Reishi Mushroom: A Complete Overview

Reishi Mushroom: A Complete Overview

Reishi mushrooms (also known as Ganoderma lucidum or lingzhi) have garnered attention for their potential health benefits. Used in traditional Eastern medicine for centuries, they are now finding their way into Western wellness routines. But what does the science say?  This article examines the purported benefits, risks, and practical considerations surrounding Reishi mushrooms, offering an informative overview for anyone curious about this intriguing fungus.

Purported Health Benefits

The Claims

Reishi mushrooms are associated with a wide range of potential health benefits.  These include:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Reducing stress and improving sleep
  • Combating fatigue and increasing energy levels
  • Supporting heart health
  • Improving liver and kidney function
  • Aiding in respiratory health
  • Supporting viral resistance
  • Potentially having a role in cancer treatment alongside conventional therapies
  • Managing pain

The Science

It's important to note that the research on Reishi mushrooms is ongoing. While there are promising studies, particularly in laboratory and animal models, more human research is needed to fully understand the effects. However, some areas show more evidence than others:

  • Immune Support: There's some evidence Reishi may stimulate certain immune cells, potentially offering benefits.
  • Stress and Sleep: Small studies suggest potential calming effects, but larger trials are required.
  • Other Areas: Research on cancer support, heart health, and other conditions is in early stages, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions at this time.

Study Focus

Key Findings

Mechanisms/Effects Noted

Recommendations/Future Research Directions

Cardiovascular Risk Factors of Metabolic Syndrome

No significant effect on blood glucose, HbA1c, or other cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with metabolic syndrome.

Ganoderma lucidum's dosage of 3 g/day, with or without Cordyceps sinensis, showed no impact over 16 weeks.

Suggests lack of support for Ganoderma lucidum in treating cardiovascular risk factors of metabolic syndrome; highlights need for further research.

Immunomodulating Effects

Extensive immunomodulating effects, including enhancing innate immune function, humoral immunity, and cellular immunity.

Effects on B and T lymphocytes, dendritic cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, cytokine release, and immune organ growth.

Indicates Ganoderma's potential in boosting immune system components; calls for whole animal experiments and evidence-based clinical trials.

General Health Benefits

Ganoderma affects various health aspects, including preventing and treating diseases, enhancing immune system functionality, and potentially impacting liver injury, skin diseases, and cancer.

Primarily attributed to polysaccharides and other compounds in Ganoderma which interact with immune cells and trigger beneficial effects.

Points to a broad spectrum of potential health benefits; emphasises the need for further clinical trials to validate these effects in humans.

Effects on Sleep

GLE significantly increased total sleep time and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep time without affecting slow-wave sleep or REM sleep. TNF-α levels were increased, suggesting an involvement in the hypnotic effect.

The hypnotic effects appear to be related to the modulation of cytokines such as TNF-α. GLE at 80 mg/kg orally for 3 days showed notable effects.

Supports Ganoderma's ethnomedical use for improving sleep quality; highlights the importance of understanding cytokine modulation in sleep enhancement. Future studies should explore the precise mechanisms and potential clinical applications for sleep disorders.

Understanding the Mechanisms: Scientists believe the possible effects might be linked to bioactive compounds in Reishi like polysaccharides and triterpenes. However, more work is needed to pinpoint the exact mechanisms.

Risks and Safety Considerations

While Reishi mushrooms are generally considered safe for most people, it's crucial to be aware of potential risks and interactions.

Side Effects

Although generally mild, Reishi might cause:

  • Dryness in the mouth, throat, or nasal passages
  • Digestive upset (stomach discomfort, nausea, diarrhoea)
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes or itchiness
  • Nosebleeds or bloody stools (rare)

Bleeding Risk

Reishi may have blood-thinning effects. This makes it especially important to exercise caution if you:

  • Take anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications (aspirin, warfarin, heparin, etc.)
  • Have a bleeding disorder
  • Are scheduled for surgery

Blood Pressure Interactions

Reishi might interact with blood pressure medications. Consult your doctor if you're taking any medication to manage your blood pressure.


