A mushroom with immune boosting and restorative abilities? It’s not a video game item; it’s Reishi, a fungus hailed by naturopaths and practitioners of traditional medicine the world over. According to these proponents, Reishi can handle everything from stomach ulcers to non-cancerous tumors. Some hyperbolic clickbait headlines even hype it as: “Reishi Mushroom: The Key To Immortality.” It’s obvious the mushroom is held in high regard, but what’s fact and what’s legend? Let’s explore.
The Reishi mushroom is a fungus common in East Asia. Here, it has been used as a medicinal mushroom for thousands of years, with the first documented use going back as far as 25 A.D. Traditional healers would use it as a way to support immune system function, preparing it as a bitter tea or extract. Nowadays, it is more readily available in powder, capsule, and liquid extract form. The mushroom itself is soft, with a red cap. Instead of the gills that many other mushrooms have, the Reishi has fine pores that run along its underside.
In more recent times, there has been a lot of talk about Reishi’s supposed antioxidant properties, potential use as part of a holistic cancer treatment plant, and possible combatant of Hepatitis B. The current medical understanding of Reishi suggests that it produces compounds that are similar to steroid hormones. There is also some preliminary research data suggesting that at least some of the alternative treatment claims, such as the talk about immune health support, might be at least partly true.
It is legal to obtain Reishi. As mentioned, you can use the raw mushroom to create a Reishi concoction, though the capsules, liquid extracts, and powders are more convenient. The powders, in particular, are concentrated in such a way as to ensure a higher level of digestibility and potency beyond what one might be able to achieve using the raw Reishi on their own.
Reishi goes by a plethora of alternate names, including: Basidiomycetes Mushroom, Champignon Basidiomycète, Champignon d’Immortalité, Champignon Reishi, Champignons Reishi, Ganoderma, Ganoderma lucidum, Hongo Reishi, Ling Chih, Ling Zhi, Mannentake, Mushroom, Mushroom of Immortality, Mushroom of Spiritual Potency, Red Reishi, Reishi, Reishi Antler Mushroom, Reishi Rouge, Rei-Shi, and Spirit Plant.
I’m always skeptical when trying out herbal supplements, particularly because there are so many off-the-wall claims that I’ll see floating around. “Reishi made me autistic,” “I got a six-pack in two weeks supplementing with Reishi,” etc. It’s hard to gauge what to expect, and even harder to go into the experience with no expectations at all. Still, I decided to get some of the powder and give it a go.
There was no standard dose on the packaging that my powder came in beyond, “Add one scoop of powder to drink of choice.” A little too imprecise for my tastes, so I decided to do some more research to find out what was typical of others who had supplemented with Reishi. I found that about three daily does around 1,500 milligrams should do the trick. So, I added some Reishi to my shakes throughout the day and made note of the effects.
I felt a little pep to my step, but it wasn’t any overwhelming boost in mood or energy. I felt normal during my workout, and for the rest of the day, I just had a constant, steady state of mind. I kept supplementing for about two weeks with similar results every time. Nothing miraculous, just a mild level of feeling somewhat lighter on my feet and a bit sharper. I don’t normally get sick, so I have no way of knowing if the immune boosting effects of Reishi did anything for me.
As a nootropic, Reishi isn’t going to give you the kick of the more “focused” supplements that are available. As a long-term addition to your arsenal to help you feel healthier overall, there might be some use. From what I can tell, however, more research is needed into whether or not the ancillary benefits of Reishi (like mood boosting and fatigue reduction) apply only to those who are currently ill, or if they can be replicated in otherwise healthy persons as well.
Going over the reaction in the community, you’ll find that there are plenty who had positive experiences, but a fair number of negative experiences as well. Of those positive experiences, you’ll find tales similar to mine. Users state that the initial effects were mild, but after a couple of weeks they noticed a mild but steady improvement in their mood and a little extra energy to boot. Those who weren’t so happy with their Reishi experience reported clouded focus and even a drop in libido. This was, however, in addition to the benefits that Reishi provided them. So, while they did experience a few unintended side effects, they also experienced improved mental clarity and a noted reduction in their anxiety symptoms.
Research is still limited on Reishi, but there are some studies that show that there may be something behind many of the supposed health claims.
The claim is that continued Reishi supplementation increases overall well-being, making the user happier, more sociable, and more confident throughout their day-to-day activities. Currently, research supports the idea that Reishi increases subjective well-being in individuals in “disease states where other symptoms (seen as adverse) are decreased.” In other words, when Reishi alleviates symptoms of a particular ailment, the sufferers of those ailments reported feeling better. No surprise there.
Another study, however, shows that an extract prepared from Reishi had antidepressant-like effects on lab rats, suggesting that it could be used to boost mood overall for individuals suffering from any sorts of disorders, or just in general. Unfortunately, this has not been replicated in humans yet. It is an encouraging sign, though, so hopefully, more investigation will be carried out on this front.
