Ganoderma Lucidum Mushrooms (Red Reishi/Ling zhi) Benefits
Ganoderma Lucidum (Red Reishi/Ling zhi) Mushrooms Benefits
The Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushroom's Chinese name - lingzhi - translates as “spirit plant”, and this fungus has a long history of use in Chinese medicine.
In Shennong Bencao Jing (the Shennong Herbal), Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms are listed at the very top under the heading for superior class herbs. In that section, Shennong mentions six types of Reishi: blue/green Reishi, red Reishi, yellow Reishi, white Reishi, black Reishi, and purple Reishi.
Each type of Ganoderma lucidum mushroom has unique qualities. However, the most prized of them all is the red Reishi mushroom.
Red Reishi mushrooms are known among practitioners of Chinese medicine as the “Mushroom of Immortality”, the “King of Herbs”, or the “Herb of the Immortals”.
Ganoderma lucidum has been used for at least 2000 years 1 in both Japan and China, and is considered to be one of the most ancient symbols of health, longevity, and well-being.
In the wild these “mushrooms of immortality” grow on plum trees. Because they were originally rare and expensive 2, 3- and known for their ability to promote vigor, prolong lifespan, strengthen the heart, and improve cognitive function - in ancient times their use was restricted mostly to the emperor, his court, and the upper classes.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the Ganoderma lucidum mushroom is used to nourish the heart, which stores shen. The term "shen" is usually translated as “spirit,” which is frequently misunderstood by non-Chinese speakers.
The word "shen" does not mean the soul (in traditional Chinese medicine, there are two aspects of the soul known as the hun and the po) or your individual spirit.
Rather, it refers to a person’s mind/consciousness and emotional balance.
According to TCM, disturbances of shen produce anxiety, insomnia, bad dreams, moodiness, listlessness, and poor memory.
Reishi mushrooms are used for people with these conditions, along with other nervine, adaptogenic, or sedative herbs as indicated for the patient.
Ganoderma lucidum is also used for people with deficient qi (chi) and blood, which manifests as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, neurasthenia, and dizziness.
The Reishi mushroom is usually prepared in a tea or used as an extract rather than used as a food, because of its bitter, woody taste and because most of it is not digestible.
It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that scientific interest intensified and researchers began to seriously study the medicinal properties of Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms.
Scientists have been largely focusing on analyzing the hundreds of unique bio-active compounds found in Ganoderma lucidum. Each year there are new compounds being discovered, and with each finding new health and medical applications are emerging.
There is now a wealth of impressive data demonstrating that this prized fungus may be able to extend your lifespan1,2, stimulate your brain4, boost your immune system, fight cancer 5, ward off heart disease, calm your nerves, relieve both allergies6 and inflammation, and has beneficial effects on asthma 7, autoimmune diseases, such as AIDS8-13, Alzheimer’s14 and Parkinson’s diseases,15-19, 83 diabetes,20-24 liver disease,25-34 and more.
Table of Contents
- Reishi Mushrooms as an Anti-Cancer Agent
Ganoderma Lucidum for Longevity and Antiaging
The Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms gained their reputation in ancient times as “mushrooms of immortality” for good reasons. They were known for promoting health and longevity, strengthening immunity, and lowering the risk of life-threatening conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease.2, 35-37
With today's advances in cultivation techniques, Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms have become much more readily available. This has led to an explosion of research on their properties and components,2,3 and science has finally been able to confirm the traditional wisdom about Reishi's medicinal value.
Studies have now demonstrated that Reishi mushrooms can contribute to longer life spans.38,39
For example, research with laboratory mice has shown that Ganoderma lucidum can extend life span by anywhere between 9% to 20%—the equivalent of 7 to 16 years in human terms!39, 40
Reishi mushrooms can also help manage some of today’s most debilitating age-related conditions like autoimmune diseases, diabetes, liver disease, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, and more.
Given that there are multiple causes and factors that play a role when it comes to aging and disease, how is it that this simple mushroom can have such a wide spectrum of health benefits?
TCM views disease as the symptom of an out-of-balance physiology and/or mental state.
