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Reishi Mushroom Benefits & Usage: A Comprehensive Guide

By July 23, 2021December 1st, 2021No Comments
Reishi Mushroom Benefits & Usage: A Comprehensive Guide

The storied reishi mushroom’s benefits for the mind and body were first discovered in Asia and its medicinal use can be traced back thousands of years. Among the wide variety of fungi used in traditional and herbal medicine, the reishi mushroom has one of the most varied and long-ranging histories. Excitingly, modern science confirms that the reverence for this fungus and its healing properties is well-founded.

Red Reishi Benefits
Fresh Ganoderma Lingzhi, a.k.a red reishi, from the Real Mushrooms farm.

In this guide, we will explore the origins and history of reishi mushrooms and how they came to be so revered. We’ll then look to the present and discover the many benefits modern science is suggesting that Reishi can provide to our bodies.

Finally, we’ll learn about how Real Mushrooms uses reishi to provide high-quality supplements that you can add to your daily health routine.

Sections in this guide:

  1. What are Reishi Mushrooms
  2. Historical Reishi Mushroom Benefits & Use
  3. Reishi Mushroom Benefits & Modern Uses
  4. What Reishi Users Experience
  5. Organic Reishi Mushroom vs. Mycelium
  6. Reishi Mushroom Supplements
  7. How to Add Reishi Mushrooms to Your Diet
  8. How to Safely Supplement with Reishi
  9. Choosing the Right Reishi Supplement

The information in this article has been reviewed by Dr. Mason Bresett, Naturopathic Doctor.

What are Reishi Mushrooms?

Reishi is a type of polypore: a woody type of mushroom that grows from trees and whose underside is smooth and composed of thousands of tiny pores, rather than gills. Polypores are also called bracket mushrooms or shelf mushrooms because of the way they sprout horizontally from trees.

It may surprise you to know that the term “reishi mushroom” doesn’t actually refer to one specific type of fungi. Reishi (also known as Lingzhi in China and Korea and “mannetake” in Japan) is simply the common name for the scientific genus of mushroom, Ganoderma.

The Ganoderma genus of mushrooms is found all over the world, and from the study of the mushrooms’ various properties, estimates suggest there could be as many as 2,000 separate species (1). The world’s most common reishi species is Ganoderma lucidum —lucidum is Latin for “shiny,” which refers to the varnished appearance of the mushroom’s surface. The most commonly used Ganoderma species in mushroom supplements are also Ganoderma lucidum (3).

Giant reishi mushroom
Reishi is unique among mushrooms for its capacity to grow to over a meter in diameter.

Historical Reishi Mushroom Benefits & Use

Documented references to reishi’s reputation as a health booster date back as far as 2,400 years, and depictions of it frequently appear in ancient Chinese and Japanese artwork. However, the mushroom has likely been in use as a medicinal herb for over 4,000 years across the Eastern hemisphere, including both Korean and Indian cultures (15).

Ancient Chinese herbalists called reishi Lingzhi (灵芝) because it means “herb of spiritual potency.” Emperor Yan, the first (and most legendary) in the line of ancient China’s rulers, is attributed as having not only developed the farming practices and tools that became the foundation of China’s agriculture but of having written the “bible” of medicinal plants known as Shennong Ben Cao Jing (a.k.a. Materia Medica). Of reishi, he wrote, “If eaten customarily, it makes your body light and young, lengthens your life, and turns you into one like the immortal who never dies.”

Reishi mushroom statues
Real Mushrooms founder Skye Chilton (right) and his master mushroom-cultivator father, Jeff Chilton, stand before the statues of two of China’s most esteemed ancient emperors, Yan and Huang. The emperors are depicted holding reishi, a signal of how revered this mushroom has been in Chinese culture.

