Reishi mushrooms may have been around for ages, but you might not know what they can do for you. This pretty mushroom can be spotted in the wild for its colorful red fan shape with a bit of a glossy finish. You can eat it or take it in supplemental form, however, before you do, you should learn more about reishi mushrooms and how they can benefit you!
What is it?
Reishi mushrooms are one of the most well-known in Eastern cultures. For nearly 2,000 years, Ganoderma lucidum as it’s known scientifically is named as such for its glossy and bright skin. The Greek roots of this name come from the word ‘ganos’ for bright; ‘derma’ for skin; and ‘lucidum’ for glowing.
Reishi mushrooms are primarily made of water to the tune of 90%. The remaining composition is solids, a blend of protein, complex carbs, and a little fat. These mushrooms also have potassium, zinc, manganese, and phosphorous. You’ll find there are roughly 400 bioactive compounds in reishi that include all sorts of goodies for your health: peptides, triterpenoids, polysaccharides, fatty acids, and more.
In the olden days, only kings and emperors were allowed to have it because wild reishi was more rare. Today, these have been cultivated and are more readily available to everyone. You may want to eat it or use it in supplemental form.
Where is it grown?
Reishi mushrooms typically are found growing upon decaying hardwood trees located in temperate forest areas. They grow in Europe, Asia, South America, and the U.S. too. The species of reishi mushrooms have evolved a bit based on their locations, but they are easy to spot with the brightly-colored top and unique shape.
How does it taste?
You can eat those reishi mushrooms raw. When you do, you will find they are earthy and have a bit of a bitter taste. For that reason, if you find them off-putting in flavor, you can easily consume them in supplemental capsules or powders. These will make it easier to get the benefits of reishi mushrooms without grimacing from the taste. Check out the benefits of reishi mushrooms below to see why you should find room for them in your daily intake!
10 Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
1. Boosts your immunity
Throughout the ages, reishi mushrooms have been relied on for boosting immunity. In Asian cultures, they are used to help stimulate the immune systems of those with cancer and HIV. As immunity is on everyone’s mind these days, having a little boost is certainly worth exploring. Because reishi mushrooms have beta glucans, or complex sugars, these are believed to help ignite the immune system and prevent infections from intruding pathogens.
2. They’re great for helping with fatigue
Reishi mushrooms, like other mushrooms, are powerful adaptogens which can help your body fight different stressors. If you find that you’re often mentally and physically exhausted in life, adding reishi mushrooms could be just what you need. In one study, patients with a condition called neurasthenia which involves heavy fatigue of the mind and body, consuming reishi mushrooms for their beneficial compounds improved the physical aches and pains as well as irritable feelings.
3. They could help cancel cancer
If anything in this world needs to be canceled, it’s diseases like cancer. There have been many studies done on reishi mushrooms in regards to how the effect cancer cells. The results have been quite promising. A small study found that it shrunk tumors in 3 cancer patients.
According to researchers, it may be those beta glucans at work which prevent new blood vessel growth. This is important since cancer cells need a steady stream of blood to continue to grow. Triterpenes in the reishi mushrooms could also be responsible for stopping the development and metastasis of cancerous tumors.
4. May help lower blood pressure
Those beneficial compounds in reishi mushrooms have more good news for you and your heart as they could keep your blood pressure from getting too high. While the study was done on rats, it’s quite uplifting to find that the compounds that reishi mushrooms have could naturally keep blood pressure at healthy levels.
If you’re on blood pressure meds currently though, please don’t start taking anything new for it. Even something natural like reishi mushrooms in conjunction with your medication could put your BP down to dangerously low levels.
5. Benefits brain health
Animal studies show that reishi mushrooms could help with neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease. As they’re still learning more, the nutrition profile for this mushroom can’t hurt, and it could also protect your brain from seizures. Again, don’t start taking anything without asking your doctor, but you may want to ask about how reishi mushrooms can be added to your intake to benefit your health needs.
6. They have antihistamine effects
Do you have allergies? Unless they’re mushroom allergies, you may want to try out reishi mushrooms. They could work like antihistamines to help boost your oxygen supply, a great relief for those with both chronic and allergic asthma conditions.
7. You might be able to lower your cholesterol with them
Keeping your cholesterol levels healthy is important for your heart health and overall health. Reishi mushrooms have triterpenes and beta glucans which could reduce your total cholesterol, particularly the bad one (LDL cholesterol).
8. Decrease blood sugar levels
Another reason you may want to reach for reishi mushrooms? They can reduce your blood sugar. Researchers surmise that they can do so by inhibiting a glucose-producing enzyme. This is excellent news for diabetics!
