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Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)

Schisandra is known commonly as the "5 flavor berry". In Chinese medicine, it's used to tone all 5 flavors. In western herbal medicine, it's used just as vaguely, to tone the...

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

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What is Reishi?

Reishi is a medicinal forest-grown fungus. It's highly revered in traditional medical systems across Asia for its powerful immune-enhancing and longevity promoting benefits.

Medicinal mushrooms are notorious for their complex immunological benefits involving bidirectional changes to various immune processes.

Reishi is no different — it's often thought to be one of the most important medicinal herbs for longevity in traditional Chinese medicine.

This tree-eating fungus is often used for the prevention and treatment of many immune-related conditions — including cancer, autoimmunity, infection, and both acute and chronic infections.

Reishi is also used as an anxiolytic and general health tonic.

 

+ Indications

  • Allergies
  • Bronchitis and asthma
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Food sensitivities
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Neuralgia
  • Viral infection (including HIV and herpes simplex virus)

+ Contraindications

  • Caution advised in combination with ACE inhibitory medictions

Herbal Actions:

  • Adaptogen
  • Immunomodulator
  • Analgesic
  • Muscle relaxant
  • Nervine Relaxant
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Pulmonary trophorestorative
  • Cardiotonic
  • Chemoprotective
  • Anti-Cancer
  • Antiviral
  • Antibacterial
 

What is Reishi Used For?

Reishi has the unique ability to both stimulate and inhibit immune function — making it useful for a wide range of immunological disorders.

Reishi is also used for chronic anxiety, depression, and hyperactivity.

In traditional Chinese medicine reishi (lingzhi) is popular for treating lung conditions such as wheezing, excessive phlegm production, and chronic coughing.

 

Traditional Uses of Reishi

Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine this fungus has been used for oxygen deficit tolerance (altitude sickness) and is often combined with chrysanthemum, rhodiola, and safflower seed.

Taste:

Sweet [5]

Energy:

Neutral [5]

Channels:

Heart, liver, lung [5]

Actions:

Tonifies, the heart, calms and anchors the Shen, stops cough, stops wheezing, dislodges phlegm, tonifies the spleen, tonifies the Qi, tonifies blood [5]

Indications:

Suitable during pregnancy [5].

Dose:

3-15g decocted20 mins [5]

Considered to be warming, astringent, nourishing, detoxifying, and tonifying (Rogers, 2011). Protects qi of the heart, used to repair a knotted, tight chest. Traditionally in this system, it was recommended to take this herb over long periods to reap the benefits of longevity.

The spores are suggested to contain high amounts of jing and considered an elixir of life [1].

Other uses include Hashimoto's disease, in foot baths for gout, altitude sickness prevention, and immune regulation. [1].

Ayurveda

A related species — Ganoderma applanatum — has been used extensively in Ayurvedic systems in the pine region of India. Its uses include stopping excessive salivation in the mouth, as a styptic.

Other Historical Uses

Reishi has been used medicinally in Asian countries for at least 4000 years and is the most widely depicted mushroom in Japan, Korea, and China, which can be found on temples, tapestries, statues, and paintings.

Reishis rarity and subsequent value made it most accessible to the privileged like emperors and royalty. It has long been associated with longevity and was included in many ancient medical texts for this purpose.

Used to treat liver ailments, lung conditions, kidney disease, nerve pain, hypertension, gastric ulcers, and insomnia. The antler growth pattern is considered very rare and is the most desired for promoting sexual function in both men and women.

Other uses include its use as a means to ward off evil by hanging dried specimens over the door. Similarly, it has been placed on the graves of shamans to protect from evil souls or spirits.

Reishi has been used in nearly every format imaginable including tinctures, teas/decoctions, powdered preparations, brewed into beers and wines, and eaten raw.

 

Herb Datasheet: Reishi

Weekly Dose

Part Used

  • Fruiting body, Spores, Mycelium

Family Name

  • Ganodermataceae

Distribution

  • Asia, Europe, and North America

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Constituents of Interest

  • beta-glucans
  • Ergosterol

Common Names

  • Reishi
  • Ling Zhi
  • Saiwai-Take
  • Kishiban

CYP450

  • Unknown

Quality

  • Neutral

Pregnancy

  • No adverse reactions expected.

Taste

  • Bitter

Duration of Use

  • Suitable for long term use.
 

Mycological information

There are about 80 different species of Ganoderma, many of which are used as medicine to varying degrees. The Ganodermataceae contains 8 genera and roughly 300 different species.