Ancient Chinese texts discuss the six colors of reishi with the most common and well-known being the red variety; other colors include blue, yellow, black, white, and purple. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners prescribe Lingzhi to influence the heart, lungs, liver, and kidney channels, to balance Qi (the body’s life force), calm the mind, and relieve cough and asthma. TCM physicians adopted the phrase “the mushroom of immortality” to describe the all-encompassing health support that they deemed reishi could provide (2). Reishi was revered for its medicinal properties in ancient China, yet it was relatively rare in nature, so for a long time, it was reserved exclusively for nobility.

As we discuss in our article, The Benefits of Red Reishi and the 5 Other Color Types, mushroom expert Zhi-Bin Lin notes that modern pharmacological studies show reishi’s potential for supporting cardiovascular health. He goes on to suggest that these benefits could possibly relate to the “heart-boosting” effects recorded in Traditional Chinese Medicine texts (6).

Reishi mushrooms are included in China’s State Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (2000) and are touted to balance Qi, ease the mind, and support respiratory health (5).

Reishi remains a cornerstone of natural medicine in Eastern cultures. With globalization and the growing number of people looking for natural solutions to support their health, scientists are now investigating the validity of the health claims surrounding this traditional herbal remedy.

Reishi mushroom history

Modern Uses & Benefits of “The King of Mushrooms”

Using modern research techniques, scientists have determined that the reishi mushroom benefits for wellness are indeed abundant. This fungus contains over 400 different bioactive compounds including triterpenoids, polysaccharides, nucleotides, sterols, steroids, fatty acids, proteins, peptides, and trace elements (3).they contain hundreds of bioactive compounds, mainly in the form of polysaccharides and triterpenes, that assist the body in numerous ways (2).

The bioactive compounds in the reishi mushroom provide support to bodily systems that help them function at their best on a cellular level. It is one of the world’s most popular adaptogens because it helps the body and mind adapt fluidly to health stressors and maintain allostasis.

Red Reishi mushroom benefits

Mushroom proteins contain all the essential amino acids your body needs to stay healthy. Amino acids are the building blocks of each individual cell, and finding complete sources of all essential amino acids is required to give your body the fuel it needs to function. Together with the low-fat content and high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids, these nutritional properties add to the significant health value of reishi mushrooms when reliable extraction methods are used (5).

While this fungus may not be able to grant “immortality” as believed in ancient times, modern research undertaken by scientists has confirmed a myriad of reishi mushroom benefits that can help contribute to a long and healthy life.

Potential Reishi Mushroom Benefits at a Glance

  1. Alleviating occasional stress and restlessness
  2. Supporting restful sleep and a calm mind
  3. Supporting lung and respiratory health
  4. Supporting balanced blood sugar levels
  5. Supporting the immune system
  6. Supporting lower urinary tract

Alleviating Occasional Stress and Restlessness

Our stress response is characterized by the release of stress hormones such as cortisol from the adrenal cortex and the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine (also called adrenaline), and norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla. Reishi’s polypeptides may help to regulate these responses and support the body’s natural process of bringing stress hormones back to normal, appropriate levels.

Forgetfulness, insomnia and palpitations are symptoms associated with significant stress; these symptoms are how reishi was and is used in TCM (33). Although there are no direct randomized control trials highlighting reishi’s impact on the hypothalamic- pituitary- adrenal axis, there are studies showing benefits to other systems involved in stress response. Neurasthenia refers to a former medical diagnosis consisting of physical and mental fatigue paired with poor memory and sleep difficulties (34). This diagnosis has been dropped from Western medicine but these symptoms are still relevant in many traditional medical systems in Asia (35).

When used together with lifestyle changes including nutrition, exercise, and behavior-based stress management, like mindfulness or meditation, reishi has the potential to support whole-body health. A calming quality has been attributed to reishi as well, leading to an increased level of general relaxation (7).

Supporting Restful Sleep and a Calm Mind

While reishi mushroom can benefit the mind to help alleviate occasional stress, similarly it can also be used as a supplement to support restful sleep. A study in rats found that reishi reduced sleep latency, which is the time it takes to fall asleep, and increased sleeping time (8). Researchers suspect reishi mushrooms impact sleep through the microbiome and serotonin connection (29). These rodent studies suggest that reishi may have GABA receptor activity, GABA is the neurotransmitter targeted in sleep medications (36).

