Reishi Mushroom - An Overview
Ganoderma lucidum, known as “reishi” in Japan and “lingzhi” in China, is one of the most commonly used medicinal mushrooms in the world.
It may also have some notable nootropic benefits for cognition and mental health. Reishi is considered an adaptogen, helping the body and mind find equilibrium in difficult situations.
This fungus has been used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine for a wide variety of health issues, including:
- Improved cognition
- Mood support
- Fighting cancer
- Boosting the immune system
- Anti-oxidant and anti-aging
Now, modern researchers are starting to confirm that many of the uses are clinically effective.26Sissi Wachtel-Galor, John Yuen, John A. Buswell, and Iris F. F. Benzie. Chapter 9: Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi), Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. 2011
This mushroom contains several unique organic compounds that seem to give it its therapeutic value.
Reishi is one of the most commonly available medicinal mushroom on the market, and in our opinion, most people could get some benefit from regularly using it.
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What Does Reishi Mushroom Do?
Reishi For Depression and Mood
This mushroom may support good emotional health, and potentially ward off depression.
It has been used as a mood lifter for centuries in Eastern traditional medicine.
There have not been any large scale human trials to judge its effectiveness yet.
However, there is a small study with female breast cancer patients that show a marked improvement in mood and quality of life after supplementing with reishi.1Hong Zhao, et al. Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012
Another study of neurasthenia patients (a nerve disorder) found that reishi improved cognitive function, as well as mood, after 8 weeks.2Wenbo Tang, et al. A Randomized, Double-Blind and Placebo-Controlled Study of a Ganoderma lucidum Polysaccharide Extract in Neurasthenia, Journal of Medicinal Food. 2005
There are also multiple animal studies that show clear anti-depressant action in rodents who were given reishi extract.3Hirokazu Matsuzaki, et al. Antidepressant-like effects of a water-soluble extract from the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia in rats, BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 4Muhammad Aslam, et al. Antidepressant-Like Activity of Ethanol Extract of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in Mice, International Journal of Medical Research & Health Sciences. 2017
Hopefully, there will be more research into how reishi may affect the mood of otherwise healthy humans in the near future.
Reishi as an Adaptogen for Anxiety
Reishi is famous for its adaptogenic qualities.
Adaptogens are substances that can help the body and mind adapt to stress and difficult situations.
By balancing hormones and cortisol levels, adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms can help overall reduce anxiety levels.
There is some clinical evidence that reishi has the power to normalize the body’s response to challenging events and calm the nerves.5Shuang-Yang Lu, et al. Aromatic constituents from Ganoderma lucidum and their neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory activities, Fitoterapia. 20196Ali Nasir, et al. Anxiolytic-like activity of ethanol extract of Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi) in mice, International Journal of Medical Research & Health Sciences. 2016
This can obviously be invaluable to anyone trying to deal with a demanding, fast-paced lifestyle (which seems to describe most people today)
Reishi for Memory
Reishi may be able to boost memory and recall, especially as cognitive function declines due to age.
Traditional medicine considers this mushroom valuable for retaining mental sharpness throughout life.
There are also multiple animal studies to indicate that it may substantially increase memory. 7Yu Jin Choi, et al. Anti-Amnesic Effect of Fermented Ganoderma lucidum Water Extracts by Lactic Acid Bacteria on Scopolamine-Induced Memory Impairment in Rats, Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2015 8ZHANG Yue, et al. Effects of ganoderma lucidum triterpenoids on learning and memory function of aging mice induced by D-galactose, Journal of Shanghai Jiaotong University (Medical Science) 2007-08 9Ming-Fu Wang, et al. Effects of Ganoderma on aging and learning and memory ability in senescence accelerated mice, International Congress Series. 2004
Reishi for Gut Health
Science increasingly recognizes gut health as a critical component of overall physical and mental health.
Reishi contains certain nutrients that may support your intestinal microbiome. This could potentially have a noticeable downstream effect on many other processes in the body.
This mushroom supplement contains beta-glucans, and type of compound that can improve the health of helpful lactobacilli in the intestinal tract.10Pasquale Russo, et al. Beta-Glucans Improve Growth, Viability and Colonization of Probiotic Microorganisms, Int J Mol Sci. 2012 11Helena M. Stack, et al. Association of Beta-Glucan Endogenous Production with Increased Stress Tolerance of Intestinal Lactobacilli, American Society For Microbiology. 2010
One mouse study even found that by modulating the composition of this microbiota, it was even able to prevent obesity.12Chih-Jung Chang, et al. Ganoderma lucidum reduces obesity in mice by modulating the composition of the gut microbiota, Nat Commun. 2015
Reishi for Immunity
One of Reishi’s most powerful effects may be on the immune system.
