Benefits of Reishi Mushroom (Plus Side Effects and Dosage)
Eastern medicine makes use of many different plants and fungi. Interestingly, the reishi mushroom is particularly popular.
It has a variety of potential health benefits, including boosting the immune system and fighting cancer. However, in recent times it’s safety has recently come into question you should read below for more details about who can be negatively affected by over use of this mushroom.
This article will tell you what you need to know about the potential benefits and risks of the Reishi mushroom.
What Is the Reishi Mushroom?
The reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is a fungus that grows in various hot and humid locations in Asia (Source).
Within the mushroom, there are several molecules, including triterpenoids, polysaccharides and peptidoglycans, that may be responsible for its health effects (Source).
While the mushrooms themselves can be eaten fresh, it is also common to use powdered forms of the mushroom or extracts that contain these specific molecules.
These different forms have been tested in cell, animal and human studies.
Below are 6 scientifically studied benefits of the reishi mushroom. The first three are backed by stronger evidence, while support for the others is less conclusive.
1. Boost the Immune System
One of the most important effects of the reishi mushroom is that it can boost your immune system (Source).
While some details are still uncertain, test-tube studies have shown that reishi can affect the genes in white blood cells, which are critical parts of your immune system.
What’s more, these studies have found that some forms of reishi may alter inflammation pathways in white blood cells (Source).
Research in cancer patients has shown that some of the molecules found in the mushroom can increase the activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells (Source).
Natural killer cells fight infections and cancer in the body (Source).
Another study found that reishi can increase the number of other white blood cells (lymphocytes) in those with colorectal cancer (Source).
Although most immune system benefits of reishi mushroom have been seen in those who are ill, some evidence has shown that it can help healthy people, too.
However, other research in healthy adults showed no improvement in immune function or inflammation after 4 weeks of taking reishi extract (Source).
Overall, it is clear that reishi impacts white blood cells and immune function. More research is needed to determine the extent of the benefits in the healthy and ill.
SUMMARY: Reishi mushroom can enhance immune function through its effects on white blood cells, which help fight infection and cancer. This may occur primarily in those who are ill, as mixed results have been seen in those who are healthy.
2. Anti-Cancer Properties
Many people consume this fungus due to its potential cancer-fighting properties (Source).
In fact, one study of over 4,000 breast cancer survivors found that around 59% consumed Reishi mushroom (Source).
Yet the results of these studies do not necessarily equate to effectiveness in animals or humans.
Some research showed that one year of treatment with Reishi decreased the number and size of tumors in the large intestine (Source).
What’s more, a detailed report of multiple studies indicated that the mushroom can beneficially affect cancer patients (Source).
These benefits included increasing the activity of the body’s white blood cells, which help fight cancer, and improving quality of life in cancer patients.
However, researchers state that Reishi should be administered in combination with traditional treatment rather than replacing it (Source).
What’s more, many of the studies of Reishi mushroom and cancer were not high-quality. Because of this, much more research is needed (Source).
SUMMARY: Although Reishi mushroom appears to hold some promise for cancer prevention or treatment, more information is needed before it becomes part of standard therapy. However, it may be appropriate to use in addition to normal care in some cases.
3. Could Fight Fatigue and Depression
Reishi’s effects on the immune system are often most emphasized, but it has other potential advantages as well.
These include reduced fatigue and depression, as well as improved quality of life.
One study examined its effects in 132 people with neurasthenia, a poorly defined condition associated with aches, pains, dizziness, headaches and irritability (Source).
The researchers found that fatigue was reduced and well-being was improved after 8 weeks of taking the supplements.
Another study found that fatigue was reduced and quality of life was improved after 4 weeks of taking Reishi powder in a group of 48 breast cancer survivors (Source).
What’s more, the people in the study also experienced less anxiety and depression.
While Reishi mushroom may hold promise for people with certain diseases or illnesses, it is not clear if it would benefit those who are otherwise healthy.
SUMMARY: Some preliminary studies have shown that Reishi mushroom could decrease anxiety and depression as well as improve quality of life in those with certain medical conditions.
Dosage Recommendations Vary Based on the Form Used
Unlike some foods or supplements, the dose of reishi mushroom can vary substantially based on which type is used (Source).
The highest doses are seen when someone consumes the mushroom itself. In these cases, doses may range from 25 to 100 grams, depending on the size of the mushroom.
Most commonly, a dried extract or a dried powder of the mushroom is used instead. In these cases, the dose is approximately 10 times less than when the mushroom itself is consumed (Source).
For example, 50 grams of reishi mushroom itself may be comparable to approximately 5 grams of the mushroom extract. Doses of the mushroom extract vary but typically range from approximately 1.5 to 9 grams per day (Source).
Possible Side Effects and Dangers
Despite its popularity, there are those who have questioned the safety of reishi mushroom.
Some research found that those who took reishi mushroom for 4 months were almost two times as likely to experience a side effect as those taking a placebo (Source).
However, these effects were minor and included a slightly increased risk of upset stomach or digestive distress. No adverse effects on liver health were reported.
Other research also indicated that four weeks of taking reishi mushroom extract did not produce any detrimental effects on the liver or kidneys in healthy adults (Source).
Nevertheless, there are several groups of people who should probably avoid reishi.
These include those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a blood disorder, will be undergoing surgery or have low blood pressure.
If you are ever uncertain, always check with your GP first.