Reishi - Why This Medicinal Fungus Is Known As "The Mushroom of Immortality"
IF Insider No. 60
In our last issue (IF Insider No. 59) we taught you how to talk to your heart! Well, almost. Our topic was HRV or heart rate variability and learning how to modulate it can really make a difference to your wellbeing. So, if you haven’t looked at that yet, we encourage you to do so. In this issue, we are looking once again at mushrooms, but not just any mushroom. Today our focus is on reishi, a medicinal mushroom.
For our premium subscribers, in this week’s Research Spotlight, we’re looking at some intriguing new research on resistance breath training and how it can lower your blood pressure as well as some blood pressure medications!
Our paid subscribers also get one of Ellen’s recipes each month. Last month, we featured Ellen’s Southern Style Deviled Eggs, and this month, to welcome in autumn, we are bringing you Ellen’s warming and delicious Clam Chowder. This is a non-dairy version and if you are entirely plant-based, you could substitute sautéed mushrooms for the clams, although you are on your own here, as we have not tested this. Plus, if you did substitute mushrooms for the clams, you’ll need to add something to make up for the clam juice in the original recipe. Maybe some additional extra rich vegetable broth.
Looking for a supportive group that “gets” your interest in IF and other cutting-edge health information? Our free intermittent fasting Facebook group, with over 1800 members, is a wealth of info, in addition to our new Longevity Experience membership.
Reishi - The Queen of Mushrooms
This is not the first time we’ve talked about mushrooms here at the Insider, as we previously spotlighted mushrooms as one of the superfoods. We talked about how the selection of mushrooms in your grocery store has just exploded of late..gone are the days when all you could find were plain white button mushrooms. Now there are an array of delicious and nutritious mushrooms from which to choose, the meaty portabella, flavorful Shitake, delicate golden Chanterelles, the brown baby portabellas, crisp Enoki, and more.
Mushrooms are delicious and add valuable B vitamins, fiber, protein, and other bioactive compounds to your diet. But today, we are going to focus on the medicinal properties of mushrooms. Mushrooms have been valued in Asian cultures for centuries, both for food and as medicine, and are being increasingly accepted in the West. Robert Beelman, Professor of Food Science at Pennsylvania State University, who researches the nutritional value of mushrooms in his lab, is also investigating the use of some of these fungi and mushrooms in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
In this issue of the Insider, we are featuring a mushroom that has some really extraordinary qualities. Its scientific name is Ganoderma lucidum, known as reishi in Japan and as Ling chi in China where it has been used to support health for over 2000 years and is known as the Queen of Mushrooms and also the Mushroom of Immortality.
Unlike many of the other medicinal mushrooms that are both valued for their gourmet as well as their medicinal qualities, Reishi is a purely medicinal mushroom and is not normally ingested as part of a meal. The main reason reishi is not used in a culinary capacity is that it doesn’t taste very good...in fact, most people find it to be quite bitter.
Here in the West, we don’t value bitter foods very much, and those foods that are naturally bitter, such as coffee, we try to disguise with as much cream and sugar as possible. There are five tastes in Chinese medicine: bitter, sour, salty, sweet, and pungent, and while bitter is not necessarily better than the other tastes, the Chinese medical practitioner would advise that it be added to your diet to balance out the others. In the Chinese five-element system, bitter is associated with the fire element and so is related to the heart system which in the West corresponds to the circulatory and nervous systems.
Reishi is a beautiful mushroom. It has a shelf-like saucer shape, is tough and woody with a glossy surface and varies in color from red to black to purple, green and even white. The type of reishi that has been researched the most is red reishi and this grows on Hemlock trees.
You can purchase reishi grown on other types of materials besides hemlock logs, including sawdust, cork, and even grain although some companies would have you believe that reishi grown on logs is superior. It may be, but I have not seen any hard evidence to support that.
In herbal medical terms, reishi is classified as an adaptogen, which means it assists your body in adapting to stress and by definition, adaptogens are non-toxic and suitable for long-term use. Adaptogens also have non-specific effects on the body, as they positively influence a variety of body systems and help the body defend against a variety of stressors.
In traditional Chinese medicine, reishi is recommended for insomnia, but unlike most sleep medicines, it won’t make you feel drowsy. Studies show that reishi helps you to fall asleep at night and also improves the quality of your sleep by prolonging sleep time. Many people who take reishi say that the mushroom gives them a subtle, non-narcotic peaceful feeling. In other words, it seems to chill you out!
In addition to its antioxidant properties, reishi has also been shown to support the immune system, primarily because of the beta-glucan compounds and various polysaccharides reishi contains. And reishi has promise for the promotion of gut health as well. One study, which was conducted on mice, found that reishi functions like a prebiotic by helping to promote the production of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Reishi also shows promise in the treatment of some cancers. Studies using reishi in cancer patients showed that some of the compounds found in reishi increased the activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells. These natural killer cells serve to help fight infections and cancer in the body.
So, what is the best form of reishi to take and are there any precautions you should know about if you are considering trying reishi?
The actual dose you are getting of reishi can vary widely depending on which type of product you are using. If you consume the actual mushroom itself, depending on the size of the mushroom, you may be getting anywhere from 25 to 100 grams.
More common than actually taking the fresh mushroom is the use of a dried extract. In this case, the dose is about 10 times less than if you consume the fresh mushroom. Doses of the extract vary but range from about 1.5 to 9 grams a day. Plus, some supplements use only particular portions of the extract and the recommended dose may be ever lower. So know what type you are taking!
Host Defense is the brand of mushroom supplements made by Paul Stamets, an American mycologist and industry leader. Paul believes that mushroom supplements should contain both the fruiting body as well as mycelium. Host Defense Reishi capsules as well as Reishi extract are available via Amazon. We are big supporters of his work, as he is also doing some amazing work on honeybee restoration.
Why It Matters
“I believe that mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind.”
~ Paul Stamets - (b. 1955) - American mycologist, author and entrepreneur Paul Edward Stamets is a champion for fungi and stresses their importance as food, medicine and in myco-remediation of contaminated environments.
What We Are Reading 📚
With each issue, we bring you a short blurb on what we are currently reading or watching, including books, articles, podcasts, videos, movies, and research papers of value.
Denise - If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend the 2019 documentary, Fantastic Fungi. Paul Stamets has a starring role and the time-lapse cinematography of director Louie Schwartzberg, is stunning. You’ll learn a lot about mushrooms, too!
Ellen - I’m enjoying dipping my toes into Master herbalist Kat Maier’s new book, Energetic Herbalism: A Guide to Sacred Plant Traditions Integrating Elements of Vitalism, Ayurveda, and Chinese Medicine. This masterwork takes the energetic healing traditions of Western vitalism, Indian Ayurveda, and Chinese medicine and combined them into an easy-to-use and understand guide that treats each person as an individual, not just as a “disease.” Highly recommended.
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