Au Natural Factual: Reishi Mushroom

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a love for mushrooms. While many people can’t stand the thought of eating mushrooms–my boyfriend blames the texture, a few of my friends can’t wrap their heads around eating “fungi”, I can’t get enough of these forest fixtures. Their varying textures, shape, smells, and even the way they grow in nature has fascinated me. My tongue begins to water when I think of the delicious traditional Chinese soups featuring savory mushroom bits that my mother and grandmother always made for me.

And what about a mushroom’s health benefits? Oh boy, don’t get me started! Ganederma lucidum, the Reishi mushroom (in Japanese) or “ling zhi” in Chinese, is the specific, iconic “red” mushroom most commonly used and commercially cultivated in East Asia and North America. Reishi mushroom is the most respected medicinal mushroom in Asia.

“Reishi mushroom is a fungus that some people describe as “tough” and “woody” with a bitter taste. The fruiting body (above-ground part) and mycelium (filaments connecting a group of mushrooms) are used as medicine.” (5)

In Ancient China, the reishi mushroom was revered by royalty as it was thought to be the “mushroom of immortality” and also used to help promote tranquility, thoughtfulness, and to improve memory. This type of mushrooms were also considered special for their unique and beautiful appearance; “Deep reddish brown and saucer-shaped, often emerging from a branch-like stem, its smooth upper surface looks lacquered when wet.” (2)

Often grown on old or dead tree trunks, reishi mushrooms were also traditionally ingested to prevent fatigue, asthma, insomnia, and cough. Disregarding its supposed mystical quality, the health-promoting effects of the reishi mushroom still plays an central role in the traditional medical systems of China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries. These health benefits have made using reishi mushroom popular within many Western medical and health communities.

“The active constituents are thought to include both beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes.” (4)
“Reishi mushroom contains chemicals that seem to have a variety of potentially beneficial effects, including activity against tumors (cancer) and beneficial effects on the immune system.” (5)

Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, reishi mushrooms help boost the immune system and is commonly used for reducing stress and preventing fatigue. It is often used to treat viral infections like the flu and lung diseases like bronchitis and asthma. There are also many claims that reishi mushrooms can prevent and aid in the abatement of many serious diseases. Many believe that reishi mushrooms can abate the effects of kidney disease, heart disease (including high blood pressure and high cholesterol), liver disease, and cancer. It has also been used for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, altitude sickness, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), insomnia, stomach ulcers, poisoning, and herpes pain.

These health benefits also contribute to positive aspects when used in skincare products. The ganodermic acid and ling zhi-8 protein within Reishi mushrooms are said to contribute in aiding and maintaining the skin’s health, vitality, and youthful appearance. Reishi mushroom in skincare products is also beneficial in reducing inflammation, prevent skin damage from free radicals, and promote skin cell regeneration.

Today, reishi mushroom can be most commonly found as an extract, supplement or as an added ingredient. It was traditionally ingested in teas or infusions but can now be found added in everything from chocolate bars, candy, energy drinks, or skincare products.

“Some experts believe that Ganoderma lucidum promotes longevity and maintains vitality of the human body. Reishi’s major benefit appears to be its immunomodulating action, improvement of liver function, and improvement and restoration of the normal functions of the respiratory system. Antioxidant effects, which contribute to the overall well-being of patients, have been proposed.” (1)

If this specific fungi can improve one’s health in so many ways, perhaps the ancient Chinese were onto something with their claims that this fungi provides the key to immortality.

Have you ever tried any products containing reishi mushroom in them? What are your thoughts on this ingredient?

Some natural and organic beauty products containing reishi mushroom that have caught my eye:

*Foraged Fields- Face Cream, $15
*LuLu & Max- Face Lift Cream, $28
*Tela Beauty Organics- Balance Shampoo, $36

 

Images: Conscious Lifestyle Magazine, Healthy Home Gardening, Recapo