Because Reishi mushrooms are one of the most important adaptogenic herbs, they have the ability to bring balance to the body as a whole and reduce stress.
While Western medicine focuses on “curing” disease after it has already manifested, TCM, which is the result of more than 2,000 years of human observation, focuses on preventing disease by maintaining proper balance within the body through correct nutrition, exercise, and meditation.
If this view is adopted, it is no surprise that any agent capable of normalizing and balancing the functioning of the body as a whole could have a wide range of seemingly unrelated beneficial effects.
What makes the Ganoderma lucidum mushroom so powerful are the hundreds of biologically active chemicals it contains. These work in unison to achieve the broad-reaching health benefits the mushroom is known for.38
Scientists have been able to isolate three essential groups of bio-active compounds that give Reishi its powerful antioxidant, anti-aging and health-boosting effects:
These are the most active elements found in Red Reishi and have anti-tumor properties because of their ability to boost the immune system and to prevent abnormal blood vessel formation. 3, 36 They also have blood pressure lowering effect.
These protect the liver, help alleviate common allergies by inhibiting histamine release, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, help prevent heart attack and stroke by preventing blood platelet clumping, improve oxygen utilization, and also possess anticancer activity.3
A protein unique to Ganoderma lucidum that has remarkably potent antioxidant properties that are still being investigated.41
The compounds in Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms act on many different targets in the body and induce important changes that contribute to their health-giving and longevity-promoting properties.
A number of studies have revealed Reishi as one of the most powerful mushrooms when it comes to antioxidant power.42,43
Ganoderma lucidum boosts total antioxidant capacity, which is an important indicator of the vigor with which it fights oxidative damage.42,44
In particular, studies have shown that Reishi mushrooms can:
Protect cellular DNA from the oxidative (free radical) damage that leads to aging, cancer, and many other diseases.45, 84, 104In addition, Reishi help the body to more quickly repair the most common types of DNA damage by stimulating the activity of the enzyme APE1 (apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease 1), which plays a central role in DNA repair. 85
Protect mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA from the oxidative (free radical) damage that lowers their energy-producing capacity, making them more inefficient, which is another major cause of aging.46-48
Reduces the oxidation damage to the cells' membranes and organelles (which leads to aging and its related diseases) by increasing the levels and activity of a host of natural antioxidant molecules internal to the cell.2, 49, 104
Help prevent kidney failure by protecting the kidney tubule cells from free radical damage.50
Help prevent damage to the heart and lungs from free radical and toxin damage.82, 102
Increase the expression of a key gene associated with longevity, which promotes longer life spans in species as varied as yeasts, worms, and mammals like mice.38,39,51,52
Reishi Mushrooms as an Anti-Cancer Agent
New discoveries are constantly being made about Reishi's multi-faceted anti-cancer effects.
Probably the most important anti-cancer property of the Ganoderma lucidum mushroom is its ability to boost the immune system - enhancing monocyte, macrophage, and T-lymphocyte activity - thereby boosting tumor immune surveillance.
While there are new cancer cells forming in our own bodies every single day, a healthy immune system would naturally search out these cells and quickly destroy them before they get a chance to form a cancerous tumor.
Therefore, a strong and well-functioning immune system provides a natural and primary defense against the onset of cancer.
Unfortunately, as our bodies age, the onset of chronic diseases coupled with constant, long-term exposure to a variety of environmental toxins impair the functioning of the immune system and its ability to carry out cancer immune surveillance diminishes.
And the problem is that, even if just a single cancer cell escapes immune detection and destruction, it has the potential to develop into a full-blown malignant tumor very quickly.
Reishi Mushrooms Boost Immune Surveillance
There is abundant evidence on Reishi's ability to boost immune surveillance and improve detection and destruction of cancer cells in the body.53, 99
In addition to boosting the immune system, several recent studies have revealed that these “mushrooms of immortality” have even deeper and more intricate ways of fighting cancer than previously suspected.
The mechanisms through which Ganoderma lucidum compounds identify and attacks cancer cells are very sophisticated and effective.
It is well known that cancer cells try to evade immune system detection by “hiding” the abnormal surface markers present on the cells' membranes.