Its general calming effects mentioned above can help you get to sleep by soothing everyday worry and racing thoughts. This is how reishi was used traditionally when referencing “calming the mind” (33). Promoting quality sleep should be prioritized, as sleep can affect many aspects of health (14). In a cold and flu study, reishi extracts paired with another herbal extract decreased sleep disturbances, a common symptom in individuals who are feeling sick (30).

Supporting Lung & Respiratory Health

Reishi may help support lung and respiratory health. In a mouse study, reishi supported a healthy inflammation response, reducing the sensitivity of the airways (28). If this effect translates to humans, reishi may support free and easy breathing. Reishi was traditionally used in Chinese medicine for bronchitis, a chronic lung condition impacting breathing (6).

Supporting Balanced Blood Sugar Levels

Initial research suggests that reishi may maintain blood sugar levels already within a healthy range, which is promising news for those concerned with glucose control. Multiple animal studies have found that mice and rats treated with various extracts of reishi were better able to maintain healthy blood sugar levels (9). While there is more research to be done, reishi’s potential as a beneficial supplement for supporting balanced blood sugar is promising and warrants further investigation.

Supporting the Immune System

Reishi appears to have immune-modulating properties. Initial studies conducted in vitro as well as in animals have been promising for supporting reishi’s use as an immune-system booster. One study found that reishi beta-glucans increased the activity of immune cells, including natural killer cells and T cells, in rats (22). A systematic review of five well-designed studies in humans yielded similar results, finding that reishi significantly increased levels of T cells, while slightly raising levels of leukocytes (another type of white blood cell) (23). The researchers concluded that reishi stimulates host immunity, is well-tolerated, and has no observed toxic effects.

Studies have also shown that reishi can modulate and enhance immune cells like natural killer cells in those with a chronic disease (20, 31).

In one cell study, reishi was shown to work synergistically with cisplatin (a chemotherapy drug) by having anti-tumor effects on ovarian cancer cells and by enhancing the sensitivity of cancer cells to cisplatin (24).

Scientists attribute the reishi mushroom benefits of immune system support and modulation to its stores of beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are special polysaccharides that stimulate immune system function (27). Importantly, beta-glucans are found in the highest concentrations in the mushrooms (fruiting bodies), which is what Real Mushrooms’ products are made from — not the mycelium, which is what is typically used in other so-called mushroom supplements.

Supporting Lower Urinary Tract

Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH), structural bladder abnormalities, and other pelvic conditions can increase Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS). LUTS is defined as any obstructive or voiding symptoms such as: hesitancy, straining, incomplete bladder feeling, frequency, urgency, and dribbling. Doctors and clinics use a questionnaire called the International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS). This verified tool is not used for diagnostics but for treatment efficacy. In a human clinical trial, low dose reishi supplementation improved IPSS scores in men with LUTS (21). In a different study, out of 19 mushrooms tested, reishi had the most 5-alpha reductase inhibitory activity, making this a theoretical mechanism of action relevant in prostate and urinary conditions (19).

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The Reishi Mushroom Benefits that Users Report

Many of Real Mushrooms’ customers have shared how taking our reishi supplements regularly enhances their health and their life. Below are just a few of their hundreds of testimonials. Keep reading to also learn why one of North America’s leading clinical herbalists recommends reishi as one of the best natural supplements you can rely on for comprehensive health support.