Reishi is a saprophyte, meaning it only eats dying, decaying organic matter like wood. It's mainly found growing on dying trees, stumps, and fallen logs.

Ganoderma spp. releases approximatly 30 billion spores a day for up to 6 months a year [1].

 

Habitat Ecology, & Distribution:

Wild Ganoderma lucidum is rare but is indigenous to forested regions of Asia including Japan, China, and Russia. Other species are found in North America and Europe.

It grows on Elm (Ulmus spp.), alder (Alnus spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), maple (Acer spp.) and some strains on conifers. Other species of Ganoderma such as G. tsugae or G. oregonense grow better and almost exclusively on conifers. G. lucidum, however, prefers hardwoods.

G. lucidum can be found very rarely in the Pacific Northwest, and a similar species (G. curtisii), is seen more commonly in eastern Canada around the great lakes region [1]. This species is actually a yellow form of the red G. lucidum.

Most reishi products on the market are cultivated in a sterile environment on logs or sawdust in large laboratories.

 

Harvesting Collection, & Preparation:

Both the mycelium, fruiting body, and spores are used medicinally. The red and purple varieties are considered the most valuable. These phenotypes are also thought to be the most potent in their effects [1].

The spores can be either taken raw or can be cracked. This basically involves the germination, then drying of the spores and is suggested to provide stronger medicinal effects after this germination process has taken place.

Another, much more expensive way of ingesting the spores it to run it through a supercritical CO2 extractor. This method creates a product that is roughly equivalent to 20-40 of the raw spore capsules [1].

A mushroom oil can also be extracted from the fruiting body waxes, can be used as is topically, or added to lotions, and salves.

Cosmetically it is useful as a sunscreen due to its radioprotective effects, as well as in anti-aging creams, and to remove warts [1].

As with most hard, polypores, chop the fungus into strips (better when wet or a saw may have to be used), and crumble into small pieces.

Decoct in water, then strain and freeze the leftover mush, doing this will cause the cell walls to burst and allow more constituents to be extracted during the next process. Next, after it has been frozen for 24 hours or so, dethaw, and mix with 95% alcohol for at least 2 weeks.

In the end, strain, and combine with the decoction made earlier to a standardized amount.

 

Pharmacology & Medical Research

Antibacterial

Ganoderma applanatum is an effective inhibitor of:

  • Bacillus cereus
  • Cornybacterium diphtheria
  • Escheria coli
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus pyogenes

Gram-positive bacteria were more affected than gram-negative [1].

It has been suggested that the polysaccharides in Ganoderma spp. are more antibacterial — while the triterpenoids are more antiviral.

More research is needed to elucidate on this further.

Anti-diabetic

Ganoderma has been reported to produce potent lens aldose reductase inhibition, and significant inhibition of serum glucose and sorbitol accumulation in the lens of the eye, red blood cells, and sciatic nerves in diabetic rats (based on earlier studies) [1]. This shows potential as a treatment for diabetic induced retinopathy and other diabetes-related damage in the body

Has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in hyperglycemic models (fruiting body), and involved the ganoderan B and C [1].

In a study on type 2 diabetics not on insulin, were given reishi extracts, and compared to the placebo control group, were found to have significantly decreased glycosylated hemoglobin (8.4%-7.6%), in as little as 12 weeks. Fasting insulin levels, 2-hour -post-prandial insulin, fasting C-peptide, and post-prandial C-peptide all showed significant improvement in the reishi group [1].

Spores have also shown evidence for anti-diabetic effects [1].

Antioxidant

Methanol extracts of G. tsugae were found to be more potent in antioxidant effects that alpha-tocopherol, and exhibited significant inhibition of lipid peroxidation as such.

The antioxidant effects are not considered as reliable as G. lucidum but are very close. It is the phenol content that has been deemed responsible for these effects. [1].

G. tsugae fruiting body extract was shown to increase intracellular glutathione levels, which in turn protect against oxidative damage [1].

Antiulcer effects:

Polysaccharides from Ganoderma spp. protects the gastric mucosa, by improving PGE2. This backs up some of its uses in the form of tea for treating ulcers.

Antiviral

G. lucidum fruiting body extracts have been shown to inhibit HIV, and HPV [1].

Rogers, (2011) reports that Ganaderiol-F, ganodermadiol, ganoderic acid beta, and lucidumol have all been identified as antiviral agents.

G. resinaceum (and most likely G. tsugae, and G. lucidum as well), have been shown to inhibit punta toro, pichinde (viruses?), and H1N1 [1].

