What are the health benefits of Reishi mushrooms?

Known as the mushroom of immortality, reishi doesn’t concern itself with false modesty. Sporting a “notice-me” lacquer varnish on its burnt sienna cap, reishi is sometimes called the “queen of mushrooms” and she has got the track record to prove it. Taking on colds, coughs, cancer and more, reishi is the perfect wingman for your immune system in these trying times. Read on for the evidence-based health benefits of reishi.

1. Boost Your Immune System

Like nearly all medicinal mushrooms, reishi’s secret weapon lies in its beta-glucans, complex carbohydrates found in the cell walls of the fungus. These are the guys that rally the troops, stimulating the immune system and boosting the production of white blood cells to attack whatever foreign invader has compromised the perimeter. At the same time, beta-glucans also decrease inflammation. Picture them kicking enemy butt with a weapon in one hand while keeping the battleground comfortable with a pocket fan in the other.

2. Fight Cancer

Reishi’s cancer fighting properties have been one of the most studied in the fungi kingdom and the results suggest that traditional Chinese medicine doctors may have been on to something for the past 2000 years.

Of 58 basidiomycete mushrooms (the majority of well known mushrooms fall in here) reishi (aka G. lucidum ) was found to be the most effective at killing over 20 different kinds of cancer cells. Multiple test tube studies have definitively shown that reishi’s bioactive compounds lead to the death of cancer cells. In addition to fighting cancer on a cellular level, reishi has been found to improve cancer patients’ quality of life by reducing fatigue, anxiety and depression after just four weeks of taking the mushroom extract.

A larger study of 4000 breast cancer survivors showed that 59% of them had been regularly taking reishi, and in 2011 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, an article described how the tumors of three liver cancer patients shrunk after consuming reishi regularly.

Another study focusing specifically on the triterpenes (chemical compounds) found in reishi showed that the extract hindered the development and metastasis of tumors.

Let’s be clear--it’s not reishi’s efforts alone that are taking on the big bad cancer cells--more, it’s about those how the immunity boost that the beta-glucans provide that let the body fight on its own behalf.

3. Help with Stress, Fatigue, Aches, Pains and Sleep

Reishi has long been used by Chinese medicinal doctors to replenish the Qi, or the vital life force and energy flow, in the body. A compromised Qi might result in what we in the West scientifically refer to as being “bummed.”

A study of 132 people with neurasthenia, a vague condition associated with ache, pains, headaches, dizziness and irritability, found that reishi significantly improved the symptoms in the study patients compared to those in the placebo group.

And yet another study showed reductions in anxiety and depression in female breast cancer patients suffering from fatigue and undergoing endocrine therapy.

4. Combat Allergies

Thanks to its healthy dose of triterpenes, reishi can keep allergies at bay by reducing overproduction of histamines, improving oxygen supply and lowering inflammation, meaning less sneezing and wheezing. Now that’s not something to turn your nose up at.

5. Sleep

Another study done on rats found that after three days of administering reishi, the rats experienced significantly increased total sleep time.

Ready to Feel Better?

Give your immune system a boost, stress less and sleep more. Want to give it a go? Try a swirl of reishi extract into your next afternoon or late evening beverage. Like a warm cup of calm to wind down your day.