Other Interactions

Use caution with other herbs or supplements that might also affect blood clotting or blood pressure (e.g., ginkgo, fish oil).


Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:

Unfortunately, there's not enough data to determine safety during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is best to avoid Reishi in these circumstances.


Long-Term Use

Limited research exists on the effects of taking Reishi for extended periods. In rare cases, some studies have suggested potential liver toxicity with very long-term use, usually in the presence of alcohol*.

Important Note: Always consult your doctor before taking Reishi mushrooms, especially if you have any health conditions or are taking medications. It's also vital to inform your doctor about all supplements you are using.

Regulation and Quality Control

Not Your Typical Medicine

It's important to understand that dietary supplements, including Reishi mushrooms, are not regulated in the same way as prescription medications.

What This Means:

  • Manufacturers don't need to prove their products are safe or effective before putting them on the market.
  • There's no guarantee that the ingredients listed on the label are accurate or match the actual content.
  • Quality and potency can vary greatly between brands.

Choosing Wisely: Tips for Finding Reputable Products

  • Look for brands that provide third-party testing certificates (verifying ingredient purity and amounts).
  • Check for recognised quality seals (e.g., USP, NSF).
  • Research the manufacturer's reputation and customer reviews.
  • Opt for products made with standardised extracts, ensuring consistent levels of active compounds.
  • Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian for brand recommendations.

Quality and Trust: The Mushroom Works Difference

Finding reputable Reishi supplements in a market with varying regulations can be a challenge.  At Mushroom Works, we understand the importance of quality and transparency.  That's why:

  • UK-Based Manufacturing: All of our products are manufactured in the UK to GMP standard, guaranteeing consistent high quality and safety.
  • In-House Expertise: Our supplier uses an in-house regulatory team to ensure any products we make are fully compliant, giving you complete peace of mind.

Choosing Mushroom Works means choosing a brand committed to providing the best possible supplements to support your health journey.

Beyond Supplementation: Reishi's Natural Form and Traditional Uses

The Reishi Mushroom in the Wild

While most people encounter Reishi in the form of capsules, powders, or extracts, this fascinating fungus exists in its natural form. With a striking kidney-shaped cap and a woody texture, Reishi mushrooms grow on decaying trees.  However, due to their tough texture and intensely bitter taste, they may not be the most palatable way to experience the potential benefits.

Reishi is often prepared in the form of teas, tinctures, or powders.

Names and Nicknames: Reishi has earned various names that celebrate its appearance and revered status:

  • Scientific Names: Ganoderma lucidum, Ganoderma lingzhi (These refer to the same mushroom, but some regional variations exist in classification).
  • Lingzhi (Chinese): Meaning "spirit plant" or "herb of spiritual potency," highlighting its significance in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
  • Mushroom of Immortality: This lofty title reflects the belief in Reishi's ability to promote health and longevity.
  • Mannentake (Japanese): Translating to "10,000-year mushroom."

Where in the World: Reishi has a global reach. While historically its natural range was limited to Asia, it's now cultivated worldwide in controlled environments. In the wild, seek this fascinating fungus on decaying hardwood trees in humid, temperate regions.

Note on Cultivation: The growing popularity of Reishi has led to widespread cultivation efforts. While this increases accessibility, the potency of cultivated Reishi compared to its wild counterpart is a subject of ongoing discussion.

Reishi in Traditional Chinese Medicine

For centuries, Reishi has been a significant element in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Rather than simply consuming the raw mushroom, TCM practitioners often prepare Reishi in the following ways:

  • Decoctions: Reishi is simmered for an extended period to create a concentrated, tea-like beverage. This method is believed to extract the maximum amount of beneficial compounds.
  • Herbal Formulas: In TCM, Reishi is rarely used in isolation. It's often combined with other herbs in customised formulas tailored to the individual's specific needs.

