Reishi (Ganoderma lucidem)
Reishi, mannetake (Japanese, meaning 10,000-year mushroom, or mushroom of immortality), ling zhi (Chinese, meaning spirit mushroom), ling chi, varnished conk.
Widely distributed across the world, from Asia, throughout the Amazon, southern regions of North America. Prefers subtropical regions; will also grow in warmer temperate regions.
Beta glucans; triterpenes, ganoderic and lucidenic acids; polysaccharides; mannogalactoglucan, Ling zhi-8 protein.
Known as the “mushroom of immortality” and “spirit mushroom” in Japan and China, reishi has been used medicinally for millennia, revered for its health-promoting and tonifying effects.1 Traditionally reishi was prescribed for its anti-cancer,2 liver supportive3, and anti-aging properties.4 In the Materia Medica of Chinese medicine, reishi is listed among the “superior tonics” (medicines which can be taken at any dose desired for any length of time without adverse affects), and is believed to promote longevity.5
Reishi likely owes many of its health benefits to its high concentration of triterpenoids, a class of steroid-like compounds. Of the more than 119 triterpenoids identified in reishi, there are two main classes, ganoderic and lucidic, which have anti-histaminic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and hepatoprotective effects6.
Reishi has been shown to inhibit all 4 types of allergic reactions, including contact dermatitis, asthma, and other allergic diseases7. Animal studies show reishi inhibits the release of histamines, which are responsible for types I, II, III and IV allergic sensitivities. Clinically, reishi has been observed to stabilize blood levels of immunoglobulin, the antibodies which play an essential role in the biochemistry of allergic reactions8. Reishi may also inhibit food allergies; one Chinese reishi-based formula was able to completely block anaphylactic reaction to peanut allergy in a mouse-model9.
A powerful antioxidant, reishi may play an important role in anti-aging due to its free-radical scavenging effects. Studies have shown reishi stimulates special immune cells called macrophages to scavenge and destroy free radicals in the body10.
Reishi’s triterpenes make it a powerful anti-inflammatory. One study comparing an extract of reishi to prednisone for arthritis found its effect comparable, but with few or no side effects11. The combination of reishi’s anti-inflammatory action with its immune-modulating properties give it promise is the treatment of autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis12.
The complex polysaccharides found in reishi increase the body’s immune activity. Studies have found reishi activates immune cells such as macrophages and helper T cells, increases levels of NK cells, and boosts immunoglobin levels. The result is an improved immune response to foreign cells, whether bacteria, virus, or tumor13. Clinical studies show reishi’s immune-stimulating properties may make it helpful for those with HIV14.
In China and Japan, reishi was traditionally sought after by those with cancer15. Reishi’s immune-enhancing properties are largely responsible for its evident anti-cancer and anti-tumor effects. One study found reishi’s polysaccarides caused a 5- to 29-fold increase in tumor necrosis factors, as well as augmenting interleukins and T-lymphocytes16. The triterpenes in reishi also show cytotoxic activity against several cancer cell lines17.
Traditionally considered protective to the heart and lungs, reishi positively impacts cardiovascular health18. It has a relaxant effect on the smooth muscle tissue of the lungs and heart, increasing the oxygen-absorbing capacity of the alveoli, and enhancing vasodilation, which increases coronary flow. One study among multiple medical centers showed a preparation with reishi decreased chest pain, palpitation, and shortness of breath, and improved patients’ ECGs19. Further clinical studies show reishi helpful in the treatment of bronchitis and asthma20. The mushroom’s anti-inflammatory action also contributes to its cardiotonic effect.
Reishi is used by athletes to enhance performance due to its combination of anti-inflammatory, cardiotonic, and cellular energy-promoting effects. In animal studies, an extract from reishi was found to increase the swimming endurance of mice and decrease muscle exhaustion and serum lactate21. Reishi’s abiltiy to enhance endurance gives it promise for use in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome22.
Clinical and animal studies have found reishi extracts effective in lowering blood glucose levels23. Reishi has also been found to be a liver protectant in animal studies24.
Considered to have a calming effect, reishi has been reported to be helpful for those with anxiety, nervousness, and difficulty sleeping25.
