- Reishi Mushroom Uses, Benefits & Dosage – Drugs.com Herbal Database
- Adverse Reactions
- Uses and Pharmacology
- Pregnancy / Lactation
- Why Taking or Drinking Reishi Might Make You Feel Better
- Reishi mushrooms: 10 health benefits to know
- The health benefits of reishi mushrooms
- 10 Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) Benefits, Dosage
- What Is Reishi?
- Insufficient Evidence for:
- 1) Boosting the Immune System
- 2) Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Damage
- 3) Anxiety, Depression, and Fatigue
- 4) Allergies
- 5) Cancer
- 6) Infections
- 7) Preventing Heart Disease
- 8) Liver and Kidney Support
- 9) Chronic Pain
- Brain Function
- Side Effects
- Reishi Mushroom
Reishi Mushroom Uses, Benefits & Dosage – Drugs.com Herbal Database
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Dec 12, 2019.
Scientific Name(s): Ganoderma lucidum (Leysser ex Fr.) Karst
Common Name(s): Ganopoly, Ling chih, Ling zhi, Lingzhi, Reishi, Spirit plant
The polysaccharide content of reishi mushroom is responsible for possible anticancer and immunostimulatory effects. Reishi may also provide hepatoprotective action, antiviral activity, and beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and diabetes. Few clinical trials have been conducted.
The Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China recommends 6 to 12 g reishi extract daily. Ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) in doses up to 5.4 g daily (equivalent to 81 g of the fruiting body) for 12 weeks has been used in a few clinical trials.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
Adverse reactions are mild and may include dizziness, GI upset, and skin irritation.
There are few reports of toxicity with the use of reishi mushroom.
The reishi mushroom is a purplish-brown fungus with a long stalk, brown spores, and a fan-shaped cap with a shiny, varnish-coated appearance. Reishi grows on decaying wood or tree stumps1 preferring the Japanese plum tree but also found on oak.
The mushroom is native to China, Japan, and North America but is cultivated throughout other Asian countries. Cultivation of reishi is a long, complicated process.
The reishi grows in 6 colors, each thought to have different characteristics and known as: Aoshiba (blue reishi), Akashiba (red reishi), Kishiba (yellow reishi), Shiroshiba (white reishi), Kuroshiba (black reishi), and Murasakishiba (purple reishi).2, 3
Reishi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 4,000 years for treating fatigue, asthma, cough, and liver ailments, and to promote longevity.2 The Chinese name lingzhi means “herb of spiritual potency.
“2 A Japanese name for the reishi is mannentake, meaning “10,000-year-old mushroom.” Reishi's use is documented in the oldest Chinese medical text, which is more than 2,000 years old.4 Cultivation of reishi began in the 1980s. A survey conducted in Hong Kong found G.
lucidum to be the third most common herbal preparation taken by preoperative surgical patients.5
The reishi mushroom is high in polysaccharide content with at least 36 different compounds identified6 including beta-d-glucan and GL-1.2, 3, 7 Triterpene constituents also have been analyzed.8 Triterpene antioxidants, including ganoderic acids A, B, C, and D; ganoderol A and B; ganoderol A; lucidenic acid B, and ganodermanontriol have been found in reishi.
1, 2, 6, 9, 10, 11 Terpenoids 1, 2, and 3, and terpenes lucidenic acid O and lucidenic lactone are also present.3, 6, 12 A peptidoglycan from reishi contained approximately 7% protein and 76% carbohydrate.13 Certain enzymes from reishi have been reported14 as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Lanostan, coumarins, ergosterol, and cerevisterol are also components of reishi.2, 3, 12
Uses and Pharmacology
Anticancer effects of reishi have been reported largely from in vivo experiments, and data from clinical trials have been published.
It is generally accepted that the anticancer effects are due to immune enhancement3, 15 and may be exhibited from diverse chemical constituents in reishi.
6, 16, 17 Experiments focused on the stimulatory effects of the higher molecular weight polysaccharides (eg, ganopoly, beta-d-glucan, GL-1) on the immune system3, 7, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and the suppressive effect of the triterpenes (eg, ganoderic acid) on the growth and invasive behavior of cancer cells.15, 16, 18, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 An ethanol soluble compound ganoderol B binds to androgen receptors and inhibits the sterol enzyme 5-alpha-reductase in experiments in rats.1
Clinical trials have been conducted in patients with advanced cancer.15, 16, 35 Not all published trials are randomized and blinded. Ganopoly in doses up to 5.4 g daily (equivalent to 81 g of the fruiting body) for 12 weeks were used. Increased cellular immunity indices were reported in 80% of cancer patients in one trial.
36 Quality of life improved in 65% of patients in another trial.16 In a further trial, varying results were obtained. It was proposed that ganopoly could reverse the immunosuppressive effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.36, 37 A 2011 systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated the effects of G. lucidum, regardless of preparation, in Chinese cancer patients.
