Mushrooms are often considered a food, but in the case of reishi mushrooms, they’re a medicine that’s been around for thousands of years. Their scientific name is Ganoderma lucidum, and they’re native to Asia but grown in warm regions around the world. Reishi mushrooms are bitter and virtually inedible. They’re typically distilled into an extract or dried and ground into a powder they can be taken as a health supplement. Scientific research has proven their traditional uses as medicine that help with several ailments. They work by promoting homeostasis through the systems of the body, restoring hormone balance and normalizing immune function. Reishi mushrooms are also a great source of antioxidants, and they have germicidal effects.
You can take reishi mushroom supplements on a daily basis to boost energy levels and improve your mood, as it’s virtually free of side effects. You can also use it to help lower inflammation, overcome insomnia and fight allergies and asthma. It may offer protection against heart disease, cancer, liver disease and various autoimmune diseases. Here are 10 amazing benefits reishi mushrooms provide your body and mind:
1. Improves Resilience and Helps You Adapt to Stress
As an adaptogenic herb, reishi mushrooms balance your bodily systems and promote a state of homeostasis within your system as a whole. They restore the health of your cardiovascular system, adrenal glands, nervous system and immune system when they’re disrupted by stress . They bring cortisol levels down when they become elevated by stress, helping your body come out of its “fight or flight” response. In effect, it reduces the effects that mental, emotional and physical stress has on your body and mind so that you can confront life’s challenges head on.
2. Improves Immune Function
Reishi mushrooms modulate your immune system in a way that promotes homeostasis. This means they stimulate the immune system when it’s suppressed or weakened, and they downregulate it when it’s overactive, like in the case of autoimmune diseases. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol suppress your immune system’s activity, as your “fight or flight” response puts immediate survival at the forefront. When chronic stress weakens your immune system in this way, reishi mushrooms can help stimulate the production of immune cells like B cells and T cells, responsible for defending against viral threats like colds and flus.
On the other hand, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases, your immune system is overactive and it attacks your own body’s tissues and cells. Reishi mushrooms help reduce the symptoms of these conditions by lessening the immune system’s response. They balance the immune system so that it’s able to respond only to real threats and not react inappropriately .
3. Lowers Inflammation
Chronic low-grade inflammation occurs when your body’s natural inflammatory response activates when it doesn’t need to. Over time, this persistent inflammatory response can damage cells, tissues and organs and increase your risk for cancer and several other diseases. Reishi mushrooms regulate the immune system in a way that downregulates the inflammatory response. This can relieve pain in joints that are swollen and stiff, and it can help lower your risk for several diseases associated with chronic inflammation .
4. Fights Depression
Scientific evidence indicates that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of reishi mushrooms help protect against neurodegeneration in the brain that contributes to depression. It also works to fight depression by increasing levels of serotonin, which is the feel-good hormone responsible for regulating your mood. In fact, anti-depressant medications called SSRIs work by boosting the body’s natural serotonin levels, and reishi mushrooms seem to work in the same way .
4. Improves Liver Health
A plant compound known as ganoderic acid found in reishi mushrooms have an antioxidant effect shown to improve liver health. It works by inhibiting enzymes in the liver known to contribute to the development of liver diseases, including hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Reishi mushrooms also detoxify the liver and improve its ability to eliminate toxins and absorb nutrients.
In one study, mice were given either a poisonous mushroom with reishi mushroom or just the poisonous mushroom alone. Upon examining their livers, scientists found that the mice given reishi mushroom had incurred far less liver damage from the poisonous mushroom compared to the mice not given reishi mushroom. Reishi mushroom worked by downregulating harmful immune responses that delay the liver’s natural detoxification mechanism .
5. Fights Cancer
Reishi mushrooms are a source of the well-researched natural anti-cancer substances known as polysaccharides. These are antioxidants that inhibit tumor growth and prevent the abnormal mutation of cells and DNA. the presence of polysaccharides in reishi mushrooms suggests they could play a role in preventing cancer. By stimulating the immune system, reishi mushrooms also help the body fight back against cancer cells. Research has shown that the polysaccharides in reishi mushrooms boost apoptosis, which is how the immune system kills malignant cells.
In cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, reishi mushrooms can help protect healthy cells against the harm of radiation treatment and the side effects of chemotherapy drugs. With their immune-stimulating and chemoprotective abilities, reishi mushrooms can improve the efficacy of chemotherapy treatment. They’ve been shown help defend against cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, liver and lungs .
6. Proves Antioxidant Support
Reishi mushrooms are chock full of antioxidants, which are nutrients that neutralize free radicals–unstable molecules that damage healthy cells and DNA by stealing electrons. When enough antioxidants are present in the body, free radicals take electrons from antioxidants instead of disrupting structures that make up cells and DNA. By reducing free radical damage, reishi mushrooms can help reduce your risk for several diseases, from heart disease to diabetes. Free radical damage is also associated with premature aging and faster aging. By getting a daily dose of antioxidants from reishi mushrooms, you can help fight aging at the molecular and cellular levels.
7. Improve Heart Health
Stress puts strain on your heart, so because reishi mushrooms help you recover from stress, it’s not surprising they improve heart health. Amazingly, the ganoderic acid found in reishi mushrooms have been shown in studies to reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and high blood pressure. In effect, they reishi mushrooms can lower your risk for heart disease. What’s more, they help prevent abnormal blood clotting and heart arrhythmia .
8. Helps Treat Allergies and Asthma
Another benefit of the ganoderic acid found in reishi mushrooms is that it acts as a natural antihistamine. Allergic reactions are yet another example of the immune system responding inappropriately and throwing the body off balance. Antihistamine downregulates the body’s response to allergens by inhibiting the release of histamine–the compound cells release to alert the body of a perceived “threat.” Without as much histamine circulating in your system, you experience fewer symptoms of allergies when exposed to an allergen.
Reishi mushrooms also improve oxygen utilization and lower inflammation, which are mechanisms that could potentially help people who suffer from asthma. These same benefits may also improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease by downregulating the gut’s response to foods perceived as threats .
9. Helps Fight Infections
Historically, reishi mushrooms have been used to treat urinary tract infections, sinus infections, hepatitis and respiratory tract infections like bronchitis. Sure enough, research has shown they contain antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal compounds. In this way, they can inhibit the growth of bacteria in your body, prevent or treat Candida overgrowth and reduce the spread of viral infections like colds or flus. Reishi mushrooms also help your body fight infections by stimulating the growth of beneficial gut flora.
10. Controls Blood Sugar Levels
While proper dieting and exercise are still important for keeping blood sugar levels in check, supplementing with reishi mushrooms could help you prevent blood sugar spikes and dips. According to a clinical trial involving patients with type 2 diabetes, 12 weeks of supplementing with reishi mushrooms lowered blood sugar and increased insulin sensitivity compared to a placebo. Meanwhile, there were no side effects reported, suggesting reishi mushrooms could be a safe adjunctive treatment for people with diabetes .
Supplementing with Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms are a versatile supplement you can take as a natural medicine to help improve a variety of conditions or as a daily booster for your immune system, mood and energy. It helps ward off mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Another reason to supplement with it regularly is to lower your risk factors for several diseases, from cancer and heart disease to diabetes and autoimmune diseases.
Although they’re considered safe, reishi mushrooms are still a potent natural medicine, so if you’re currently taking any medications it’s important to consult with your doctor about taking reishi mushrooms. Avoid exceeding the recommended dosage on your product’s label, as excessive doses can harm your liver and may cause adverse effects. It’s also important to find a high-quality source of reishi mushrooms so that you’re consuming a product that’s pure and unadulterated to get the full benefits of these amazing natural wonders.
8. A Phase I/II Study of Ling Zhi Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (W.Curt.:Fr.)Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Extract in Patients with Type II Diabetes Mellitus