Internet searches related to medicinal mushrooms have increased by over 3000% in the last three years. If you are looking for ways to boost your health, mushrooms may not be the first thing that springs to mind, but interest is snowballing in the health-supporting powers of these fungi. (1)
Amongst the most popular of these medicinal fungi is the so-called Queen of Mushrooms, or Mushroom of Immortality, the reishi mushroom. The use of this fungus for medicinal purposes in Asia dates back over 2000 years.
Mushroom are fungi, which leads to some confusion on the anti-Candida diet. However, mushrooms will not trigger your Candida symptoms and could be an excellent addition to your diet. If you are looking for an immune boost, or searching for a way to reduce inflammation, then reishi mushrooms could be the answer.
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What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
Ganoderma lucidum, to use the Latin name for reishi, is a parasitic fungus that originates from Asia and lives on conifers, especially the hemlocks. Its uses for promoting health and increasing longevity have been chronicled for centuries in China, Japan and other parts of Asia.
Reishi is extremely bitter, and so it isn’t used for culinary purposes. However, the most bitter foods are frequently very good for health and digestion!
Red reishi has been the focus of most of the recent research on this classification of medicinal mushrooms. The natural habitat of this fungi is the Hemlock tree.
Reishi mushrooms come in a variety of colors from red, purple, green, black and the less well-known, white. This large, bracket fungus has a kidney-shaped cap that’s highly glossy with a woody texture. The name ‘Ganoderma’ means lustrous or shiny.
In China, the original home of the reishi mushroom, it’s known as ‘lingzhi,’ a name that is indicative of spirituality and immortality. It’s been documented as a medicinal mushroom for over 2000 years. A book written in the Eastern Han dynasty about medicinal herbs outlined the use of lingzhi in 220 CE. The mushroom was so highly regarded that it began to appear in Taoist art in 1400 CE.
The first pharmacopeia (an encyclopedia of health and medical products) was written in 1590 CE. Reishi mushrooms were attributed at the time with a range of properties including antiaging effects, increased memory, improved cardiovascular health, and greater energy. In more recent versions, reishi is listed as acting to relieve stress and replenish Qi energy, diminish coughs and asthma, and can be useful in relieving insomnia, dizziness, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. (2)
Reishi mushrooms are a common traditional medicine in Asia, and their use is now growing throughout the rest of the world.
The Health Benefits of Reishi
Reishi has long been credited with enhancing the mind, body, and the spirit. It is known as the mushroom of longevity. These properties are due to the bioactive compounds that the fungi contain.
The bioactive compounds of the reishi mushroom are polysaccharides including triterpene and beta-glucans. These compounds give the reishi its potent anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, and hypolipidemic or fat lowering attributes.
The possible health benefits of red reishi include:
- Aids digestion
- Improves immune function
- Tones the blood
- Supports liver health
- Alleviates coughing, wheezing and reduces phlegm production
- Increases oxygen transfer in the cells
- Encourages restful sleep
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Strengthening the internal organs
Immune system support
Your immune system contains a variety of different types of cells that perform slightly different functions. One of these cells is the macrophage. The polysaccharides in reishi trigger the immune cells to mature into these macrophages. These amazing cells have the power to engulf and destroy pathogens like Candida albicans without harming any of your healthy cells.
Even if your immune system has become overwhelmed, the red reishi can support this macrophage development; this is one of the reasons it is a popular supplement for those living with HIV or cancer.
Another way that reishi assists the immune system is by increasing the activity of receptors of the surface of cells. What this does is to help the immune system to recognize and then destroy infectious invaders. (3)
In monkeys that have a simian form of AIDS, the bioactive compound in reishi could significantly lower the number of circulating viral particles by inhibiting the HIV enzymes. This is the action that current HIV treatment drugs exert, therefore reishi has a great deal of potential in the fight against HIV. (4)
There has been a great deal of research undertaken that indicates that the compounds or combination of compounds found in reishi have a potent immunomodulatory effect. More work is required in human trials to confirm exactly the mechanisms involved.
Chronic inflammation can erode your health. Chronic inflammation is different to the inflammation that occurs when you have an injury, wound influenza or allergies. Rather it is a low level of inflammation that can manifest problems including pain, fatigue, and fogginess. It can be caused by a poor diet, a latent infection like Candida overgrowth, or exposure to environmental toxins.
Inflammation and free radical damage are inextricably linked. Anti-oxidants act to protect against cellular oxidation which can lead to inflammation.
Reishi is a powerful anti-oxidant that can assist the various aspects of your health. It helps to support your body while it is battling against free-radical damage. It is of great interest to researchers of cancer, diabetes, HIV, auto-immune diseases, inflammatory skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis, gut inflammation, and HIV.
There have been positive findings for the role of reishi in reducing inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a serious condition that can have devastating effects. Studies have shown that reishi can reduce and modulate this inflammatory cascade. (5)
Reishi supports and protects the liver, which is particularly important if you are suffering from Candida overgrowth. It processes Candida metabolites like acetaldehyde and gliotoxin that are produced in your gut. If these toxins are allowed to build up in your body, your health can really suffer.