A total of 5 randomized controlled trials met inclusion criteria, all of which had unsatisfactory methodological quality. The analysis showed a positive treatment response was more ly to occur in patients who received G. lucidum in combination with chemo-/radiotherapy than with either G. lucidum or chemo-radiotherapy alone.
Data also suggested improved immune function via increases in CD3, CD4, and CD8.51
In a case report of the effect of lingzhi on gastric large B-cell lymphoma, the patient consumed 3 times the recommended dose for 5 days (60 capsules daily). Histological changes were recorded 11 days later, showing only a dense infiltrate of T lymphocytes remaining.38
The effect of reishi on the cardiovascular system has been investigated. Decreases in high blood pressure were reported to be attributed to the ganoderic acids.2 Angiotensin-converting enzyme-inhibiting triterpenes from reishi have been described.
3, 39 Inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis, enhanced antioxidase activity, decreased platelet aggregation2, 3, 40 and reduced lipid peroxidation have been demonstrated in animal and in vitro experiments.
2, 3, 10 A randomized, double-blind, crossover trial (n = 23) reported no significant changes in body mass index, blood pressure, glycemic indices, antioxidant capacity, lymphocytes, urine catecholamines, cortisol, or cortisone when 1.44 g/day of lingzhi (equivalent to 13.
2 g of fresh mushroom) or placebo was administered to patients with borderline elevated blood pressure and/or cholesterol. The only significant change in lipid profile was apo-B, which increased significantly in the placebo group.52
In animal experiments, ganopoly affected carbohydrate metabolism and promoted insulin secretion. In a clinical trial of patients with type 2 diabetes, ganopoly 1,800 mg 3 times daily reduced postprandial glucose values. The glucans ganoderan A and B (glucans) inhibited hypoglycemia in clinical studies.3
In in vitro and in vivo animal experiments, hepatoprotection by extracts of ganoderma against induced liver damage has been demonstrated.3, 26, 41, 42, 43 Polysaccharide ganopoly therapy for 6 months resulted in normalization of aminotransferase levels in 33% and cleared serum hepatitis B surface antigen in 13% of trial participants compared with control.3
The effect of reishi on the immune system has been studied in in vitro experiments.
In an experiment using synovial fluid from patients with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers demonstrated an inhibitory effect of a polysaccharide extract on the proliferation of synovial fibroblasts, possibly via the nuclear factor-kappa B transcription pathway.
44 Two clinical trials have been conducted involving patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Both trials used a combination of lingzhi plus San-Miao-San, therefore making it difficult to attribute the positive outcomes to the individual agents.5, 45
Polysaccharides isolated from reishi have been proven effective in vitro against herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2.46 Reishi isolates also have been tested against other viral strains, including influenza A, and demonstrated effectiveness against their replication.47
An antiasthma herbal formula containing 62.5% lingzhi, 28.1% ku shen, and 9.4% gan cao was found to be safe and well-tolerated by nonsmoking adults with asthma during a 1-week, phase 1 dose-escalation study (n = 20).53
A multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in China. Ganopoly 5.4 g daily was administered for 8 weeks, resulting in a reduced sense of fatigue and lower Clinical Global Impression severity scores.31
Because high-altitude training can cause immunosuppression, the effect of G.
lucidum on T-lymphocyte subsets in young male football players (n = 40) undergoing simulated high-altitude training (living high-training low; LHTL) was evaluated in a 6-week randomized controlled trial. A 20 g/day dose of G.
lucidum significantly increased CD3+ from baseline on day 21 and tended to increase CD4+/CD8+ ratios, but differences were not significant over time for either measurement.50
G. lucidum 6 mg once daily for 12 weeks was well tolerated and significantly decreased the International Prostate Symptom Score, compared with placebo, in men older than 49 years with lower urinary tract symptoms.
No significant changes were noted in quality of life or for any of the secondary outcome measures (ie, prostate size, residual volume after voiding, peak urinary flow, serum prostate-specific antigen, testosterone levels).
54 The dose was a previously conducted dose-ranging study.55
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
Why Taking or Drinking Reishi Might Make You Feel Better
Jessica Boone/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Reishi is a type of mushroom used to promote health and longevity in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. Also known as the lingzhi mushroom, reishi had a red, kidney-shaped cap and finger- spores on its underside rather than gills. The species of reishi most commonly used for medicine is Ganoderma lucidum.
Many of the purported benefits of reishi are attributed to a group of compounds called ganoderic acids, which have a similar structure to steroid hormones. Reishi is also rich in beta-glucans (which can help improve cholesterol and glucose levels).
Because of its bitter taste and woody texture, reishi is not typically used for cooking. However, it is can be used to make tea or medicinal tonics.
The term “lingzhi” was derived from the Chinese words ling (meaning spirit) and zhi (meaning plant). The Japanese “reishi” is more commonly used today, the term of which is loosely adapted from “lingzhi.”
