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The reishi is an edible type of medicinal mycelium or mushroom that has been used for its healing abilities for thousands of years and fits the definition of a true superfood. Also known as Ling Zhi in Chinese, these mushrooms are anti-inflammatory and tied to longevity, better immune function and mental clarity, earning them the nickname “king of mushrooms.”
Throughout history in holistic medicine, reishi mushrooms have been considered to be adaptogenic herbs, meaning they help your body deal with the negative effects of stress such as increased inflammation, depleted energy levels, damaged blood vessels and various types of hormonal imbalances. Studies have repeatedly shown that reishi mushrooms have antioxidant abilities that allow them to strengthen the body’s defenses against cancer, autoimmune conditions, heart disease, allergies, infections and more.
And believe it or not, this is all just skimming the surface of a few of the health benefits that reishi mushrooms have to offer. Ready to learn more? Let’s take a look at why you should consider adding this incredible medicinal mushroom into your routine.
What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
Like other disease-fighting mushrooms, reishi mushrooms are a type of fungus that grow outdoors. They’re native to several parts of Asia, including China, Korea and Japan. While they’re edible and are often described as bitter-tasting with a tough texture, you’re much more likely to find them in supplement, tincture or powder form.
Reishi mushrooms, also known by their scientific name Ganoderma lucidum, grow above ground and produce “a fruiting body” along with connective strands (called mycelium), which are turned into an herbal medicines, tinctures, teas, powders and extracts.
For most of history in Traditional Chinese Medicine, fully-grown reishi mushrooms were dried, cut into slices, boiled in hot water and then steeped to make a healing tea/soup. Today, manufacturers of reishi products use a processing technique where reishi is boiled multiple times at a high pressure, allowing the active ingredients to be extracted to form a tincture.
Thanks to the concentrated compounds that these mushrooms contain, potential reishi mushroom benefits include protection against tumor formation, improved liver function, better heart health, enhanced blood sugar control and a reduced risk of asthma, allergies and infection.
Reishi Mushroom Nutrition Facts
In supplement form, reishi mycelium typically contain little to no calories and only a small amount of dietary fiber and protein. However, the true reishi mushroom health benefits come from the ingredients that aren’t listed on the nutrition label.
In particular, reishi mycelium is jam-packed with antioxidants and health-promoting compounds such as polysacchraides and triterpenes. These powerful compounds have been linked to a number of health benefits and have been shown to account for many of the anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties of the reishi mushroom.
How Reishi mycelium Work to Fight Disease
Over the past several decades, dozens of different studies conducted in Japan, China, the U.S. and the U.K. have demonstrated that reishi mushrooms are capable of offering protection against numerous diseases or illnesses, including:
• fatigue (including chronic fatigue syndrome)
• frequent infections (urinary tract, bronchitis, respiratory infections, etc.)
• liver disease
• food allergies and asthma
• digestive problems, stomach ulcers and leaky gut syndrome
• tumor growth and cancer
• skin disorders
• autoimmune disorders
• viruses, including the flu, HIV/AIDS or hepatitis
• heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
• sleep disorders and insomnia
• anxiety and depression
Because they work as an “immune modulator,” reishi mycelium can help restore hormonal balance, bring the body back to homeostasis and regulate activity of the immune system, helping to fight tumors and cancerous cells. Research shows that reishi mushrooms act as a normalizing substance, regulating various cellular functions and systems, including the endocrine (hormonal), immune, cardiovascular, central nervous and digestive systems.
One of the biggest reishi benefits is that they’re capable of doing so much, yet produce hardly any side effects and are much less toxic than traditional medications. In fact, most people report a quick improvement in their energy levels, mental focus and mood while also experiencing a reduction in aches, pains, allergies, digestive issues and infections.
The secret behind their healing potential? It’s the various active ingredients that the reishi mycelium contains, which include complex sugars known as beta-glucans, plant sterols that act as precursors to hormones in the body, polysaccharides that fight cancer cell development and acidic substances called triterpenes that turn off the body’s response to allergies.
Recent findings suggest that reishi mushrooms can lower inflammation and increase the release of natural killer cells, which work to remove various types of mutated cells from the body. This makes the reishi mycelium ideal for preventing heart disease and working as a natural cancer treatment. Some of the ways that reishi mushrooms work to promote better health include:
• activating cytotoxic receptors (NKG2D/NCR)
• inhibiting cell proliferation
• suppressing vascular endothelial growth factor
• increasing plasma antioxidant capacity
• enhancing immune response
• converting excess testosterone to dihydrotestosterone