Spotlight On: Reishi Mushroom

While we might officially favour mushrooms of the ‘magic’ variety, we are big fans of fungi in all its forms. Each mushroom has countless good qualities and health benefits worth writing home about! The fascination with fungi shows no sign of abating as we learn more, and more, about these fabulous fellas! 

And, as there is so much to be said about each one, we have decided to put some of these superfood superstars under the spotlight, so you can really get to know them. We’ve already tackled Lion’s Mane, but now it’s time for another ‘king’ mushroom.

The Reishi!

You may have heard it name-checked in health food blogs and articles — and with good reason. Here we explore the many health benefits of this red ‘shroom with ‘Spotlight on: Reishi Mushroom’. 

The Royal Mushroom

Like many of the medicinal mushrooms hitting the headlines today, their benefits were known long before in Asian cultures, who have been using them for thousands of years. The reishi itself was originally reserved for the royal family. With its deep red colour and relative scarcity in the wild, it became a symbol for immortality and good-health. Called Lingzhi in its native China, today it is sold in many forms — powdered, as a tea, as a tincture… don’t put it on your pizza however — the reishi is bitter and woody to taste! 

What Does It Look Like?

As we’ve already mentioned, the reishi is famous for its reddish hue, which can in fact range from orange to a ruddy-brown. Kidney-shaped, it has a shiny varnish-like surface (again — not tasty!), and fans out from its stem. It grows in the wild at the base of deciduous trees like the plum or maple, however, only a couple of these trees per 10,000 will feature reishi growth. This makes it scarce naturally, but it is able to be cultivated on sawdust, wood chips or hardwood logs. Thusly providing all the hot new wellness products with their reishi-factor. 

Now, there are many, many health benefits the reishi is famed for. We are gonna focus on the top 5 of this majestic mushroom’s properties — prepare to be amazed!

1. They Could Help Fight Cancer

Many studies have recently taken place into the effect of the reishi on cancer cells. While still much of what both treats and causes cancer is mysterious, some intriguing results have been achieved. The Journal of Oncology published a small study in which reishi was found to shrink cancer cells in 3 cancer patients. It may also inhibit the development of cancer cells in the first place. This superpower is thought to be from beta-glucans which inhibit blood-vessel growth, which in turn prevents cancer cell growth. It is also rich in triterpenes, (or essential oils) which may prevent the growth and spread of tumours. And, to top it off reishi is thought to improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy, as well as reduce the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy. 

If you are currently undergoing cancer treatment, please consult a doctor before adding anything new to your medical regime.  

2. They Could Make You Immortal!

OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But, the reishi has not been known for millennia as the ‘mushroom of immortality’ in Asian countries for nothing! Of course, anything that’s healthy for you can aid in longevity, but there is some hard evidence to back it up. In a lab-based study published in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry in 2009, it was discovered that the chain of carbohydrates (polysaccharides) inside the reishi may encourage longevity by supercharging the immune system, and stopping abnormal blood vessel developments, which can lead to cancer.  

3. They Boost Your Brain

Studies have shown that reishi has neuroprotective properties — i.e. — it helps to preserve your brain’s neurons over time. This can improve memory, and protect against degenerative brain diseases. In 2012, a study was published in Neuropharmacology, which found that the reishi mushroom could have these properties. The study was conducted on rodents, but scientists are optimistic that this could become key against the fight against Alzheimers in the future. Reishi extract was found to aid the production of nerve growth factor — essential for healthy neurological processes.  

4. They Help Care For Your Liver

In a study conducted on mice, the spores of the reishi mushroom were found to encourage liver cell regeneration. This improves the liver’s ability to do its job — namely funnelling toxins out of the body. The ability of the liver to do this is integral to other bodily functions, such as blood sugar (good for diabetics!) and allergy regulation. Those hard-working triterpenes, that also help to fight cancer, were found to reverse liver cell damage too!

5. They’ll Cheer You Up!

The reishi belongs to the family of adaptogenic mushrooms, which means that they can help your body to combat stress. In a small study conducted in China, of 132 patients suffering from neurasthenia (a condition which causes extreme mental and physical fatigue), positive results were found after the ingestion of reishi. The patients reported the easing of symptoms of aches, pains, dizziness and irritability. This implies that as well as relieving pain, reishi can improve mood! Although the evidence is not yet as strong as that for psilocybin mushroom’s depression-beating qualities — time will tell how scientists can use this amazing property to treat mental health conditions. 

How To Take Reishi

You can take reishi in the traditional form of a tea — but nowadays you can also buy all kinds of tinctures, capsules and even protein powders to suit your needs! If you experience any allergy or side-effects from your foray into taking reishi — such as itchy throat, dry mouth or stomach pains — it’s best to steer clear. Additionally, if you are taking any medications, always talk to your doctor before changing your routine. 

So, make like ancient royalty and check out this scarlet, super-powered ‘shroom!

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