June 06, 2022 9 min read

For centuries, Reishi has maintained a reputation for having “energetic balancing” effects that can help to soothe both the body and the mind. Now, modern research has helped us identify a number of ways it may positively impact the body, from managing stress to positively impacting blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

All in all, there are many reasons that people all over the world have incorporated this adaptogenic mushroom into their daily wellness regimen. Before you dive in, here’s what you need to know about Reishi to decide if it’s right for you:

Table of Contents
About Reishi
Reishi Benefits
Reishi Research
How to Use Reishi
Reishi Safety
Frequently Asked Questions
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Reishi is a functional mushroom known for potential adaptogenic effects.
  • Some sources suggest that it’s been used to balance energy flow, circulation, sleep, and stress for centuries by herbal practitioners.
  • Both human and animal trials have shown promising results for the use of Reishi for various therapeutic applications.
  • Although it can be consumed raw, most people use Reishi powder, capsules, or tinctures for therapeutic use.
  • You can take Reishi supplements on their own, but many people prefer to take a blend of functional mushrooms for increased benefits.

About Reishi

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a rare mushroom that grows off the bark of deciduous hardwood trees in several climates across the world. Examples of the mushroom’s use as a medicinal brew dates back at least 2,000 years, and many modern cultures still consider the mushroom to be the “mushroom of immortality.” It gets this reputation from its potential ability to help slow aging and offer a powerful immune boost that supports overall vitality.

A pile of fresh reishi mushrooms near a reishi tea preparation, a potent and traditional dosing method for reaping reishi's many benefits.

Reishi can be eaten raw or prepared with meals, though it is most commonly dried and ground into powder to make supplements, like Reishi tea powder or capsules.

Traditionally, Reishi has been used as a liver and digestion supporting supplement, to help improve cognitive function, to help balance energy and stress within the body, and to support sleep. In Chinese medicine, it’s considered to be a “shen tonic,” a supplement that can have a direct effect on the spiritual heart and nervous system in a manner that helps to balance Yin and Yang energy.

Today, experts have carried out research to determine the true extent of Reishi's benefits, although much of the research involves animal trials and human evidence is limited. Still, we do know a bit about Reishi's therapeutic potential:

Reishi Benefits

All ailment-specific health benefits aside, Reishi is a nutritional powerhouse that is chock full of polysaccharides, peptides, and triterpenoids. These bioactive compounds are frequently thought to be the active component behind many of Reishi’s potential health benefits.

Additionally, these delicious mushrooms add a decent bit of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins to your diet when eaten regularly. Some of the nutritional gold you can get from a daily dose of Reishi include:

  • B-complex vitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • Potassium
  • Rubidium
  • Cesium
  • Amino acids
  • Fiber
  • Copper
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Beta-glucans
  • Terpenoids

Now, to understand how Reishi may have such a powerful impact on our health, let’s break a two of those beneficial compounds down a little further:

Beta-Glucans

Beta-glucans are a type of polysaccharide that are much more bioactive than other carbohydrates. Because they are bioactive, they are often linked to the positive health effects of many mushrooms. Many sources believe that beta-glucans are the primary component behind the holistic benefits of any mushroom formula.

Terpenoids

Like other mushrooms, Maitake also contains many different terpenoids, a modified classification of terpenes. These are lipids that are believed to give various mushrooms their immunomodulatory benefits.

An arrangement of different adaptogenic and functional mushrooms, including reishi mushroom.

Reishi Research

Although evidence regarding Reishi’s benefits is limited mostly to animal trials, we do have some research to help us understand Reishi’s therapeutic potential. Here are some areas where Reishi may be useful for promoting wellness:

Immune Boosting

Reishi has historically been used as an immune-booster, and modern evidence shows us that there may be some proof behind this age-old practice. In fact, many Asian cultures use Reishi as an immune system stimulant for patients with certain immune-system disorders, like HIV or cancer.

Neuroprotective Effects

As is common with many adaptogenic mushrooms, one study found that Reishi may provide some benefit against Alzheimer’s disease. Another study suggests that may even help to protect the brain from damage caused by seizures.

Relieving Stress and Fatigue

Reishi is often classified as an adaptogen, or a compound that alters the way that the body responds to stress. One study involving 132 subjects found that Reishi extract may help to improve the pain and mood changes associated with neurasthenia, a condition linked to physical and mental exhaustion.

