A popular staple of Eastern holistic practices, the reishi mushroom contains a sophisticated blend of influential molecules. But what does the science suggest about its wellness potential, and what are the best ways to consume this exotic fungus? To find out, keep reading.
Before we can tackle the sophisticated chemical structure of the reishi mushroom, it helps to have an understanding of a term we'll refer to a lot—adaptogen.
• By definition, an adaptogen is "a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress".
In the case of the reishi species, it belongs to a broader group of adaptogenic mushrooms. These mushrooms are believed to support the body's resistance to physical, mental, and chemical stressors. Other well-known mushrooms that belong to the adaptogenic family include lion's mane, chaga, and cordyceps.
We still don't fully understand the scope of their interaction, but researchers are working hard to establish the role of adaptogens in well-being, with a particular focus on their impact on the central nervous system.
Reishi (also called lingzhi or Ganoderma lucidum) is a reddish-brown, kidney-shaped mushroom that grows natively in hot and humid parts of East Asia. However, it isn't the mushroom's native environment, or its love for maple trees, that we're really interested in.
Instead, it's the sophisticated blend of complex sugars (beta-glucan polysaccharides) and acidic triterpenes that have inspired over 4,000 years of holistic use. Fortunately, you don't have to travel to Asia to experience reishi, as the mushroom extract is sold worldwide in the form of tea, tinctures, and capsules.
While the reddish-brown reishi mushroom is one of the most common varieties, there are, in fact, blue, yellow, white, purple, and black counterparts. Interestingly, ancient folk law claims that not only did these colourations pop up in unique locations, but each exerted a different influence on mind and body.
While researchers have since debunked the exclusivity of their native environment, there may be some merit in the various effects of different-coloured reishi mushrooms. The complexity of the reishi species (over 400 bioactive compounds) means there are likely variations in the chemical structure. Whether that leads to notable differences in human physiology when consumed remains under investigation.
With all this talk of ancient mushroom varieties and complex chemical structures, it's time to look at the potential uses of reishi mushrooms. While there are some studies to examine, we should point out that many of these are in test tube or animal testing phases.
The most prominent finding from early reishi research is the mushroom's proposed influence on the immune system. First, we have a 2005 study focusing specifically on the role of reishi mushrooms in promoting immune system function. The researchers conclude that effects include "antigen-presenting cells, mononuclear phagocyte system, humoral immunity, and cellular immunity", all functions crucial to physical well-being.
Second, a 2014 review outlines the role of five major mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum being one of them) and how they can influence cytokines—tiny proteins that support immune system signalling.
Although the true potential of reishi remains debatable, there are still plenty of ways to experience its diverse influence. Supplements, tinctures, and teas are the most popular options, mainly because they are straightforward and easily accessible. But you'll also find raw reishi powder.
As for which one is the most suitable, that comes down to your existing wellness routine. Reishi tea is a simple addition that you can try. For more consistent dosing, you can consider reishi supplements, which easily work alongside existing botanicals, vitamins, and mineral supplements in your daily routine.
It's worth highlighting reishi extract because it has two significant benefits. First, the extract is arguably the most concentrated form of reishi, meaning you need less to experience the mushroom's potentially vast wellness influence.
Second, you'll frequently find reishi extract featured as part of complex formulas. This means you can enjoy the effects of Ganoderma lucidum alongside botanicals, cannabinoids, vitamins, minerals, and other helpful extracts.
You'll also need to consider how concentrated you want your reishi experience to be. Supplements typically contain reishi extract, which, again, is the most concentrated form. Expect a rapid onset and more profound effects, especially when compared to options like reishi tea. That's not to say other forms are ineffective, but it's about tailoring the product to your specific lifestyle or wellness needs.
• As for dosing guidelines, there aren't any specific recommendations. Instead, it's best to follow the manufacturer's advice, alongside that of your doctor or physician.
If you're trying reishi for the first time (or any adaptogen, for that matter), it's best to halve the recommended dose and stick to a reduced dosing schedule for roughly two weeks. This approach gives your mind and body plenty of time to get accustomed to reishi's proposed effects.
For the most part, reishi appears well-tolerated with a low risk of mild side effects. Unfortunately, the lack of human clinical trials means we still have much to learn about maximum and minimum tolerances.
Potential side effects of reishi mushroom include:
• Difficulty sleeping
• Nausea/upset stomach
• Dry mouth
Another potential watch-out is the mushroom's interaction with prescription medicines, including blood thinners. As these situations are case-specific, it’s best to discuss the implications with a doctor or physician before you start taking reishi.
With centuries of use across East Asia, it certainly seems like reishi could influence mental and physical well-being. And while there is some early research to support anecdotal accounts, there's still much we need to learn—not just about reishi mushrooms, but adaptogens as a whole.
Still, with a good safety profile and an abundance of product options, there's never been a better time to try reishi mushroom yourself. Provided you take a sensible approach to consumption and discuss any concerns with your doctor, there's little reason not to add this exotic-looking mushroom to your existing wellness routine.
Are you interested in the vast influence of adaptogenic mushrooms? Why not browse the Cibdol store for a complete range of mushroom-infused supplements. Or, to learn more about the immune system and its role in well-being, visit our Encyclopedia.
 Panossian A, Wikman G. Effects of adaptogens on the central nervous system and the molecular mechanisms associated with their stress-protective activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/. Published January 19, 2010. Accessed October 3, 2022. [Source]
 Zhi-Bin L. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation by Ganoderma lucidum. Journal of pharmacological sciences. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16230843/. Published 2005. Accessed October 4, 2022. [Source]
 Guggenheim AG, Wright KM, Zwickey HL. Immune modulation from five major mushrooms: Application to integrative oncology. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/. Published February 2014. Accessed October 4, 2022. [Source]