A long time ago in ancient China lived Shen Nong, proclaimed as the ‘God of Chinese herbal medicine’. According to folklore, the man is responsible for teaching the practice of herbal drugs, thus laying the foundation for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Texts from the olden days talk about his many achievements, including the invention of tea and the discovery of a type of mushroom he claimed could prolong a person’s lifespan.
As legends surrounding Shen Nong pass down from generation to generation, it’s becoming gradually more difficult to separate fact from fiction. The immortal mushroom he mentioned, though, is real. Although it doesn’t exactly change normal human beings into Highlanders, it does contain some ingredients that could improve health, promote longevity, and reverse ageing. While the Chinese know this mushroom as lingzhi, the Japanese and Koreans call it reishi and youngzhi, respectively. Latin-speaking people, on the other hand, know it as Ganoderma lucidum.
Lingzhi’s time-defying and other beneficial properties have attracted many followers, but the mushroom can present some complications when not extracted and consumed right.
Read more to learn how to harvest the mushroom correctly and find out which products are safe to consume.
Cracking into Lingzhi
Before we delve into how to extract lingzhi, it’s best to learn more about it and why it’s such a hit in the world of health and wellness.
A wonder mushroom, lingzhi is said to be able to treat anything from seasonal illnesses like the flu to deadly diseases like cancer. These health benefits can relate directly to the compounds of this mushroom.
Multiple studies have been conducted to test if there’s any truth behind this. One such study involved 58 basidiomycetes mushrooms and discovered that lingzhi was the most effective in killing cancer cells.
These include leukaemia and cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, and ovaries. It is also beneficial for helping to overcome stage 1 bladder cancer. In the same way, lingzhi can replenish qi and potentially relieve asthma, cough or shortness of breath.
With its antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties, this compound increases the lifespan and boosts the immune system, giving lingzhi its health and anti-ageing benefits. It bears reminding that lingzhi stimulates the immune system and might be dangerous for people taking medicines to suppress their immune systems.
Another bioactive component, triterpenes, also contribute to lingzhi’s anti-ageing prowess. Moreover, they can prevent hypertension, allergy symptoms and tumour growth. Triterpenes’ bitter taste indicates the mushroom’s quality, so the bitter the lingzhi is, the better it is.
Lingzhi mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans, which can help to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Lingzhi’s benefits are felt not only physically but also mentally. The relationship between lingzhi and mental health has long been recognised in TCM, as monks and mountain hermits have used the mushroom to achieve emotional balance. TCM practitioners also prescribe lingzhi to calm a person’s mind and to reduce their anxiety.
Ensuring the Highest Quality Lingzhi Products
Harvesting the mushrooms correctly is a long and winding process. First, it’s very important to grow it very slowly on natural wood in a nutrient-dense environment to ensure lingzhi’s high level of polysaccharides.
Commercial lingzhi products commonly use different parts of the mushroom. These include the mycelia, fruit body and cracked spores. The spores are the most valuable part of the mushroom and are rich in triterpenes — naturally occurring substances that have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-tumour, antiviral and immunomodulatory properties.
However, the spores have a double-walled structure that is both hard and sturdy. If you eat the spores directly before it cracks, it’ll prevent an effective absorption of the nutrients that this mushroom provides. Therefore, cracking the spores is necessary for ensuring proper nutrient absorption. Simply put, the higher the breakage rate, the easier it becomes for the body to absorb nutrients effectively.
Though, it’s worth noting that the active compounds of the mushroom can be destroyed by high temperatures or acid-based substances. In that regard, the extraction of high-quality lingzhi products involves the use of high-efficiency, low-temperature spore wall cracking technology. The spores are scarce and need to undergo a tedious extraction process. Hence, products that use lingzhi cracked spores are generally more expensive than some parts of the mushroom.
Producing a Variety of Consumable Lingzhi Products
Our suggestion is to just leave this extraction business to the experts. After all, you can easily find lingzhi in ready-to-eat products. Cracked spores, for instance, are conveniently available in capsules that you could take as a herbal supplement. If you’re looking for something that is even easier to consume, there’s lingzhi coffee or tea. You can also blend lingzhi powder with other ingredients like cacao, or add it to your drinks or cookies. More recently, companies are also opting to use lingzhi as a material in anti-ageing skincare products.
Although it comes in many forms, always make sure to get your products from trusted sources. Lingzhi mushrooms spores are tough to crack, but once you get inside them, you’ll find that it has no shortage of benefits for your overall health.
This is an adaptation of an article, “Maximising the Effects of Lingzhi”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.
The Public Domain Review. 2015. The Legend of the Divine Farmer. [online] [Accessed 18 August 2021]
National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2017. Emerging Roles of Ganoderma Lucidum in Anti-Aging. [Accessed 18 August 2021]
US National Library of Medicine. Chapter 9: Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi). [Accessed 18 August 2021]
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