1 Powell, M., 2010. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide, Mycology Press, East Sussex U.K. p. 51.
2 Powell, M., 2010. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide, Mycology Press, East Sussex U.K. p. 52.
3 Hobbs, C., 1986. Medicinal Mushrooms: an Exploration of Tradition, Healing, and Cultures. Botanica Press. P. 97.
4 Powell, M., 2010. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide, Mycology Press, East Sussex U.K. p. 53.
5 Powell, M., 2010. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide, Mycology Press, East Sussex U.K. p. 14.
6 Ganoderma lucidum and its pharmaceutically active compounds. Boh B, Berovic M, Zhang J, Zhi-Bin L. Biotechnol Annu Rev. 2007;13
7 M2 on Reishi (not sure how to site)
8 Hobbs, C., 1986. Medicinal Mushrooms: an Exploration of Tradition, Healing, and Cultures. Botanica Press.
9 The Chinese herbal medicine formula FAHF-2 completely blocks anaphylactic reaction is murine model of peanut allergy. Srivastava K.D J.D Zou Z.M, Li J.H Zhang L, Wallenstein S, Goldfarb J, Sampson H.A, Li X.M.J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005;115(1)
10 Stamets, P., 2002. MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms. MycoMedia, Olympia, WA.
11 Stamets, P., 2002. MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms. MycoMedia, Olympia, WA, p.26
12 Powell, M., 2010. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide, Mycology Press, East Sussex U.K.
14 Stamets, P., 2002. MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms. MycoMedia, Olympia, WA, p. 28
15 Hobbs, C., 1986. Medicinal Mushrooms: an Exploration of Tradition, Healing, and Cultures. Botanica Press, p. 97
16 Stamets, P., 2002. MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms. MycoMedia, Olympia, WA
17 Powell, M., 2010. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide, Mycology Press, East Sussex U.K.
18 Powell, M., 2010. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide, Mycology Press, East Sussex U.K.
19 Powell, M., 2010. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide, Mycology Press, East Sussex U.K, p. 52
20 Hobbs, C., 1986. Medicinal Mushrooms: an Exploration of Tradition, Healing, and Cultures. Botanica Press, p. 101
22 Stamets, P., 2002. MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms. MycoMedia, Olympia, WA, p. 28
23 A phase I/II study of ling zhi mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (W.Curt.:Fr.) Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae) extract in patients with coronary heart disease. Gao Y, Chen G, Dai X, Ye J, Zhou S. Int J Med Mushr. 2004;6(4).
24Novel hypoglycemic effects of Ganoderma lucidum water-extract in obese/diabetic (+db/+db) mice. Seto S.W, Lam T.Y, Tam H.L, Au A.L, Chan S.W, Wu J.H, Yu P.H, Leung G.P, Ngai S.M, Yeung J.H, Leung P.S, Lee S.M, Kwan Y.W. Phytomedicine.
25 Effects of total Triterpenoids extract from Ganoderma lucidum (Curt.: Fr.) P. Karst. (Reishi Mushroom) on experimental liver injury models induced by Carbon Tetrachloride or D-Galactosamine in mice. Lin Z.B, Wang M.Y, Liu Q, Che Q.M. Int J Med Mushr. 2002;4(1):
26 Hobbs, C., 1986. Medicinal Mushrooms: an Exploration of Tradition, Healing, and Cultures. Botanica Press, p. 103
1. Antitumor activity of the sporoderm-broken germinating spores of Ganoderma lucidum
Liu, X., et al. Cancer Letters. 2002. 182 (2), 155-161.
Researchers looked at the effects of various types of spores from Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) on cancer growth. They evaluated dormant (inactive) spores, germinating spores, sporoderm-broken germinating spores (spores which are no longer protected by an outer covering), and lipids from germinating spores. Three different types of cancer tumors were used in these experiments. The most effective substances against the cancers were the lipids from the germinating spores and the sporoderm-broken germinating spores. They suppressed all three types of tumors at rates of 80 to 90%.
2. Comparative studies on the immunomodulatory and antitumor activities of the different parts of fruiting body of Ganoderma lucidum and Ganoderma spores
Yue, G.G., et al. Phytotherapy Research. 2008. 22 (10), 1282-1291.