Alternative practitioners believe that reishi is able to treat fatigue, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and inflammation by bolstering the immune system. Others have ascribed it with “cure-all” properties that are far-reaching in their scope.
Reishi is purported to help control blood sugar levels, liver problems, immune system issues, and as an antibiotic.
Few of these health claims are supported by research. Of the studies currently available, most are limited to test tubes or small-scale animal or human trials.
Much of the current scientific focus has been placed on reishi's effect on viral and bacterial infections, diabetes, and cancer. While some of the results are promising, none are robust enough to recommend reishi as a treatment for any medical condition.
Most research on reishi and viruses has been in laboratory settings, including herpes, HIV and Hepatitis B. While promising, the same level of control has not been seen outside of the test tube.
A 2007 study from Japan, involving 18 people, reported that a herbal remedy containing G. lucidum was able to shorten the duration of HSV-2 (genital herpes) outbreak from an average of 10.9 days to 4.0 days.
An earlier study in 1998 by the same team reported that a G. lucidum extract was able to dramatically reduced postherpetic pain in two people with an HZV (shingles) infection and two people with treatment-resistant HSV-2.
The conclusions from both of the studies are limited by their size and the lack of qualitative measures for postherpetic pain.
There is even less evidence supporting the antibacterial effects of reishi. Although there have several studies demonstrating how G. lucidum can neutralize bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the test tube, there is little proof that consuming a reishi extract will do the same.
Of the available studies, an early investigation in 1998 from Japan reported that a 2-milligram injection of G. lucidum extract in mice inoculated with E. coli improved survival rates from 33 percent to over 80 percent.
Other studies have found no effect, whether the extract was delivered orally or by injection.
The beta-glucans found in reishi are believed to aid in the management of diabetes. However, according to a 2015 Cochrane Review, any studies in humans have been of low quality and there's little to no evidence that taking reishi will have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors in people with diabetes.
One human study from 2004, involving 71 adults with type 2 diabetes, concluded that 1800-milligram extract of G. lucidum was able to significantly reduce blood glucose and HbA1C levels after 12 weeks compared to a placebo.
Further research is needed to substantiate these findings.
A number of lab studies have investigated reishi's ability to stimulate the immune response, most specifically with regards to the treatment of cancer. In the lab, reishi has been shown to kill tumor cells and boost the activity of immune cells such as natural killer cells (NK), T-cells, B-cells, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and phagocytes (which ingest other cells).
A 2016 review of studies from the University of Maryland evaluated five clinical trials involving the use of G. lucidum in treating cancer. The results of the studies were largely mixed and often contradictory.
Among some of the findings:
- An increase in the immune response, as measured by T-cells, was relatively modest in people taking G. lucidum, ranging from 2% to 4%.
- One of the reviewed studies reported an increase in NK cells; another showed no response.
- A slightly larger number of people on chemotherapy reported a better quality of life when taking G. lucidum compared to those who didn't.
- Few side effects were reported in any of the studies.
The investigators stated the quality of the studies ranged from low to very low. the current body of research, they concluded that there was insufficient evidence to justify the use of G. lucidum in the treatment of cancer.
There are other types of medicinal mushrooms that may help strengthen your immune system which includes maitake, ganoderma, and shiitake.
Reishi is usually well-tolerated with few significant side effects. Reishi also contains a substance that may act a blood thinner, potentially triggering bloody stools, nosebleeds, and easy bruising.
Reishi should be avoided in people with bleeding disorders or liver disease. It should not be used if you are taking anticoagulants warfarin or are scheduled to have surgery as it may increase the risk of bleeding.
Reishi may also cause your blood pressure to drop and should be avoided if you are taking antihypertensive medications. Doing so may lead to hypotension (low blood pressure), triggering dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and blurry vision.
Due to the lack of safety research, reishi should be avoided in children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.
There are no guidelines directing the appropriate use of reishi. Most reishi supplements are available in capsule form and are considered safe in daily doses of 1.5 g and 9 g of dried extract per day. Reishi is also available in extracts, tinctures, tea, powders, and whole dried mushrooms.
Reishi products are readily found online and in health food stores and specialty supplements retailers. Always opt for products that are certified organic under the regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This can reduce your risk of exposure to pesticides and other toxins, particularly in imported herbal remedies.
Because herbal medicines do not have to undergo the rigorous testing and research that pharmaceutical drugs do, the quality can vary considerably. Some labeled “reishi” may not contain any G. lucidem at all or be mixed with a variety of inactive ingredients.
Unfortunately, few herbal manufacturers voluntarily submit the products for inspection by certifying bodies the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP). To ensure quality and safety, stay with recognized brands and don't be swayed by health claims that may or may not be true.
Are fresh reishi mushrooms available?
