Herbal Nerd Society Exclusive Article

Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is a relative newcomer to Western herbal formulas. Known to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners as Ling Zhi, most Western herbalists have wisely been following the centuries of use in Asia when devising combinations. New research has completely opened the formulation field with reishi around the globe.

The fruiting body of reishi is an excellent immune system supporter known as an immunomodulator. It contains beta glucans, triterpenoids, polysaccharides and peptidoglycans which have volumes of research backing up their effect on the immune system. As the inflammatory response is connected with the immune system as well, it may come as no surprise that it has also been used to reduce pain from inflammation.

Making reishi mushroom tincture is time consuming. The cell walls of this and other mushrooms are made of chitin.  This tough cell structure is resistant to decomposition in water or alcohol unless heat is applied. Reishi has a woody texture that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The late Dr. Christopher Hobbs devised a double extraction tincture brewing method that is still relied on today. This involves decocting the mushrooms in water and then in alcohol before combining them or visa versa. Reishi is also extracted using honey as it’s menstruum resulting in an infused liquid known as an ampule. The chitin gives dry reishi a longer shelf life than dried plant parts thus it is common to see it sold in powders or slices. These are used for encapsulation projects or as a base of decocted tea.

Reishi mushrooms are often found in formulas with other immune supporting mushrooms such as shiitake and maitake mushrooms. Herbs such as echinacea or astragulus blend well with reishi in other immune formulas. Reishi is an expensive ingredient so companies often add cheaper but effective immunomodulators to the mix to increase their profits. It is blended with anti-inflammatory herbs such as willow, turmeric or ginger. It is not uncommon to see an herb such as cayenne or black pepper added in small amounts with reishi to hasten its speed through the circulatory system.

Dosage can vary depending on the formula and the quality of the mushroom extract or capsule. 5 grams of the mushroom extract is a considered an average daily dose. Pay attention to the information given by your qualified healthcare practitioner and read the package carefully if purchasing reishi over the counter. It is usually advised for people new to taking medicinal mushrooms stick to commercial products until they gain more experience.

Counter-indications: Reishi mushroom is not proven to be counter-indicated with any medication. There is speculation that reishi acts as a mild blood thinner and should not be taken in conjunction with other anti-coagulants.  It is documented as an anti-hypertensive mushroom thus, if taken with other blood pressure lowering medications, may serve to accentuate the effect of these meds. Taking large amounts of reishi mushroom while on anti-hypertensive or blood thinning medication is not advised. As always, do not take reishi if you are pregnant or breast feeding without first consulting with a qualified healthcare practitioner.


Further Research on Reishi Mushroom

Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition – Chapter 9. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi)

NCBI: Monitoring of immune responses to a herbal immuno-modulator in patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Reishi Mushroom

Examine.com: Ganoderma lucidum