What is Lingzhi (Reishi)?
Glossy Ganoderma (ling zhi, 灵芝), also known as Reishi or Lucid Ganoderma Fungus, is considered as one of the oldest mushrooms that is used in medicine. A type of mushroom found in the coastal regions of East Asia, Lingzhi usually grows on decaying logs and tree stumps. It can be found in six different colours, the most common of which is red.
Its botanical name ‘Ganoderma’ is derived from Greek and Latin, which means brightness or sheen, describing the appearance of the mushroom caps. As for the names Reishi and Lingzhi, they carry the meaning of ‘divine mushroom’ and ‘magical fungus’.
Highly regarded by Taoists as the elixir of life for gaining immortality, Lingzhi is thought to increase health and aid spiritual development. The herb is also said to “absorb earthly vapour and leave a heavenly atmosphere”.
Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for over 2000 years, there are only two or three out of 10,000 aged trees that still have Lingzhi growing at their bases. Hence, wild Lingzhi is extremely rare today.
In TCM, Lingzhi falls under the category of ‘Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency’. Such herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency to replenish one’s ‘Four Treasures’ (qi, blood, yin, yang). Neutral in nature, Lingzhi does not affect the yin-yang balance in your body. Sweet in taste, this herb can slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body and has a tonic effect on the body by replenishing qi and blood. In particular, Lingzhi targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Liver and the Lungs.
Functions and Benefits of Lingzhi (Reishi)
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Lingzhi has the following health benefits.
Lingzhi is often used to treat symptoms caused by the dysfunctioning of the Heart. For example, Lingzhi is used to treat restlessness, insomnia, forgetfulness and fatigue. To enhance its effectiveness in treating such symptoms, Lingzhi is often combined with Angelica Root, Sour Jujube Seed and Longan.
Lingzhi can also help to treat symptoms caused by Spleen Deficiency, such as poor appetite and fatigue. To enhance its effectiveness in treating such symptoms, Lingzhi can be combined with Pilose Asiabell Root, Largehead Atractylodes Rhizome and Astragalus Root.
For Lung deficiencies that lead to coughing, shortness of breath and asthma, you can combine Lingzhi with Cordyceps and Tokay to relieve these symptoms. Lingzhi can also be used alone to promote the production of blood and qi, which helps to treat symptoms such as indigestion, loose bowels, dizziness and soreness in the lumbar.
Other than the above Lingzhi benefits, many people consume Lingzhi for its potential cancer-fighting properties. The polysaccharides in the mushrooms provide anti-cancer effects by preventing abnormal blood vessel formation while also boosting immunity. The triterpenes protect the liver, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, fight allergic responses triggered by histamine and also possess anticancer activity.
One study found that 59% of the 4000 breast cancer survivors investigated consumed Linghi. Additionally, several test-tube studies have shown that it can lead to the death of cancer cells. Lingzhi has also been investigated for its potential effects on fighting colorectal cancer. Other studies have also suggested that Lingzhi may help to increase the activity of the body’s white blood cells, which then help to fight cancer.
Other than boosting one’s immune system, Lingzhi can boost energy, reduce fatigue and fight depression too. Also, Lingzhi may improve heart health by increasing “good” HDL cholesterol levels and reducing triglycerides. Several studies suggested that molecules in Lingzhi can decrease blood sugar levels, and that Lingzhi contains antioxidants that can fight signs of ageing and prevent chronic illnesses.
Lingzhi contains triterpenes, which also contribute to its anti-ageing prowess. It also prevents hypertension, allergy symptoms and tumour growth.
How to Use Lingzhi (Reishi)
The recommended daily dosage of Lingzhi is 1.5 – 9g, if used in the form of dried mushroom. Alternatively, you can consume 1 – 1.5g of Lingzhi powder directly, taken with tea or as a tincture.
Raw and dried Lingzhi is available at most herbal shops and specialty stores. Some stores may also sell Lingzhi powder. In addition, other forms of Lingzhi such as extracts and pills may be available.
Cautions and Side Effects of Lingzhi (Reishi)
Continuous, long-term usage of Lingzhi may result in dry mouth, dry nasal passages, nose bleeds or upset stomach.
Other side effects associated with Lingzhi include skin rashes and liver damage. Also, the Susan G. Komen Foundation noted that consumption of Lingzhi powder for more than a month may be toxic to the liver. This may cause nausea, insomnia, chronic diarrhoea and liver toxicity, the last of which may lead to death.
In addition, as Lingzhi may decrease the effectiveness of platelets, it should not be taken together with anticoagulant medications. Pregnant or breastfeeding ladies should also avoid this herb for the time being.
We strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider before deciding to add Lingzhi to your diet.
Here is a summary for Lingzhi (Reishi):
- Herb name (Chinese): 灵芝
- Herb name (Pin Yin): líng zhī
- Herb name (English): Glossy Ganoderma
- Herb name (Botanical): Ganoderma
- Origin of species: Ganoderma lucidum (Leyss. ex Fr.) Karst.; Ganoderma sinense Zhao, Xu et Zhang
- Part(s) of herb used: Sporophore
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Sichuan, Zhejiang, Hunan, Jiangxi
- Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet; Neutral; Administrates the Heart, Lung, Liver and Kidney Meridians
- Actions: Aids in relieving anxiety or insomnia-related symptoms; Calms coughs with excessive discharge; Ideal for relieving symptoms related to chronic fatigue
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