Fresh reishi mushrooms are harder to find in the United States than dried ones. A number of domestic growers have begun to cultivate them, mainly in the Pacific Northwest, but reliable suppliers are few and far between.
There are kits you can buy online that enable to grow your own reishi mushrooms. They are relatively easy to use and not all that costly. Be aware that the mushrooms grow very slowly and may take six months or more before you are ready to harvest any.
However, reishi growing does require a sterile environment and is prone to contamination if you don't use a still airbox to prevent airborne contaminants mold. If growing reishi is too much of a hassle, the dried mushrooms are believed to be just as beneficial as fresh ones.
Reishi mushrooms: 10 health benefits to know
When a superfood’s called “the king of mushrooms,” you know it’s got something special going on. And while reishi mushrooms won’t turn you into the next Meghan Markle, they are known for their cell-regenerating, immune-boosting potential, which could go a long way to improving your quality of life.
Fan-shaped and orange to reddish brown in color, reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum for us science geeks) are a rare find in nature, and were typically reserved for royalty when they were first used in Asian cultures thousands of years ago. (Cue the nickname.
) Today, they’re grown commercially and sold in a variety of formats, including tea, tinctures, capsules, and even hot cocoa, beauty products, and energy bars.
And no, you won’t find them hanging out in the produce aisle of Whole Foods—while reishi mushrooms can be eaten fresh, their woody texture and bitter taste aren’t very palatable.
So why are they suddenly everywhere? “Reishi mushrooms are great for stimulating the immune system and liver function, producing an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, and have even been shown to reduce tumor growth,” says Rachel Gargiulo, certified nutrition consultant at Nourishing Journey, a wellness center and organic café in Columbia, MD.
Indeed, reishi mushrooms exhibit a full array of the qualities that make medicinal ‘shrooms so buzzy—they’re adaptogenic stress-soothers and high in antioxidants, which is why they’ve long been a staple of Eastern medicine. No wonder everyone in the wellness world seems to be hailing this king right now.
The health benefits of reishi mushrooms
While reishi mushrooms are generally safe for most people to experiment with, they can cause some side effects—digestive and otherwise—so you should consult with your doctor before taking them. (That goes double if you’re pregnant, breast feeding, about to have surgery, or have any type of blood disorder or high/low blood pressure.)
Once your MD gives you the all-clear, however, there are lots of ways that reishi ‘shrooms can potentially enhance your health.
Below are 10 benefits that have been uncovered by scientists—although it’s important to note that many of these studies weren’t conducted on humans (or if they were, the sample size was very small), and more research needs to happen before these theories are definitively proven.
1. Boost the immune system: Historically, reishi mushrooms have been used as an immune system enhancer—they’re even used in Asian cultures as an immunostimulant for patients with HIV and cancer. The beta glucans (complex sugars) in the mushroom are believed to stimulate the immune system to prevent infection.
2. Can alleviate fatigue: Reishi mushrooms are adaptogens, plants that help the body combat stress. In one study of 132 patients suffering from neurasthenia (a condition characterized by physical and mental exhaustion), consumption of a compound found in reishi mushrooms was shown to improve aches, pains, and feelings of irritability.
3. May be an ally against cancer: Numerous studies have been done on reishi mushrooms’ effect on cancer cells. The results have been intriguing—one small study in the Journal of Oncology found that tumors shrunk in three cancer patients that were taking reishi mushrooms.
Researchers believe beta glucans in the mushrooms may prevent new blood vessel growth, which is key as cancer cells need a steady blood supply to grow. The triterpenes (AKA essential oils) in the mushrooms may also inhibit the development and metastasis of tumors.
Additional research indicates that the mushrooms could alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea and improve the efficacy of radiation therapy.
That said, if you’re currently undergoing cancer treatment, be sure to check in with your doctor before adding reishi mushrooms to your routine, as they may interact with your protocol.
4. Could lower blood pressure: Compounds in reishi mushrooms may help keep high blood pressure at bay, according to a rat study carried out in 2014. But again, if you’re currently taking blood pressure medication, consult with your doctor before taking reishi mushrooms—the combination could lower your BP to dangerous levels.
5. Might be good for the brain: Research done on animals indicates that reishi mushrooms may be therapeutic for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and may also be able to protect the brain from seizures. Further research still needs to be done to confirm this, however.
6. Has allergy-fighting potential: Some studies have shown that reishi mushrooms may have antihistamine effects and can improve the body’s oxygen supply, which is key to those suffering from chronic and allergic asthma.
7. Contains cholesterol-lowering compounds: Both triterpenes and beta glucans may reduce total cholesterol and LDL—commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol.”
8. May be helpful for diabetics: Reishi mushrooms were found to decrease blood sugar in one small double-blind, placebo-controlled study—possibly by inhibiting an enzyme that produces glucose.
