You’ve probably figured out that we are wild about mushrooms around here. Can you blame us? Mushrooms have so much to offer the body and the mind and are truly magical. We just can’t get enough of our favorite ‘shrooms! Although all edible mushrooms offer health benefits, we are partial to a few that just seem to “get” us.
The perfect match for our busy, modern lives is an ancient traditional mushroom that has been used to support longevity and health for thousands of years. Yes, of course, we are talking about the “divine mushroom of immortality.” – Reishi!
What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
Revered by the ancients and essential for modern life - Reishi has a reputation for healing the spirit, calming the mind, and supporting the body in many different ways.
Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum), or lingzhi, are a type of polypore fungus that isn’t really edible in the way most other mushrooms are. In fact, once they are dried, they are almost impossible to cut into without a saw or some other kind of major equipment. Even fresh, before they are consumed, they need to be extracted in some way to break down the cell walls for access to the beneficial properties that lie within.
Traditionally, reishi is simmered for long periods in water, broth, or soup to extract its valuable compounds. Nowadays, there are all kinds of preparations you can find, including powders, tea, capsules, drink blends, and liquid extracts. You will often see reishi prepared as a “dual extract,” which is a separate water and alcohol extraction that is then blended together to get the entire spectrum of compounds that this unique mushroom provides. Because of the beneficial compounds, reishi is known to be quite bitter, so it is nice to pair it with other flavors to make it more palatable.
Most of the reishi found in supplements and other products is farm-grown. It and other Ganoderma species are found in the wild, but it is somewhat slow growing, and the demand is too high for wild populations to keep up with. It is an interesting mushroom that grows looking like a kind of a shelf hanging off of a tree in a fan shape. It has a shiny, almost lacquered look to it and radiates variations of color that may change as it grows. There is a lot of misidentification and mislabeling of different mushrooms that are closely related, and while many of them do share some of the same properties, most of the research has been done specifically on the classic reishi species of Ganoderma lucidum.
Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
They Support the Immune System
Nourish immunity! Almost all edible mushrooms support the immune system in some way, and reishi is no exception. Mushrooms have these amazing compounds called beta-glucans, which are a kind of polysaccharide that is nourishing to immune cells and also feeds the good bacteria in the gut.
Healthy gut bacteria help to assist in the way the immune system functions and provide a lot of other benefits for the body. Other potent compounds found in reishi that benefit immunity are something called triterpenoids, which give the mushroom its shiny appearance. These bitter compounds help keep certain microbe populations in check and assist the immune system in regulating itself. Reishi and other mushrooms are a simple and effective way to support long-term immune health, so what are you waiting for?
They Alleviate Occasional Stress and Everyday Fatigue
Keep calm and ‘shroom on! Reishi can seem like a bit of a paradox, as it has relaxing effects as well as helping to sustain and support energy levels. This combo effect makes it a wonderful companion for modern living. Reishi can help take the edge off occasional stress that comes with life, calming the central nervous system and soothing the mind. It helps the muscles to relax and unwind, encouraging healthy sleep patterns so you can awaken more rested. This mystical mushroom also has an uplifting effect and is often used to bring the mind to a peaceful and inspired state. It has benefits toward strengthening and tonifying the body, aiding in reducing the effects of everyday burnout or those prone to common fatigue. It may sound too good to be true, but once you try it, you will be a believer!
They Promote Healthy Cellular Activity
Reishi is on the cellular clean-up crew! This mushroom has powerful effects on keeping cell function healthy. It doesn’t actually kill bad or unhealthy cells but encourages the immune system to defend itself against them. It helps immune cells throughout the body target and eliminate cells that may be flawed or declining. Compounds in reishi that play a big part in assisting these immune functions are those precious polysaccharides and triterpenoids. These support the health of immune cells and help them to maintain their function of immune surveillance.
They Support Cardiovascular Health
Give your heart a little love! Mushrooms are high in special fibers that help keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range, promoting health throughout the vascular system. Reishi also affects the way fats are stored in the body, and although the mechanism for this is still being explored, one study showed that this might happen at least in part because of the reishi mushroom’s effects on the gut microbiota. This study showed a correlation between reishi and lactobacillus levels, which affected the amount of circulating fats. This points to a connection between the prebiotic activity of reishi and the body being more efficient in excreting cholesterol.
