The Incredible Reishi:
Mushroom of Spiritual Potency
BY JUSTIN FAERMAN
For over 2,000 years, the Reishi mushroom (Latin: Ganoderma Lucidium Chinese: Lingzhi) has been revered as one of the most sought-after and powerful tonics in the Traditional Chinese Medicine pharmacopeia, making it one of the oldest mushrooms known to have been used therapeutically.After reading some of the more poetic and enthusiastic descriptions of this extremely rare mushroom (it’s been harvested to the point of near extinction at times) that have accumulated over the centuries, one might get the impression that Reishi is nothing short of a proverbial fountain of youth; but looking past the hyperbole there is an impressive and growing body of scientific research validating and substantiating many of these legendary claims. Despite its lack of mainstream awareness in the United States and other Western countries, Reishi is the most well-studied herbal medicine on the planet.
In fact, so much research has been done verifying the borderline miraculous medicinal properties of Reishi, that many Asian (particularly Chinese and Japanese) doctors use it alongside or in place of established pharmaceutical medicines as a first line of treatment in their clinical practice battling notoriously difficult auto-immune diseases such as Cancer [1, 2, 3, 4], AIDS and Hepatitis, among others [5, 6]. These days it is most well-known in medical circles for its powerful anti-tumor, anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and general immune-stimulating properties—but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what this mushroom is capable of.
The Health Benefits of the Mushroom of Spiritual Potency: Life Extension, Deep Relaxation and Physical Rejuvenation
While Reishi was recognized as being particularly beneficial for the sick and ill in ancient Chinese medical texts, it was perhaps better known as belonging to a special class of medicines known as ‘tonic herbs’. These are substances considered so foundational and important to overall health, vitality, and quality of life that they are encouraged to be taken daily for their numerous benefits, sick or not. Of the 50 or so tonic herbs recognized in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reishi is considered to be one of the most sacred, earning it fantastic-sounding names like the Mushroom of Immortality and Mushroom of Spiritual Potency.
This is likely because many revered Taoists and monks have long claimed that Reishi is a powerful ‘Shen tonic,’ which translates loosely to an herb that ‘nourishes the spirit’. While this is a claim that cannot directly be verified by science, Reishi has consistently demonstrated the ability to profoundly relax the nervous system, calm the mind and induce a state of relaxed focus, for which it has long been valued by spiritual seekers, meditators and those looking to relieve the stresses of daily life.
The Changbai mountain range in Jilin Province, China is the native habitat of the Reishi mushroom. photo: shutterstock
When Reishi was first discovered in the Changbai Mountains in Ancient China around 396 BC, it quickly became known as a powerful anti-aging substance and this was one of its earliest known uses—as a special tonic for emperors seeking immortality. And while many may be quick to dismiss such tales as fanciful folklore, cutting-edge research is now proving that there may be far more to these claims than previously thought.According to recent studies published in Neuropharmacology, Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry and The FASEB Journal [8, 9, 10], Reishi has demonstrated measurable antioxidant and life-extending properties, as well as the ability to stimulate activity in brain neurons by increasing Nerve Growth Factor levels in cells.
Reishi mushrooms, like most adaptogenic herbs, also supports and balances the endocrine and hormonal systems in the body, which are likely related to its spiritually activating properties. Hormones are the ‘molecules of consciousness’—powerful biopeptides that control mood, perception, sleep-wake cycles, bonding and connection and our awareness of reality. Reishi’s effects on the hormonal system is legendary. Its gentle yet powerful, working to balance the body’s many glands and organs steadily overtime, which makes it ideal for daily use.
Reishi mushrooms also strengthen the liver, which aids in the detoxification of harmful toxins and heavy metals from the body and can help greatly with allergies be it to foods or environmental pollens and pollutants. In Chinese Medicine, the liver is also responsible in large part for our mood and so taking a quality Reishi supplement daily also helps to promote a positive outlook and reduce depression and anger, which are emotions associated with the liver in TCM theory.
