Reishi mushrooms, commonly known as “Ling Zhi” in Chinese, have been used in Japan and China for over 2,000 years. They are the oldest mushroom known to have been used as medicine. Since ancient times, the Reishi mushroom was reserved for use by emperors and those of royalty. In fact, in the oldest and most famous medical text on Oriental herbal medicine, red Reishi is ranked as the number one herb, ahead of ginseng.
Part of this acclaim is due to the fact that reishi mushrooms are non-toxic and can be taken daily without producing any side effects. Reishi mushrooms are said to be immune modulators — meaning that they could regulate and balance your immune system. Reishi mushrooms are also believed to help all the organs to function normally.
So what do reishi mushrooms contain that give them this wide-ranging healing ability? According to researchers, the mushrooms are composed of complex carbohydrates called polysaccharides, triterpenoids, proteins, and amino acids. It is the water-soluble polysaccharides that have anti-tumor, immune strengthening, and blood pressure lowering effects.
In one clinical trial, researchers studied the effects of a green tea/reishi mushroom extract on tumor growth. They found that the combined extract helped suppress the growth of metastatic breast cancer cells.
Besides polysaccharides, reishi mushrooms contain an active ingredient called gandoeric acid. Gandoeric acids have been shown to help alleviate common allergies by inhibiting the release of histamine (the substance that triggers the symptoms of allergies). Gandoeric acids also improve oxygen utilization and liver function.
You won’t be able to rush out to the supermarket and buy some reishi mushrooms to add to a salad, however. Raw reishi is hard and is not edible. The nutritional value in raw reishi is low. You won’t be able to absorb the active ingredients without any extraction.
Instead, look for reishi in tablet, capsule or granular form. A good reishi product is usually extracted through a high pressure, hot-water treatment. The resulting extract, or essence, is best taken in the morning on an empty stomach. Try drinking water to help enhance the effects of the extract.
Many also recommend taking vitamin C with reishi because this will help your body to absorb the active ingredients more effectively. Studies show that vitamin C helps to break down the complex polysaccharides found in reishi into smaller, more manageable pieces that your body can absorb.