Reishi mushroom, 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.
Reishi mushroom 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 reishi mushroom 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 (a type of mushroom) poisoning, and protein in the urine. Reishi is also believed to reduce cholesterol levels and have a blood-thinning effect, which may make it useful in heart disease prevention.
Some experts believe that reishi promotes longevity and maintains vitality of the human body. 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 the treatment of dizziness, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, cough, and asthma. At this time, there is a lack of strong research supporting the use of reishi.
Acid protease, Chi zhi, coumarin, Enhanvol®, ergosterol, fungal lysozyme, fungus, fu zhen herb, ganoderans, ganoderic acids, ganoderals, ganoderols, Ganoderma tsugae extract, ganodermic acids, Ganodermataceae (family), Ganopoly®, he ling zhi, holy mushroom, hong ling zhi, ling chi, ling chih, ling zhi (Chinese), ling zhi-8, linzhi extract, mannentake, mannitol, mushroom, mushroom of immortality, mushroom of spiritual potency, polysaccharides peptide, rei-shi, shiitake, spirit plant, sterols, Sunrecome®, triterpenoids, triterpene, varnished polypore, young ji, zi zhi.
Combination product examples: PC-SPES (baikal skullcap, chrysanthemum, ganoderma, isatis, licorice, Panax ginseng, Isodon rubescens and saw palmetto); Echinacea/Astragalus/Reishi formula.
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.
A combination of reishi mushroom and San Miao San (a mixture of several Chinese herbs) may help reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. These herbs lacked an effect on swelling. More research with reishi mushroom alone is needed.
Reishi has been shown to have anti-cancer and immune enhancing effects in nonhuman research. In human research, Ganopoly®, a reishi extract, resulted in improved quality of life and enhanced immune responses in people receiving treatment for advanced cancer. It is important to note that these data were published by authors affiliated with the manufacturer of Ganopoly®. Further research is needed to reach conclusions.
Chronic hepatitis B
Early evidence showed that Ganopoly® treatment decreased the amount of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in the blood. This virus is hard to clear from the body and recurrence after treatment is common. The affiliation of authors to the manufacturer of the drug is noteworthy. Further well-designed research is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
Diabetes mellitus type 2
Non-human research showed that reishi lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels. In limited human research, Ganopoly® slightly improved diabetes markers. The authors are closely related to the manufacturer of Ganopoly®. Further research is needed.
In limited human research, Ganopoly® improved symptoms of heart disease such as chest pain, increase heart rate, and shortness of breath. Blood pressure and cholesterol were also decreased. The authors are closely related to the manufacturer of Ganopoly®. Further research is needed to draw conclusions.
Heart disease prevention
In early human research, reishi lacked an effect on blood pressure and cholesterol levels (which increase heart disease risk). Further research is needed.
High blood pressure
Ancient Chinese monks utilized the reishi mushroom to calm their minds for meditation. Early research suggests that reishi may lower blood pressure. Future research is needed to make conclusions.
Early research showed reishi extract to be effective in decreasing postherpetic pain (pain after herpes lesions heal). Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Poisoning (Russula subnigricans)
In early research, reishi has shown a beneficial effect in treating poisoning with
Proteinuria (protein in the urine)
Early research showed reishi to be effective in decreasing protein in the urine in people with kidney disease. Further research is needed to draw conclusions.