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Reishi 101: Benefits and Uses in Clinical Practice

Medically reviewed by 
Jessica Christie
Reishi 101: Benefits and Uses in Clinical Practice

Reishi mushroom, also known as "mushroom of immortality” or Lingzhi, has been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years, where they were once so valued that only royalty could afford them. It has been used for everything from improving general health and energy to treating different diseases, making it a powerful symbol of health and long life.

Today, researchers are studying Reishi to understand its health benefits better and find ways to use it in modern medicine. This article will explore the health benefits of Reishi mushrooms and their uses in clinical practice.


What is Reishi?

Reishi mushrooms are a species of medicinal fungi and have the scientific name of Ganoderma lucidum. They are recognized by their kidney-shaped cap, which features a glossy, varnished surface. 

The colors of Reishi can vary, but they are most commonly seen in a striking red. Other variants include black, blue, white, yellow, and purple Reishi, each believed to have unique health properties. Reishi grows on decaying logs and stumps of deciduous trees, especially maples, and is found in temperate and subtropical forests across Asia, Europe, and North America. 

Reishi contains over 400 bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and triterpenoids, which are believed to contribute to its various health-promoting properties. These compounds have been studied for their potential effects on the immune system, anti-inflammatory properties, cancer-fighting capabilities, and their ability to help fight fatigue and depression.

Health Benefits of Reishi

Here are some detailed health benefits based on scientific research:

Anti-Cancer Properties

Reishi mushroom has shown promising anti-cancer properties in various studies. Polysaccharides in Reishi help the immune system by slowing down tumor growth, and also kill cancer cells. Research suggests that Reishi could be used alongside regular cancer treatments to help reduce side effects and improve effectiveness.

A key 2018 study showed that Reishi mushroom polysaccharides, when combined with regular cancer treatments, can help fight cancer in several ways. They boost the immune system, directly kill or stop cancer cells from growing, and prevent the cancer from spreading or forming new growths.

Further research in 2020 on cervical cancer cells found that Reishi mushroom polysaccharides can greatly reduce the aggressiveness of these cells. The study showed that Reishi can weaken proteins that keep cancer cells alive and increase proteins that kill cancer cells, supporting its usefulness as a supplementary cancer treatment.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

By decreasing anxiety, depression, and stress, Reishi mushrooms have been shown to benefit mental health. They work as adaptogens, which means they help the body handle stress better and improve overall well-being. Studies suggest that Reishi can calm the mind, making it easier to cope with stress while also providing support for deeper, more restorative sleep, which is important for emotional and psychological health. 

In a randomized controlled trial, Reishi was tested to see if it could help improve mood and life quality in women with fibromyalgia. Participants were split into two groups; one group took Reishi mushroom powder daily, while the other took a placebo. The results suggested that those who took Reishi felt happier, were less depressed and more satisfied with their life.

Immune System Support

Reishi mushrooms contain a variety of active compounds, including polysaccharides, triterpenoids, and peptidoglycans, which are known to enhance immune function. These components activate key immune cells like macrophages and natural killer cells and increase cytokine production, which is essential for fighting off infections and diseases. 

By modulating the immune system, Reishi can help protect against infections and potentially reduce the severity and duration of illness. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory properties can help manage symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases

Antioxidant Effects

Research indicates that Reishi mushrooms have strong antioxidant effects, which can help protect cells from damage associated with aging and diseases. Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals.

Reishi mushroom extracts boost the activity of enzymes that fight off harmful oxidants in the body, like superoxide dismutase and catalase. Specifically, triterpenoids found in Reishi were found to be highly effective in combating oxidative stress.

By bolstering the body's antioxidant defenses, Reishi also offers anti-aging benefits, helping to maintain cellular health and vitality. This makes Reishi a valuable supplement for those looking to support their body’s natural defense systems against the impacts of aging.

Liver Function

Reishi has shown protective effects against liver cancer, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD), hepatitis B, liver cirrhosis, and liver injuries. Reishi mushrooms support liver health through multiple actions. They regulate liver enzymes and reduce harmful biochemical reactions that can damage liver cells. 