Plus, after seeing noticeably reduced kidney stress and lower blood-sugar levels in test subjects, a different group of researchers concluded that reishi mushrooms may prevent or halt kidney complications in diabetes patients.
9. Could improve liver function: Reishi mushroom spores were found to promote liver cell regeneration in mice, improving the organ’s ability to shuttle toxins the body. A healthy liver can also be critical to supporting other health benefits mentioned above, including managing blood sugar and allergies.
10. Rich in antioxidants: Despite the fact that their other nickname is “the mushroom of immortality,” reishi mushrooms won’t, in fact, make you live forever. But they do have antioxidant properties that can reduce the risk of disease and premature aging—and we can never have too many foods that in our diets, right?
Get creative in the kitchen by whipping up this peaches-and-cream reishi smoothie or these “vitality bites” featuring the all-star ‘shroom.
10 Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) Benefits, Dosage
This single mushroom may offer immune support, reduce stress and anxiety, be anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and much more. Read more about reishi mushroom to learn why it is traditionally called “The God of Fungi”.
What Is Reishi?
Ganoderma lucidum/“Lingzhi” (soul/spirit) mushroom, commonly known as “Reishi mushroom”, is a potent fungus that has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. Proponents claim it is especially good at modifying the immune system by increasing it when weakened, or lowering it when it is too active .
It has 400 different bioactive compounds reported to have a number of potential effects including modification of the immune system, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-diabetic, and anti-oxidative .
- May boost the immune system
- May reduce inflammation and oxidative damage
- May help fight cancer and infections
- May protect the heart, liver, and kidneys
- Insufficient evidence for all benefits
- Sometimes tested as part of multiherbal complexes
- Might over-activate the immune system
Insufficient Evidence for:
The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies and some animal and cell research.
Although some results are promising, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of reishi mushroom for any of the below-listed uses.
Remember to speak with a doctor before taking reishi supplements and never use them as a replacement for approved medical therapies.
1) Boosting the Immune System
Most people have heard about reishi for balancing immunity. Studies have identified high amounts of compounds that may strengthen the immune cells and improve general immune system health .
Two clinical trials on 75 people with advanced-stage cancer showed that both reishi mushroom extract and complex carbohydrates isolated from this fungus increased the counts of several immune cells (CD3+, CD4+, CD8+, and CD56+) and the blood levels of several cytokines (IL-2, IL-6, IFN-gamma), but decreased IL-1 and TNF-alpha [3, 4].
In a clinical trial on 40 male soccer players on a training program to improve endurance performance (‘living high-training low’), reishi mushroom helped correct the reduction in the CD4+/CD8+ ratio caused by the training. The authors suggested this may help the players fight infections .
2) Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Damage
Studies have shown that reishi may reduce inflammation in rheumatism, asthma, and pink eye without notable side effects .
Active compounds isolated from reishi mushroom worked as antioxidants in 2 clinical trials on 42 healthy people and 71 people with chest pain (angina) [7, 8].
14 days of reishi increased anti-inflammatory/antioxidant markers and protected the blood from oxidative damage in mice. It decreased the levels of an oxidant (malondialdehyde) while increasing several antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione S-transferase) .
The extracts of reishi and other mushrooms showed anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity in cells. Among them, reishi was the most effective at inhibiting nitric oxide production in response to bacterial carbohydrates (LPS) [10, 1].
3) Anxiety, Depression, and Fatigue
Forty-eight breast cancer patients reported reduced anxiety and depression, as well as increased quality of life, when they received reishi spores along with their cancer treatment .
In a clinical trial on 132 people with neurasthenia, complex carbohydrates isolated from reishi mushroom improved fatigue and other symptoms and were well tolerated .
A commercial herbal formula with reishi mushroom and two herbs used in Chinese medicine (Chinese licorice and Sophora flavescens) improved lung function (although less than prednisone) in a clinical trial on 91 asthmatic people and a study in mice. The complex was well tolerated and caused no adverse effects in another trial on 20 people [13, 14, 15].
Studies revealed that compounds found in reishi effectively inhibit the release of histamine from mast cells, which may explain its benefits for asthma [16, 17, 18].
Below, we will discuss some preliminary research on the anticancer potential of reishi mushroom. Although the results are promising, further clinical trials are needed before establishing if this fungus and its compounds are useful in cancer therapy.
Do not under any circumstances attempt to replace conventional cancer therapies with reishi mushroom or any other supplements. If you want to use it as a supportive measure, talk to your doctor to avoid any unexpected interactions.
In a clinical trial on over 200 people with colorectal cancer, treatment with reishi mushroom extract reduced the number and size of tumors .
As previously mentioned, both reishi extract and a complex carbohydrate isolated from this mushroom enhanced immune responses in 2 trials on 75 people with advanced colorectal cancer, possibly helping them fight the disease [3, 4].