They Help Regulate Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Now, this won’t make up for every sugary indulgence, but reishi provides significant benefits for keeping blood sugar levels steady. There has been quite a lot of research into how reishi affects blood glucose and its metabolism. Triterpenoids and polysaccharides from reishi inhibit certain enzymes that play a role in converting sugars in the body. So by taking reishi extracts and powders, it may be possible for the body to better adjust the amount of sugar that is digested, converted, or absorbed into the bloodstream or stored in the body. Another aspect of this effect is due to the polysaccharides supporting healthy gut microbes, which can affect the way sugar is utilized in the digestive system. Of course, reishi should only be one part of an overall strategy for keeping blood sugar at healthy levels and won’t take the place of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
They May Help You Fight Seasonal Sniffles
Don’t let the seasons get you down! Reishi encourages healthy immune system activation while also calming immune responses when it occasionally reacts to perceived threats (such as pollen). With an affinity for the lungs, reishi has been a go-to in herbal traditions for things like mild seasonal coughs and sniffles, as well as supporting lung health throughout the year. People needing long-term lung support often respond really well to reishi as it is tonifying for lung tissue and works well for ongoing benefits.
A good strategy is to start incorporating reishi before pollen season hits, rather than waiting until after your system is already responding to the sprinkles of flower dust floating through the air. We love flowers, but sometimes it's a love/hate kinda thing!
They Benefit Liver Function
Give your liver a break! This hardworking organ has over 500 functions it performs (an important one being normal detoxification processes) to keep our bodies in tip-top shape, so of course, keeping this organ healthy is vital to wellness. Reishi helps keep the liver robust, which in turn benefits the entire body. Antioxidants found in reishi have scavenging effects that specifically help to lighten the oxidative stress load put on the liver. Both the polysaccharides and triterpenoids found in reishi are presumed to be a big part of what helps reishi provide these protective actions for the liver. Two triterpenoids, in particular, have been isolated and studied for important actions that benefit the liver. Ganoderenic acid and ganodermanondiol have shown other healthful activities in the body in addition to having targeted benefits for the liver. Modern life puts our livers through so much, so give them a little love and support by keeping reishi in your life!
They’re High In Antioxidants
Cellular aging is inevitable, but at least you can slow it down! Many of the health benefits attributed to reishi mushrooms are due to their high amounts of antioxidants. These molecules help neutralize oxidative activity, which can disrupt healthy cells and promote common oxidative stress. The specific antioxidants found in reishi have been found to be especially beneficial for cardiovascular, liver, kidney, and digestive health. The polysaccharides and triterpenoids found in reishi perform some of the antioxidant functions along with certain bioactive proteins, making it a trifecta of antioxidant powerhouse compounds. The levels of antioxidants that are found in reishi differ throughout the growing cycle and may be dependent on growing conditions, so not all reishi products or mushrooms will have the same amounts.
They May Support Brain Health
Think well, be well. As reishi has a reputation for benefiting longevity and is nicknamed the “mushroom of immortality,” it is no surprise to find that it benefits brain health. Reishi is being studied for the ways it may be beneficial against common cognitive decline attributed to aging and how it helps to support normal neurological health. Even if you are still young and vibrant, keeping reishi in your life can better help you stay that way!
Potential Side Effects
Reishi is generally well tolerated with few side effects, but always talk with your doctor before starting any new supplements, especially if you have any health conditions or are pregnant. There is a theoretical risk of increased bleeding, so it is not recommended to take reishi before surgery or along with certain medications. Those with heavy menstrual cycles may also want to use caution. Because reishi can affect blood sugar levels and the immune system, be sure to consult with a physician before trying reishi if you have blood sugar issues or are on immunosuppressant drugs.
Waking up to Wellness
You are probably getting a good idea of why we love reishi so much! Knowing all of the incredible possibilities of this mushroom makes it pretty obvious we need reishi in our lives — every day!
Beyond Greens® from Live Conscious® is a great way to get your daily dose of reishi along with other incredible mushrooms, such as turkey tail and lion’s mane. Plus, this comprehensive blend has herbs that benefit energy and immunity, probiotics to keep your digestive system happy, and chlorella and milk thistle to help support normal detoxification. With Beyond Greens®, it’s easy to mix reishi and other functional mushrooms into your morning smoothie, juice, or simply water to give your day the magical, mystical vibes you’ve been looking for.