Reishi Mushrooms and their Health Benefits
The reishi mushroom is well known in Chinese medicine as the “king of herbs.” Mushrooms are the fruit and reproductive body of fungi, which grow out of networks called mycelium. Thread-like networks of reishi mushrooms grow under the ground around logs and organic waste.
Waste material is a rich source of nutrients for these mushrooms, which have a unique ability to reduce the volume of decayed matter in the environment by using it for nourishment. Under the right conditions, reishi mushrooms emerge from the underground myecelium and can be cultivated for medicinal use.
The medicinal properties of reishi mushrooms have a legendary status. They are said to be capable of promoting longevity and health, as well as increasing wisdom and happiness. Part of the lore of reishi mushrooms can be attributed to the fact that they are quite rare. Only two or three out of 10,000 aged trees produce networks of fungi that spawn reishi mushrooms.
Though they have only recently gained attention in the West, reishi mushrooms have been used in the East for thousands of years. In Japan and China, ancient emperors and kings drank teas made from reishi mushrooms to promote vitality and long life. Taoists searching for the elusive elixir of youth believed that the substance they sought contained reishi mushrooms.
In modern times, elixirs made from reishi mushrooms are still used to promote longevity and vitality in addition to treating a variety of other conditions. The triterpenes and polysaccharides in reishi mushrooms are thought to be responsible for their therapeutic effects, which include the ability to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation.
Reishi mushroomsare also used for patients with Alzheimers disease and heart disease under the premise that inflammation may play a role in both conditions. Pain associated with other inflammatory conditions, such as infection by the herpes zoster virus and neuralgia may respond to treatment with reishi mushrooms as well. In fact, the historical use of reishi mushrooms to promote longevity is probably related to the fact that inflammation is a key factor in many chronic and degenerative diseases.
Reishi mushrooms also have strong antioxidant properties. They can be used to boost immunity and may also increase the effectiveness of antioxidant vitamins when the two substances are used together. Reishi mushrooms are believed to suppress tumor growth and are often used in cancer prevention efforts for this reason.
Reishi mushrooms are available dried, in concentrated tablets and capsules or as a liquid extract. The usual dosage is 1.5 to 9 grams of dried mushroom or 150 to 900 mg of capsules or tablets daily. Some conditions have been found to respond to lower doses. Though side effects are rarely reported, people who take reishi mushrooms for several months at a time have noted some effects, such as dry mouth, dizziness, nosebleeds and stomach discomfort.
Since there may be some blood thinning effects associated with the use of reishi mushrooms, people on blood thinners should avoid reishi mushrooms. As with most herbal remedies, the effects of reishi mushrooms on pregnancy and lactation are not known.