I recently went to a workshop on medicinal mushrooms and was amazed to learn not only of their healing capabilities, but also how long they have been used to treat a wide variety of ailments. The reishi mushroom in particular has been coined the mushroom of immortality, and has been studied and used as a health supplement for thousands of years.
So, What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
A type of fungi that grow outdoors, Reishi mushrooms are native to parts of Asia that include China, Korea, and Japan. They grow aboveground and produce a visible fruiting body, along with connective strands called mycelium, which are used to make herbal medicines, tinctures, teas, powders, or extracts.
While they are edible raw, reishi have an unpleasant taste, which is why you’re more likely to find them in the form of a supplement, tincture, tea, or powder.
Traditionally, fully-grown reishi mushrooms were cut up into slices, boiled in water, and steeped for a long time to make a healing tea or soup. Nowadays, manufacturers will process the reishi using a technique that involves boiling the reishi multiple times at high pressure and sometimes adding alcohol to extract all of the mushroom’s healing properties and alkaloids. The resulting extract is then used as a tincture or dried into a powder.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), reishi mushrooms are adaptogens, meaning they can help our bodies to counteract the negative effects that stress has on our bodies, such as inflammation, low energy, hormonal imbalance, increased cortisol levels, and damaged blood cells.
Time and time again, studies have shown that the antioxidants in reishi mushrooms strengthen the body’s defences against cancer, autoimmune disorders, allergies, infections, heart disease, and more. They do this by strengthening the body’s built-in immune system.
Those are just a few of the benefits of this “king of mushrooms.” It can also treat or improve:
- Digestive problems, stomach ulcers, and even leaky gut syndrome
- Various skin disorders
- Liver disease
- Urinary tract infections
- Respiratory infections
- Tumour growth
- Anxiety and depression
Reishi mushrooms work as an “immune modulator,” which means they can help to restore hormonal balance, bringing the body back to a state of homeostasis, and regulate the immune system, which includes the fighting of tumours and cancerous cells.
One of the greatest benefits of using these mushrooms is that, despite having such great healing potential, they produce little to no side effects and are completely non-toxic, unlike pharmaceuticals. Reishi mushrooms have been used for far longer than any medication a doctor would prescribe, and the results of what has essentially been a long term trial make clear that they are safe. When taking reishi, people commonly report elevated energy levels, mental clarity, focus, and mood, as well as a reduction of various aches, pains, allergies, digestive issues, and infections.
What Makes Reishi Mushrooms So Powerful?
Reishi mushrooms contain various active ingredients, including complex sugars known as beta-glucans, plant sterols that can act as precursors to hormones in the body, polysaccharides that fight the development of cancer cells, and acidic substances known as triterpenes that turn off the body’s response to allergies.
More findings reveal how reishi mushrooms can lower inflammation in the body and increase the release of natural killer cells, known as cytokines, which work to remove the mutated cells from the body. This alone makes the reishi mushrooms an ideal natural cancer treatment.
Reishi mushrooms also improve liver function and support detoxification. Adaptogens such as reishi help to prevent disease from forming because they work to maintain the right balance within the body by strengthening the digestive system, helping nutrients to be properly broken down and absorbed by the body. This in turn promotes liver function and prevents liver disease, allowing waste and toxins to be flushed from the body more efficiently. Overall this will improve the immune system and prevent many diseases from occurring.
Reishi can also help balance blood pressure and protect the heart. Triterpenes, found in reishi, appear to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol and blood clotting. This could be because they help to lower inflammation within the blood vessels and arteries while balancing the hormones. Aside from just lowering blood pressure, reishi can also help to improve overall circulation and lower inflammation that can aggravate heart problems.
As mentioned above, resihi can help to balance the hormones in the body naturally. It contains several anti-inflammatory compounds that can change the way nerves transmit messages to the brain, improving functions within the endocrine and central nervous systems. This can also assist with thyroid issues, fatigue, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances, and improve reproductive health and fertility.
But Wait… There’s More!
The reishi mushroom can also lower the amount of toxins and heavy metals that accumulate over time within the body. This buildup can lead to sluggishness or brain fog, which is the main reason these mushrooms are connected to improved energy levels, concentration, memory, and sleep.
Some research even suggests that taking resihi supplements for 12 weeks can reduce severe complications from type 2 diabetes by raising hemoglobin levels, but not blood sugar levels.
The active triterpenes in reishi mushrooms are a type of ganoderic acid, which has been linked with a reduction in allergies and the histamine reactions that are associated with asthma. Triterpenes are able to lower the instance of allergic reactions because of the effect they have on the immune system, and they also strengthen the digestive organs, protect the gut lining, and improve both liver function and oxygen utilization.
Reishi mushrooms are also a natural antiviral, antibacterial, and (perhaps surprisingly) anti-fungal substance.
How to Use Reishi
There appears to be no end to the benefits reishi mushrooms offer, making it a true health powerhouse. When looking for a reishi supplement, be sure it has been certified as pure, and choose extract, essence, or whole in capsules. Tea can be beneficial as well, but does not offer the same level of purity and extraction.
Always check to see what fillers are added, and check the dosage as well, as each brand is different. Reishi should be taken on an empty stomach and with water. Pairing it with foods rich in vitamin C can help with nutrient absorption.
Reishi are classified as “Class 1: Herbs that can be safely consumed when used appropriately.” Stay within safe limits and keep an eye out for any negative side effects, such as dry throat or mouth, itchiness, indigestion, or nosebleeds, which could signify an allergy.
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