In Eastern Asia, medical practitioners have used reishi mushrooms for their medicinal effects for centuries. Only recently has an awareness of their therapeutic promise been explored in the western world. Several dozen studies in Japan, China, the USA, and the UK have shown that Reishi mushrooms do indeed have positive health effects.
Reishi Mushroom Fights Inflammation
Reishi mushrooms exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, extracts taken from the mushroom showed it to be both potentially good oral and topical anti-inflammatory agents. Orally, extracts contribute to an increase in blood flow and therefore might prove a useful treatment for some inflammation-related conditions. When topically applied, the isolated compound in the mushroom was found to be as effective as the hormone cortisol, which is found in many topical medications. Reishi mushrooms do not have the toxic effects seen in many over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.
Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Reishi mushrooms can also positively affect blood pressure and cholesterol. Because it can increase blood flow, the mushroom may prove to have a natural ability to lower blood pressure. Medical research also notes patients who consume Reishi mushroom extract have decreased LDL (bad) and increased HDL (good) cholesterol.
Antioxidant Properties of Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms contain a wealth of antioxidants. In one study, Reishi mushroom extract effectively curbed oxidative stress in tissue and prevented damage to the liver. In another study, the extract demonstrated potent antioxidant activity, protecting hemoglobin from oxidative damage. These results suggest Reishi mushrooms contain tremendous antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help the body combat free radicals which cause cell damage due to oxidation.
Reishi Mushrooms May Help Fight Cancer
Fungi are being used around the world to help combat cancer. One of the varieties used is the Reishi mushroom. The Chinese use Reishi to improve vitality, strength, and stamina, and to prolong life in cancer patients. It is not a replacement for other treatments, however, and is generally used in conjunction with chemotherapy, not in place of it. Reishi mushrooms help enhance immune system response which helps to prevent sickness in people with cancer who already have weakened immune systems. They also alleviate chemotherapy side effects such as nausea and kidney damage.
Reishi Mushrooms and Liver Health
Your liver is responsible for detoxification but does not always function at peak performance. Drinking too much or eating too many processed foods can take a toll. The liver’s most important job is to cleanse the body of impurities. A 2013 study found evidence that Reishi mushrooms can fight harmful immune responses that can slow down liver function. The adaptogenic properties of Reishi mushrooms help flush out waste and toxins from the body.
Reishi Mushrooms and Altitude Sickness
Reishi mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine to combat altitude sickness. The fungus works by improving the body’s intake of oxygen which consequently improves breathing and lessens the dizziness and short breath common with altitude sickness. For this reason, Reishi mushroom extract has been used by mountain climbers for decades to prevent these symptoms in difficult climbs.
Reishi Mushrooms May Combat Seizures
A study published by the National Institutes of Health concluded Reishi mushrooms have anticonvulsant effects. The study looked only at kainic acid (KA)-induced seizures, but the promise of the plant could be more widespread, and further research is underway. Stress can exacerbate seizures, and research has also found that mushrooms help reduce stress, enabling the nervous system to function better.
Reishi Mushrooms and the Heart
Reishi mushrooms are a very heart-healthy food. If you already eat mushrooms, so you may want to consider adding this variety to your shopping list. For one, these mushrooms help minimize cholesterol and fatty acids in the blood. This, in turn, helps prevent strokes, clogged arteries, and other heart problems. Reishi promotes heart health and helps balance blood pressure. Best of all, this happens naturally with no synthetic medicines! Tests and studies show that mushroom can even reverse the effects of cardiovascular disease. In one study, seventy-eight percent of participants showed improvement in cardiovascular health after taking Reishi mushrooms.
Reishi Mushrooms and Fatigue and Depression
Reishi mushrooms could be useful for reducing fatigue, and depression and improving quality of life. A study of 132 people found subjects experienced less fatigue after just eight weeks on a diet that included mushrooms. In the same study, many subjects reported an improvement in their general sense of well-being, as well as fewer feelings of depression and anxiety.
Reishi Mushroom Warnings
While consumption of this mushroom is safe, you can ingest too much. It is not recommended to take the powdered form for more than 30 days, because this form is very concentrated. There is also a link between powdered Reishi and liver damage. Some side effects of over-consuming the mushrooms include
- Dry mouth
- Dry throat
- Nasal dryness along with itchiness
- Stomach upset
- Bloody stools
As with any supplement, consult your primary care provider. Never stop taking a prescription medicine without first consulting your doctor. Finally, avoid Reishi mushrooms if you have low blood pressure or thrombocytopenia.