A more recent study found that these stress-relieving effects may also have a positive impact on mood. The review looks at a sample of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and reveals that participants who reported eating moderate-to-high levels of mushrooms, including Reishi, reported significantly lower levels of depression and related symptoms.

Various smaller trials have verified similar results, claiming that consuming more mushrooms in general may help reduce both depression and anxiety.

Liver Support

One animal study found that Reishi mushroom spores may help boost the regeneration of liver cells, which can improve the liver’s ability to detoxify the body. Liver function is crucial to digestion, but also to general health since it’s one of the primary ways that the body eliminates toxins that cause illness and inflammation.

Lowering Inflammation

Like many other mushrooms, Reishi is loaded with antioxidants that may help boost general wellness. One way that antioxidants do this is by lowering the amount of free radicals in the body, which can help prevent oxidative stress that leads to inflammation.

Inflammation has been linked to a range of chronic diseases, and is also one of the major factors behind brain fog, fatigue, and low-mood. In other words, Reishi could help manage many of these conditions indirectly by helping to manage inflammation. 

Lowering Blood Pressure

One animal study from 2014 reports that Reishi could help to lower blood pressure. Just keep in mind that it may be unsafe to take Reishi alongside other blood sugar-lowering medications because it could cause the blood sugar to drop too low, so always discuss Reishi supplementation with your doctor first.

Anticancer Benefits

Various studies have investigated Reishi's potential anticancer Benefits, and some of the results are promising. One study found that Reishi may be able to help shrink cancerous tumors, potentially because its beta glucans content helps to prevent new tissue growth.

Other evidence suggests that the terpenes in Reishi could inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors, while the mushrooms themselves may help negate some of the side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation, like nausea.

Allergy Relief

Limited studies have found that Reishi could have antihistamine effects that can help improve oxygen flow through the body in a manner that helps to relieve the symptoms caused by severe allergies.

Lowering Blood Sugar

One small, double-blind, placebo controlled study found that Reishi may help to lower blood sugar, which may pose some benefits for those with type 2 diabetes. Another study found that these effects may also help to reduce kidney stress in subjects with types 2 diabetes, which could help prevent diabetes-related kidney complications.

To learn more about these benefits, read “Reishi Benefits.”

How to Use Reishi

Reishi is a regular part of many people's wellness routines, and many ancient remedy practices call for daily use to reap Reishi's immune balance effects. Before you can incorporate Reishi into your own wellness routine, however, you should consider the following:

Source and Quality Importance

The quality of your wellness supplements is incredibly important, especially since supplements are not regulated the same way as prescription medications.

You want to purchase Reishi from an experienced manufacturer that lab tests products for potency and purity. Be sure that you choose a product that's free of contaminants like pesticides, mold, microbials, and other harmful chemicals that can make it into the product during the manufacturing process. This step is crucial since the majority of adverse reactions are actually linked to poor product quality and not the Reishi itself.

When Should I Take Reishi Mushrooms?

Because most people hope to reap Reishi's restorative properties, it's generally best to take Reishi in the early evening around dinner or a couple of hours before bed. If you hope to use reishi to enhance your sleep cycles, consider taking your dose about an hour before laying down in order to give it time to take effect.

Keep in mind that it may take several days or up to two weeks to experience the full benefits of Reishi supplementation, so taking it daily is important.

 

How Much Reishi Should I Take Daily?

The necessary daily dose of Reishi varies by person and depends on the reason you intend to use Reishi and the other supplements you're taking. According to the Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China, a person may need between 6 and 12 grams of reishi extract daily.

If using a whole mushroom form instead of an extract, keep in mind that the beta-glucan content varies. In a high-quality mushroom, it is about 20%, meaning that a daily dose of 2,000mg (2g) of whole food mushroom powder will yield about 400mg of bioactive beta-glucans.

Read "Reishi Dosage" to learn more. 

A cup of reishi tea made from ground reishi powder as opposed to fresh, steeped mushrooms.

Reishi Mushroom Preparations

Reishi can be eaten raw, cooked, or used to make various beverages. However, it's most commonly dried and ground into powder that is either encapsulated or used to make tea. These forms of Reishi make it easier to measure and control your daily therapeutic dose.

You can also find Reishi extracts, usually in liquid tincture form, which may provide a more concentrated dose of Reishi's therapeutic compounds.