In this series of experiments, researchers compared four different parts of the Ganoderma lucidum (reishi) mushroom for their anti-cancer activity in mice. They created hot water extracts of the whole fruiting body, the pileus, and the stipe. They also tested the spores. The fruiting body and stipe extract, and spores had greater effects against tumor growth than the pileus extract. Groups of mice given the stipe extract or the spores also showed greater production of lymphocytes (white blood cells important for immune activity) in the spleen.
3. Triterpenes from Ganoderma Lucidum induce autophagy in colon cancer through the inhibition of p38 mitogen-activated kinase (p38 MAPK)
Thyagarajan, A., et al. Nutrition and Cancer. 2010. 62 (5), 630-640.
Researchers examined the effects of an extract of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) on colon cancer. They found that the extract inhibited multiplication of human colon cancer cells in vitro and inhibited tumor growth in vivo in xenograft models (in which human tumors are grown in laboratory animals). The researchers determined that the mushroom extract was effective in two ways. It likely caused cells to stop dividing at the G0/G1 phase, and it caused autophagy, wherein the cells’ own enzymes break it down.
4. Inhibitory effects of Ganoderma lucidum on tumorigenesis and metastasis of human hepatoma cells in cells and animal models
Weng, C.J., et al. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2009. 57 (11), 5049-5057.
In this series of in vitro and in vivo experiments, researchers looked at the effects of lucidenic acid from reishi mushroom on highly invasive liver cancer. In vitro, an extract of lucidenic acid inhibited the invasion of liver cancer cells. In vivo, researchers used a xenograft model (in which human tumors are grown in laboratory animals) to evaluate the extract’s effects on human liver cancer tumors in mice. In a dose dependent manner, the lucidenic extract reduced the size and number of tumors. Researchers believe that lucidenic acid from reishi could help prevent tumor formation and metastasis of liver cancer cells.
5. The anti-invasive effect of lucidenic acids isolated from a new Ganoderma lucidum strain
Weng, C.J., et al. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2007. 51 (12), 1472-1477.
In this in vitro study, researchers looked at the effects of lucidenic acid from a new strain of reishi mushroom on human liver cancer cells. The researchers isolated four fractions, designated lucidenic acids A, B, C, and N. They exposed the cancer cells to a tumor-promoting chemical and then treated them with each of the lucidenic acids. By the 24-hour mark, the lucidenic acids from reishi showed significant inhibition and invasion of the liver cancer cells.
6. Lucidenic acids P and Q, methyl lucidenate P, and other triterpenoids from the fungus Ganoderma lucidum and their inhibitory effects on Epstein-Barr virus activation
Iwatsuki, K., et al. Journal of Natural Products. 2003. 66 (12), 1582-1585.
Researchers isolated three new compounds (triterpene acids) from Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) along with 14 previously identified compounds (triterpene acids and triterpene acid methyl esters). Epstein Barr virus early antigen, which is associated with various types of cancer, was exposed to a tumor-promoting chemical. Each of the reishi compounds was then tested for its anti-tumor activity. All showed a 96-100% inhibition rate.
7. Suppression of the inflammatory response by triterpenes isolated from the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum
Dudhgaonkar, S., et al. International Immunopharmacology. 2009. 9 (11), 1272-1280.
In this series of experiments, researchers examined the effects of triterpene extract from reishi mushroom on inflammation. In an in vitro experiment, they induced inflammation in mouse cells and treated them with the reishi extract. The extract suppressed various markers of inflammation, including tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, nitric oxide, and prostaglandin. It also suppressed transcription factor NF-kappaB (which is associated with inflammation and cancer when it goes awry), inhibited the AP-1 signaling pathway (linked to cell proliferation and apoptosis), and suppressed COX-2 activity (also associated with inflammation).
8. Ganoderma lucidum suppresses motility of highly invasive breast and prostate cancer cells
Sliva, D., et al. Biochemical and Biophysical Researcher Communications. 2002. 298 (4), 603-612.
