Reishi - The Extraordinary Properties of the King of Medicinal Mushrooms
The first impression already appears on the tongue. A strikingly bitter taste might indicate that you are dealing with Reishi – the king of medicinal mushrooms.
To feel this taste, you must first prepare an appropriate extract. Healing substances in which Reishi is abundant are found under a thick layer of chitin, which is its cellular protective barrier. Also – if you come across Reishi in a natural environment (it can be found, for example, in the Brokilon forest) – do not throw yourself at it and try to eat it straight from the tree. You will not chew through chitin and only make a laughingstock of yourself.
In China, it is called “Linghzi” – the longevity mushroom. However, this high bar is not unfounded. Reishi is one of the most studied adaptogens on Earth. Modern science confirms its effectiveness in the treatment of many diseases. It has a beneficial effect on the heart, liver and respiratory system. It works great in the treatment of chronic diseases and allergies. Forceful antiviral agent (prevents HIV replication) and great support in cancer therapy. Reishi knows even Gracie Jiu Jitsu – it cuts off the oxygen supply to cancer cells, which suffocates and is destroyed. First things first…
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are herbs or mushrooms, the consumption of which causes a specific response in the body in the form of regulation of the immune system and induction of many therapeutic reactions. The purpose of this process is to bring the body to a state of balance and optimal immunity. Adaptogens are, in most cases, completely safe and devoid of negative side effects. More and more is said about their healing properties. What exactly is the mechanism of their action?
Higher intelligence of nature
Herbs and mushrooms, which belong to the prestigious group of adaptogens, recognise perfectly the needs of the organism on which they grow. They do not always cause the same reactions, but rather are in constant communication and interaction with the host organism. Reishi is a real master at this. It can speed up the metabolism in one person and slow it down in someone else. It can calm the immune system where it is overactive (autoimmune diseases are an example of an over-active immune system) or stimulate it in someone who requires it.
Likewise, it is a mighty antiviral and antibacterial agent, as well as a saprophyte – meaning it feeds on what is dead to transform it into a new form of energy and food for the entire forest. This is precisely what it does, growing on old or diseased trees and accelerating the process of decomposing dead matter into soil that serves all creatures living in the forest. It may be hosted by an old, rotting stump. But it can also be our bodies. Then Reishi will parasitise on what is rotten, dead, and limiting in ourselves.
Reishi Health Benefits — What It Helps For?
Reishi contains over a hundred different polysaccharides (including the key beta-glucans), as well as triterpenes and polyphenols that have extremely beneficial effects on the body. These compounds attach to cells of the immune system (e.g. macrophages) and spread throughout the body like agents for special tasks (remember such a series “Was there life?”). Triterpenes, which are extracted through alcohol extraction, play a key role in fighting virus replication, protecting against harmful bacteria, comprehensively supporting the circulatory system and alleviating allergy symptoms. They are truly intelligent compounds – they are cytotoxic only against cancer cells, but they protect those that are healthy.
In Reishi, we can also find ganoderic acids (the Latin name Reishi is Ganoderma Lucidum), with a beneficial effect on the liver. They help in the absorption, use, and storage of nutrients, as well as in fulfilling the natural detoxification function of the body that this organ performs for us every day.
Reishi also has a significant impact on the improvement of respiratory function and positively affects the oxygen utilisation mechanism in the body. Similarly to its cousin – Lion’s Mane, it has a positive effect on the regeneration of neurones. Likewise, Reishi protects the hippocampus (supporting the process of neurogenesis), creates new neural connections and improves cognitive and emotional functioning by restoring psychological balance.
Does Reishi cure cancer? It is clear from the in vivo and in vitro tests carried out on mice that it inhibits the spread of cancer cells. Reishi owes its anti-cancer properties to beta-glucans. I liked the way Reishi inhibits cancer growth the most. Compounds in the mushroom lead to the so-called anti-angiogenesis process. This means that they cut off the cancer cells from the oxygen and nutrients they need to continue reproducing and growing. In other words, Reishi is a fantastic strategist in one and a master of jiu-jitsu, supporting the functioning of our immune system.
Reishi — A Tonic of the Three Gems
In the Far East, in the remote land of imperial China, the Lingzhi was held in a special way. According to Daoist Medicine, this mushroom is an energy tonic, i.e. a substance that regulates our life energy on three basic levels. Balancing the inner energies is synonymous with health, vitality, and even the ability for spiritual insight. What kinds of energy do I mean?
Jing, the fundamental energy of life, is a deep, primal, and static form of energy. It is responsible for new life and reproductive abilities, vitality, and even the ability to self-heal wounds and injuries. The Jing is our battery – we’ll perform best when it’s fully charged. We then have the will to live and overcome life’s challenges. The lack of balance in life, chronic stress, and bad habits – all of these put a heavy strain on the level of Jing.
Chi is the second manifestation of vital energy. Without Chi Jing, it would be static, and unmoving. Chi sets them in motion, making oxygen rage with each breath, and with it, life rages in our bodies. When you breathe in calmly with your diaphragm, Chi comes to you through the air. The movement of your thoughts and the smoothness with which you flow through the day is Chi. Chi makes the inconspicuous seed (Jing) grow into beautiful, healthy and full of healing substances of cannabis. Or a pine tree. It can do the same to you if you keep your Chi flowing properly.
When Jing is charged and Chi flows smoothly, Shen appears. This is the third manifestation energy – the energy of spiritual insight and evolution of consciousness. It allows us to observe our patterns, free ourselves from limitations and get to know ourselves at the deepest level.
Daoist physicians called the Lingzhi the “tonic of the three jewels.” These three gems are the three manifestations of life energy – Jing, Chi, and Shen. As one of the few adaptogens, Reishi works on all of them at the same time.