Blood Tonic

Reishi been shown to enhance the production of interleukin-1 in vitro, and increase white blood cell and hemoglobin levels in mice [1].

Cardiotonic

Reishi has been shown to improve symptoms of coronary heart disease [1].

G. lucidum has been shown to provide anti-cholesterol, anti-diabetic, reduced platelet aggregation, anti atherosclerotic, and antihypotensive effects, which all play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease.

Suggested to produce angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition through its ganoderic acid B, C2, D, and F [1].

Chemoprotective

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1534735403259066 Has been shown to increase natural killer cell activity of splenocytes by up to 52% [1]

Hepatoprotective

The triterpenoids contained in the mycelium of G. tsugae have shown hepatoprotective activity [1].

Ganodereic acid B has shown hepatoprotective effects [1].

Immunomodulatory

The polysaccharides from the mycelium were found to be both anti-inflammatories, and immune stimulating, Rogers, (2011), suggests contradiction from these two effects suggest bi-directional (immunomodulatory) effects on immune response, rather than just stimulat2ing. This appears to be dose-dependent and may be through modulation of cytokine production.

Has been shown to both reduce inflammation and increase immune response, which is slightly contradictory in that inflammation is an increase of immune response. It has been suggested that G. lucidum produces this apparent modulatory effect (that is balances the immune response by either stimulating or depressing it) through the enteric mucosal pathway (Look further into this as the book did not describe at all). Its effects on the immune system do not appear to be through IgE antibody synthesis. G. lucidum has been shown to produce this stabilizing, bidirectional effects on immunoglobulin levels, lowering when high, and raising when these antibodies when low. These effects suggest a mechanism of action for the benefits of reishi against food sensitivities [1].

Sedative

The spores are suggested to produce sedative and hypnotic effects in mice [1].

Other

Shown to treat bronchitis and other lung disorders effectively. The chemicals suggested to be responsible for these effects are gonoderic acids A, B, C1, and C2 [1].

 

Phytochemistry

Compounds by Anatomy

Fruiting Body

Carbohydrates, amino acids (including adenosine), steroids (ergosterols), protease, lysosomes, lipids, triterpenes, alkaloids, vitamins B2 and C, minerals (zinc, manganese, iron, copper, germanium), beta-glucans (up to 40.6%), [1].

Mycelium

Sterols, alkaloids, lactones, erogone, polysaccharides, triterpinoids,

Spores

choline, triterpenes, betaine, palmitic acid, stearic acid, ergosta7,22-dien-3b-ol, tetracosanoic acid, behenic acid, nonadecanoic acid, ergosterol, beta sitosterol, pyrophosphatidic acid, hentriacontane, tetracosane, ganodermasides (A and B) [1].

Species Specific Breakdown

Ganoderma tsugae

3 α-acetoxy-5α-lanosta-8,24-dien-21-oic acid, 2β,3α,9α-trihydroxy-5α-ergosta-7,22-dien, 3alpha-acetoxy-16alpha-tsugarioside B and C, ganoderic acid C2, ganoderic acid B, lucidone A, and glycans (various) [1].

Ganoderma applanatum

Ergosterol (and its peroxide), ergosta-7,22-dien-3b-ol, ergasta-7,22-dien-3-one, β-D-glucan, fungisterol, alnusenone, friedelin, triterpenoids (including ganoderenic, furanoganoderic, ganoderic acids), applanoxidic acids (A, B, C, and D), lanostandoid triterpenes E-H, lucidone A, ganoderma aldehyde, 3 linoleic acid steryl esters. To compare with G. lucidum, ganoderenic acid, and ganoderic acid is found in both [1].

Ganoderma lucidum

Still compiling research.

 

Clinical Applications Of Reishi:

Reishi is used as a supportive agent for cancer, autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular dysfunctions, respiratory dysfunctions, viral and bacterial infection, and hypertension. It's rarely used on its own, but makes for a great addition to herbal formulations.

 

Cautions:

Caution advised in combination with ACE inhibitor medications due to potential drug interactions.

 

Synergy

For altitude sickness: Combines well with rhodiola for this purpose.

It has been suggested that vitamin C helps absorb this mushroom, however, more research is needed to confirm this. Pineapple and ginger may also increase the absorption of reishi constituents.

 

Author:

Justin Cooke

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated May 2019)

 

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References:

  1. Rogers, R. D. (2011). The fungal pharmacy: The complete guide to medicinal mushrooms and lichens of North America [Adobe Digital Editions version].