This sort of “molecular camouflage” not only allows cancer to develop in the first place, but also contributes to the reappearance of cancer after chemotherapy treatment.54
Luckily for us, the Reishi mushroom's chemical compounds have the ability to force cancer cells to reveal their telltale markers, thus enabling the immune system's killer cells to detect and eliminate them.
At the same time, Reishi stimulates the production of special molecules that are necessary for the immune system to complete the killing process.5, 90
Its polysaccharides have been shown to stimulate an increase in cancer-ﬁghting compounds such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukins 1 and 6, and Th1 T-lymphocytes by anywhere from 5 to 29 times!
Ultimately, Reishi mushrooms improve the ability of the immune system to kill cancer cells, and lower the amount of chemotherapy drugs necessary to finish the job.54,55
In 2012 an evaluation of the results from available clinical trials focusing on the use of Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms in cancer treatment was published.
While there is still not enough data to demonstrate Reishi's effectiveness as a stand-alone treatment, cancer patients were shown to be 50% more likely to respond positively when Reishi was administered alongside radiation and/or chemotherapy, compared to people given the conventional treatment alone.
Cancer patients who were given Reishi showed the expected boost in immunity known to enhance tumor response.53
Reishi mushrooms were also shown to increase lifespan in animal cancer models by up to 40%, and to reduce chemotherapy- and radiotherapy-related fatigue and negative side-effects. 86, 87, 104
Additional Anti-Tumor Properties
In addition to the above mentioned anti-tumor properties, Reishi mushrooms have a number of complimentary ways of fighting cancer:
The triterpenes and polysaccharides present in the Ganoderma mushrooms have the ability to block the reproductive cycles of cancer cells, thus limiting the growth rate of tumors.56, 87, 90, 94
Some of the chemical compounds in Reishi are directly toxic to cancer cells only, while being completely harmless to normal tissue.57, 58, 90, 98
Some of Reishi's compounds act to suppress tumor metastasis and diminish the expression of genes that play a role in cancer cell survival, proliferation, and metastasis.58, 89, 90, 92
Some of Reishi's molecules trigger programmed cell death (apoptosis) in cancerous cells, even though this process is normally suppressed in them.57-60, 90, 92, 94, 98
All of these anti-cancer properties of Ganoderma mushrooms combined have been shown to reduce the size and growth rates of tumors in both animal and human clinical trials.
The greatest impact of Ganoderma so far has been observed in colorectal cancer, which is the second deadliest type of cancer affecting both women and men.61, 92
Clinical studies have also shown that Ganoderma mushrooms are able to inhibit the development of adenomas, which are pre-malignant masses in the large intestine.62
Ganoderma Lucidum's Balancing Effects on the Immune System
Being an adaptogen, Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms have the ability to either up-regulate or down-regulate the immune system, depending on the body's need.9, 63-65
As we already discussed above, Reishi’s immunity-boosting capabilities are at the root of the mushroom's advanced anti-cancer and infection-fighting properties.
However, it is just as important for overall health not to have an overly active immune system.
If that happens, the immune system can turn on healthy body tissue, as in the case of autoimmune diseases such as allergies, inflammation, and more.
Research has shown Ganoderma lucidum's ability to maintain the delicate balance necessary for a healthy body and immune system.
In particular, the polysaccharides and triterpenes found in Reishi mushrooms affect multiple targets in the series of events that lead to excessive immune response, inflammation, and allergies.15,65,66
For instance, Reishi mushrooms inhibit the release of histamine – a chemical involved in local immune responses - from specialized immune cells that are capable of reducing the activity of nerves that transmit itchy sensations to the brain - for example after a mosquito bite or similar itchy stimuli. 63,67,68
In experiments with animals, Reishi mushrooms were shown to drastically alleviate the symptoms associated with allergies, such as rhinitis (itchy, watery nose) and mosquito bites.6
Studies have also demonstrated Reishi's ability to reduce “airway hyper-responsiveness” - the “twitchy” smooth muscle responses in the lung bronchi that provoke an asthma attack.7
Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms have also shown promise for the management of the immune imbalances that are the root cause of autoimmune diseases.8-13
Ganoderma Lucidum Protects the Nervous System
Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms have now been shown to support the development of healthy new neurons and to improve their mitochondrial function by stimulating the production of NGF (nerve growth factor) – a neuropeptide that plays an important role in the development and maintenance of the sympathetic and sensory nervous systems.4
In addition, Reishi's potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects make it a great candidate for the prevention of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which are driven by oxidative stress and inflammation.
