For over 2000 years Reishi
mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) have been recognized by Chinese medical
professionals as a valuable remedy. Its Chinese name Lingzhi, means
"spiritual potency". Reishi mushrooms are regarded by the Chinese as
the "Medicine of Kings". Dr. Shi-Jean Lee, the most famous Chinese
medical doctor of the Ming Dynasty, strongly endorsed the effectiveness of
Reishi in his famous book, Ban Chao Gang Moo ("Great
Pharmacopoeia"). He stated that the "long-term taking of Reishi (Lingzhi)
will build a strong, healthy body and assure a long life."(2)
A Mushroom for the Nerves
Reishi mushrooms have been traditionally recommended by Chinese and Japanese
herbalists for insomnia due to their "sleep-promoting factor".(1)
Long-term use causes a significant promotion of slow wave sleep1. Reishi
mushrooms are prescribed in China for a number of psychiatric and neurological
afflictions, including diseases involving the muscles, anorexia, and debility
following lengthy illnesses.(3)
In Japan, the dried
"mycelium" of Reishi the root-like body that produces mushrooms has
been found to be highly effective in the treatment of neuroses caused by
"environmental stress".(1) In addition, in an eight-month study of
Alzheimer's disease, patients taking a Reishi mycelium product demonstrated
In China, Reishi is used for
its muscle relaxing and analgesic (pain-inhibiting) effects. In one study,
Reishi alleviated anxiety in 18 of 20 patients after four months' use. It was
concluded that the mushroom has an essentially "calmative function",
but is neither a narcotic nor a hypnotic.
Reishi as a Cardiotonic
For centuries, Reishi
has been known as a cardiotonic herb. It was prescribed routinely to those
with a "knotted and tight chest" symptoms consistent with both
stress and/or coronary artery disease-related angina. Researchers in China
found that Reishi improved the blood flow and lowered oxygen consumption in
the heart muscle.(3) Similar results were also found by Japanese
scientists.(1,4 ) They found that Reishi contains ganoderic acids (which
belong to a group of natural substances called "triterpenes") which
lower high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and inhibit platelet aggregation
(the clumping together of blood cells), which can lead to heart attacks and
other circulation problems. In fact, Reishi's triterpenes are so important
that in Japan they are used to determine Reishi's quality and authenticity.
In a six-month clinical trial
performed in a university hospital in Tokyo, nearly half (47.5%) of 53
hypertensive patients lowered their blood pressure by 10-19 mmHg, and 10% of
the subjects dropped their pressures 20-29 mmHg (both systolic and diastolic
readings) after taking Reishi extract.1 Similar results were observed in a
Chinese clinical trial without any side-effects.(1) Another large Reishi study
in China found that low density lipoprotein (LDL the harmful cholesterol)
levels dropped in 68% of 90 patients following only one to four months of
Recently, Russian scientists
have taken an interest in Reishi. They found that in addition to all the
cardiovascular benefits mentioned above, Reishi showed a significant
preventive and therapeutic action against plaque build-up ("plaque"
is a fatty goo which is comprised of a combination of oxidized cholesterol,
calcium, and degenerated white blood cells ["foam cells"]. It is
deposited on the walls of arteries which restricts blood flow by narrowing the
passage within arteries resulting in atherosclerosis).
Reishi in Cancer Research
Studies of Reishi in cancer research have been largely conducted in Japan,
was scientifically proven to have an anti-tumor effect. This research has
continued in Korea, Japan, and China.
An example of Reishi's
cancer-fighting potential occurred in the summer of 1986. A 39 -year old
Japanese woman approached Dr. Fukumi Morishige, M.D., Ph.D, a renowned
Japanese surgeon and a member of the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and
Medicine, for help in treating her lung cancer. It was a complicated case, and
she had been refused an operation by several hospitals. Hopeless, she returned
home where she found her husband had collected Reishi in the forests. He
boiled the mushroom and gave it to her to drink as a tea.
While this was going on, she
begged Dr. Morishige to do something for her cancer, regardless of its very
advanced stage. From what was evident six months earlier, Morishige was
surprised when he found no increase in swelling. Then he looked at her X-rays.
Something wasn't right: her tumor showed as only a trace on the X-ray. When
she told him she had been drinking Reishi tea, Morishige operated with great
curiosity. He was "astonished" to find only scar tissue, and
although cancerous cells remained, they were now benign.
