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What Are Reishi Mushrooms? Benefit, Uses & Side Effects

What Are Reishi Mushrooms? Benefit, Uses & Side Effects

Reishi mushrooms, also known as Ganoderma lucidum, are a species of fungus that's been a staple in Eastern medicine for centuries. They're known for their unique, glossy exterior and ability to grow on decaying hardwood trees in hot and humid areas.

But it's not just their botanical qualities that make Reishi mushrooms stand out. They're also fascinating from a medicinal perspective. Join us as we delve deeper into the world of Reishi mushrooms to cover their potential health benefits, what the scientific research says, and how you can easily incorporate them into your daily life with mushroom gummies or another functional mushroom supplement.  

A Brief Introduction to Reishi Mushrooms

While Reishi is the mushroom’s Japanese name, in China, people refer to it as “Lingzhi.” Other common names include “mushroom of spiritual potency,” “lucky fungus,” and “divine mushroom.” This underlines the wide recognition and respect that Reishi has garnered over centuries.

You can trace the earliest references to Reishi's medicinal uses back to the “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing,” one of the oldest books on Chinese herbal medicine. The ancient ruler Shennong authored it between 206 BC and 220 AD, lauding Reishi as a “spiritual herb” that could bestow longevity and superior health.

Traditionally, some people believed Reishi could replenish one's energy or Qi, strengthen the heart, enhance memory, and even resist aging. Considering how deeply rooted these beliefs were, it's no wonder they lovingly called Reishi the “herb of immortality.”

Potential Health Benefits & Uses

Reishi mushrooms continue to be popular today for their potential health benefits, and we’ve compiled some examples of what this unique mushroom can offer. Bear in mind that these functional mushrooms should not replace medical treatment but rather can complement it under appropriate guidance.

Immune System Support

Reishi mushrooms have immune-strengthening properties. They contain active polysaccharides and triterpenoids, stimulating the body's immune response. Emerging research hints at Reishi's potential in cancer management due to its ability to inhibit tumor growth.

Heart Health & Blood Pressure

These fungi have active components that have demonstrated abilities to improve blood circulation and decrease levels of harmful cholesterol, supporting cardiovascular health. In some studies, Reishi mushrooms showed antihypertensive properties, possibly promoting proper blood pressure maintenance.

Diabetes & Blood Sugar Regulation

Managing blood sugar levels is a pressing issue for many individuals. Revelations from some studies bring to light Reishi mushrooms' potential in blood glucose regulation, specifically beneficial for individuals grappling with type 2 diabetes. The mushrooms’ high polysaccharide content could influence insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.

Anti-inflammatory & Antioxidant Properties

Triterpenoids in Reishi mushrooms may contribute to reducing inflammation. This anti-inflammatory effect, coupled with the mushrooms' high antioxidant level, helps your body combat oxidative stress, a perpetrator of numerous chronic diseases.

Other Reported Benefits

Using Reishi mushrooms has many other reported benefits, such as enhanced respiratory health, liver protection, and fighting fatigue. They might also have neuroprotective functions, potentially battling against neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. 

How to Use Reishi Mushrooms

Traditionally, people prepared Reishi mushrooms as a tea or decoction. The process involved simmering them in water for a few hours, resulting in a bitter but nutrient-rich drink. 

These days, you'll find Reishi mushrooms in more user-friendly formats, such as functional mushroom gummies. They're also available as a ground powder, which you can add to soups, smoothies, baked goods, or as a concentrated extract in liquid or capsules. Try adding sliced fresh or dried Reishi to soups and broths. Or blend Reishi powder into your hot chocolate or coffee. 

Safety & Side Effects

Like other functional mushrooms, reishi mushrooms are safe for most adults who take them correctly. However, it's always important to remember that individual reactions can vary. When incorporating Reishi mushrooms into your diet or regimen, stick to the recommended dosages.

As with any supplement or medication, Reishi mushrooms could cause some side effects. While these are usually mild and last briefly, the mushrooms may cause discomfort like dry mouth, itchiness, upset stomach, and nosebleeds. If any side effect persists or worsens, consult your healthcare provider immediately.

Interactions With Medications

These mushrooms have a blood-thinning effect, so use them with caution if you're on blood-thinning medications. Similarly, using Reishi can potentially impact the effectiveness of immune-suppressing drugs. Always ask your healthcare provider before starting a Reishi mushroom supplement, particularly if you're on other medications.

Special Precautions & Warnings

When considering Reishi mushrooms for health benefits, certain groups need to be extra cautious:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Reishi as there is a lack of research about its safety during these conditions.
  • People with low blood pressure or those taking blood pressure medication should use this supplement under the supervision of a health professional.

It’s essential to conduct extensive research and professional consultation before incorporating any supplements into your wellness journey.

Quality & Selection of Reishi Products

Navigating the market of dietary supplements can feel like a challenge due to the many options available. Regarding Reishi mushrooms, the product's quality and the manufacturer's credibility are crucial factors.

The supplement must come from whole fruiting bodies rather than mycelium on grain. This results in a higher concentration of potent bioactive compounds, boosting the supplement's potency and efficacy. Also, look for products producers have extracted in water and alcohol, as these liquids extract different beneficial compounds.

Other considerations are:

  • The country of origin: Reishi from native environments like Asia are often of higher quality.
  • Organic certification: An organic certified product ensures the provider cultivates the Reishi without using hazardous pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
  • Purity and safety testing: Check whether the supplement has undergone robust testing for heavy metals, microbes, and other contaminants.

Understanding Labels & Certifications

When checking the label of a Reishi supplement, it can be beneficial to understand the meaning of various certifications. Some of the most common include:

  • USDA Organic: This indicates that the product is free from synthetic pesticides, genetic modifications, and other chemicals.
  • Non-GMO Verified: Products with this label have been tested and found to contain no genetically modified organisms.

There's an abundance of different labels that can provide insight into the quality and ethical stance of the product, from Fair Trade to Certified Vegan.

Regarding Reishi content, labels should specify the amount of Reishi per serving. This will help you accurately dose and avoid taking too much or too little.


FAQs

What are some potential side effects of Reishi mushrooms?

Reishi mushrooms are generally safe but might cause some side effects, such as dry mouth, upset stomach, and dizziness. There could also be potential allergic reactions in rare cases. Remember, Reishi is a functional mushroom, not a psychedelic mushroom, so it contains no psychoactive compounds, such as psilocybin.

Why is considering the manufacturer's credibility important?

The manufacturer's credibility often speaks to the quality of the Reishi supplements. Reliable manufacturers prioritize safety and efficacy, subjecting their products to rigorous testing.

What factors should you consider when choosing Reishi supplements?

When choosing Reishi supplements, consider using whole fruiting bodies, extraction methods, the country of origin, organic certification, and purity and safety testing.

Why is understanding labels and certifications important?

Understanding labels and certifications such as USDA Organic and Non-GMO Verified ensures that you choose a product that aligns with healthful practices and that a third party has thoroughly tested for safety and purity.

What is the role of research in incorporating Reishi mushrooms into a wellness routine?

Research enables you to make informed decisions, understand the potential benefits and risks, and choose high-quality Reishi mushroom products to include in your wellness routine.

Will Reishi cause hallucinations?

Reishi mushrooms don’t contain psilocybin or any other psychoactive compounds, such as those found in psychedelic mushrooms, so they will not cause you to experience any hallucinations.

Image by Andreas from Pixabay

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