Types, Quality and Usage Guidelines For Reishi
The incredible popularity of Reishi in Asia, along with the increasing interest in the United States and Europe, has led to a large swath of mushroom growers jumping on board to capitalize on the growing demand, not all of them with quality and potency foremost in mind. These tend to vary widely between suppliers and it is important to keep an eye out for markers of integrity when choosing a Reishi product. According to Ron Teeguarden, one of the world’s foremost experts on Chinese herbal medicine, red and purple varieties of Reishi, although harder to find, are generally superior to other types. He notes that most products on the market are made from the inferior black Reishi mushrooms, therefore it is important to look for products using the previously mentioned strains.
As would be expected, organically grown Reishi supplements are usually of good-to-excellent quality, but also be on the lookout for wild harvested/crafted products. Wild harvesting is just what it sounds like—harvesting wild-growing mushrooms—and wildcrafting is similar, except that the mushrooms are intentionally planted in their natural habitat instead of growing spontaneously. These are frequently some of the best-quality Reishi mushrooms available and are believed to have the most ‘Shen’ of the various types on the market.Most doctors and researchers use what is called ‘Duanwood Reishi’—referring to the type of wood that the mushrooms are grown on—known particularly for enhancing its immune-stimulating properties and overall potency and quality. Grown without chemicals in pristine mountain environments, Duanwood Reishi is typically superior to most other products and naturally organic due to the strict methods under which it is grown, although not always certified as such.
The Reishi mushroom has truly stood the test of time and the scrutiny of high level scientific research, which is rare in the world of herbs and clearly a testament to the widely experienced benefits it offers to those seeking greater health and wellness.
As with any new herbal product, it is recommended to start off slowly and work up to higher dosages as you become familiar with its effects on your mind and body. Reishi is safe to take long term and doing so is necessary to realize the full benefits it offers.
Recommended Reishi Products
Wild Reishi Tincture
Dragon Herbs has developed special relationships with Reishi harvesters in the Changbai Mountains that allows them to sustainably source authentic, ‘Di Tao’ wild-growing red mushrooms. This Reishi product has the highest concentration of ‘Shen’, the spiritual enhancing properties of Reishi that accumulates in wild-growing mushrooms.
Organic Reishi Powder
Sun Potion uses a blend of four different species of Reishi (red, white, black and purple) to create a full-spectrum mycoproduct cultivated under strict, organic protocols in the USA. Sun Potion’s Reishi supplement is specially processed using enzymes that increase the body’s ability to absorb the powder and incorporates whole extracts from the mushroom at all stages of its life cycle.
Reishi Spore Oil
Reishi Spores are the most concentrated form of the mushroom that nature gives us—it takes approximately 1000kg of Reishi Mushroom to make just 1-3kg of Reishi Spores! The spores can be thought of as the pollen of Reishi which the mushroom uses to reproduce itself, meaning that it is the Jing or (Life Essence) of the Reishi itself and, as such, contains high concentrations of Triterpenes and Polysaccharides which are the most important substances for our bodies. Reishi Spore oil also contains adenosine, thirteen amino acids, germanium, selenium, lipopolysaccharides, vitamin C, healing alkaloids and trace minerals.
Duanwood Reishi Capsules
Duanwood Reishi is grown on logs sourced from wild-growing trees in the mushrooms native habitat. This Reishi is grown under tightly controlled conditions that concentrate and increase the pharmcologically active constituents, producing a powerful immune-enhancing product.
About The Author
Justin Faerman has been studying and writing about holistic health practices, herbalism and natural medicine for over 14 years and is a leading authority on both modern and ancient therapies for creating lasting health and wellness. He has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and has conducted field research into organic and regenerative agriculture practices and eco-social sustainability during his time there. He is also the Founder of Lotus Superfoods, a boutique purveyor of rare herbs and superfoods as well as the Co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine and the Flow Consciousness Institute. Learn more about his work at flowconsciousnessinstitute.com and lotussuperfoods.com