04 Dec 2020

Benefits of reishi mushroom

Exotic-sounding and intriguing, reishi mushroom may be a newcomer in the Western diet, but Eastern medicine has used it for generations. Fans of reishi say it has a range of benefits for your health, including boosting your immunity and mood. Let’s take a look at what modern scientific research has to say about the health benefits of reishi mushroom.

What is reishi mushroom?

Reishi is a medicinal mushroom which is used in traditional Eastern medicine to treat a range of ailments. It has a flat, ear-shaped cap with a characteristic reddish-orange colour. In the wild, foragers tend to spot it growing at the base of trees, although it also lends itself quite well to cultivation.

Reishi is the Japanese name for the Ganoderma lucidum fungus. The Latin word ‘lucidus’ literally means ‘shiny’ or ‘brilliant’, and refers to the shiny cap of the mushroom.

You might also come across other names from different cultures. In China, for example, reishi is known as ‘lingzhi’, which translates as ‘divine mushroom’.

Lingzhi is known as a ‘herb of spiritual potency’ in Chinese medicine. It is particularly special because it has always been more associated with medicinal use rather than nutrition. As we will see, there are good reasons for this.(1)

What does reishi taste like?

You can eat reishi mushrooms whole, but we wouldn’t recommend it! The whole mushroom has quite a tough texture and can taste bitter, which is why most people don't generally eat it in the same way as you might eat a mushroom from the grocer’s.

Instead, the traditional way to take reishi is in the form of a tea or tincture. Nowadays, more people are turning to powders and supplements as a more convenient way of including reishi in their diet.

Many people choose to pair reishi with strong flavours such as cacao or coffee. You might have seen a recent trend for including reishi in hot chocolate! → See Medicinal Mushroom Products


mushroom hot chocolate

Traditional use of reishi

Traditional Chinese Medicine has made use of Lingzhi, or reishi, for over 2,000 years. Early medical texts such as the Ben Cao Gang Mu, which appeared in around 1590 AD, mention reishi and comment on its health benefits.(1)

At the time, practitioners believed that reishi could enhance your ‘vital energy’, improve memory and cardiac function, and even have anti-aging effects.(1)

Before we discovered ways to cultivate reishi, people who wanted to make use of its medicinal properties had to rely on finding it growing in the wild. However, that was often easier said than done.

Reishi is fairly rare in the wild, and its scarcity made it very expensive. Only the very wealthy could afford it.

Some fascinating folk legends built up over the years to explain why reishi was so hard to find. Many believed that the mushroom only grew in the land of the immortals, on the ‘three aisles of the blest’.(1)

These are legendary islands thought to be off the coast of China, and which are interwoven with Taoist beliefs about immortality. It was believed that the plants that grew on these islands could grant everlasting life.(2)

It’s perhaps not surprising, then, to hear that reishi is often referred to as the ‘mushroom of immortality’.

While it might not quite be able to deliver on that claim, reishi still looks very promising in other areas of health and wellbeing. → See Medicinal Mushroom Products



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