?

    All of our mushrooms have been organically sourced and certified.

    Is It Safe To Consume Medicinal Mushrooms During Pregnancy or whilst Breastfeeding?

    While medicinal mushrooms can offer some great benefits during pregnancy such as strengthening immune health, improving digestion and of course the much needed energy boost, there is unfortunately not yet enough information regarding studies during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding where we can confidently give advice.

    The best would be to consult with your healthcare provider and/or midwife.

    Can Children Use Medicinal Mushrooms?

    Research regarding the use of medicinal mushrooms by children is still at its infancy. There is however an interesting study conducted in 2018 which investigated the effects of Reishi on immune system cells of 3-5 year olds. [105]

    The study showed that Reishi increased immune system cell counts in the peripheral blood, which are crucial for defending against infections. The treatments were also well-tolerated and safe, with no abnormal increases in serum creatinine or hepatic aminotransferases. While the study shows promise in the safety and effectiveness of the use of medicinal mushrooms in children, we do always suggest consulting with your child's doctor prior to introducing anything new into their diet.

    If you do get the go ahead we suggest reducing the diet to 1/4 of a dose for young children.

    These findings suggest the need for more extended controlled clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of medicinal mushrooms in preventing infections in children.

    What is the difference between the Powder and Capsules?

    There is no difference in terms of benefits. The only difference is preference of use.

    What is the difference between using the 8 Mushroom Blend and using an individual mushroom?

    Our 8-blend mushroom product is like an all-in-one health elixir. It's perfect for those seeking overall well-being, boosting digestion, or just looking for a daily health lift.

    However, if you're using mushrooms as targeted support for a specific health concern, say, Lion's Mane for cognitive clarity or Reishi for stress relief, the individual route is your best bet.

    Are There Any Allergy Precautions/Medication Interactions?

    Individuals with diabetes are advised to seek guidance from their healthcare provider before incorporating Reishi into their diet, as it may impact blood sugar levels. 

    While some studies suggest that Reishi may have anti-inflammatory effects, it can also stimulate the immune system. Therefore, individuals with autoimmune diseases should seek medical guidance before considering the use of Reishi [22].

    Additionally, Reishi has the potential to lower blood pressure, making it essential to discuss its usage with a doctor, especially for those with a history of low blood pressure.

    Do not consume Reishi mushrooms within two weeks of undergoing surgery or if you suffer from a bleeding disorder.

    For individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have an autoimmune disease, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before considering the use of Reishi mushrooms.

    Do not consume Reishi if you are allergic to mushrooms.

    Individuals who are taking the following medications should also consult their healthcare provider before incorporating Reishi into their regimen:

    • Medications for diabetes management
    • Blood-thinning medications
    • Blood pressure-lowering medications
    • Medications to suppress the immune system

      Which Mushroom Extraction do you use?

      The optimal extraction method once again depends on the mushroom itself. Different methods are used to promote and dissolve the unique active ingredients in the mushroom extracts and hence create a high spectrum mushroom extract.

      The 3 different extraction methods:

      1. Alcohol (ethanol)

      This extraction is used to draw out the fat-soluble compounds in the mushrooms, such as the adaptogenic terpenoids.

      2. Hot water 

      This extraction is used to extract the water-soluble compounds, the polysaccharides, and the immunomodulating Beta-D-glucans. The dual extraction process ensures you’re getting the full spectrum of compounds when it comes to a potent mushroom extract.

      3. Dual extraction

      Dual extraction refers to a combination of water and alcohol extraction. The dual extraction process ensures you’re getting the full spectrum of compounds when it comes to a mushroom where the active ingredients benefit from both alcohol and well as a water extract.

      Hot water extraction works best for:

      Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Maitake, Tremella and Shiitake

      Double (alcohol & water) extraction works best for:

      Lion's Mane, Reishi, Chaga

      Do you use the Fruiting Body or Mycelium?

      We use the Fruiting Body of Reishi.

      We have a helpful article here which explains the different mushroom parts. 

      Resources

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