  2. Berovic, M., J. Habijanic, I. Zore, B. Wraber, D. Hodzar, B. Boh and F. Pohleven. Submerged cultivation of Ganoderma lucidum biomass and immunostimulatory effects of fungal polysaccharides. J. Biotechnol. 103: 77–86, 2003

  3. Jiang, Y., H. Wang, L. Lu and G.Y. Tian. Chemistry of polysaccharide Lzps-1 from Ganoderma lucidum spore and anti-tumor activity of its total polysaccharides. Yao. Xue. Xue. Bao. 40: 347–350, 2005.

  4. Cheng, K.C., H.C. Huang, J.H. Chen, J.W. Hsu, H.C. Cheng, C.H. Ou, W.B. Yang, S.T. Chen, C.H. Wong and H.F. Juan. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides in human monocytic leukemia cells: from gene expression to network construction. BMC Genomics 8: 411, 2007.

  5. Hempen, C. H., & Fischer, T. (2009). A Materia Medica for Chinese Medicine: Plants, Minerals, and Animal Products. (Pg. 436-437).

  6. Thyagarajan, A., J. Jiang, A. Hopf, J. Adamec and D. Sliva. Inhibition of oxidative stress-induced invasiveness of cancer cells by Ganoderma lucidum is mediated through the suppression of interleukin-8 secretion. Int. J. Mol. Med. 18: 657–664, 2006.

  7. Xie, J.T., C.Z. Wang, S. Wicks, J.J. Yin, J. Kong, J. Li, Y. C. Li and C.S. Yuan. Ganoderma lucidum extract inhibits proliferation of SW 480 human colorectal cancer cells. Exp. Oncol. 28: 25–29, 2006.

  8. Paterson, R.R. Ganoderma — a therapeutic fungal biofactory. Phytochemistry. 67: 1985–2001, 2006.

  9. Lin, Y.L., Y.C. Liang, S.S. Lee and B.L. Chiang. (2005). Polysaccharide purified from Ganoderma lucidum induced activation and maturation of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells by the NFkappaB and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways. J. Leukoc. Biol. 78: 533–543.

Magnolia (Magnolia officinalis)

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Magnolia Summary

Magnolia is one of the oldest flowering plants in existence, dating back as far as 95 million years ago. The first angiosperm is thought to have originated 130 million years ago. this is long before bees first appeared. To no surprise then, magnolia have evolved to be pollinated by beetles instead, which have been around for much longer.

Magnolia is a common herb in traditional Chinese medicine for treating Qi stagnation and removing obstructions.

It remains popular for reducing sinus infection and congestion, sinus headaches, asthma, coughs, and catarrh as well as anxiety and heightened cortisol levels.

 

+ Indications

  • Abdominal pain
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Amoebic dysentery
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Bloating
  • Catarrh
  • Coughs
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Poor digestion
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinus infection
  • Stress
  • Typhoid
  • Ulcers

+ Contraindications

Avoid use during convalescence.

Herbal Actions:

  • Antioxidant
  • Antiallergic
  • Antiasthmatic
  • Anxiolytic
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antispasmodic
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Emmenagogue
  • Expectorant
 

How Is Magnolia Used?

Magnolia is used for its anxiolytic and digestive effects.It's often combined with Phellodendron for treating both acute and chronic stress.

Magnolia is also commonly used for upper respiratory tract infection, sinus congestion, and catarrh.

 

Herb Details: Magnolia

Weekly Dose

Part Used

  • Bark

Family Name

  • Magnoliaceae

Distribution

  • Eastern Asia, North America, Central America

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Constituents of Interest

  • Honokiol
  • Magnolol

Common Names

  • Magnolia
  • Ch'Uan Pu (China)
  • Chinese Magnolia
  • Choon Pok
  • Hou Pu

Quality

  • Warm

Pregnancy

  • Unknown

Taste

  • Bitter

Duration of Use

  • Long term use acceptable, but should be monitored by a professional.
 

Botanical Information

Magnolia officinalis is a medium sized tree, ranging from 5 to 15 m in height. It's deciduous, with purple brown bark.

Magnolia is a member of the Magnoliaceae family of plants. There are 2 subfamilies in this family, including Magnollioideae and Liriodendroideae. The latter of which only includes Liriodendron (Tulip trees). In The Magnoliaceae family there are approximately 219 species, distributed into 17 genera. The vast majority are included in the Magnolia genus, which has about 210 different species.

