Medicinal Mushrooms | Reishi
WRITTEN BY DR. SWATHI
“What about mushrooms?” One of my patients asked.
When I worked in the clinic, I used to look forward to seeing my patients every week. As an integrative health pharmacist, I had the opportunity to provide comprehensive medication therapy management services to evaluate patients' prescription medications as well as answer any questions regarding other modalities of health such as dietary supplements, cannabis, homeopathy and nutrition. This patient question sparked a riveting discussion about adaptogens and more specifically reishi.
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are consumed to help the body to adapt (well-named, right?) to counteract environmental stressors. This category comprises many herbs like ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha, astragalus and medicinal mushrooms. Unlike psychedelic mushrooms, these mushrooms do not elicit a mystically therapeutic experience, however, they can be nutritional powerhouses with a range of benefits. As I have learned from acupuncturist and herbalist colleagues, reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is described as a “tonic,” defined as a substance recommended to be consumed daily and in large amounts for its full effect. Reishi is restorative to the body’s energy flow, also known as qi. This flow extends through to many organs impacting sleep, breathing, blood circulation and digestion. Known as the mushroom of “immortality,” reishi has been used for thousands of years across the world.
What are the benefits of reishi?
Reishi could be beneficial for supporting the immune system, promoting a healthy response to inflammation, enhancing energy production, and improving cognitive function. Reishi is composed of water-soluble polysaccharides, triterpenoids, many vitamins & minerals, and key phytochemicals including the immodulatory protein, Ling Zhi-8 protein. When induced, it has been shown that it could impact inflammatory markers, namely NF-kappaB and MAPK, resulting in an anti-inflammatory response. Though there have not been any published randomized controlled studies to date, findings such as these call for future human studies further evaluating the healing benefits of reishi.
How can I incorporate reishi into my routine?
Fortunately, reishi is one of the widely accessible and commonly used adaptogen. Reishi products range from fresh, dried, in a capsule and in powder. The tripterinoids in the fungi, called ganoderic acids, is in part where the fungi gets its bitter taste. It is recommended that a consumer checks the analysis for triterpenoid concentration in the product before buying it. Due to its strong flavor, many patients prefer to consume it by mixing it into a juice, smoothie, water, tea and/or other foods.
So, in repsonse to this patient, I said, “Medicinal mushrooms are some of the botanicals called adaptogens, which boost human resilience to improve overall health and wellbeing. Although it does not act directly on stress, regular consumption of reishi can be incredible for balancing mood, decreasing stress, and promoting longevity.”
As a part of a multimodal drug regimen, reishi could be an integral part of a person's regimen to alleviate some of the inevitable stress put on the body over time. To learn more about other adaptogens and their unique properties, stay tuned for the next article on another medicinal mushroom, lion's mane.
Lin YL, Liang YC, Tseng YS, et al. An immunomodulatory protein, Ling Zhi-8, induced activation and maturation of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells by the NF-kappaB and MAPK pathways. J Leukoc Biol 2009;86(4):877‐889. Lindequist U, Niedermeyer TH, Jülich WD. The pharmacological potential of mushrooms. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005;2(3):285‐299.