After visiting the Natural Products Expo this year, we couldn’t help but notice many of the showcased products contained a peculiar ingredient called reishi. Whether it was in a tea or a package of granola, it seemed like reishi was everywhere. This made us incredibly curious to learn more about this popular ingredient and why so many brands were choosing to include it in their products.
What Is Reishi?
Upon further research, we learned that reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is actually a type of fungus that has been used for years in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean medicine. The reishi mushroom, also known as Ling Zhi, has been used for its many health-promoting effects, including its beneficial role in fighting cancer.
Reishi Health Benefits
The reishi mushroom has been particularly helpful to cancer patients. This super mushroom has antioxidant properties that not only help fight free radicals in the body, but also helps boost patients’ immune responses. In addition to its cancer-fighting capabilities, the reishi mushroom has been reported to help:
- Lower high cholesterol
- Treat HIV and AIDS
- Lower high blood pressure
- Stimulate the immune system
- Reduce inflammation
- Treat lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in men
The strongest evidence of the reishi mushroom’s beneficial effects, however, lies in the research done on its antioxidant and immune-boosting capabilities. Not only does the reishi mushroom seem to alleviate chemotherapy effects, such as nausea, but researchers have found that the beta glucans (sugars) in reishi have an aptitude for fighting tumors and enhancing the body’s immune response.
How Is Reishi Eaten?
While the reishi mushroom has been used for over 2,000 years in Asian medicine, it’s only been recently that modern science has confirmed some of the health benefits that the reishi mushroom has been claimed to have. This explains the sudden fascination with reishi and why brands have been incorporating this herbal mushroom into their products recently.
The problem with the reishi mushroom is that it’s not very tasty like some of the other mushrooms that are used and consumed in traditional, culinary fashion. Rather, the reishi mushroom tends to have a bitter taste.
To counteract this, reishi is typically ground up into a powder, or sometimes packaged as a liquid extract. More often than not, brands use the reishi mushroom in its powder form as an extra boost in natural products and blend it with other ingredients to minimize the bitter taste.
Reishi Side Effects
For the most part, the reishi mushroom has been found safe to consume, especially when the amount is minimal and consumed as one of many ingredients in natural products. Some people have reported nausea and insomnia when consuming reishi mushroom powder.
The most dangerous side effect of reishi has been cases of liver toxicity, where individuals have overdosed on the amount of reishi mushroom powder they have consumed. Some doctors may also advise against taking reishi mushroom powder if you suffer from an autoimmune disease, as reishi’s immune-enhancing effects can put an already excited immune system into overdrive.
Where to Buy Reishi Mushroom Powder
If you’re looking to purchase reishi mushroom powder, you’ll want to pay attention to a couple of things on the powder packaging. You’ll want to first take note of which species the reishi mushroom is classified as. The species should specifically read Ganoderma lucidum, with lucidum being the key descriptor.
You’ll also want to look at the origin of the reishi mushroom. While you can find quality reishi mushroom powder from North America or Europe, the highest quality comes from Japan and China.
Before Using Reishi Mushroom Powder
While you’ll probably be safe ingesting reishi as an added ingredient in natural foods like granola bars, you’ll want to check with your doctor about consumption of the reishi mushroom powder on its own. Like any sort of herbal supplement, it’s important to sit down with your doctor and discuss whether reishi is a good fit for your personal health conditions.
Figuring out how often you consume reishi mushroom powder and what dosage you use is key to avoiding extreme cases like liver toxicity and preventing unpleasant symptoms like nausea or insomnia.
Reishi Mushroom. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2018, from https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/reishi-mushroom
Roberts, T. (2018, February 12). Everything You Need To Know About Reishi Mushroom Powder Before (and after) Buying It. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://naturalcave.com/posts/reishi-mushroom-powder/