In this series of in vitro experiments, researchers looked at the effects of Ganoderma lucidim (reishi mushroom) spores and dried fruiting body on cancer cells. Highly invasive breast and cancer cells were treated with Ganoderma. Ganoderma inhibited transcription factors AP-1 (which regulates gene expression) and NF-kappaB (which is associated with cancer if it is incorrectly regulated) in both types of cancer cells. The extract also prevented the cancer cells from migrating. Researchers conclude that the spores and dried fruiting body of reishi may be of benefit in cancer treatment.
9. Ganoderma lucidum suppresses growth of breast cancer cells through the inhibition of Akt/NF-kappaB signaling
Jiang, J., et al. Nutrition and Cancer. 2004. 49 (2), 209-216.
In this study, researchers sought to determine the mechanism of action of Ganoderma lucidum against breast cancer cells. A highly invasive line of breast cancer cells, MDA-MB-231, was treated with Ganoderma and the biochemical activity was studied. Researchers learned that Ganoderma influences Akt and NF-kappaB signaling. Akt is an enzyme that controls cellular processes. NF-kappaB controls DNA transcription and, when dysregulated, is associated with cancer.
10. Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients
Gao, Y., et al. Immunological Investigations. 2003. 32 (3), 201-215.
In this clinical study, researchers looked at the effects of polysaccharides from Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) on immune function patients with advanced cancer. Patients were treated with reishi polysaccharides three times a day for 12 weeks. At the 12-week mark, as compared to pre-trial measurements, blood levels of Interleukin-2, Interleukin-6, and interferon were significantly higher. Levels of Interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor alpha were significantly lower. Natural killer cell activity was higher, as was the number of CD56 cells (a type of immune system cell). Researchers conclude that the reishi polysaccharides boosted immune response in the cancer patients.
11. Ganoderic acid T inhibits tumor invasion in vitro and in vivo through inhibition of MMP expression
Chen, N.H., et al. Pharmacological Reports. 2010. 62 (1), 150-163.
Researchers isolated a compound, ganoderic acid T, from reishi mushroom and tested it for its effects on tumor invasion. Testing indicated that the compound suppressed multiplication and migration of human colon cancer cells in vitro. Researchers found that the compound also stopped migration of a highly invasive type of human lung cancer cells in vitro. The compound also influenced the actions of nuclear factor-kappaB, inhibiting the activity of MMP-9, which when dysregulated can be associated with cancer. In vivo experiments also showed that ganoderic acid T inhibits tumor growth, metastasis, and MMP-2 and MMP-9 activity. Researchers conclude ganoderic acid T may have therapeutic value in cancer treatment.
12. Antimutagenic activity of methanolic extract of Ganoderma lucidum and its effect on hepatic damage caused by benzo[a]pyrene
Lakshmi, B., et al. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2006. 107 (2), 297-303.
Researchers examined a methanolic extract from Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) for its antimutagenic effects in vitro. Tests revealed that the greater the dose, the greater the antimutagenic effects. In tests involving rats, researchers gave a chemical mutagen to rats and measured its presence in their urine. They gave another group of rats the mushroom extract before giving them the mutagen. The urine from that group of rats showed that the extract suppressed the effects of the mutagen. The rats’ liver enzyme levels were also evaluated; results indicated that the mushroom extract helped to keep them at healthy levels (suggesting that liver damage was prevented). The extract also boosted anti-oxidant activity.
13. Post-treatment of Ganoderma lucidum reduced liver fibrosis induced by thioacetamide in mice
Wu, Y.W., et al. Phytotherapy Research. 2010. 24 (4), 494-499.
In this in vivo study, researchers looked at the effects of Ganoderma lucidum on liver fibrosis (scarring). The researchers induced scarring in rats, and then gave them an extract of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom). When scarring was induced in the rats, collagenase (the breaking down of collagen fibers) activity declined; the mushroom extract reversed this effect. The extract improved the structure of the liver tissue and reduced hydroxyproline, a collagen-like material. Researchers conclude that reishi mushroom extract inhibits liver fibrosis by boosting collagenase function.
14. In vitro and in vivo protective effects of proteoglycan isolated from mycelia of Ganoderma lucidum on carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury
Yang, X.J., et al. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2006. 12 (9), 1379-1385.
