Reishi Summary:

Reishi is a highly revered medicinal fungus. One of its most well-known common names, reishi, is thought to have originated from the Japanese term "rishi", which means "forest sage". The Buddha is thought to have transformed into rishi in his later life. This connection with the reishi mushroom and Buddhist concepts are a good representation of how the traditional cultures viewed the mushroom. It was mainly used to promote long life, and help the spirit reach higher levels of consciousness.

Medicinally, reighi is a powerful adaptogen and immunomodulator. It's used to treat autoimmune conditions, immune deficiencies, acute and chronic infection, cancer, and sympathetic nervous system dominance.

  • The Chinese character for ling zhi is composed of three calligraphic images that mean “shaman”, “praying for”, and “rain” [1].
  • The Latin name Ganoderma is derived from Gan (meaning shiny), and derm (meaning skin), lucidum also means shiny [1].
  • G. tsugae, is considered the closest genetically to the revered G. lucidum, as well as G. resinaceum [1]. There exists a fertile hybrid of G. tsugae, and G. lucidum, in an attempt to produce crops in more northern lattitudes. This hybrid has not been well studied as of yet, or widely cultivated, but preliminary research has shown anti-proliferative effects on colon cancer cells, rabid hypoglycemic effects, and enhanced cytokine expression in carginogen challenged mice [1]. (See Chan et al., 2005 for more information on this hybrid).
  • Hapalopilus nidulans is very similar in look to G. applanatum, and is often misidentified as such [1].
  • G. adspersum - immunomodulatory
  • G. annulare - contains sterols as well as applanoxidic acids that have antimicrobial activity [1].

Botanical Name

Ganoderma lucidum

Ganoderma applanatum

Ganoderma oreganum

Ganoderma resinaceum

Ganoderma tsugae



Part Used

Fruiting body, mycelium, spores

Herbal Actions:

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



500-750 mL/day

Tincture (1:5)

15-30 mL/day

Recommended Source


+ Indications

Cardiovascular Conditions

  • High cholesterol
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • High blood pressure

Other Conditions

  • Food sensitivities
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Allergies
  • Viral infection (including HIV and herpes simplex virus)
  • Neuralgia
  • Bronchitis and asthma

+ Contraindications

  • Caution advised in combination with ACE inhibitory medictions

Common Names:


Ling Zhi (China)

Chi Zhi (Red species)

Phantom Mushroom

Varnished Conk

Mannentake (Japan)

Ten Thousand Year Mushroom

Saiwai-take (Japan)

Sarunouchitake (Japan)

Kishiban (Japan)


Traditional Uses:

+ Western Herbal Medicine


+ Ayurveda

G. applanatum has been used extensively in Ayurvedic systems in the pine region of India. Its uses includes stopping excessive salivation in the mouth, as a styptic. 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. Other uses includes radiation protection, Hashimotos disease, in foot baths for gout, and immune regulation. [1].

+ Traditional Chinese Medicine


Sweet [5]


Neutral [5]


Heart, liver, lung [5]


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


Suitable during pregnancy [5].


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 of time to reap the benefits of longevity.

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

+ 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.

G. lucidums 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 imagineable including tinctures, teas/decoctions, powdered preparations, brewed into beers and wines, and eaten raw.


Mycological Description:

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, and 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 found 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, and 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 bodys 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 peices. 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 week. At the end, strin, and combine with the decoction made earlier to a standardized amount.




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].



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), [1].


Species Specific Constituents:

+ 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.


Pharmacology and Medical Research:

+ Antiangiogenic

Has been shown to produce inhibition of inducible nitric oxide production [1].

+ Antibacterial

Ganoderma applnatum has been shown effective for:

  • Bacillus cereus
  • Cornybacterium diptheriae
  • E. 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, and the triterpenoids are more antiviral, more research is needed to confirm this.

+ 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 older 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 ganoderans 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 antidiabetic 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 strong as G. lucidum, but is very close. It is the phenol content that has been considered 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. protect 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 has 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

Has 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 Has been shown to increase natural killer cell activity of splenocytes by up to 52% [1].

  • Helps to assist the p53 checkpoint. This is where genes inspect and destroy abnormal cells. In cancer cells, this is normally a gene that has been damaged, which in turn permits the abnormal cells to move on to the next phase and division. Melatonin and IP6 assist the role of p53. [1]. Some scientists refer to this the guardian of the gene, or master gene. (Research this further, I have never seen it brought up before and sounds very interesting).
  • An alcohol extract of the mycelium has shown positive effects against hepatoma, which suggests liquid culture specimens without subsequent fruiting bodies still provides chemoprotective, and possibly other effects as well [1].
  • Suggested to have provided normalization of T-cells in Russian cosmonauts [1].
  • Suggested to provide antineoplastic and chemopreventive effects through mediation of the immune system as well as through apoptosis [1]. For this reason there may exist powerful synergy between reishi, direct cytotoxic botanicals, and nutraceuticals aimed to provide immune system with the appropriate building blocks for this to reach its maximum effects.
  • Show to work well with cisplatin, adriamycin, fluorouracil, and other chemotherapeutics [1].
  • Polysaccharides can reverse the multidrug resistance in adriamycin-resistant leukemic cancer cells by down regulating the expression of MDR1 and MRP1 [1].
  • The spores (usually cracked), have been found to posess anti-neoplastic effects as well [1].
  • Applanoxidic acid B found in Ganoderma applanatum, is the most active triterpene to show effect on skin tumor promoters in mice [1].
  • Ganoderic acids A and C inhibit farnesyl protein transferase, which may play a role in cancer treatment [1].
  • The proteins (glycans?) and carbohydrates (polysaccharides), found in Ganoderma, significantly inhibits tumor growth, and increase natural killer cell activity [1].
  • Ganoderma spp. appears to have especially noticable effects on hormone related cancers, more research is needed on the mechanism of action for this.
  • In vitro studies have confirmed the action of Ganoderma extracts on tumor cell lines including colorectal prostate [2], lung [3], acute myelogenous leukemia [4], breast cancer [6], colorectal cancer [7], and bladder cancer [8].
  • The constituent mainly held responsible is the polysaccharide component. Particularily with branched (1 ! 6)-β-Dglucan moiety in Ganoderma lucidum. [9].

+ 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 antinflammatory, 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 dependant, and may be through modulation of cytokine production.

Has been shown to both reduce inflammation, and imcrease 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 reishis effects against food sensitivities [1].

+ Sedative

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

+ Other

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



Reishi has very low toxicity, even at high doses.



  • Do not use before surgery due to vasodilating effects.
  • Caution should be noted if on ACE inhibitory drugs.


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 reishis constituents.


Justin Cooke

The Sunlight Experiment

Updated: July 2017

Recent Blog Posts:


  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.