Reishi Safety

In the available research, Reishi is generally well-tolerated by both humans and animals. Of course, more evidence is needed that specifically investigates matters like safety, side effects, and potential drug interactions before firm conclusions can be drawn.

Although Reishi may be safe for most people who do not have a mushroom allergy, there is some evidence that points to specific circumstances where Reishi could be unsafe.

You should talk to your doctor before taking Reishi if:

  • You have had allergic reactions to mushrooms previously.
  • You have any condition that affects blood clotting, blood sugar, or blood pressure.
  • You have a heart condition.
  • You take medications, especially those used to regulate blood pressure, blood clotting, and blood sugar.
  • You take any hormone replacement therapies
  • You're expecting surgery in the next two weeks

The primary safety concern for consumers should be the quality of the Reishi products they choose. Reishi, on its own, is likely safe for most people, but low-quality formulas could contain other ingredients that pose a higher risk.

Sourcing Reishi from a high-quality manufacturer can help reduce that risk. In general, try to choose a manufacturer that uses a cGMP compliant manufacturing facility and tests final products for contaminants, like pesticides or mold. Also choose a low starting dose so that you can get comfortable with the effects of Reishi before taking larger doses.

To learn more, read "Reishi Side Effects."

Frequently Asked Questions

What is reishi good for?

Reishi is an ancient remedy that has been used for centuries to help manage stress, improve sleep, and boost immunity. Human trials are still limited, but most sources call Reishi an “adaptogen,” meaning it may alter the way the body deals with stress to improve overall health.

What are Reishi side effects?

Reishi has not been linked to any severe side effects outside of allergic reactions in people with a mushroom allergy, but in rare cases it could cause reactions such as dry mouth, itchiness, skin rash, upset stomach, or nausea.

Who should not take Reishi?

Reishi is thought to be likely safe for most people who do not have a mushroom allergy, but should be avoided by people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, are expecting surgery in the next two weeks, or who take medications to regulate hormones, blood sugar, or blood pressure.

Does Reishi make you sleepy?

Reishi is not a sedative, so it will not make you feel drowsy. Some people report that Reishi is soothing in a way that makes it easier to fall asleep, likely because of its potential ability to regulate the body’s stress response.

Can Reishi get you high?

No, Reishi does not contain any psilocybin, the compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms that causes you to feel high. Most people don’t feel any overwhelming effects from Reishi at all, rather it slowly promotes systemic balance over several weeks of consistent dosing.

Resources

  1. “Chapter 9Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi)” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/
  2. “Probing Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (higher Basidiomycetes): a bitter mushroom with amazing health benefits” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23557365/
  3. “Immunomodulatory Effects of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms and Their Bioactive Immunoregulatory Products” https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Major-immunomodulatory-terpenes-and-terpenoids-from-medicinal-mushrooms-and-their_tbl4_346759543
  4. “Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center” https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/reishi-mushroom
  5. “Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/
  6. “Neuroprotective effect of preadministration with Ganoderma lucidum spore on rat hippocampus” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0940299310002332
  7. “Anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects of oligosaccharides from Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Higher Basidiomycetes)” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24266379/
  8. “A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15857210/
  9. “Mushroom intake and depression: A population-based study using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005-2016” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34333177/
  10. “Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake” https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/biomedres/31/4/31_4_231/_article/-char/ja/
  11. “Protective effects of Ganoderma lucidum spore on cadmium hepatotoxicity in mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22659462/
  12. “Therapeutic potential of Ganoderma lucidum (Fr.) P. Karst. against the declined antioxidant status in the mitochondria of post-mitotic tissues of aged mice” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20044182/
  13. “Hypotensive Effects and Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitory Peptides of Reishi (Ganoderma lingzhi) Auto-Digested Extract” https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/19/9/13473
  14. “And What Other Medications Are You Taking?” https://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/JCO.2010.32.8054?view=long&pmid=21245436&
  15. “Ganoderic acid T inhibits tumor invasion in vitro and in vivo through inhibition of MMP expression” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1734114010702528
  16. “Suppression of inflammatory and allergic responses by pharmacologically potent fungus Ganoderma lucidum” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24948193/
  17. “Study of potential cardioprotective effects of Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi): results of a controlled human intervention trial” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21801467/
  18. “A Magic Mushroom That Fights Cancer & Diabetes” https://www.foodmatters.com/article/a-magic-mushroom-that-fights-cancer-diabetes

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