Researchers examined the effects of a fraction from reishi mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum proteoglycan, on liver damage. Liver injury was induced in mice and they were treated with the mushroom fraction. Test results revealed that the extract improved the structure of liver cells and liver function after they had been damaged. The extract helped to suppress the activity of tumor necrosis factor alpha (a cytokine associated with inflammation). The extract also boosted antioxidant activity. Researchers conclude that the extract can protect the liver against injury.
15. Ganoderma lucidum extract attenuates the proliferation of hepatic stellate cells by blocking the PDGF receptor
Wang, G.J., et al. Phytotherapy Research. 2009. 23 (6), 833-839.
In this in vitro study, researchers looked at the effects of a triterpenoid extract of Ganoderma lucidum on hepatic stellate cells. These cells are normally inactive in the liver; they are activated when liver disease is present and can cause liver scarring. Through a variety of tests, researchers found that the extract suppressed the proliferation of hepatic stellate cells. One likely mechanism of action was by influencing the proteins (PDGF) that regulate cell growth.
16. Anti-hepatitis B activities of ganoderic acid from Ganoderma lucidum
Li, Y.Q., and Wang, S.F. Biotechnology Letters. 2006. 28 (11), 837-841.
Researchers looked at the effects of ganoderic acid from Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) in vitro and in vivo. Researchers found that in HepG2 cells (a liver cell line used in research), replication of the hepatitis B virus was suppressed by ganoderic acid. In another experiment, researchers found that a seven-day course of ganoderic acid protected mice from induced liver injury.
17. A phase I/II study of ling zhi mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (W.Curt.:Fr.)Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae) extract in patients with type II diabetes mellitus
Gao, Y., et al. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 2004. 6 (1). In this clinical study, researchers studied the effects of a patented polysaccharide fraction of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) on type II diabetes. Patients were given the mushroom fraction three times a day for 12 weeks; a control group of patients received a placebo. After 12 weeks, fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels dropped significantly in the treated group, as did HbA1c. Patients in the control group experienced no or insignificant changes. Researchers believe this polysaccharide fraction may be helpful in treating diabetes.
18. Novel hypoglycemic effects of Ganoderma lucidum water-extract in obese/diabetic (+db/+db) mice
Seto, S.W., et al. Phytomedicine. 2009. 16 (5), 426-436.
Researchers looked at the effects of a water extract of Ganoderma lucidum on blood sugar levels in mice. Two types of mice were used; lean mice and diabetic mice. Within one week of taking the extract, the diabetic mice had lower blood sugar levels. Lean mice experienced lower blood sugar levels as well, but only after four weeks of treatment. Diabetic mice showed greater activity of an enzyme, PEPCK, which is associated with gluconeogenesis. After treatment with the extract, PEPCK activity was reduced. Researchers conclude that a reduction in PEPCK activity is the mechanism of action for decreased blood sugar levels when using Ganoderma lucidum extract.
19. Cholesterol-lowering properties of Ganoderma lucidum in vitro, ex vivo, and in hamsters and minipigs
Berger, A., et al. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2004. 3 (2).
Researchers looked at the effects of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) on cholesterol in vitro and in test animals. A lanosterol derivative of the mushroom suppressed the formation of cholesterol in liver cells. Hamsters given a diet of 5% reishi mushroom had reduced levels of total cholesterol by almost 10% and reduced levels of HDL cholesterol by 11%. In minipigs, a diet containing 2.5% reishi mushroom reduced total cholesterol by 20%, LDL cholesterol by 27%, and HDL cholesterol 18%.
20. Experimental and clinical studies on inhibitory effect of Ganoderma lucidum on platelet aggregation
Tao, J., and Feng, K.Y. Journal of Tongi Medical University. 1990. 10 (4), 240-243.
In a series of in vivo experiments, researchers examined the effect of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) on platelet aggregation. Platelet aggregration is involved in blood clotting. Too much can lead to blood clots; too little can lead to excessive bleeding. In the first phase of experiments, healthy volunteers donated platelets, which were then treated with an extract of Ganoderma in vitro. In a dose dependent manner, the treatment inhibited platelet aggregation. In the second phase of experiments, patients with atherosclerosis were given the extract three times daily for two weeks. Platelet aggregation was then induced; the Ganoderma treatment inhibited aggregation.