The Philosophy of TCM

Understanding Reishi's role in TCM requires a brief look at its core principles. TCM focuses on the concept of "qi," or vital energy, and the balance between yin and yang. Reishi is believed to  help replenish qi and restore overall harmony within the body.

Important Note: If you want to explore Reishi through the lens of TCM, it's essential to consult with a qualified TCM practitioner. They can provide personalised guidance on preparation and dosage, ensuring you use Reishi safely and effectively within the context of your health needs.

Should You Try Reishi?  Making an Informed Decision

Considering Potential Benefits and Risks

Before adding Reishi mushrooms to your wellness routine, it's crucial to weigh the potential benefits with the possible risks and your individual circumstances. Remember, Reishi is not a miracle cure, and the research surrounding its effects is still developing.

Who Might Consider Reishi?

Reishi supplements might be worth exploring if:

  • You're seeking ways to potentially support your immune system.
  • You're interested in natural approaches to manage stress or improve sleep
  • You are looking for complementary support alongside conventional therapies (always under your doctor's supervision).

Who Should Proceed With Caution?

Reishi might not be suitable if:

  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You have a bleeding disorder or take blood-thinning medications.
  • You are taking medications for blood pressure management.
  • You have any underlying health conditions.

It cannot be stressed enough: Always talk to your doctor before trying Reishi mushrooms if you fall into any of the cautionary categories.  They can assess your individual health profile and potential for interactions, making sure Reishi is a safe choice for you.

Finding Reliable Information

If you're curious to learn more, stick to trustworthy resources like:

  • Reputable medical websites (e.g., those associated with universities or medical institutions)
  • Government health agencies
  • Peer-reviewed research studies

Remember, information on supplements can be conflicting. It's wise to prioritise reliable sources and be wary of exaggerated claims. 

At Mushroom Works we make sure to always relay what the scientific data actually says, any claims will link to real studies and scientific journals so you can be confident in what you are reading, along with the efficacy of our products.

The Takeaway on Reishi Mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms hold a place between ancient wisdom and modern research. While evidence suggests potential benefits, there are also important considerations and areas where more scientific understanding is needed. Before incorporating Reishi into your routine, weigh the possible advantages with the potential risks and the limitations of current knowledge.  

If you're looking for a convenient way to explore the potential benefits of Reishi alongside other medicinal mushrooms, consider our "Thrive" blend. It uses clean, sustainable, non-GMO mushrooms dosed at clinically researched levels for optimal support.

Citations & Study References

*Wang X, Lin Z. Immunomodulating Effect of Ganoderma (Lingzhi) and Possible Mechanism. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2019;1182:1-37. doi: 10.1007/978-981-32-9421-9_1. PMID: 31777013. 

*Klupp, N., Kiat, H., Bensoussan, A. et al. A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of Ganoderma lucidum for the treatment of cardiovascular risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Sci Rep 6, 29540 (2016)., 

*Ekiz E, Oz E, Abd El-Aty AM, Proestos C, Brennan C, Zeng M, Tomasevic I, Elobeid T, Çadırcı K, Bayrak M, Oz F. Exploring the Potential Medicinal Benefits of Ganoderma lucidum: From Metabolic Disorders to Coronavirus Infections. Foods. 2023 Apr 3;12(7):1512. doi: 10.3390/foods12071512. PMID: 37048331; PMCID: PMC10094145. 

*Guedikian R, Kim B, Singh G, Alexander R. Ganoderma lingzhi (Reishi Mushroom)-Induced Acute Liver Injury in the Setting of Alcohol Use: A Case Report and Review of the Literature. Cureus. 2023 Sep 25;15(9):e45953. doi: 10.7759/cureus.45953. PMID: 37885515; PMCID: PMC10599861. 

*Cui XY, Cui SY, Zhang J, Wang ZJ, Yu B, Sheng ZF, Zhang XQ, Zhang YH. Extract of Ganoderma lucidum prolongs sleep time in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Feb 15;139(3):796-800. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.12.020. Epub 2011 Dec 21. PMID: 22207209. 

Main image by WildBranch via Flicker. 

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