Benefits of Reishi mushroom

by Hannah de Gruchy April 29, 2022

Benefits of Reishi mushroom

Reishi mushrooms are relatively unknown in the western world, but they’ve been used medicinally in eastern medicines, including in Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, for more than 2,000 years. In the east, they’re known as the “mushroom of immortality” due to their health benefits.

These odd-looking, kidney-shaped mushrooms are usually red or orange in colour with a distinct sheen on the top side, with white or grey flesh flecked with tiny dots underneath. They grow in hot, humid climates and are most well known in China, where they’re found growing at the base of dead or dying trees or rotting logs, their growth spreading horizontally from the bark.

Reishi mushrooms are gaining popularity in the west due to their numerous health benefits and are now regularly consumed as a health food supplement.

Reishi mushrooms: fast facts

  • Reishi mushrooms are also known as the “mushroom of immortality” having been used in traditional eastern medicines for over 2,000 years.
  • They can be consumed fresh, as a powder in smoothies, as a hot drink or in capsule form.
  • Reishi mushrooms can help to support a healthy immune system and can help to protect against fatigue and depression.
  • These medicinal mushrooms grow in the hot, humid climate of Asia at the base of dead or dying deciduous trees.
  • Reishi mushrooms are rich in health-giving compounds called triterpenes and polysaccharides.

What are the health benefits of Reishi mushrooms?

Reishi mushrooms have many health benefits, including giving support to the immune system and our mental health, due to certain naturally occurring chemical compounds known for their health-giving properties.

Immune system support

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Studies show that Reishi mushrooms help to keep the immune system in balance by supporting the health of the white blood cells that play an important role in immunity. This has the effect of reducing inflammation levels which means we have more ability to fight infections.

Research on cancer patients has found interesting results too, as studies have found that molecules within Reishi mushrooms have the potential to increase the level of natural killer cells, another type of white blood cell.

Natural killer cells help to fight both infections and cancer cells, so it’s an interesting area of research. It’s important not to replace cancer treatments with any supplementary treatment, but in the future, Reishi supplements may be recommended as an adjunct to conventional cancer treatments.

Reishi mushrooms also contain compounds called triterpenes that have a protective effect on the cells of the immune system, further helping to support good immunity.

Mental health support

Some studies have found that taking Reishi mushroom supplements, could help to ward off fatigue and depression and protect an ageing brain. Studies into this area continue, particularly into the role that these medicinal mushrooms could play in managing Alzheimer’s’ disease.

Healthy gut support

Reishi mushrooms contain polysaccharides, which are a type of fibre called a prebiotic. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria, or probiotics, in the gut, helping to keep them diverse and thriving. The more diverse and thriving the so-called gut microbiota is, the better our gut health.

Not only that, but our gut health is also now known to be linked to our emotional health via the gut-brain axis. Therefore, a healthier gut can directly impact our mental health, helping us feel happier and less prone to experiencing anxiety.

Adaptogenic properties

Reishi mushrooms also belong to a group of foods with medicinal properties called adaptogens. An adaptogen helps to support the body through physical and emotional stress by increasing the body’s resilience to stress-related harm to cells.

This helps to maintain the delicate balance, or homeostasis, of the body. It’s thought that Reishi mushrooms do this by supporting the health of the adrenal glands, which if under stress, release the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol can lead to chronic inflammation, obesity, heart disease and mental health problems.

Can Reishi mushrooms cause side effects?

Reishi mushrooms, either fresh or in supplement form, are generally considered safe for most people. However, for those with a health condition that affects the liver, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis, it’s best to avoid Reishi mushrooms as they may cause liver toxicity in rare cases.

Some people report experiencing an upset stomach, nausea, and skin rashes after consuming Reishi mushrooms and their safety hasn’t yet been confirmed in pregnant and breastfeeding women.

How can I consume Reishi mushrooms?

Reishi mushrooms are quite tough, with a woody texture and a bitter taste. For this reason, they’re not often eaten in the same way as other mushrooms, although they can be eaten fresh (it has been said however that doing so feels like you’re chewing cork). Instead, they’re usually found in powder or capsule form, to be used as a food supplement.

Powdered Reishi is considered a superfood that can be added to smoothies, it goes particularly well with cacao powder. Or, fresh or dried Reishi mushrooms can be boiled for around half an hour or two hours respectively, to make into a tea. Reishi mushrooms are very bitter, and therefore, Reishi tea does have an acquired taste.

Reishi mushroom capsules

Perhaps the easiest way to consume Reishi mushrooms and reap the benefits is to take them in capsule form such as these organic Reishi mushroom capsules from Mushrooms 4 Life.

When purchasing fresh, dried, powdered, or encapsulated Reishi mushrooms, always opt for an organic version, to avoid consuming artificial fertilisers and pesticides. Organic supplements are also usually free from fillers that take away from the health benefits.

Since extracts of Reishi used in powders and supplements can vary, always check the packaging for the recommended serving size. It’s considered safe to consume Reishi mushrooms daily. As with any food supplement, it can take a few months of regular use before any health benefits are seen.

Regularly consuming Reishi mushrooms can support your health in various ways, including supporting good immunity, gut health, and mental health, and building your body’s resistance to stress.

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Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy

Author

Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.


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