9. Healthier liver function
The spores from reishi mushrooms could help with regenerating liver cells. The study was done on mice but it showed it improved the liver’s ability to push toxins out of the body. Keeping the liver healthy is important and adding reishi mushrooms to your diet could be helpful in allowing this organ to work at its best.
10. You’ll get more antioxidants
Even though the are referred to as the ‘mushroom of immortality,’ that’s not actually true. Nothing will make you live forever, but the content of antioxidants in reishi mushrooms can help reduce your risk for diseases. It can also help you avoid prematurely aging making it great for keeping skin looking youthful, another reason to give it a try!
Side Effects of Reishi Mushrooms
Before you start taking reishi mushrooms to benefit your health, you should know about the potential risks. With some research, reishi mushrooms were more likely to cause side effects over those taking placebos. But the effects were very minimal in that they just had a slight increase of upset stomach or digestive woes.
There were no troubles affecting the liver or kidneys either in that research, but other studies showed significant liver problems. In them, the people that reported problems had used reishi mushrooms without any problems until they switched to a powdered version.
While some theorize that it was a problem with the powdered extract, researchers can’t rule that out. With limited safety data, it is important to proceed with caution when you take it, whether you eat reishi mushrooms or take a supplement. Talking to your doctor will help you decide if it is safe in your situation. Those that are pregnant, breastfeeding, have low blood pressure or a blood disorder, or will soon be undergoing surgery should never take reishi mushrooms.
Usage of Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms come in the form of a powder or extract which you can add to drinks or smoothies to make them more palatable. There are also capsules that can help you bypass the taste. If bitterness doesn’t bother you, you can simply put the powder on your tongue.
For culinary usage, reishi mushrooms can be eaten raw or cooked. You can slice them up into strips for just about anything or dry them out and grind them for use in making soups or teas.
Mushroom Supplements with Reishi
When shopping for mushrooms supplements with reishi, it’s important to know a few things to buy the most effective version. With trendy products, many use mycelium because it’s cheaper and faster to grow. This is not the part you want for supporting your best health. Make sure it contains fruiting bodies of reishi.
Tinctures are available too, though the extracts must be of good quality. They should include the triterpenes. An easy way to know is to taste it and if it tastes bitter, the integrity of this mushroom has been aptly captured.
Look for proof of purity on the reishi mushroom supplements you choose. A quality brand will always be transparent with testing and where the ingredients come from. One good rule of thumb is to make sure it’s USDA certified organic and non-GMO. It should also be made in a GMP-certified facility. By doing so, you’ll be more likely to get a quality reishi mushroom supplement that can benefit your health.
FAQs About Reishi Mushrooms
This section will help answer your other questions about reishi mushrooms so you can see if it’s the right decision for you!
What are reishi mushrooms good for?
As mentioned extensively above, reishi mushrooms are great for boosting immunity, relieving fatigue, and keeping blood pressure healthy, among other things. They are nutritious as well and may be a great addition to your diet, depending on your current state of health.
How long should I take reishi mushroom before it works?
It is always best to take it consistently as directed for 10 days to 2 full weeks. This allows your body the chance to work with the compounds from this beneficial mushroom.
Why is reishi compared to Xanax?
Indeed, some refer to it as ‘nature’s Xanax.’ This could help you if you want to calm your mind and body without prescriptions.
Can reishi mushrooms help with weight loss?
In a study on mice, those that had reishi mushrooms when fed a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight. But the mice fed with a normal diet didn’t have any change. It could be beneficial for weight loss in that it is very nutritious.
Do any poisonous mushrooms look like reishi?
While the red-belted conk looks like reishi, it’s not at all poisonous.
Reishi mushrooms have a number of health benefits for you. While it does have a bitter taste, you can pair it with foods or in smoothies to cover it up. Some people don’t mind the bitterness though, and if you’re making Thai dishes, you might not notice it at all since all the contrasting flavors come together.
Still, if you’d rather not taste it, you can find it in supplemental form. Just be sure to choose quality when looking for reishi mushroom supplements.
Additionally, you should be sure to speak to your physician about your health conditions and any medications and supplements you’re currently taking. This will help ensure you don’t have anything conflicting that could harm you. While there are a few people who should never take reishi mushrooms, for everyone else, this ancient mushroom can bring a bounty of healthful benefits that can elevate your life.
About the Author
Lori Bogedin is a health and wellness writer and editor of TwigsCafe.com. She is in the restaurant business since 1999. In 2016 she was named one of the "Top Women in Business" by Northeastern Pennsylvania Business Journal.