A Fascinating Under-the-Pores Look at Reishi Mushroom
Updated: Feb 4
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is deemed by many mushroom enthusiasts as the "queen of mushrooms" and is thought of as the supreme “Anti-Stress Herb” within the kingdom of medicinal mushrooms. This is all because of its ability to revitalize the entire body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Reishi mushroom is used to restore harmony and peace to the heart and mind, grounding, balancing and nourishing anxious and burnt out individuals, improving overall wellbeing. Reishi has been found to be neuroprotective, to help calm a hyperactive nervous system, to support the adrenals, to reduce stress and anxiety, to promote antioxidants, to lessen inflammation, and to have anti-depressive properties.
Identification & Harvest
There are a number of different reishi species, and each grows in a different region around the world.For the most part, their medicinal properties are the same and there is some argument that they’re actually the same species occupying different habitats. Reishi mushrooms are one of the easiest mushrooms to identify, and a great place to start for beginning mushroom foragers. They have no poisonous look-alikes, so they’re relatively safe as well.
The mushroom itself is kidney or fan-shaped and has a distinctive red to orange color, and a shiny lacquered finish on the top.It’s a polypore, so it lacks gills, but the underside is white (or tan or grey in older specimens) and has pinprick-like dots.The flesh on the underside develops a brown/tan bruise when pressed.
Region: Broad geographic range from South America to Asia as well as many deeply wooded parts of the United States.
Season: Summer to mid/late Fall
Habitat: Hardwoods such as oak, elm, beech and maple but especially hemlock in this area of the US.
Size: 2- 20 inches diameter
Color: Brown/Deep Red and Orange
Notes: Traditional shelf like mushroom, only has one major look alike but when compared side by side are easily distinguished.
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Common health benefits of Reishi Mushroom
Stress is a major contributor to free radical generation, which disrupts neurotransmitters and contributes to neuroinflammation. Reishi mushroom is a potent adaptogenic herb that modifies stress response by acting on the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) through polysaccharides. When the body is consistently stressed and cortisol is constantly produced by the adrenals, the stress response goes wild and the body struggles to restore equilibrium until we break out of this "flight or fight" response. Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory hormone that occurs naturally in the body. The ability for Reishi mushroom to support the adrenals and preserve healthy release and circulation of cortisol, helps decrease “cortisol resistance” and reduce a chronically, over activated and over worked nervous system. This boosts the efficiency of the adrenal glands and promotes the regulated release of stress hormones. Symptoms such as high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, and chronic weariness begin to emerge in this imbalanced condition, and may lead to further breakdown and failure of multiple systems in the body.
In respect to brain health, stress as we’ve explored is a key driver of oxidative stress, free radical creation and the creation of neuroinflammation and amyloid beta plaque. Reishi mushroom has been shown to reduce the production of amyloid beta plaque, which causes ND, functioning as a prophylactic measure as well as an active adjunct to treatment efforts. Acting as a stress reliever, it's able to support healthy brain function and increase resistance to perceived stressors. Reishi mushroom also benefits brain health by decreasing the activation of pro-inflammatory pathways including PGE2 and TNFa, which have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases (ND) and depression.
Immune System Support
An imbalanced immune system produces more pro-inflammatory mediators including IL-6 and TNFa. Inflammation is the root cause of neurodegenerative illnesses and has been linked to anxiety, depression, fatigue, poor memory, and cognitive decline. Reishi Mushroom is a powerful anti-inflammatory adaptogen that aids in the modulation and support of pro-inflammatory pathways and mediators. The reduction of inflammation in the body promotes and supports general brain health and function. Its also assists in modulating the immune system and improving the balance of Th1 / Th2 immune activation, reducing the over-release and presence of these pro-inflammatory mediators while still maintaining a healthy immunological response and lowering overall inflammation.
Reishi mushroom has long been used to stimulate the immune system and treat viral infections as well as respiratory disorders like asthma and bronchitis. Neurodegenerative illnesses have been shown to cause a decline in respiratory function, resulting in decreased oxygenation of tissues and cells, leading to hypoxia and cell death. The lungs are known as the emotional processing organ of the body in TCM, as they are closely related with breathing. The ability of the Reishi mushroom to assist the lungs and its meridian aids in overall wellness.