Reishi’s versatility for healing has been known for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. A short list of reishi mushroom health benefits from ancient times includes enhancing longevity, reducing inflammation, improving immune function, and increasing mental clarity.
Dozens of studies have added substantially to this list over the past few decades. Based on modern research, we now know that reishi mushrooms also offer specific protection against the following:
- Bacterial infections (especially in the urinary and respiratory tracts)
- Viral infections (including flu, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis)
- Liver disease
- Food allergies and asthma
- Leak gut syndrome and other digestive problems
- Skin disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Sleep disorders and insomnia
- Anxiety and depression
- Heart disease (for example, high blood pressure and high cholesterol)
Reishi mushrooms have attracted considerable scientific attention. An entire chapter is devoted to them in the recently revised book, Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, Second Edition (2011).
Let’s take a look at a few of the highlights of what this mushroom can do.
How the Reishi Mushroom Works
In a general sense, the reishi mushroom works as an adaptogen. This term refers to nontoxic substances that boost the body’s ability to overcome damage caused by stress and to restore normal functioning. Reishi’s role as an adaptogen explains a wide variety of beneficial health outcomes from it.
Going a little deeper, research has shown that the benefits of reishi mushroom supplements rest on their role in sharply boosting plasma antioxidant capacity (2004). A higher antioxidant capacity is the foundation for reducing inflammation that leads to many modern diseases.
Scientists have also examined reishi’s properties at the cellular level. In so doing, they have discovered that reishi mushroom extracts can increase the release of natural killer cells, certain types of immune cells and a variety of anti-inflammatory hormones (2005, 2013). These activities explain exactly how reishi mushrooms can provide such a multitude of health benefits.
Promoting Heart Health
One of the earliest modern studies on the cardiovascular benefits of reishi mushrooms explained how extracts reduce blood pressure. The primary mechanism was found to be due to the inhibition of nerve activity that controls blood pressure through the kidneys (1990).
Reihi mushroom extracts have also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol by various mechanisms (2004).
The potential for reishi mushrooms to fight against high blood pressure and elevated levels of LDL cholesterol underscores the mushroom’s use in lowering cardiovascular risk factors.
Defending Against Cancer
The dried powder of reishi mushrooms was popular as a cancer treatment in ancient China. More recently, reishi was discovered to be particularly powerful in reducing the aggressiveness of highly invasive breast and prostate cancer cells (2003). Such anticancer properties are especially valuable against inflammatory breast cancer (2013).
The 2011 review of reishi as a medical mushroom, mentioned above, cited numerous other studies of its effects against many additional kinds of cancer. These included leukemia and cancers of the lung, liver, and cervix.
Research on Additional Health Benefits
In addition to substantial research on its cardioprotective and anticancer activities, studies also show that reishi:
- Fights harmful immune system responses to acute liver injury (2013)
- Lowers symptoms of diabetes, fatigue and hormonal imbalances (2012)
- Suppresses allergic responses, including asthma (2014)
These are just a few examples of what modern science has found out about reishi. It is clearly a wonder herb (i.e., technically a fungus).
How to Use Reishi Mushrooms
The simplest step is to take the best reishi mushroom supplement available. Finding a top supplement is not as difficult as it might seem. The most important criterion to start with is making sure that the reishi is 100% organic.
Equally valuable is the reishi mushroom dosage in a recommended daily portion. It should reflect dosages that provide benefits based on scientific research.
What about reishi mushroom side effects? Fortunately, the long history of usage of this mushroom in all kinds of patients reveals amazingly few side effects. Occasional mild digestive upsets can occur when taking more than the recommended amounts. Those who have especially sensitive immune systems may suffer temporary skin rashes.