Reishi's triterpenes and polysaccharides are able to diminish the oxidative damage from destructive proteins like Abeta (considered to be the main trigger of Alzheimer’s ).14
These same chemicals can also protect brain cells from inflammation, which causes Parkinson’s disease.15-19, 83
Research shows that taking Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms can benefit stroke victims by limiting the extent of the damage to brain tissue. This in turn helps to minimize any behavioral and functional impairment resulting from the stroke.69
In addition, Reishi can protect the brain from injury resulting from the lack of oxygen, followed by oversupply of oxygen (hypoxia/reperfusion injury) experienced by stroke victims.17
Furthermore, regular administration of Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms was shown to improve the energy supply to the brain cortex and to decrease the prevalence of inhibitory neurotransmitters that are characteristic of alcohol consumption.100
Ganoderma has also been shown to have anti-epileptic effects due to its ability to protect epileptic neurons.107
Finally, animal research has shown that Reishi can reduce oxidative damage and mitochondrial dysfunction in the hippocampus (one of the main areas of memory processing in the brain) resulting from Diabetes,20 and can also have neuroprotective effects against spinal cord injury.93
Reishi Mushrooms, Diabetes, and Obesity
In recent years obesity has become a major health problem in the developed world, and one of the main health risks associated with being overweight is Type 2 Diabetes.
The two conditions are so intertwined, in fact, that they are often referred to as a single disease - Diabesity.
Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms have been shown to be very well suited to fight Diabesity due to their beneficial effects for people suffering from both obesity and diabetes. 21-24
Reishi mushrooms have been shown to lower blood glucose levels in a variety of ways. 21,22, 70-75
First off, Reishi has the ability to inhibit an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase, whose function is to digest starches into sugars.76
By inhibiting this enzyme, Reishi is able to prevent the sharp spikes of glucose levels after a meal that are so dangerous to diabetics. 77
Second, Ganoderma lucidum diminishes the destructive effects of the advanced glycation end product proteins (AGEs) that can cause inflammation and aging when they are not functioning properly.78
In tandem, these two properties reduce the ill effects, like kidney disease for example, resulting from Diabetes. 79
In addition, Reishi mushrooms can also speed up the healing of wounds in people with Diabetes as a result of its powerful antioxidant properties. 80, 106
When it comes to obesity, research has shown that the polysaccharides and triterpenes in Reishi mushrooms can inhibit the formation and development of new fat cells, which helps to prevent the excessive fat storage seen in individuals suffering from obesity.75
Ganoderma lucidum also has a beneficial effect on blood fat levels (cholesterol and triglycerides), which are often higher than normal in those suffering from obesity and/or diabetes, and are believed to put people at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease. 21
Finally, Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms are also able to reduce obesity by acting as a prebiotic agent and modulating gut microbiota - one of the promising ways to tackle obesity.
Reishi can thus help prevent gut dysbiosis and obesity-related metabolic disorders in obese individuals.95 - 97
Ganoderma Lucidum Mushrooms Protect the Liver
The liver is the one organ in our bodies that is constantly being bombarded with toxins that come both from within our own bodies and the external environment.
Fortunately, the liver has its own detoxification and antioxidant systems, which provide good protection from toxic damage.
However, as we get older the constant oxidative stress and inflammation inevitably take their toll, and we run a higher risk of liver injury and decreased liver function.
This in turn can lead to liver fibrosis, inflammation, cirrhosis, liver failure, and cancer.
Luckily, Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms can provide direct protection against such threats.25, 110
For example, research shows that administering Reishi to animals prior to being exposed to cadmium - an extremely toxic metal that can cause massive liver failure – can protect their livers from damage.