Reishi also prevents liver scarring and has antiviral properties that can protect against liver infections. It controls the production of nitric oxide and maintains proper calcium levels within liver cells, which is important for healthy function.

Cardiovascular Health

The beneficial effects of reishi mushroom extract on heart health are linked to their ability to manage blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Reishi prevents blood platelets from clumping together and reduces levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides through their antioxidant properties. 

How To Use Reishi

Integrating Reishi mushrooms into clinical practice can offer a complementary approach to traditional treatments. Here’s what you need to know about its forms of consumption and dosage:

Forms of Consumption

Reishi is available in several forms, making it adaptable to different preferences and treatment plans. These include:

  • Extracts
  • Powders
  • Teas

Dosage of Reishi 

While there is no one-size-fits-all dosage, clinical studies often use doses ranging from 1.5 to 9 grams of dried Reishi mushroom per day. The exact dosage can depend on the form of Reishi—whether it is a whole dried mushroom, a powder, or an extract—which can have varying concentrations of active ingredients.

Dosage by Form

  • Dried Mushroom: Typically, about 6 to 12 grams of dried Reishi mushrooms are used daily. This form requires boiling or steeping in hot water to make a tea.
  • Powder: Reishi powder dosages usually range from 1.5 to 9 grams per day, which can be divided into two or three doses throughout the day. This form is convenient for mixing into foods or drinks.
  • Extracts: Extracts are concentrated forms of Reishi and are typically taken in smaller doses, such as 1 to 1.5 grams per day. These are available in both liquid and capsule forms.

The dosage may need to be adjusted based on age, pre-existing health conditions, and current medications. Higher doses may be used for short-term therapeutic effects, such as combating an illness, while lower doses might be used long-term for general health maintenance and prevention. 

It is important that patients consult with their healthcare provider to determine the most suitable dosage based on their specific health needs and conditions. 

Safety and Side Effects

Reishi mushrooms are generally considered safe for most people when used appropriately. However, like all supplements, they can have side effects, especially at higher doses or when used long-term. Common side effects may include:

  • Digestive discomfort: Some individuals might experience digestive issues such as upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation.
  • Allergic reactions: Although rare, some people could develop an allergic reaction to Reishi, which could manifest as skin rashes or respiratory symptoms.
  • Liver toxicity: There have been occasional reports of liver toxicity associated with Reishi, particularly with prolonged use of high doses. Regular monitoring of liver function is recommended for those consuming Reishi for extended periods.

Interaction with Other Medications and Health Conditions

Reishi can interact with other medications and affect how they work, especially those with blood-thinning properties. Some notable interactions include:

Recommendations for Safe Use

To safely integrate Reishi into clinical practice, healthcare providers should consider the following recommendations:

  • Medical Supervision: Always advise patients to use Reishi under medical supervision, particularly those with pre-existing health conditions or those taking other medications.
  • Start with Low Doses: Begin with a lower dose to assess tolerance and gradually increase as needed based on therapeutic goals and patient response.
  • Monitor Regularly: Regular monitoring of liver function and blood pressure is advisable for patients using Reishi, especially if used in high doses or for a prolonged period.
  • Educate Patients: Ensure that patients are aware of the potential side effects and the importance of reporting any adverse reactions.


Key Takeaways

Reishi mushrooms have a long history in Eastern medicine and are now being studied for their potential health benefits in modern science. These mushrooms are identified by their kidney-shaped, glossy caps and come in various colors. 

Reishi mushrooms contain over 400 active biological compounds, including polysaccharides and triterpenoids, which contribute to their health-promoting properties. Reishi mushrooms offer various health benefits: anti-cancer properties, improve mental well-being and enhance immune function.

Reishi is available in various forms, such as extracts, powders, and teas, with dosages varying depending on the form and individual health needs. It is advised to start with low doses, monitor health regularly, and educate patients on potential side effects and interactions.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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