The humble edible fungus known as the mushroom has long been seen as a kind of superfood, due to its incredible balance of protein, antioxidants, and key vitamins & minerals. They’re also low in fat and sodium, have zero cholesterol, and are an easy meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans.1 But there are mushrooms, and then there are Mushrooms – those supercharged emperors of the fungi kingdom, like the reishi mushroom.
The reishi mushroom’s benefits throughout history have earned it the nickname “the mushroom of immortality.” Today, it’s being taken just as seriously by modern science. Let’s take a closer look.
What Is the Reishi Mushroom?
The reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is a large, dark, red-colored mushroom with a hard, glossy skin.
In China, the reishi is known as the Ling Zhi, meaning spiritual potency, or immortality.
It’s also viewed in Chinese history as a symbol of success, wellbeing, divine power, and longevity.
The reishi mushroom has an almost 2000-year-old history in China, with centuries of artistic depictions of the mushroom celebrated through paintings, statues, carvings, and embroidery. In Japan, it’s considered the most important of all medicinal fungi. But symbols aside, the reishi mushroom has long been mentioned in ancient medical texts. It was held in high regard for such benefits as enhancing vital energy (or qi), strengthening cardiac function, boosting mental sharpness, and for its anti-aging abilities.2
But before you pass off these theories as ancient folklore, it’s interesting to note that the State Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China – an official “bible” of modern medicine set forth by the current day Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China – still lists Ling Zhi as an important medicine. They believe it to be able to soothe the mind, relieve coughs and asthma, and ease dizziness, insomnia, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath.3
So, how does the rest of the medical world feel about this glamorous-looking fungi?
Modern Health Benefits of the Reishi Mushroom
Modern science is now well acquainted with the ancient Ling Zhi mushroom, and some of the early research suggests that the reishi might have some pretty incredible benefits. These include helping to keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in the normal, healthy range, supporting the body’s immune system, and helping to fight free radicals, which can contribute to illness and speed up visible signs of aging.4
The reishi mushroom has recently become a popular supplement in the Western world. Many of these supplements promote the benefits of a reishi extract powder as being energizing, mood-enhancing, stress-relieving, and immune-boosting.
Either way, mushrooms are definitely good for you. And a big dose of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals may indeed help you to concentrate better and help you fight off sickness.
Where Can You Find Reishi Mushrooms?
When it comes to wild reishi mushrooms, they are actually very challenging to find. But as their popularity grows, so has the cultivation of the mushrooms to keep up with demand.5
The easiest way to get hold of reishi mushrooms is by purchasing them online. They’re usually found in either powdered or capsule form, or as a dried whole mushroom.
But you’ll want to be sure that you’re purchasing from a reputable supplier, as we shall discuss below.
Are Reishi Mushrooms Safe?
“Reishi mushrooms are considered relatively safe when taken correctly (suggested as either 1.5-9 grams a day of dried mushroom or 1-1.5 grams a day as an extract powder.) But they have been associated with toxic liver effects when taken in extracted powdered form for prolonged periods. It’s suggested that pregnant or breastfeeding women or those taking certain medications should avoid reishi.6,7
Perhaps a greater issue though is that a recent evaluation on reishi mushroom extract showed that only five of the supplements tested (23 percent) met what their labels advertised in terms of purity and quality. So, you’ll want to be extra careful if choosing a reishi supplement.8
As with all supplements, it’s best to talk to your doctor before embarking on anything new.
They will be able to evaluate what’s best for you personally, and whether any interactions might outweigh the benefits.
But if you and your doctor decide that introducing reishi into your diet is a good thing, then try making…
Reishi Mushroom Tea
One easy way to add the benefits of reishi to your lifestyle is by brewing it as a tea. You can easily buy dried reishi mushrooms online.
Here’s how to do it:
- Bring about 4-5 cups of water to a boil.
- Add around 3-5 grams of dried, chopped reishi, and let simmer for two hours.
- Remove from heat, strain, and allow the tea to cool to a drinking temperature.
If this is your first time brewing reishi tea, you’ll quickly realize that it’s an acquired taste. It’s a fungi, after all. If you don’t like the taste of plain reishi, you can always add a dash of honey or ginger, or infuse it with another favorite tea.
The Reishi Mushroom: Final Thoughts
The benefits of the reishi mushroom have long been praised, but in terms of modern medicine they’re still a little fuzzy. Some amazing possibilities exist, but it will take a lot more research to effectively prove these benefits.
You can certainly try out the reishi mushroom for yourself, and see whether it seems to give you a little more pep in your step, more brain power in your day, or even more youthful-appearing skin. Tons of people swear by it — including many Chinese doctors.
However, if you want to know how to best take reishi mushroom safely, do consult your own medical professional, especially if you are pregnant or taking any medications.
Chaga Mushroom: Looks Ain’t Everything
How to Be Happier: 5 Benefits of Being Organized
The Strange Mystery and Benefits of Kefir