Similarly, a complex with citronellol and the extracts of reishi mushroom, dong quai, and dang shen (Codonopsispilosula) increased immune cells in another trial on 105 cancer patients receiving chemo or radiotherapy .
A genistein-rich extract obtained by culturing reishi mushroom with soybean extract didn’t reduce the blood levels of a prostate cancer marker (PSA) by over 50% in 52 men with a history of this disease, but 8 the 13 men in the active surveillance group had either no rise or a slight decline of this marker after the treatment. This extract prevented the formation of new blood vessels in colorectal cancer tumors in mice [21, 22].
Reishi spore powder decreased fatigue, anxiety, depression, and immune markers while improving the subjective well-being of 48 women with breast cancer .
Treatment with reishi for 13 weeks reduced tumor growth and weight by roughly 50% in mice with breast cancer. Cell studies showed it inhibited the cancer-promoting mTOR pathway .
In a cell-based study, the blood collected from patients with lung cancer suppressed the proliferation and activity of immune cells (lymphocytes). Complex carbohydrates isolated from reishi mushroom partly counteracted these effects .
In cell-based studies, reishi mushroom fought several cancer types by reducing inflammation, inhibiting tumor growth, and preventing cancer cells from attaching to tissues and spreading [26, 27, 28, 29].
Although the results are promising, further clinical trials are needed before establishing if reishi mushroom and its compounds are useful in cancer therapy.
Do not under any circumstances attempt to replace conventional cancer therapies with reishi mushroom or any other supplements.
If you want to use it as a supportive measure, talk to your doctor to avoid any unexpected interactions.
In a clinical trial on 61 people infected with a virus that causes warts (human papillomavirus), a combination of reishi and Turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) cleared the infection in 88% of the patients .
An herbal formula with reishi mushroom and other extracts decreased herpes zoster pain in 5 people with shingles. The same mixture sped up symptom relief in a small trial on 15 people with cold sores or genital herpes [31, 32].
In two clinical trials on 138 men with urinary tract infections, reishi mushroom extract improved the symptoms and was well tolerated [33, 34].
Reishi mushroom extract improved malaria and prevented the resulting liver damage in infected mice .
The mushroom also inhibited the growth of several fungal pathogens and enhanced the antibacterial effects of antibiotics against infectious microbes in test tubes [36, 37].
7) Preventing Heart Disease
An active compound isolated from reishi mushroom (beta-D-glucan) reduced the risk of narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis) in 71 people with chest pain by acting as an antioxidant .
Reishi extract also reduced damage to the cells that line blood vessels in a small trial on 14 people with kidney damage, thus reducing the risk of heart attacks .
In a clinical trial on 26 people with diabetes, reishi helped reduce both blood cholesterol andinsulin resistance. However, a similar trial on 84 people found reishi ineffective to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in diabetics [39, 40].
A protein-rich extract of this mushroom lowered blood pressure, with the effects lasting up to 8 hours, in hypertensive rats .
8) Liver and Kidney Support
In a small trial on 14 people with proteinuria, a sign of kidney disease, reishi resolved this condition and restored the balance of their immune system .
In a clinical trial on 42 healthy people, reishi extracts enriched in triterpenoids and carbohydrates reduced oxidative damage to the liver and even reversed mild fatty liver condition .
Reishi protected against liver damage caused by moderate daily alcohol consumption in rats .
In malaria-infected animals, Reishi protected against liver damage while also potently suppressing the malaria infection .
9) Chronic Pain
In a clinical trial on 32 people with rheumatoid arthritis, a supplement with reishi mushroom and an herbal mix used in traditional Chinese medicine (San Miao San) was well tolerated and slightly reduced pain. However, no antioxidant or anti-inflammatory effects could be proven .
Although the study didn’t evaluate pain reduction, reishi mushroom taken for 6 weeks improved physical fitness in a clinical trial on 64 women suffering from fibromyalgia .
Reishi improved brain function of alcohol-consuming rats, both by increasing the energy supply to the brain and decreasing the levels of inhibitory neurotransmitters .
However, spore powder of reishi mushroom was ineffective at improving any symptoms in a pilot study on 42 people with Alzheimer’s disease .
Similarly, a commercial supplement with reishi and another mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine (Cordycepssinensis, or caterpillar mushroom) had no cognitive enhancement effects after 30 days in a clinical trial on 96 healthy people .
Taken together, the evidence suggests that reishi mushroom is ineffective at improving brain function, both in healthy people and those with Alzheimer’s.
Keep in mind that the safety profile of reishi mushroom is relatively unknown, given the scarcity of well-designed clinical studies. You should consult your doctor about any potential side effects, your health condition and possible drug or supplement interactions.
Most studies suggest none or no noticeable side effects noted by biological markers or subjective experiences [11, 47].
One toxicity study showed no evidence for liver, kidney or DNA toxicity with reishi intake .
