Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Veena Angle, MBBS, MD on June 20, 2022

Can Reishi Mushroom Really Boost Your Immune System?

Reishi mushroom contains numerous compounds that boost immune function, but not all supplements are created equally. Learn what to look out for in this article.

Reishi mushroom min scaled

Reishi mushroom has incredible immune-boosting properties, but many people think that there is no proof.

In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about the Reishi mushroom and its health benefits, including whether or not it can boost immune health.

We’ll also provide tips for how to maximize the health benefits of the Reishi mushroom if you take it as a supplement.

What Is Reishi Mushroom?

Reishi mushroom growing in a forest, ready to be harvested
Reishi mushrooms, also known as lingzhi, can help boost immune system function.

Also known as Ganoderma lingzhi, the Reishi mushroom is a type of medicinal mushroom that contains powerful health benefits.

It is a dark-colored, large mushroom with a shiny exterior and earthy texture. It comes from the Latin word Lucidus, which means “shiny” or “brilliant,” and refers to the tarnished appearance of the mushroom’s surface.

In China, the Reishi mushroom is called Lingzhi. In Japan, the name for the Ganodermataceae family is reishi or mannentake.

Research shows it may have immunomodulatory and chemopreventive benefits, reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea, and enhance the effectiveness of radiotherapy.

History Of Reishi Mushroom

For generations, Lingzhi has been used by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners to nourish the “three treasures:” Jing (essence), Qi (vital energy), and Shen (spirit).

“If eaten customarily, it makes your body light and young, lengthens your life, and turns you into one like the immortal who never dies,” a famous herbalist of China’s Shu Dynasty, Shen Nong, is recorded as having said some 2,400 years ago.

Indeed, the name Lingzhi is itself a combination of the Chinese characters for ‘spiritual potency’ and ‘essence of immortality’.

Immune-Boosting Health Benefits Of Reishi Mushroom

Today, scientific research continues to uncover what makes this mushroom one of nature’s most potent medicines. Among other things:

  • It is packed with active compounds called polysaccharides, which have immune-boosting and anti-aging properties. This explains why in folk art, Lingzhi is often featured with the God of Longevity.
  • It is filled with triterpenes, the compound that gives it its bitter taste but also helps prevent hypertension and relieve allergy symptoms. In fact, the more bitter the taste, the higher the quality of the mushroom.
  • Reishi is rich in beta-glucans. These are complex sugars that research suggests may prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. A 2008 study also found that the active components of Lingzhi combined with green tea may inhibit tumor growth.
  • In TCM, Lingzhi is said to influence the Heart, Lungs, Liver, and kidney channels. Therefore, it is often prescribed to tonify Qi, calm the mind, and relieve cough and asthma.

As Lingzhi stimulates the immune system, it should never be taken by those who are on immunosuppressant drugs.

Tips For Using Reishi To Boost Immunity

Reishi mushrooms can be taken in supplement form. Some people use them in place of coffee.

Beyond the physical, Lingzhi Cracked Spores have a long history of being used as a spiritual aid. Monks and mountain hermits have traditionally used Lingzhi to heighten their focus, increase their willpower, and maintain emotional balance.

It is important to bear in mind, however, that not all Lingzhi mushrooms and related medicinal products are created equal. This is why it is imperative to always use a trusted source.

Here are a few things to look out for:

Potency

The seeds, cultivation site, and sowing method all contribute to the potency of the mushroom. The level of polysaccharides is highest when Lingzhi is grown slowly in a nutrient-dense environment, on natural wood and not grain.

Look for a supplement that cultivates this medicinal mushroom on natural wood logs, monitoring every stage of the cultivation process, from seed authentication to harvesting. This ensures optimal growth and potency.

Part of mushroom cultivated

There is currently no regulation on which part of the mushroom is sold as traditional medicine. Look for products made from the fruiting body, or better still, the mushroom’s spores. These are even richer in nutrients and therapeutic properties.

Spores are released from the underside of the fruiting body when the mushroom ripens. They can only be harvested in the 10 hours following their release.

The spores are extremely rich in triterpenes and are the most valuable part of the mushroom. It takes about 1,000kg of Lingzhi mushrooms to yield a single kilogram of spores. This explains why products made from spores are more expensive.

Extraction process

The spores are surrounded by a hard outer shell that is impossible for humans to digest. To access the nutrients from this most potent part of the mushroom, the spores must be cracked.

The best supplement companies use supercritical CO2 technology to ensure a cracking rate of at least 99 percent. This maximizes the release of nutrients and allows better absorption by the human body.

Companies should also test the acidity value of the spores as oxidized spores offer no health benefits.

Final Thoughts On Reishi Mushroom

Some online publications claim that there is no proof that Reishi can boost immune function. However, research shows that Reishi contains numerous immune-boosting compounds.

Despite this, it’s always best to meet with a registered TCM physician and your doctor to discuss whether you should take it in supplement form.

References

  1. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Reishi Mushroom. (2021) Retrieved at Reishi Mushroom | Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (mskcc.org)
  2. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. (2011). Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi).
  3. ChineseMedicineLiving.com. (2015, November 3). Reishi/Lingzhi- The Mushroom of Immortality. Retrieved from Chinese Medicine Living Website: https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/eastern-philosophy/reishi-ling-zhi-the-mushroom-of-immortality/
  4. Oriveda. (2013). Reishi- The Facts. Retrieved from Oriveda Website: https://oriveda.wordpress.com/reishi-the-facts/
  5. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. (2008, April 14). Extracts From Reishi Mushroom And Green Tea Shows Synergistic Effect To Slow Sarcoma.  Retrieved from ScienceDaily: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408175308.htm

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