There is some dispute around this benefit, but it does have its share of documentation backing it up. While there are some studies that have shown that Reishi had an insufficient effect on antioxidant levels in the body, there have also been studies showing the opposite. In fact, the antioxidants found were discovered to be quickly absorbed by human subjects, providing a significant increase in antioxidant levels and perhaps granting some protective abilities against certain cancers when used in conjunction with “mainstream” therapies.
Traditional medical practitioners have long used Reishi to boost the immune system. There is evidence to support that Reishi has significant antiviral and antibacterial properties. At least one study showed that supplementation with Reishi for twelve weeks was able to boost the function of their natural killer cells, which help limit infections. Additional research into Reishi’s properties has shown that it also has some possible effect at countering HIV activity and may also inhibit replication of the Hepatitis B virus. Animal studies have shown that survival rates against E. Coli and other bacteria were increased when supplementing with Reishi, lending further credence to its status as a powerful antimicrobial agent.
This herbal remedy has a range of therapeutic applications. This is because Reishi contains a wide array of “bioactive molecules” that interact with the human body to produce different effects. These include steroids, phenols, nucleotides, glycoproteins, and polysaccharides. Of the many compounds contained within Reishi, the polysaccharides, peptidoglycans, and triterpenes are thought to be the three most significant.
Polysaccharides are believed to provide anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, antiulcer, antitumorigenic, and immunostimulating effects. Peptidoglycans are believed to provide additional anti-viral abilities. Triterpenes, for their part, further boost anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, and hypolipidemic activity. In unison, the three compounds give Reishi its various health benefits, which, as discussed, are far reaching.
Reishi doesn’t get to work right away. Continued supplementation is required to achieve the best effects. Generally speaking, you’ll notice some change after two to six weeks in, and they will continue for the time that you continue supplementing. Again, most of the effects aren’t the immediate kind you experience with many nootropics. This is a long-term, continued use product.
Most studies have shown that about 5 grams daily is sufficient for receiving the desired health benefits. This equates to roughly three doses of 1,600-1,800 milligrams daily. You’ll have to be cognizant of which form you’re taking Reishi in. Not only do the different delivery methods measure out differently, but they also come in varying potencies, meaning that a smaller dose can have the effect of a much larger dose due to elevated potency. You might not need to adjust your dosage based on sex or weight, but you will need to keep the concentration factor in mind when mixing your shakes or adding liquid drops to your tea. It’s fine to take Reishi with food, and, as mentioned, it is often mixed with teas, shakes, or worked into recipes to enjoy its benefits.
There are, of course, run of the mill side effects that come with almost any substance you might take. With Reishi, these include dry mouth, itchiness, gastrointestinal issues, nosebleeds, and the occasional rash. There are also more serious effects to consider for certain groups of people.
Some evidence suggests that Reishi might cause liver damage when taken in powdered form for long periods of time. If you want to continually supplement with Reishi, you might be better off using liquid extracts instead. Individuals with disorders that cause them to bleed easily may find these exacerbated by Reishi. Reishi might lower blood pressure, so if a significant drop would pose a danger to you, avoid the fungus. To be safe, those who are pregnant or expecting to have surgery soon should also avoid Reishi.
Since supplementing with Reishi is more of a long-game, many users will pair it with compounds that have short term effects so they can enjoy those simultaneously. This includes combinations like tea and coffee, which grant a potent caffeine boost that can help spike your energy levels. Other combinations with Reishi include multiple herbs to boost the long-term effects. These include Panax Ginseng, Rhodiola, and Ashwagandha. All of these stacks involve using the standard doses of each compound, then allowing them to work synergistically to create the enhanced mood, antioxidant, mental, and overall health effects.
If you’re looking for similar benefits from other compounds, you should explore your options. Make sure to take a look at these alternatives:
The competing immune-boosting mushroom is known as Cordyceps. This fungus come from on high, in the mountainous regions of China, the reproduced in laboratories. Cordyceps is traditionally used to treat respiratory problems, kidney disorders, liver disorders, and a range of other health irregularities. Research with the remedy shows it has some immune strengthening properties and may boost athletic performance as well.
If you’re looking for a mood boost and a trying to nullify anxiety symptoms, GABA derivatives like Phenibut present a clear option. It crosses the blood-brain barrier easily, then delivers a sedative effect that can relax the user and curb their feelings of anxiety. Long term use might present some issues, but as a short-term mood booster, it has shown significant utility.
This is the standout option from the Racetam family for dealing with mood, stress, and anxiety. It stimulates AMPA receptors in the body, hence controlling Glutamate production and by extension GABA. It’s a bit more indirect than Phenibut but has a clear effect on reducing social anxiety symptoms and helping people establish a level mood.
This might not be the immediate nootropic boost you want, if you’re the impatient sort. If you’re ok with something that provides consistent results in a long-term fashion, however, Reishi might be appropriate to add to your normal routine. This supplement has serious potential as an immune booster, and may also help support a more even mood, along with providing clarity and energy.