Due to its effects on the immune system, it may make some autoimmune or inflammatory conditions worse by activating/increasing the already overactive immune system.
Because reishi mushroom is not approved for any conditions, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses trial and error. They normally recommend taking 1-2 caps per day of the extract.
In clinical trials, doses of up to 6 grams of extract per day were used depending on the condition [34, 39, 19, 40, 4, 44].
By Ting Bao, MD, DABMA, MS and Jyothirmai Gubili, MS
August 10, 2018
The ASCO Post’s Integrative Oncology series is intended to facilitate the availability of evidence-based information on integrative and complementary therapies sometimes used by patients with cancer.
Ting Bao, MD, DABMA, MS, and Jyothirmai Gubili, MS, present information on the use of reishi mushroom by cancer survivors to increase energy and stimulate the immune system.
Although some small studies support its use for these indications, further studies are needed to confirm these benefits.
Ting Bao, MD, DABMA, MS
Jyothirmai Gubili, MS
Dr. Bao is Director, Integrative Breast Oncology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York. Ms. Gubili is Editor, Integrative Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.
Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE
Integrative Oncology is guest edited by Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE, Laurance S. Rockefeller Chair in Integrative Medicine and Chief, Integrative Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.
Scientific Name: Ganoderma lucidum
Common Names: Ling zhi, lin zi, mushroom of immortality
A fungus,reishi mushroom is an important component of the traditional medical systems of China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries. It is used to increase energy, stimulate the immune system, and promote health.
Reishi has become popular over the past few decades and is used to treat coronary artery disease, arthritis, hepatitis, hypertension, AIDS, and cancer. It is also widely recommended by herbalists to boost the immune system. Reishi is sold in the form of powders, capsules, tinctures, and teas, all of which are produced from the mycelia, spores, or fruiting bodies.
Current data from small studies suggest that reishi improves immune response in patients with cancer. However, there is no evidence of its efficacy as a first-line cancer treatment or to prolong long-term survival.
Pharmacologic studies have revealed beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes to be the bioactive compounds in reishi mushroom. Reishi extracts demonstrate immunomodulatory,1 renoprotective,2 anti-inflammatory,3 and hepatoprotective4 effects.
Clinical findings suggest its benefits in improving lower urinary tract symptoms in men,5 exerting mild antidiabetic effects, and improving dyslipidemia.6 However, randomized controlled trials do not support the use of reishi to mitigate cardiovascular risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes.
7,8 A small study did not find any benefit of reishi spore powder for treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease.9
Reishi has also been investigated for its potential anticancer effects. Preclinical findings revealed that it has chemopreventive ability,10 alleviates chemotherapy-induced nausea,11 increases the efficacy of radiotherapy,12 and promotes sensitivity of ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin.13 It may be useful in preventing cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity as well.14
Physicians should be aware of the popularity of reishi mushroom as an immunostimulant and its potential for interacting with certain prescription drugs, including anticoagulants and immunosuppressants.
In clinical studies, enhanced immune responses, including elevations in the plasma concentrations of interleukin 2 (IL-2), IL-6, and interferon-gamma as well as increased natural killer cell activity, were reported in patients with advanced-stage cancer (n = 34) after consumption of a reishi polysaccharide preparation (1,800 mg, 3 times daily, for 12 weeks).15 A reishi polysaccharide extract was shown to reverse suppression of perforin and granzyme B expression in lymphocytes of patients with lung cancer.16
In another study of patients with colorectal adenomas, a water-soluble reishi extract (1.5 g/d, taken for 12 months) decreased the number (P < .01), and total size (P < .01) of adenomas in the intervention group (n = 96) compared with the controls (n = 102).17 And remission of hepatocellular carcinoma has been reported in three cases in a single study.18
However, a reishi mushroom extract was found to have toxic effects in leukocytes in vitro.19 Patients receiving treatment for gastrointestinal cancer had elevated levels of CA72-4, a serum tumor marker, after ingesting supplements containing reishi spores.8 Further research is needed to determine reishi’s safety as an adjunctive cancer treatment.
Nausea,8 insomnia,20 and hepatotoxicity after consuming powdered reishi mushroom21,22 have been reported.
Chronic diarrhea was reported in a 49-year-old man with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after prolonged use of a powdered extract of reishi -mushroom.23
Anticoagulants/antiplatelets: Reishi may increase the risk of bleeding.24
Immunosuppressants: Reishi may enhance immune response.15
Chemotherapeutic agents: Reishi may increase plasma antioxidant capacity and may interact with chemotherapeutic agents that rely on free radicals.25
Cytochrome P450 substrates: Reishi polysaccharides inhibit CYP2E1, CYP1A2, and CYP3A and may cause accumulation of drugs metabolized by these enzymes, thereby increasing the risk of their side effects.26
Reishi extracts may prolong international normalized ratio, prothrombin time, and activated partial thromboplastin time.24
Reishi mushroom spore powder may elevate the level of glycoprotein CA72-4. High levels of CA72-4 have been reported in several malignancies, including gastrointestinal, ovarian, endometrial, and lung cancers.27
Reishi mushroom and its extracts are popular dietary supplements often used by cancer survivors to increase energy and stimulate immune system. These claims are supported by a number of small studies.