“After 4 or 5 weeks we noticed that we both felt more ambitious and alert. We have also been sleeping better, which may account for the above vitality. Our goal of a hardy immune system is getting a real boost from reishi.” – Ric

“I don’t need caffeine anymore. As a health care worker it gives me a boost of energy and clarity both physically and mentally. No crashing effect. No fillers which is excellent. Just pure and real. No side effects.” – Mu

“It helps with digestive issues and helps me to sleep. Overall improves my health and energy.” – Leilani

“It really helps! I take it every day before bed.” – Ruth

“Real Mushrooms’ reishi are the real deal with no mycelium or substance it’s grown on. I will continue to take these regularly.” – Lisa

These reishi mushroom benefits can sound almost too good to be true; however, the effects of reishi on the body are not to be underestimated. Clinical Herbalist Dr. Terry Willard states that he has recommended Reishi the most to patients in his decades-long practice because of its sheer versatility and capacity to enhance our physical, emotional, and even spiritual health. Willard calls it “the Merlin of the herbal world” and dives into why he has given it this auspicious title in the video below:

Master clinical herbalist, Dr. Terry Willard, discusses why reishi’s versatile medicinal “personality” can be described as the great wizard of the herbal world.

Real Mushrooms Does Reishi the Right Way

At Real Mushrooms, we are committed to providing you with a 100% certified organic, high-quality supplement that provides the maximum potential health benefits for your lifestyle. Below, you’ll find out how we do that and what products we have available that you can start adding to your daily routine today to reap all the potential health benefits.

Many mushroom supplements sold in North America contain only the reishi mycelium and not the mushroom (the fruiting body) itself. This has a great impact on the potency and effectiveness of the product.

Organic Reishi Mushroom vs. Mycelium

Real Mushrooms was founded in part due to a significant problem we discovered in the medicinal mushroom supplement industry. The market is dominated by products that make you think they contain mushrooms, but in reality, contain very little or no mushroom at all.

Most of these supplements are made using the root system of the mushroom, which is called the mycelium. This network of roots contains very little of the active compounds when compared to the mushroom (fruiting body), but is inexpensive to grow for the production of supplements.

The fruiting body is what you would typically think of when you hear the word “mushroom”—it’s what you see growing above the ground. We provide a detailed breakdown of the key differences between the mushroom (fruiting body) and the mycelium (vegetative body) in our article Medicinal Mushroom Benefits: Mycelium vs Fruiting Body.

It’s also important to understand that large commercial growers often grow the mycelium in a grain-based substrate or “soil”. When harvesting the mycelium, the grain is not separated from the mushroom and goes straight into the final product. This grain is just filler and provides no health benefits. Between the grain-based filler and the lack of mushrooms (fruiting body), many supplements contain very few of the beneficial compounds essential to reishi’s benefits.

At Real Mushrooms, we strive to create the highest-quality supplements that contain only the mushroom (fruiting body) and zero grain fillers. That way, people using our products will truly experience the reishi mushroom benefits they hope for.

Organic reishi farm
When it comes to medicinal mushrooms, size doesn’t matter, but purity does. Many reishi supplements contain only reishi mycelium and grain, rather than the mushroom itself, and some don’t contain reishi at all.

74% of Reishi Products are Not Authentic

A new study entitled “Evaluation on quality consistency of Ganoderma lucidum dietary supplements collected in the United States” was recently published by Nature, which releases the most prestigious scientific journals. The study was performed in partnership with the US Pharmacopeia (USP), which sets standards for pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and dietary supplement ingredients.

In the study, they tested 19 different reishi mushroom supplements sold in the United States and compared the bioactive components found in each product to those that exist in the reishi mushroom itself. The study’s results indicated that only 5 of the 19 samples (26%) actually contained what the reishi product label claimed.

USP concluded by saying “the quality consistency of Ganoderma lucidum dietary supplements in the U.S. market was poor, which should be carefully investigated”.

That is quite the statement.

Since day one, Real Mushrooms has been telling people about the difference in supplement product quality on the market and how many products aren’t made from the mushroom and contain high amounts of grain filler. This is reassuring for us as it confirms what we already know.

