Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), also known as ling zhi in China, grows wild on decaying logs and tree stumps. Reishi occurs in six different colors, but the red variety is most commonly used and commercially cultivated in East Asia and North America.
The reishi mushroom is a derivative of the Far East with its usage dating back to ancient China. Royalty would utilize this precious mushroom in the hopes of obtaining immortality and promoting calmness and thought. Chinese medicine now includes therapy with reishi for fatigue, asthma, insomnia, and cough.
Ganoderma lucidum has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 4,000 years to treat liver disorders, high blood pressure, arthritis and other ailments. In modern times, the available data from human trials together with evidence from animal studies suggest that Ganoderma lucidum may have some positive benefits for cancer and liver disease patients. However, the number and quality of trials is very limited. Other promising uses for which there is still inconclusive evidence include diabetes, heart disease, pain, Russula subnigricans poisoning, and proteinuria (protein in the urine). Reishi is also believed to reduce cholesterol levels, and has an anticoagulant ("blood-thinning") effect, which may make it useful in coronary heart disease prevention.
Some experts believe that Ganoderma lucidum promotes longevity and maintains vitality of the human body. Reishi's major benefit appears to be its immunomodulating action, improvement of liver function, and improvement and restoration of the normal functions of the respiratory system. Antioxidant effects, which contribute to the overall well being of patients, have been proposed. In the 16th Century pharmacopeia Ben Cao Gang Mu, reishi was described as being able to affect the life energy, or qi of the heart, repair the chest area, increase intellectual capacity and banish forgetfulness.
Reishi is currently regulated in the United States as a dietary supplement. It is also included in the 2,000 Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China as an agent approved for treatment of dizziness, insomnia, palpitations, shortness of breath, cough and asthma. At this time high quality clinical trials supporting the use of reishi mushroom are lacking. More proven therapies are recommended at this time.
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These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Reishi has been shown to have antineoplastic and immunomodulatory effects in animal studies. One clinical trial and two case reports exist on advanced cancer patients using Ganopoly®, a
Chronic hepatitis B
Based on positive laboratory evidence, a clinical trial using Ganopoly® or placebo was conducted in chronic hepatitis B patients. Ganopoly® treatment decreased level of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA. This virus is notoriously hard to clear from the body and recurrence after treatment is common. Again, the affiliation of authors to the manufacturer of drug is noteworthy. Further well-designed research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Coronary heart disease
Based on positive laboratory evidence, a clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of Ganopoly® on coronary heart disease in human. Ganopoly® treatment improved the major symptoms (e.g., angina (chest pain), palpitations, shortness of breath), decreased abnormal ECG appearance, decreased blood pressure as well as cholesterol level in these patients. Long-term study is needed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Ganopoly® before it may be recommended for CHD. The authors are closely related to the manufacturer of Ganopoly®.
Diabetes mellitus type 2
Based on animal studies that demonstrated the blood sugar and lipid-lowering activities of
High blood pressure
Ancient Chinese monks utilized the reishi mushroom to calm their mind for meditation. Theory would lead one to believe that the physiological effects of decreasing blood pressure may have lead to the calming effect precipitated by the ingested reishi. Preliminary data suggest that reishi may exert a blood pressure-lowering effect; however, the currently available evidence in this area is weak. Future studies are warranted to validate the results of these small studies and to provide clinical usefulness of reishi as a possible treatment for high blood pressure.
Reishi extract was effective in decreasing postherpetic pain (pain after herpes lesions heal) in one case series. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Poisoning (Russula subnigricans)
has shown a beneficial effect in treating RSP in one small trial. Further well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm these results.
Proteinuria (protein in the urine)
One clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of