The Reishi mushroom, also known as Ling Zhi in Chinese, is a magic mushroom. No, not that kind! While it may not make you hallucinate and bring about a spiritual awakening, the reishi mushroom can still have some pretty miraculous effects on you: it has many antioxidant properties and may enhance immune response. In fact, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, it may even prevent or fight cancer. So it’s apt that, as Acupuncture Today tells us, both “Reishi” and “Ling Zhi” actually translate to “supernatural fungus”
Where is reishi from?
Ron Teeguarden writing in Acupuncture Today tells us that reishi grows in mountain forests in Asia that are so remote that they are not affected by the considerable pollution and smog of the Chinese urban environment. Reishi grows on many different hardwood trees within these mountain forests, which accounts for why there are so many different kinds of reishi, although the most commonly used form in Chinese herbal medicine is the Ganoderma lucidum, also known as true Red Reishi, the most potent species.
Why is it so magical?
Teeguarden tells us that “Wild plants have an abundance of Qi, meaning that they have the adaptive vitality to survive and even thrive in harsh, shifting environments. And they have an abundance of Shen. Shen is the spirit of the plant (in the case of Reishi, the spirit of the mountain forest), a botanical attitude of power and beauty. Wild plants are almost always stronger than cultivated plants. They have more of the Three Treasures (Jing, Qi and Shen).” So while cultivated reishi can still be beneficial and is much more able to be standardized in terms of its biological properties, size, etc., wild reishi has the special quality of having overcome harsh conditions and will impart its unique energy and spirit to those who consume and utilize it properly. Teeguarden recommends “consistent consumption of wild Reishi” as it “will have a noticeable positive impact on your…Shen, including…[your] peace of mind, joy, emotional stability, optimism, sleep, clarity of thought, and so on.” In chinese herbal medicine Reishi (Ling Zhi) is found in the Substances that Calm the Spirit category of the Materia Medica and is commonly used for the treatment of conditions affecting the heart, lung, and liver meridian systems, such as insomnia, forgetfulness, fatigue, respiratory issues, chronic asthma and much more!
What is the science behind it?
Like all mushrooms, reishi releases spores. The spores, when “cracked” (as uncracked spores are indigestible by humans), are extremely beneficial for your health—perhaps even more so than the fruit of the mushroom—and are actually the part of the mushroom that contain triterpenes, a substance that “may have blood pressure-lowering and anti-allergy/antihistamine effects” Aside from the spores, the mushroom itself contains “complex sugars known as beta-glucans that may stop the growth and prevent the spread of cancer cells,” as stated on the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center website. MSKC even cites a study in which animals fed beta-glucans showed a more active immune response in some of their cells. Reishi is not yet used in the treatment of cancer in Western hospitals, however, as more studies in humans are needed to verify its safety and effectiveness. MSKC also reports that reishi mushrooms have been shown to “slow the process of blood clotting” and increase “the HDL-cholesterol (the “good cholesterol”) level in patients with borderline elevations of cholesterol.” Hopefully, more studies will be conducted to verify the amazing health benefits of reishi and convince the wider public of their effectiveness.