One interesting note is that it appears magnolia appeared before bees did. The flowers are instead evolved to be pollinated by beetles, due to the extremely tough carpels on the flower. There have also been fossils discovered with plants contained in the Magnoliaceae family as far back as 95 million years ago, making Magnolia one of the oldest remaining angiosperms.

 

Research Overview:

Still compiling research.

 

Clinical Applications Of Magnolia:

Magnolia increases the activity of GABA receptors, as well as the muscarinic receptors. This is why Magnolia is useful for both its sedative effect, as well as some mild stimulating effects. While most anxiolytic herbs have a particular effect on the parasympathetic nervous system (through GABAergic effects), Magnolia also increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system through the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in a similar way to GABA.

Magnolia is especially useful for eliminating nasal congestion, sinus infections, coughs, and catarrh. It's used to improve indigestion and dysentery, though it is not commonly used for bacterial or fungal infections alone.

Magnolia is also used for reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. It can reduce cortisol levels in stressed individuals, especially in combination with Phellodendron. Its primary actions for this involves GABAergic activities, and have been shown to lower salivary cortisol levels in stressed individuals.

Magnolia should be avoided in those who are chronically fatigued, or who are suffering from convalescence. Traditional Chinese medicine suggests that magnolia should be avoided with any condition involving yin deficiency.

 

Cautions:

Avoid use with convalescence.

 

Author:

Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)

 

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Chickweed (Stellaria medica)

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Chickweed Summary

Chickweed is a small herbaceous plant found growing throughout North America and Europe. It has naturalized on nearly every continent and thrives in colder climates.

Although there is not much modern research involving chickweed, it has a rich history in traditional medicine.

Chickweed was used internally for lung infections and irritations, and topically for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

The herb was mainly used as a Msuccas, or consumed whole in fresh form.

 

+ Indications

  • Constipation
  • Asthma
  • Lung disease
  • Obesity
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Skin ulcers
  • Insect bites
  • Gout

+ Contraindications

  • Skin irritation and allergies may occur from topical application.

Herbal Actions:

  • Demulcent
  • Refrigerant
  • Emollient
  • Antibacterial
  • Antitussive
  • Expectorant
 

How Is Chickweed Used?

Chickweed is used internally for lung conditions, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, or asthma. Topically, it's made into creams and salves for skin irritations. This can include psoriasis, eczema, skin ulcers, or rashes. It's also consumed as a food in many Northern climates where it grows naturally.

 

Herb Details: Chickweed

Weekly Dose

Part Used

  • Aerial Parts

Family Name

  • Caryophyllaceae

Distribution

  • Found on every continent on earth except Antarctica

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Constituents of Interest

  • Carotenoids
  • Linalool
  • Caryophyllene
  • Borneol

Common Names

  • Chickweed
  • Starweed
  • Alsine Media
  • Passerina
  • Mouse Ear Star
  • Satinflower
  • Starwort
  • Stellaria
  • Winterweed

CYP450

  • Unknown

Quality

  • Cold

Pregnancy

  • No adverse effects expected.

Taste

  • Unknown

Duration of Use

  • May be used long term.
 

Botanical Information

Chickweed is known for its creeping nature, and ability to grow in very cold weather. It's even been found growing underneath the snow in mountainous regions of North America.

Chickweed is a member of the Caryophyllaceae family, which contains as many as 2625 species distributed into 81 genera.

The Stellaria genera itself contains between 90 and 120 different species.

 

Research Overview:

Still compiling research.

 

Clinical Applications Of Chickweed

There is little research on chickweed — however, it was shown to have high levels of carotenoids and a handful of antibacterial compounds like caryophyllene, menthol, and linalool.

Chickweed also contains saponins — which are thought to have a soothing effect on the skin. This is likely the mechanisms behind chickweeds popularity as an ointment for skin inflammation and infection.

For this application, chickweed is generally used as a fresh succas or made into salves, oils, and creams.

The traditional use for lung conditions is thought to be due to the saponin content, which is well known to have mucus membrane irritant effects, promoting the excretion of mucus.

 

Cautions:

None noted.

 

Author:

Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)

 

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Frankincense (Boswellia serrata)

Frankincense (Boswellia) is one of the best anti-inflammatory herbs in our arsenal. It directly inhibits both COX and 5-LOX enzymes responsible for activating inflammatory messengers. This makes frankincense useful for conditions that involve inflammation as an underlying factor — such as indigestion, arthritis, pain, muscle injuries, or skin irritation.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

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Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa)

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