It seems that some of the compounds in this fungus can boost the body’s ability to ward off disease in different ways.
There are multiple studies suggesting that polysaccharides in Reishi may have a positive effect on some types of cancer and tumor growth. In some Asian countries, Reishi is commonly used as an adjunct to traditional chemotherapy. 13Alena G. Guggenheim, et al. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology, Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 14Xiao Chen, et al. Monitoring of immune responses to a herbal immuno-modulator in patients with advanced colorectal cancer, Int Immunopharmacol. 2006
It seems that Reishi can alter the production of white blood cells called lymphocytes in the body, which may lower inflammation and help your body destroy cancerous cells.15Yihuai Gao, et al. Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients, Immunol Invest. 2003
Reishi has long been used to fight the effects of aging on the body and mind.
It’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant abilities are thought to clear out cellular waste, which can build up in the body as you age and cause harm.
This kind of oxidative stress is damaging to the entire body and can play a role in many kinds of diseases. 16Jue Wang, et al. Emerging Roles of Ganoderma Lucidum in Anti-Aging, Aging Dis. 2017
One animal trial saw that Reishi was able to prevent cell death in rats with Alzheimer’s. It was able of preserving brain function of the rats as they aged by acting as an anti-oxidant. 17Guo Yanjun, et al. Relationship between effects of ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on learning and memory in Alzheimer’s disease rats and apoptosis of hippocampus cells,Chinese Journal of Anatomy. 2008
Consistently supplementing with Reishi could have a holistic anti-aging effect by preventing the oxidation that gradually affects the entire body as you get older.
Reishi for Physical Fitness
Reishi could potentially be valuable as an energy tonic and physical performance enhancer.
One study found that it increased physical fitness in women diagnosed with fibromyalgia.18Daniel Collado Mateo, et al. Ganoderma lucidum improves physical fitness in women with fibromyalgia, Nutr Hosp. 2015
However, it is unclear whether or not this effect could extend to otherwise healthy people.
How Reishi Mushroom Works In The Brain
Researchers have identified some of the active compounds and mechanisms in Reishi that are most likely the source of its benefits.
Reishi is known to increase mitochondrial production. The mitochondria are the energy source of the cell, and increasing their capacity could have widespread effects on brain function.
It is also high in natural phospholipids, which are necessary components of cell walls, and also play a big role in healthy cognition. 19Isaac Eliaz. An Integrative Approach to Enhancing Cognition and Executive Brain Function: A Personal Perspective, Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 2014
Researchers suspect that Reishi’s action on energy output and cellular health is the source of its nootropic effects on mental health.
One research team concluded that Reishi also has an effect on the GABA system, which is responsible for regulating relaxation and sleep.
This could be one potential source of Reishi’s adaptogenic stress-fighting properties. 20Qing-Ping Chu, et al. Extract of Ganoderma lucidum potentiates pentobarbital-induced sleep via a GABAergic mechanism, Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. 2007
Reishi contains a class of organic triterpenoids that seem to be responsible for its anti-oxidant effects. These include new forms of ganoderic and lucidinic acids that have only been found in this species. 21Min Zhu, et al. Triterpene antioxidants from Ganoderma lucidum, Phytotherapy Research. 1999 22Shuang-Yang Lu, et al. Aromatic constituents from Ganoderma lucidum and their neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory activities, Fitoterapia. 2019 23Jie Liu, et al. Structure-activity relationship for inhibition of 5alpha-reductase by triterpenoids isolated from Ganoderma lucidum, Bioorg Med Chem. 2006 24Jie Sun, et al. Novel Antioxidant Peptides from Fermented Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum, J. Agric. Food Chem. 2004
It also contains polysaccharides that seem to have an effect on the body’s immune system. These compounds can promote cellular immunity to disease, as well as increase antigen production.
This is most likely the source of Reishi’s illness and tumor-fighting abilities.25Zhi-Bin Lin. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation by Ganoderma lucidum, J Pharmacol Sci. 2005
Reishi Mushroom Potential Side Effects
Reishi is usually well-tolerated for most people. There are some occasional reports of:
- Gastrointestinal issues
Reishi may not be appropriate if you have low blood pressure, diabetes, or certain immune disorders.
We strive to bring you the most up to date, research-based information about Reishi Mushroom and other nootropics.
Something we missed? Do you use Reishi Mushroom? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.