Reishi Mushrooms, also known as lingzhi, are mushrooms, which properties and effects are known in Asia for more than 2 thousand years. In far eastern medicine, reishi mushrooms are considered medication for practically anything, even cancer. Some of these properties are confirmed by scientific studies. They show, that reishi mushrooms improve, among other things, immunity and can support a fight with cancer. Check what properties reishi mushrooms can have.

Reishi mushroom (lat. Ganoderma lucidum ) is a Japanese name of a mushroom specie belonging to the ganodermataceae family. In the country of cherry blossom, reishi mushrooms are also known as mannentake. However, in China they are called lingzhi, which means “herb of a spiritual power”. It’s in Asian countries that reishi mushrooms health benefits have been used in natural medicine for 2 thousand years, but not only that. Modern China recognises reishi mushrooms as a medicine for a long time. According to Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (or the official list of drugs approved for marketing in China), lingzhi mushrooms can replenish Qi (life energy) as well as mitigate cough and asthma symptoms. They are also recommended for dizziness, insomnia, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Some people try to convince that reishi mushrooms can also help with high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, cardiovascular diseases, liver and kidney diseases, respiratory diseases (in addition to asthma apparently it also helps with pneumonia), chronic fatigue syndrome, stomach ulcers, viral infections (e.g. flu) and HIV/AIDS. In addition to that, they can also ease the pain that occurs during zoster. However, most importantly – reishi mushrooms support cancer treatment.

There is some scientific evidence that confirm the effects of these mushrooms, however, they are mainly laboratory studies. Scientists are still testing their properties, to understand what health properties they have.

Reishi mushrooms and cancer

A lot of studies have been conducted, which confirm that reishi mushrooms have a potential anticancer effect.

Joann Lau and Sanda Zolj – scientists from Bellarmine University (USA) – discovered that reishi mushrooms contain important polysaccharides and saponins, which decrease proliferation of cancer cells in cancerous lungs. Scientists discovered that this effect has been a result of apoptosis (death) of cancer cells, which was caused by the mentioned substances.

However, studies conducted by scientists from Cancer Research Laboratory Methodist Research Institute (Indianapolis, USA) show that extracts from reishi mushrooms inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis in human prostate cancer PC-3 (depending on the dose).

Reishi mushrooms are present in various embodiments (red, purple, blue, yellow, black and white), however, the most beneficial in terms of health, is the red embodiment.

Those same scientists are also trying to convince us that the extracts from these mushrooms inhibits the proliferation of human breast cancer cells (or more specifically, the cell line named MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231) by modulating oestrogen receptor activity (ER) and signals from NF-kappaB (NF-kB is a protein complex, which is assigned the role of apoptosis inhibitor, or the compound which inhibits cell death, which affects the growth of many tumours). In the summary of these studies they highlighted, that reishi mushrooms may potentially be useful in therapeutic treatment to prevent or treat cancer.

However, other studies show that taking the reishi mushroom extract decreases the number of tumours in people suffering from non-malignant tumours of the colon and rectum (adenomas of the big intestine).

In addition to that, reishi mushrooms can also decrease the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but that depends on the type of cancer and its stage.

Reishi mushrooms – side effects

There were two noted cases of liver damage (one of which was fatal) in people, who used reishi mushrooms in powder form for 1-2 months. This is why it’s not recommended to take the mushrooms in this form for longer than 30 days.

In addition to that, after using them for a long time, there is a chance of headaches, dizziness, itching, rash, indigestion, nose bleeds or bloody stools.

In people who have a lower amount of thrombocytopenia, taking a dosage larger than the norm can increase the risk of bleeding (similar to other people with coagulation problems).

Reishi mushrooms increase immunity

According to the studies, beta-glucan, which is in reishi mushrooms, improves the immune system by increasing the amount of macrophages and T-lymphocytes. This is why it can be taken in case of reduced immunity – says the Japanese professor Takashi Mizuno from Shizuoka University. Dr Andrew Weil from Arizona Centre for Integrative Medicine adds, that they can be used for chronic fatigue syndrome.

And according to the specialists at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, reishi mushrooms increase the response of the immune system that might be weakened during chemotherapy. These effects were confirmed when tested in studies involving people.

Available in pharmacies or stores with herbs or healthy food, reishi mushrooms aren’t considered medicine, but only dietary supplements. As a result, their composition and properties are uncertain, and should not be treated as a specimen for different disorders. These types of products can only supplement our everyday diet with products contained in reishi.

Reishi mushrooms can decrease the blood sugar level

In 2009, scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, tried to convince people through the “Phytomedicine” magazine that reishi mushrooms can decrease the sugar levels in blood. Scientists gave mice with diabetes 0,03 and 0,3 g/kg body mass reishi extracts for a month. The extracts decreased the levels of glucose in their blood within 1 week, which allowed us to believe, that they inhibit the enzyme overused by the liver to make glucose.

Other studies regarding the diabetic kidney disease, conducted by scientists from the Department of Pharmacology of Peking University, show that reishi mushrooms can prevent or stop the progression of the diabetic renal complications. After eight weeks of testing on patients suffering from diabetes, they have noted a significant reduction of oxidative stress in the kidneys, triglycerides and blood sugar levels. The test results were published in 2006 in the “Journal of Asian Natural Products Research” magazine.

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Reishi mushrooms – where to buy them? What is their price?

Reishi mushrooms can be bought in pharmacies, herbal or healthy food stores in form of powder (the price for 100g is around £40) or capsules (the price for 90 capsules is around £30). It’s important to remember that they should have the European Union certificate, as well as many others (e.g. ECOCERT, GMP, JAS, ISO 9001-2000).

Reishi mushrooms – contraindications

  • Pregnant women, breastfeeding, children

The reishi mushrooms should not be given to children, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women, as there weren’t any studies conducted regarding the safety of using mushrooms in these groups of people.

Reishi mushrooms are not recommended to be combined with certain herbs, e.g. Japanese ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

  • Problems with blood clotting

Before taking them, it’s best to consult a doctor if you have problems with blood clotting and taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication (e.g. aspirine, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, warfarin, heparin).

  • High or low blood pressure

Reishi mushrooms can interfere with high blood pressure medication. Some lower the blood pressure, which in combination with these drugs can lower it too much. Because of this, it’s not recommended to be used by people with low blood pressure either.

  • Before and after surgery

Reishi mushrooms shouldn’t be used at least 2 weeks before any surgical procedures because of the blood clot reduction properties it has.

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