That was the impetus for Dr.
Morishige to begin his studies of Reishi
as a treatment for cancer especially cases given up as hopeless. Dr. Morishige
now believes that Reishi is also an effective cancer preventive. The active
anti-cancer constituents in Reishi are called Beta-D-glucan. Beta-D-glucan is
a polysaccharide basically a huge sugar molecule made up of many little sugar
molecules chained together bound to amino acids. These intricate sugars
stimulate or modulate the immune system by activating immune cells such as
macrophage and helper T-cells, as well as increase the immunoglobin levels (immunoglobins
are specific types of antibodies) to produce a heightened response to foreign
cells, whether bacteria, viruses, or tumor cells.
One interesting and important
finding by Dr. Morishige was that the effectiveness of Reishi could be
increased by combining it with high doses of vitamin C. Polysaccharides are
huge molecules absorbed by the body with difficulty. Vitamin C helps to break
down these huge molecules to much smaller molecules called oligoglucan, which
can be easily absorbed. Vitamin C thus increases the bioavailablity of Reishi,
and therefore, synergistically increases Reishi's immune-stimulating and
During the 1970s and 1980s, Reishi's anti-allergy action became the subject of
ongoing research in both China and Japan. Studies showed that Reishi extract
significantly inhibited all four types of allergic reactions, including
positive effects against asthma and contact dermatitis. In 1990, researchers
at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found that
Reishi could be effectively used in treating stiff necks, stiff shoulders,
conjunctivitis (inflammation of the fine membrane lining the eye and eyelids),
bronchitis, rheumatism, and improving "competence" of the immune
system without any significant side-effects.(6)
Part of the anti-inflammatory
effect of Reishi may be due to its free radical scavenging effect. Reishi
extract significantly elevates the free radical scavenging ability of the
blood, especially against the particularly harmful hydroxyl radicals. The
hydroxyl radical scavenging effect of Reishi is so strong that even after the
Reishi extract was absorbed and metabolized the scavenging action still
Healing the Liver
Reishi is commonly prescribed in China for the treatment of chronic hepatitis.
In treatments lasting 2 to 15 weeks, the overall rate of efficiency was 70.7
to 98.0%.(4) In Japan, Reishi extract has been reported to be effective in
treating patients with liver failure.(1) In animal studies of mice with carbon
tetrachloride-induced hepatitis, the extent of liver damage was significantly
inhibited by continuous dosing with Reishi tincture, and the regeneration of
the liver was promoted.(7)
As the "Medicine of Kings", Reishi is widely used for different
purposes. It is used for symptomatic relief of arthritis and of menopausal
anxiety. It is also used in treating allergic asthma, hypertension,
hypothyroidism, bronchitis, insomnia, general anxiety and stress, and
cardiovascular problems. Reishi also is often the main ingredient in herbal
formulas for immune dysfunction syndromes, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Chinese medical texts traditionally call for using 1.5 to 9 grams of dry
mushroom per day which approximates to 150 to 900 mg of concentrated Reishi
extract.(1) For serious problems like cancer, Dr. Morishige adjusted the
dosage from 2 to 10 grams of Reishi extract per day.(1,5)
source of nutrients and supplements.
did we qualify them ?
1. Kenneth J. REISHI: Ancient herb for modern times. Sylvan Press, 1992.
2. Wasson RG. Divine mushroom of immortality. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Los
Angeles, 80-93, 1968.
3. "Lingzhi". In Pharmacology and Application of Chinese Materia
Medica, Vol. I. Chang HM and But RPH, eds. World Scientific: Singapore, 642,
4. Stanislaus CS. LingzhiMedicine of Kings. New Editions Health World, 38-41,
5. Carlson J. Reishi Mushroom. New Editions Health World, 23-25, April, 1996.
6. Stavinoha WB, et al. Study of the anti-inflammatory activity of Ganoderma
lucidum. Presented at the Third Academic/Industry Joint Conference (AIJC),
Sapporo, Japan, 1990.
7. Lin JM, Lin CC, Chiu HF, Yang JJ, and Lee SG. Evaluation of the anti-imflammatory
and liver protective effects of anoectochilus formosanus ganoderma lucidum and
gynostemma pentaphyllum in rats. Am J Chi Med, 21:59-69, 1993. 3215, 1985.