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.
- Bronchitis and asthma
- Food sensitivities
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Viral infection (including HIV and herpes simplex virus)
- Caution advised in combination with ACE inhibitory medictions
- Muscle relaxant
- Nervine Relaxant
- Pulmonary trophorestorative
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.
Heart, liver, lung 
Tonifies, the heart, calms and anchors the Shen, stops cough, stops wheezing, dislodges phlegm, tonifies the spleen, tonifies the Qi, tonifies blood 
Suitable during pregnancy .
3-15g decocted20 mins 
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 .
Other uses include Hashimoto's disease, in foot baths for gout, altitude sickness prevention, and immune regulation. .
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
- (1:2 Liquid Extract)
- View Dosage Chart
- Fruiting body, Spores, Mycelium
- Asia, Europe, and North America
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Constituents of Interest
- Ling Zhi
- No adverse reactions expected.
Duration of Use
- Suitable for long term use.
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 .
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 . 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 .
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 .
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 .
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
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 .
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.
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) . 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 .
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 .
Spores have also shown evidence for anti-diabetic effects .
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. .
G. tsugae fruiting body extract was shown to increase intracellular glutathione levels, which in turn protect against oxidative damage .
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.
G. lucidum fruiting body extracts have been shown to inhibit HIV, and HPV .
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 .
Reishi been shown to enhance the production of interleukin-1 in vitro, and increase white blood cell and hemoglobin levels in mice .
Reishi has been shown to improve symptoms of coronary heart disease .
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 .
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1534735403259066 Has been shown to increase natural killer cell activity of splenocytes by up to 52% 
The triterpenoids contained in the mycelium of G. tsugae have shown hepatoprotective activity .
Ganodereic acid B has shown hepatoprotective effects .
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 .
The spores are suggested to produce sedative and hypnotic effects in mice .
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 .
Compounds by Anatomy
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%), .
Sterols, alkaloids, lactones, erogone, polysaccharides, triterpinoids,
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) .
Species Specific Breakdown
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) .
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 .
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.
Caution advised in combination with ACE inhibitor medications due to potential drug interactions.
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.
The Sunlight Experiment
(Updated May 2019)
Recent Blog Posts:
Rogers, R. D. (2011). The fungal pharmacy: The complete guide to medicinal mushrooms and lichens of North America [Adobe Digital Editions version].
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
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.
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.
Hempen, C. H., & Fischer, T. (2009). A Materia Medica for Chinese Medicine: Plants, Minerals, and Animal Products. (Pg. 436-437).
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.
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.
Paterson, R.R. Ganoderma — a therapeutic fungal biofactory. Phytochemistry. 67: 1985–2001, 2006.
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.