Which Reishi product should you choose?
Currently, you can find more and more Reishi products on the market – powder extracts, oils, and in California, even tinctures or chocolate. Medicinal mushrooms are gaining in popularity, but the dark side of popularity is a large number of poor or poor-quality products. Supplement manufacturers often decide the cheapest and fastest production methods because their main (and unfortunately often the only) goal is their margin. As consumers do not have the proper knowledge, they can easily sell Reishi products that promise miraculous properties, but due to the manufacturing processes selected, they are unable to live up to this promise. To understand why this is happening and how to avoid the pitfalls of marketing, we need to gain a basic understanding of how to cultivate Reishi.
Where does Reishi come from in supplements?
Both mycelium and fruiting bodies can be used in the production of supplements. For medical purposes, however, mainly fruiting bodies are used. It is in the fruiting bodies of the fungus that bioactive substances such as beta-glucans and triterpenes accumulate. The therapeutic value of the mycelium itself is negligible. Even so, many growers sell just ground mycelium. It says Reishi Mushroom on the packaging, and technically, it is true. However, the medical value of such a product will be none. It’s like selling people nicely packaged cannabis stalks and saying it’s “medical marijuana.”
Okay, so we already know we care about fruiting bodies. But that’s not all. The second issue is the territory of origin of our medicine. The purer and more pristine the region where Reishi comes from, the richer in nutrients it will be. Traditionally, Reishi is grown in remote provinces of China. However, if Reishi grows in a contaminated, industrial environment, these contaminants will penetrate the mushroom itself. Therefore, it is best to stay away from products whose origin we do not know.
How the producer of the supplements obtains Reishi is also of great importance for the final quality of the product. There are four basic cultivation methods. This can be cultivated on large tree stumps, on small branches, in grow bags or in the laboratory in the so-called liquid fermentation process.
The most effective method for obtaining a valuable mushroom extract is the first option – cultivation on large, at least thirty-year-old stumps from mountainous regions (with an elevation of at least 1500 meters). Such conditions are guaranteed by large fruiting bodies and an abundance of health-promoting substances.
The other cultivation methods are cheaper and faster but are associated with specific limitations. Cultivating Reishi on small branches will result in smaller, less nutrient-rich fruiting bodies. Growing in plastic grow bags is fast and cheap, however, the number of triterpenes derived from this method will be low. Mushrooms grown in this way are suitable for pot decoration, but not for medicine. Nevertheless, most of the products available in drugstores and herbal stores are created in this way. In turn, the laboratory process of liquid fermentation enables cheap and effective production of mycelium in sterile conditions, but it is not possible to produce fruiting bodies in this way.
Are all Reishi extracts the same?
Reishi’s cell walls are made of chitin – a hard, fibrous substance that forms its protective barrier. It is the same substance that makes up the shells of many crustaceans and insects, as well as the beaks of squid and octopus. The human body is not adapted to digest chitin because it lacks the appropriate enzymes.
Eating powdered mycelium can lead to stomach problems. Therefore, you should not buy products that are simply ground mushrooms, and unfortunately, these are also on the market. To reach the magic of Reishi, you will need the right extract.
The broad spectrum of bioactive compounds found in Reishi can be extracted using two solvents: hot water and alcohol. Beta-glucans and polyphenols dissolve in hot water. However, strong alcohol will be needed to obtain triterpenes. This means that to obtain a product that contains the complete spectrum of medicinal substances, a double, hydroalcoholic extract must be made. Many of the products on the market only perform water extraction – it’s faster and cheaper, but not necessarily better. In this case, we will not find triterpenes soluble only in alcohol in the product.
In conclusion, before buying Reishi products, you should pay attention to the following:
- Are mushrooms grown on stumps?
- Are we dealing with a double, hydroalcoholic extract?
- Has the manufacturer tested the product for biologically active ingredients (beta-glucans, triterpenes, polyphenols) and the presence of heavy metals and other impurities?
- Are there any chemical fillers or other unnecessary additives?
- Does the extract have a bitter taste?
- What company is the Reishi supplement given – does it have a proven brand and good review
Will it really help me? How long to use?
The short answer is: you don’t know. It depends on whether you manage to build a long-term, collaborative relationship with the Reishi mushroom. In my opinion, it is worth using it periodically (for 2-3 months, after which you can take a monthly break) when you feel the need for internal balance and are looking for a growth catalyst. On a spiritual level, Reishi will help you confront your limitations, which will put you in a better position to win against them. It can be part of your evening rituals (if you have them); you can drink it in cocoa before yoga or meditation. And watch carefully if there are any changes in you.
An area worth experimenting in my opinion is the field of allergies and autoimmune diseases in general. Western science is not perfect at dealing with them – there is no effective cure for allergies (except for those that temporarily inhibit symptoms). The same is true of many other autoimmune diseases and chronic ailments that make people suffer so much. Meanwhile, Reishi regulates the immune system in this subtle way, saturated with mushroom intelligence… So, why not give it a try?
However, you must remember that Reishi is not a magic pill that will cause a spiritual experience (although dreams can be very intense …) or solve all problems. Reishi is not good for much if the key aspects of your life – exercise, healthy sleep, and balanced diet – are not addressed at some level by you
What works for me is Reishi is treated as a trusted, mushroom ally that helps me on my journey through life. It calibrates my mind, nourishes my body, and strengthens my resistance to stress. In return, I give him what is unnecessary: patterns and habits that no longer serve me. I allow him to parasitise on them, turning them into fertilisers for spiritual growth. This is my natural pesticide. And so, we quietly cooperate.
Author, Piotr Zaborowski