However, patients and their care teams should be aware of the possible drug-herb interaction via cytochrome P450, drug-lab interaction via elevation of CA72-4, and potential toxicities.
Further studies with reishi mushroom are needed. ■
DISCLOSURE: Dr. Bao and Ms. Gubili reported no conflicts of interest.
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2. Shieh YH, Liu CF, Huang YK, et al: Evaluation of the hepatic and renal-protective effects of Ganoderma lucidum in mice. Am J Chin Med 29:501-507, 2001.
3. Joseph S, Sabulal B, George V, et al: Antitumor and anti-inflammatory activities of polysaccharides isolated from Ganoderma lucidum. Acta Pharm 61:335-342, 2011.
4. Jin H, Jin F, Jin JX, et al: Protective effects of Ganoderma lucidum spore on cadmium hepatotoxicity in mice. Food Chem Toxicol 52:171-175, 2013.
5. Noguchi M, Kakuma T, Tomiyasu K, et al: Effect of an extract of Ganoderma lucidum in men with lower urinary tract symptoms: A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized and dose-ranging study. Asian J Androl 10:651-658, 2008.
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9. Wang GH, Wang LH, Wang C, et al: Spore powder of Ganoderma lucidum for the treatment of Alzheimer disease: A pilot study. Medicine (Baltimore) 97:e0636, 2018.
10. Weng CJ, Yen GC: The in vitro and in vivo experimental evidences disclose the chemopreventive effects of Ganoderma lucidum on cancer invasion and metastasis. Clin Exp Metastasis 27:361-369, 2010.
11. Wang CZ, Basila D, Aung HH, et al: Effects of ganoderma lucidum extract on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in a rat model. Am J Chin Med 33:807-815, 2005.
12. Kim KC, Jun HJ, Kim JS, et al: Enhancement of radiation response with combined Ganoderma lucidum and Duchesnea chrysantha extracts in human leukemia HL-60 cells. Int J Mol Med 21:489-498, 2008.
13. Zhao S, Ye G, Fu G, et al: Ganoderma lucidum exerts anti-tumor effects on ovarian cancer cells and enhances their sensitivity to cisplatin. Int J Oncol 38:1319-1327, 2011.
14. Pillai TG, John M, Sara Thomas G: Prevention of cisplatin induced nephrotoxicity by terpenes isolated from Ganoderma lucidum occurring in Southern Parts of India. Exp Toxicol Pathol 63:157-160, 2011.
15. Gao Y, Zhou S, Jiang W, et al: Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients. Immunol Invest 32:201-215, 2003.
16. Sun LX, Li WD, Lin ZB, et al: Protection against lung cancer patient plasma-induced lymphocyte suppression by Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides. Cell Physiol Biochem 33:289-299, 2014.
17. Oka S, Tanaka S, Yoshida S, et al: A water-soluble extract from culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia suppresses the development of colorectal adenomas. Hiroshima J Med Sci 59:1-6, 2010.
18. Gordan JD, Chay WY, Kelley RK, et al: ‘And what other medications are you taking?’ J Clin Oncol 29:e288-e291, 2011.
19. Gill SK, Rieder MJ: Toxicity of a traditional Chinese medicine, Ganoderma lucidum, in children with cancer. Can J Clin Pharmacol 15:e275-e285, 2008.
20. Jin X, Ruiz Beguerie J, Sze DM, et al: Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016;4:CD007731.
21. Yuen MF, Ip P, Ng WK, et al: Hepatotoxicity due to a formulation of Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi). J Hepatol 41:686-687, 2004.
22. Wanmuang H, Leopairut J, Kositchaiwat C, et al: Fatal fulminant hepatitis associated with Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi) mushroom powder. J Med Assoc Thai 90:179-181, 2007.
23. Wanachiwanawin D, Piankijagum A, Chaiprasert A, et al: Ganoderma lucidum: A cause of pseudoparasitosis. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 37:1099-1102, 2006.
24. Tao J, Feng KY: Experimental and clinical studies on inhibitory effect of ganoderma lucidum on platelet aggregation. J Tongji Med Univ 10:240-243, 1990.
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26. Wang X, Zhao X, Li D, et al: Effects of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide on CYP2E1, CYP1A2 and CYP3A activities in BCG-immune hepatic injury in rats. Biol Pharm Bull 30:1702-1706, 2007.
27. Liang Y, He M, Fan X, et al: An abnormal elevation of serum CA72-4 by Ganoderma lucidum spore powder. Ann Clin Lab Sci 43:337-340, 2013.