Reishi: "Mushroom of Immortality"
Ganoderma lucidum, or more commonly known by its Japanese name, Reishi, is one of the most studied and popular of medicinal mushroom mycoverse. It’s popularity is due to its extensive history of use expanding over millennia, but also its expansive breadth of medicinal research on human patients with findings including bolstering the immune system (1)(2)(3), treating stress & chronic fatigue (4)(5), diabetes (6), heart disease (6), cancer (3), just to name a few. This plethora of uses is why its Chinese name, Lingzhi, is often referred to as the “Mushroom of Immortality”.
It can be a highly distinguished mushroom as its red, conk-like, kidney shaped, varnished top gives it a distinct appearance. However, certain cultivation techniques manipulating the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment can result in antler fruiting bodies which you would be hard pressed to find in the wild!
As it is a polypore, it has no gills on its underside, but rather it ejects its spores out of tiny microscopic pores. Depending on which part of the world in from North America to Asia to the Amazon you may find wild Ganoderma species on hard woods such as oaks, or conifers such as Eastern hemlocks and white fir.
The earliest mention of Lingzhi was in the era of the first emperor of China during the Ch’in Dynasty (221-207 B.C.). It has been depicted throughout Chinese literature and art since. Modern research on Ganoderma has caught up with its historical claims. Search “Studies on Ganoderma” and you’ll have your work cut out for you sifting through 30,000 extensive studies. There are reports that large pharmaceutical companies has supported this large interest.
Reishi mushroom extracts have immunomodulatory effects, meaning the modulate the immune system. Reishi is able to lower the immune system when overstimulated, and vice versa, increase its activity when weakened.(1)(2) These immunomodulatory effects, as well as its lowering of fatigue syndrome and increase subjective well-being, have been seen in human trials, even with patients with severe conditions such advanced-staged cancer. (1)(2)(4)(5)
While Ganoderma lucidum is the type species of the Ganoderma genus, all of the species within the genus are highly revered. An important note is that the organization or the Ganoderma genus, much like a lot of mycological taxonomy right now, is simply chaos. A lot of Ganoderma species are referred to as Ganoderma lucidum though they may actually be one of the potential other 480 known species in Ganoderma. A reason behind this large confusion in the mycological world is due to recent advancements in our identification abilities with genetic technology that never existed when some of these original studies were conducted. We are finding that some assumptions we’ve had about certain mushrooms in the scientific community were wrongly assessed and everyone is still playing catch up. Another reason is certain distinctions between species come down to the microscopic level of the spores, of which not everyone is equipped to do.
(1) Monitoring of immune responses to a herbal immuno-modulator in patients with advanced colorectal cancer.
2. Ganoderma lucidum ("Lingzhi"), a Chinese medicinal mushroom: biomarker responses in a controlled human supplementation study.
3. Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients.
4. Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial.
5. A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia.Tang W1, Gao Y, Chen G, Gao H, Dai X, Ye J, Chan E, Huang M, Zhou S.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15857210
6. Study of potential cardioprotective effects of Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi): results of a controlled human intervention trial.