What the Heck are Reishi Mushrooms?

What the Heck are Reishi Mushrooms?

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Prior to the global pandemic, consumers were interested in mushrooms and immune health. Now that we are focussed on improving our wellbeing including nutrition and fitness habits amid COVID-19, foods with immune health halos are becoming even more popular. Reishi mushrooms are more bitter in taste than chaga mushrooms. Therefore, possible forms of reishi are ingredients in other foods (i.e. plant-based burgers), powder, dried, and liquid extract. As always, be cautious where you’re getting your information from. Constantly ask yourself: Is it a credible source with a scientific background to interpret and advise on the data? With that question in mind, let’s look at what the heck are reishi mushrooms?

The Mushroom Boom

As more people investigate and follow plant-based dietary patterns, mushrooms continue to be a featured food. I wrote about chaga mushrooms in 2016 and it continues to be one of my most popular blogs. According to marketing research from Grand View Research, mushroom sales in 2017 generated nearly $5bn in the US and are expected to rise to $7.4bn in the next three years – that’s now 2020.


Reishi Mushrooms and Health

The interest in mushrooms in recent years can also be attributed to consumers’ awareness of immune health, stress and adaptogens. The idea that certain foods including mushrooms, maca root and moringa, can adapt their healthful properties to the body’s specific needs. Let’s explore some of the potential health benefits associated with reishi mushrooms.

Immune Health

• Anti-viral

Studies have shown reishi’s antiviral effects on different viruses using water-soluble substances and methanol soluble substance from reishi mushrooms (1-3). A study completed over two decades ago to determine the effects of reishi on the herpes simplex virus demonstrated its ability to inhibit the plaque formation using the GLhw-02 protein bound polysaccharide from reishi in a plaque reduction assay in vitro (2).

• Cancer

Reishi mushrooms may have anti-tumor effects that can be attributed to its immune enhancing effects (1,3). A literature review conducted by Lin and Zhang found that specifically reishi modulates antigen-presenting cells (3). In addition, they reported that animal studies showed the anti-tumor effects of reishi. Another study using polysaccharide extract from reishi both in vivo and in vitro also showed immune modulating, anticancer effects (4). Reishi shows promise as an herbal supplement, that may reduce cancer progression in non-human trials. Exact dose-response relationship is still not conclusive in humans, due to the lack of human clinical trials.

• Rheumatoid Arthritis

Overall, reishi shows promising effects on rheumatoid arthritis despite the lack of human trials (1,5). Non-human research shows a polysaccharide peptide from reishi called Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide peptide (GL-PP) may inhibit growth of rheumatoid synovial fibroblast (5).


Despite promising health effects of reishi mushrooms, there are reported adverse reactions. These include dry mouth, gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, constipation, nosebleeds, skin irritation, bone pain, dizziness, and possible liver damage, plus interactions with medications such as blood thinners (1). It is recommended you consult with your health professional including a Registered Dietitian to review your medical history including medications before adding any forms of reishi mushrooms to your healthy lifestyle.


Final Thoughts

The road ahead may seem uncertain, therefore, remember no single food or ingredient is a silver bullet. A lifestyle filled with healthy habits including a balanced dietary pattern, exercise and restful sleep is the best approach for long-term consistent, mind body health.

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  1. Reishi Mushroom Uses, Benefits, Dosage – Drugs.com Herbal Database [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2019 Oct 22].
  2. Eo SK, Kim YS, Lee CK, Han SS. Antiherpetic activities of various protein bound polysaccharides isolated from Ganoderma lucidum. J Ethnopharmacol [Internet]. 1999 Dec 15 [cited 2019 Oct 22];68(1–3):175–81.
  3. Lin Z Bin, Zhang HN. Anti-tumor and immunoregulatory activities of Ganoderma lucidum and its possible mechanisms. Vol. 25, Acta Pharmacologica Sinica. 2004. p. 1387–95.
  4. Lin Z Bin. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation by Ganoderma lucidum. Vol. 99, Journal of Pharmacological Sciences. 2005. p. 144–53.
  5. Ho YW, Yeung JSL, Chiu PKY, Tang WM, Lin ZB, Man RYK, et al. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide peptide reduced the production of proinflammatory cytokines in activated rheumatoid synovial fibroblast. Mol Cell Biochem [Internet]. 2007 Jul [cited 2019 Oct 22];301(1–2):173–9.

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