Additionally, ConsumerLab conducted its own research into reishi mushroom supplements and concluded that Real Mushrooms’ Reishi 415 product was their choice recommendation based on its purity and exclusive fruiting-body content:

Dual Extraction – Reaping All the Reishi Mushroom Benefits

There are two methods of extracting the active compounds in mushrooms for supplements: hot water extraction and alcohol extraction. Hot water extraction is done by heating the mushroom in water to extract any water-soluble compounds such as polysaccharides and beta-glucans.

The liquid can either be taken directly or evaporated to leave behind a powder containing only the beneficial compounds. Alcohol extraction follows a similar process but uses alcohol instead of water to remove any non-water-soluble compounds such as triterpenes.

Which method is best depends on the mushroom. Because reishi contains beneficial compounds that are both water-soluble and insoluble, Real Mushrooms uses dual extraction to create our potent reishi mushroom extract. The mushrooms are run through both processes, and the resulting liquids are combined and evaporated to make one final extract powder that provides maximum health benefits (11).

In this video, Real Mushrooms’ founder and Chief Funguy, Skye Chilton, shows and tells about our organic reishi farm at peak picking time.

Reishi Mushroom Supplements

Real Mushrooms offers two products derived from the fruiting body of reishi mushrooms. Both of these are excellent and convenient ways to add reishi’s potent benefits to your daily routine:

Reishi 415 – Organic Reishi Mushroom Powder

Our 100% certified organic reishi extract is available in powdered form for a variety of uses. It is created with the dual extraction method for maximum benefit and is guaranteed to contain no fillers, starch, or myceliated grains. This product has been tested by third-party labs and confirmed to contain the valuable beta-glucans and triterpenes Reishi is loaded with. The powdered form has many uses in recipes and is a great way to add reishi to your diet.

Recommended dosage: Adults, take ½ to 1 gram per day.

Reishi 415 – Organic Mushroom Capsules

Our capsules provide all the benefits of our Organic Reishi Mushroom Powder, with the added convenience of being in encapsulated form. If you’re looking for the health benefits of reishi without having to think about how to add it into a recipe, this is a great option for you.

Recommended dosage: Adults, take 2 capsules per day.

We’re confident in the efficacy and safety of our products. However, you should consult with a physician before starting any new supplement routine to make sure it’s the right option for you.

Real Mushrooms reishi supplement
Explore Real Mushrooms’ line of organic reishi supplements here.

How to Get Reishi Mushroom Benefits from Your Diet

Despite their sterling reputation as a potent medicinal mushroom, reishi mushrooms have far less prestige in the culinary world. They are rarely used as the star ingredient in dishes because reishi’s flavor is commonly described as an “earthy bitterness,” while the texture is chewy and rubbery (12). Overall, not exactly pleasing to the palette, so it’s no surprise that it isn’t stocked at your local grocery store.

While some Chinese cuisine has managed to utilize reishi to some degree, it’s far more convenient (and tasty!) to use our powder extract to boost delicious recipes.

Reishi mushroom benefits in recipes
Fresh reishi mushroom’s texture is too wooden for use in recipes, but reishi powder extract is an easy way to level up your daily drinks and meals.

Recipes with Reishi Extract

Here are some convenient recipes from our collection that show off our Reishi 415 Organic Reishi Mushroom Powder:

Mushroom Nighttime Golden Milk

Imagine that when bedtime rolls around you experience no “tired & wired” or restlessness. You fall asleep easily and even get the good stuff- the deep REM sleep, where true healing lies, all without sleep aids. No sedating “drugs.” Our delicious golden milk recipe for nighttime uses reishi to help you nod off and get the restful sleep you need, while also supporting your immune system.

Paleo Special Brownies

Reishi’s natural bitterness needs to find some balance somewhere. This bitterness plays perfectly with the sweetness of cacao in this delectable dessert recipe. The taste of reishi powder is very reminiscent of a highly concentrated dark chocolate, so including it in chocolate treats is a natural pairing.