Reishi works to protect your liver cells. A reishi extract that contained triterpenoids demonstrated a hepatoprotective effect. It works by removing free-radicals from the liver, thereby protecting the healthy cells. (6)
Aminotransferase is a liver enzyme, and in patients that are suffering from chronic hepatitis, the levels are often abnormal. Polysaccharides isolated from reishi were shown to normalize these liver enzyme levels when used for six months. (7)
There is controversy over the safety of reishi as a liver tonic. Some research shows that it is safe for healthy adults when taken for four weeks, but there have been reports of liver damage in two separate case studies. (8, 9, 10)
If you’re looking to improve your liver health, you might want to consider a supplement like Liver Support. It contains 11 liver-supportive ingredients, including milk thistle, molybdenum, and NAC.
Reishi is consumed worldwide by people who want to benefit from its potential in fighting cancer. The ganoderic acid that is found in reishi mushrooms has demonstrated the ability to impede the growth of cancer. (11, 12)
Researchers studying Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a particularly aggressive breast cancer, found that the immune modulatory effects of the reishi extract began to work just three hours post-treatment and that it could downregulate the expression of cancer cell mRNA by around 88%. The cancer was, therefore, less able to invade, and its viability was reduced. (13)
In a laboratory setting, reishi has been confirmed to kill cancer cells. However, in human studies the results have been mixed. One indicated that the bioactive compounds in reishi can target prostate cancer, but the consequential study on a larger number of subjects could not confirm this. (14, 15, 16)
In a review of five clinical trials of reishi, it was found that the mushroom could exert beneficial effects on cancer patients by increasing the number of cancer-fighting white blood cells, but that its use should be as an adjunct or addition, to other medications. (17)
The dosage of Ganoderma lucidum depends on your age, health, conditions and the form of the supplement.
There are several active compounds in reishi. Therefore, it depends on if the supplement you take is the mixed compounds or the individual extracts.
For mixed extract of triterpenoids and polysaccharides, which are the ethanolic and water-soluble extracts, the standard dosage is 1.44g – 5.2g. The most common dose is 5.2g, divided into three doses.
The standard dosage for the ethanolic extract is 6mg. The water-soluble extract should be dosed similarly to the basic extract.
Extracts are made of dehydrated mushroom powder and are therefore ten times as potent as the mushroom. 5g of extract is equal to about 50g of whole mushroom.
Reishi mushroom appears to be generally safe but the powdered fungus taken in high levels has been associated with liver toxicity.
Reported side-effects include:
- Mouth, throat and nasal dryness
- Itchiness and rash
- Stomach pain, diarrhea, and bloody stools
- dizziness and headache
- nosebleed, and bloody stools
- Allergic symptoms
Studies in rats have shown no dangerous side-effects. Not enough research has been undertaken to understand the possible side-effects in human subjects fully. (18)
It may be best to avoid reishi mushrooms if the following applies to you.
- You have a bleeding disorder including thrombocytopenia. Reishi might increase the risk of bleeding. This also applies if you have a surgery scheduled.
- You have low blood pressure. Reishi could lower your blood pressure further.
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding. Not enough research has demonstrated the safety of reishi during pregnancy; therefore, it is better to avoid its use.
- You have an autoimmune disorder. It could be improved by reishi, but there is also a possibility of it worsening.
Always consult with your doctor if you are unsure.
Other Natural Supplements That Can Boost Immunity
The following natural products have been scientifically shown to boost immunity, and have also demonstrated some effects against Candida in particular.
Burdock (Arctium Lappa)
A large-leaved plant that is covered in thick hairs. In Asia, it is used in cooking, but in most of the world, its use is reserved for medical purposes to enhance immunity and fight chronic inflammation. It has shown great promise in alleviating the inflammatory process in allergies and in the digestive tract. (19, 20)
It has a history of use for fungal infections including Candida due to both its antifungal properties and its ability to strengthen your immune system to help prevent future overgrowths from occurring. (21)
Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus)
A well-known supplement when it comes to enhancing immunity, this relative of the pea can scavenge free radicals and reduce chronic inflammation.
Astralagus suppresses inflammation in diabetics by acting as an antioxidant. (22)
A study in guinea-pigs demonstrated that astralagus was very active against Candida and showed great promise as an anti-candidal drug. (23)
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
Ancient Ayurvedic practices commonly use this herb for treating chronic inflammation, boosting the immune system and for autoimmune conditions.
Pain and inflammation can be reduced in arthritic rat models due to the herb’s antioxidants which limit the damage that free radicals can cause (24).
Ashwagandha has anti-fungal properties and has shown effectiveness against various forms of Candida. (25)
Enhance Your Health With Reishi
Reishi is a very popular Asian health-giving remedy that has been used for centuries in traditional and Ayurvedic medicine.
It contains powerful antioxidants that may be useful in reducing inflammation and possibly even against some forms of cancer. Reishi has a positive effect on white blood cells and can boost the immune system.
Reishi is also an antifungal agent and could be useful to those suffering from a Candida overgrowth.
Why not add the mushroom of immortality to your wellness routine? This Queen of mushrooms could be the immune-booster that you have been looking for.
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