Reishi mushroom is one of the names by which a very important family of medical mushrooms is known. Lingzhi mushroom is another one in the English language, but in Eastern Asia there are in all the dialects. In fact, this family of mushrooms (the Ganoderma, to use the scientific term) is very used and appreciated in the traditional medicine of the area, where it has been used for the past 2000 years at least. Still nowadays, a good amount of cases in Eastern Asia is treated with the traditional methods, which only in the western world are considered “alternative medicine."
The very long positive reputation of the reishi mushrooms (their Vietnamese name linh chi means supernatural mushrooms) is not casual. They were thought to give immortality, as they benefit the Qi (life energy) in different parts of the body.
The Qi is a central concept in Chinese medicine. This ancient wisdom sees the body as run through by a number of meridians along which the Qi circulates. If there is a block, or imbalance, or deficiency, there is illness.
There are six types of reishi mushrooms, each of those was thought to be linked to a specific part of the body or organ: red, black, blue, white, yellow and purple. Black and red, however, are the most known outside of Chinese traditional medicine.
Talking in terms of contemporary western medicine, reishi mushrooms lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar to begin with.
They have a relevant anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity, especially against common viruses like the one of Candida Albicans (75% of women experience this virus at least once in their lives) and flu.
Reishi mushrooms are helpful to prevent cancer as well. The extracts of Ganoderma lucidum are already used in the synthesis of anti-tumoral drugs in the regular pharmaceutic industry.
Inflammatory breast cancer, the most lethal yet least understood form of breast cancer, is severely affected by the effects of reishi mushrooms, as they contain biological compounds that are cytotoxic against cancer cells (BCL-2, TERT, PDGFB against the expression of genes involved in cancer cell survival, MMP-9 against metastasis). This is the same effect of radiotherapy and chemiotherapy, as cytotoxic therapies aim to kill the cells of the tumor, which in the case of inflammatory breast cancer are not organised in a palpable mass that could be removed by surgery.
Thanks to those agents, reishi mushrooms help fighting the invasion and proliferation of cancerogen cells not only in the breast. Another type of cancer widely affecting women is the epithelial ovarian cancer, which has been proven subject to the anti-tumoral benefits of reishi mushrooms. This is true also for the male correspondent, prostate cancer, as well as all kinds of tumor.
According to the Cancer Research UK report about the effects of reishi mushrooms in cancer treatments, they are remarkable in the reduction of the delibitating side effects of traditional chemo-therapeutic drugs, still the majority in the western world in spite of the evidence of great benefits coming from the widespread use of mushrooms in Asia.
Another important feature about reishi mushrooms is that, in addiction to the beta-glucan, coumarin, mannitol and alkaloids you find in all mushrooms, they produce the so-called ganoderic acids, a particular group of triterpenes with a molecular structure similar to the one of the steroid hormones.
This is responsible for the 5-alpha reductase, the transformation of testosterone in DHT, a much stronger androgen. It is, in fact, the cause of the prominence of maleness features in men, and a lack of it would represent a problem, which can even be as serious as pseudohermaphroditism.
Even if it has no direct effect in the development of muscles in men, DHT is necessary to the full performance of the effects of testosterone, which only when coming to muscles is more powerful than the other androgen. DHT affects the central neurologic system, leading to increased neurologic efficiency, which results in more strength, increased resistance to stress (both physical and psychological), a higher libido and optimal sexual function.
It also enhances maleness by directly inhibiting the activity of estrogens on the tissues. It can moreover be used to treat benign prostate hypertrophy.
Candida and cancer are not the only areas in which women can experience the benefits of reishi mushrooms, which at a first look seem a lot more for men.
It gives a better immune system in general, thanks to the polysaccharides which make the mushrooms (Beta and hetero-Beta glucans) and its protein, the Ling Zhi-8 This is especially helpful in people suffering from allergies, as it inhibits histamine release and improves oxygen utilization.
Reishi mushrooms' antiviral properties and immune system boost qualities also help to prevent the development of infections, during the cures of previous ones, thanks to the negative effects of antibiotics on the immune system when in use.
It is also an antioxidant that eliminates hydroxyl-free radicals, producing a long-lasting feeling of well being.
Being a mushroom, the reishi mushroom is a good source of selenium as well. Selenium is a very important mineral for the already mentioned cancer prevention and reduction, but mostly to avoid heart and muscle problems due to shortage. It activates the main thyroid hormone (T4), reducing the risks to develop hyperthyroidism and the effects in the people already affected. It enhances fertility. It reduces depression and other negative mood states such as anxiety, hostility and confusion. This mineral improves mental health in general, including memory and intelligence.
Deficits of selenium are highly responsible for cognitive decline and Alzheimer's.
Selenium is also involved against prostate cancer, alongside with the proper anti-cancerogen properties of the reishi mushrooms.
Furthermore, it is particularly indicated for pregnant women. It is, in fact, indicated for all age groups.
Reishi mushrooms also reduce the effects of caffeine and promote relaxation, both mentally and physically (by relaxing the muscles). They relieve stress and reduce neurasthenia. All this is of great help against disturbs of sleep like insomnia and restless leg syndrome.