Reishi Bounty Bars

Coconut fans are already familiar with the delicious Bounty chocolate bars. This recipe will help you make a healthier version that provides all the immune-boosting benefits of our reishi powder. A perfect snack to take with you on a hike!

Fungi Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seeds are a nutritional superstar in their own right, and this recipe for a delicious pudding pairs them with both reishi and cordyceps for an amazing, nutritional dessert or snack. Flavored with raw cocoa and your choice of vanilla or peppermint extract, this pudding is not to be missed.

Nourishing Mushroom Elixir

To help kick-start your immune system to support a healthy inflammation response, this elixir features our reishi mushroom powder along with a host of other beneficial ingredients. It’s an especially potent drink for the colder winter months.

If you want to keep it simple, you can add a ½ tsp of our Reishi 415 Organic Reishi Mushroom Powder to your favorite morning coffee or tea and adjust as needed. The method you use to get your reishi mushroom benefits is totally up to you, but you may want to peruse our DIY mushroom coffee recipes for inspiration!

Red reishi mushroom

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How to Safely Supplement with Reishi Extracts

Side Effects and Safety of Reishi Consumption

As with any dietary supplement, reishi mushroom use does have potential side effects. Luckily, reported cases of side effects are few and far between and generally very mild. While its use is common and generally safe, it’s important to always speak with a health care provider before using reishi mushrooms. It is imperative to know that when evaluating scientific data on reishi supplement safety, most case reports and safety issues don’t specify the source. In two case studies reporting harmful side effects of reishi supplementation, there were a few unknowns such as: source, interaction with other herbs or pharmaceuticals, and pre-existing health concerns (25, 26). That is why it is important to source high-quality reishi supplements made from real mushrooms that come with a certificate of analysis, a health product regulation number, and an adverse effects reporting system.

Potential side effects include mouth dryness, upset stomach/diarrhea, rash, and headache. While these are uncommon, anyone experiencing side effects should discontinue use immediately and consult a physician.

Pregnant women should avoid taking reishi supplements. Reishi supplements have not been studied extensively in clinical trials involving pregnant women, leaving experts to suggest avoidance for safety reasons (10). In a meta-analysis using high doses of reishi or turkey tail in 23 trials with over 4200 patients, seven trials showed that adverse events decreased with the adjunct use of these mushrooms (32).

One of the reishi mushroom benefits is its immune system modulating effects. As such, possible side effects from reishi mushrooms can sometimes occur as the immune system shifts or can result from the awakening of a dormant immune system response. These side effects are harmless except in the unlike and rare case of a true allergic response. Allergic reactions seen in anaphylaxis have signs and symptoms such as: shortness of breath, facial swelling (eyes, lips), hives or other rashes, nausea, vomiting, sweating, fast pulse, and low blood pressure.

Possible Reishi Drug Interactions

Reishi mushroom has the potential to interact with anti-platelet (above 3 grams per day), anti-diabetic and anti-hypertension medications (16, 17). Those with known clotting disorders or planned surgeries should speak with their health care provider before starting or continuing reishi supplementation. Reishi mushrooms can enhance the immune system, so for those on immunosuppressants, this becomes relevant (18).

Reishi mushroom supplement
Taking pure reishi extract in capsule form simplifies the process of getting the abundant bio-compounds found within this storied mushroom.

Choosing the Right Reishi Supplement

Reishi mushrooms are potent medicinal mushrooms that have the potential to support a wide range of health concerns including alleviating occasional stress and restlessness, supporting restful sleep and a calm mind, supporting lung and respiratory health, supporting balanced blood sugar, supporting the immune system, and supporting a healthy heart and circulation. Modern science is demonstrating how effective reishi mushrooms can be as a supplement to enhance health.

When incorporated as a powder or encapsulated supplement to your daily routine, you can reap the benefits of this amazing mushroom so long as you choose an organic, high-purity, mushroom-based reishi extract, such as those Real Mushrooms produces.

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*Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by licensed medical physicians. Please consult your doctor or health practitioner for any medical advice.


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Real Mushrooms

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