Scientists discovered that the spores from the mushrooms lowered the amounts of cadmium accumulated in the liver, while at the same time increased the production of a special protein that can bind to cadmium and eliminate it from the body.26
In addition, the polysaccharides in Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms have been shown to protect the liver of test animals from the toxic damage and inflammation caused by some bacterial infections. 27
Further studies show that the polysaccharides can restore the antioxidant systems of the liver back to normal after an infection, and also inhibit enzymes in the liver that cause too much oxidative stress. 28, 29
For example, Reishi mushrooms can limit the functioning of the enzyme beta-glucuronidase, which is present in higher than normal concentrations in many liver conditions, including jaundice, cirrhosis, and inflammation.29,30
Furthermore, Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms were shown to protect the liver from alcohol damage by modulating the activities of ethanol-metabolizing enzymes and by reducing oxidative stress.100, 105
Finally, one of the most impressive abilities of Reishi mushrooms was demonstrated in studies with animals with toxin-induced liver fibrosis.
Liver fibrosis is the final stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is the most common form of liver disease affecting around 1 in 4 people.30-33
The animal studies have shown that Reishi mushrooms were able to actually REVERSE the fibrosis, even if it was already well-established.34
This is indeed a very impressive result because liver fibrosis is considered to be irreversible!
Other Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
This amazing mushroom has also been effective for protecting and improving cardiovascular function. 102
Regular use of Ganoderma lucidum lowers levels of LDL and VLDL cholesterol and triglycerides, inhibits clumping of platelets, lowers blood pressure, and in clinical studies, has been shown to reduce cardiac pain (angina) and arrhythmia and to help prevent arteriosclerosis.
Reishi can be of beneﬁt for people with asthma (especially allergic asthma)108, 109, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, pulmonary fibrosis82, Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE),88 chronic pancreatitis,91 Crohn's disease,101 and hepatitis B and C111 due to its anti-inﬂammatory activity.
The Reishi mushroom's adaptogenic effects are mild and cumulative, but research shows it improves adrenocortial function and relieves stress.
One randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study with 132 patients diagnosed with neurasthenia (fatigue), mild depression, and chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) took part in a study of Reishi’s effects on those conditions.
The group given a polysaccharide extract made from the mushroom reported signiﬁcantly higher reductions in fatigue and an improved sense of well-being compared with patients who were given a placebo. 81
Another interesting use for Reishi is to prevent and treat altitude sickness. It can be combined with Jiaogulan, Cordyceps, Ginger, and Rhodiola and should be taken for four to six weeks before visiting high-altitude locations.
Finally, Reishi mushrooms help accelerate wound healing106 and reportedly have analgesic (pain relief), antibacterial (against Staphylococci, Streptococci, and Bacillus pneumoniae), antiviral, Anti-HIV, expectorant, antitussive, anti-epileptic,107 gastric ulcer,103 and bronchitis-preventative effects.
Reishi mushrooms have a wide range of health benefits and provide an alternative approach to the prevention and treatment of a broad spectrum of diseases.
Their wide variety of chemical compounds can attack disease and improve various body functions in a number of different ways.
Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms' antioxidant, anti-cancer, immunity-boosting, cardio-tonic, and liver-protecting effects must be at least in part responsible for their ability to prolong lifespan by up to 20% in animal studies.
In addition, Reishi mushrooms have been shown to be effective in cases of autoimmune disorders, asthma, and allergies, and provide protection against diabetes, obesity, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Majestic Herbs Reishi Mushrooms Are 100% Organic
Our dried and sliced Reishi mushrooms have no additives, no chemicals, no coloring, no flavorings, no sugar, no caffeine, no herbicides, no pesticides and are 100% non-GMO.
Our Reishi are grown by small farmers in a pristine high mountain region, designated a national park by the Royal Family and Government of Thailand. No pesticides or other chemicals are allowed or used in the farming process.
Majestic Herbs Reishi Mushrooms are 100% Organic
Our dried and sliced Reishi mushrooms have no additives, no chemicals, no coloring, no flavorings, no sugar, no caffeine, no herbicides, no pesticides and are 100% non-GMO.
Our Reishi are grown by small farmers in a pristine high mountain region, designated a national park by the Royal Family and Government of Thailand. No pesticides or other chemicals are allowed or used in the farming process.
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