The reishi mushroom is a shiny little fungus which grows on rotten wood. For 2,000 years the Chinese have used reishi in medicine, making it one of the oldest mushrooms known to have been used medicinally. Because of reishi’s presumed health benefits and apparent absence of side-effects, it has attained a reputation in the East as the ultimate herbal substance, even being called the elixir of eternal life.
Modern science has only just begun to explore the benefits of reishi mushrooms, with most research being performed by the Chinese and Japanese. As it turns out, it is indeed a potent food rich in benefits, although we have yet to learn how much we have to eat to live forever.
Here are nine health benefits of reishi mushrooms.
Immune System Support
Reishi mushrooms can be used to reinforce the immune system. In studies on patients with advanced tumors, reishi mushrooms were prescribed for thirty days, and researchers discovered a significant positive effect on the immune system with an increase in T lymphocytes and decreased CD8 counts. Furthermore, patients reported lesser side effects from chemotherapy and radiation, and smoother post operation recovery. Studies have also suggested that the regular use of reishi mushrooms increases antioxidant levels. Reishi mushrooms contain high concentrations of Organic Germanium, Polysaccharides and Triterpenes. These components have been shown to strengthen the immune system.
Studies have shown that reishi mushrooms bolster immunity and fight the spread of cancer cells. Some laboratory studies have also shown they may prevent metastasis. It is not yet known how reishi does this but they appear to target many different stages of cancer development, including angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels made to supply nutrients to the tumor) as well as metastasis and the migration of cancer cells. They are also believed to induce apoptosis (suicide) of cancer cells. In any case, extracts from reishi mushrooms are already being used in some commercial pharmaceuticals to suppress cancer cell proliferation and migration. Studies on breast cancer cells have found that combining reishi mushrooms with green tea augments the mushroom's power to retard the growth of cancer cells.
Lower Blood Pressure
The blood pressure-lowering abilities of reishi mushrooms have been known for centuries. Studies in China have found that reishi mushrooms improve blood flow and lower oxygen consumption in the heart. Japanese research has made similar discoveries, which they say is due to a chain of acids belonging to triterpenes, a group of natural compounds known to reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and prevent blood clots. Russian research found that Ganoderma prevented plaque build-up on artery walls.
Reishi mushrooms may help reduce cholesterol by causing the liver to suppress its production. A study at the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland called reishi mushrooms "a renowned medicinal species". In their study on animals, oxygenated lanosterol derived from reishi mushrooms "inhibited cholesterol synthesis."
Blood Sugar Regulation
Research has shown reishi mushrooms to have a significant blood sugar regulating effect. This benefit seems to be owed to their polysaccharides, known as Ganoderans A, B, and C. Keeping blood sugar balanced helps to avoid many of the problems brought about by diabetes, such as hypertension, high blood pressure, ulcers, strokes, and impotence. In this way reishi mushrooms help to control and combat diabetes and improve the general health of the person eating them.
Herpes and Cold Sore Treatment
Preliminary evidence suggests that reishi mushrooms may have antiviral benefits. They are reported to exhibit direct anti-viral effects with herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2. These effects have been shown to be strongest in protecting against the contraction of herpes and cold sores, and in speeding relief from symptoms. Some Japanese studies analyzed the properties of reishi mushrooms and found that most of the fungus’s benefits seem to derive from a compound they contain called GLP, which inhibits viral replication by interfering with the early events of viral absorption and entry into target cells.
Preliminary evidence suggests that reishi mushrooms may have antiviral benefits. They contain polysaccharides, which have been reported to exhibit direct effects on the influenza virus.
Clinical studies and experiments with animals confirm that reishi mushrooms can dilate the coronary artery, increase blood flow, and improve circulation in cardiac muscle capillaries, thus increasing the supply of oxygen and energy to cardiac muscle. Reishi mushrooms can reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and prevent the formation of arterial atheromatous patches. They can also reduce hardened cholesterol already in the arteries and soften the blood vessel wall to avoid further damage. Reishi mushrooms may help to prevent strokes by improving blood circulation and inhibiting the aggregation of platelets.
Radiation Damage Protection
Research indicates that reishi mushrooms augment the effects of radiation therapy while acting directly against the tumor. Investigation also reveals reishi mushrooms help to strengthen the immune system, to better manage radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatment and assist to improve the quality of life of the patient. They have also been found to ease symptoms of chemotherapy, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, fever, infection, weight loss and hair loss.