What is it?
Common names for Reishi translate to things like ‘Auspicious mushroom’, ‘Immortal Wizard’, ‘Divine mushroom’, Sacred mushroom’ and so forth. It has been tremendously highly regarded in Eastern medicine.
How has it been used?
This is a quote from a famous Chinese doctor which sums up the kind of esteem in which Reishi has been held: “Reishi positively affects the life-energy, or Qi of the heart, repairing the chest area and benefiting those with a knotted and tight chest. Taken over a long period of time the agility of the body will not cease and the years are lengthened” L Shizhen from the year 1596.
The many names referring to Reishi as a kind of spiritual mushroom would have been in no small part due to the practice of Taoist priest to search for Reishi in the mountains and to use the herb as part of their meditation practice to centre and still their minds.
Reishi is about as far away from magic or psychedelic mushrooms as you can get, in direct contrast to such substances that can agitate visions or hallucinations, Reishi is famous for its ability to quiet and still the mind.
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Science on Reishi
There has been a great deal of modern scientific research into Reishi, especially through the state sponsored Chinese medical system which still uses herbs as its mainstream medicine. Reishi has particularly been identified as an agent that can help in the treatment of cancer and it clearly has many benefits to the immune system.
~ Reishi has also been shown to improve the stickiness of the blood, to have tonic effects to the liver and to improve blood pressure and cholesterol (Shu S, M. Mori; Research on Ganoderma vol 1. Shanghai Med Univ, 1993,pp339-342)
~ Reishi is frequently used by mountain climbers to combat altitude sickness and is used in many of the performance enhancing herbal formulas used by Chinese and Japanese athletes (Jong SC, Birmingham JM, Adv Appl Micobiol 37,1992,101-134)
~ A series of studies has shown that Reishi has anti-inflammatory effects. One study showed that 220mgs of Reishi extract and 50mgs of Reishi powder had comparable effects to 5mgs of the steroid hydrocortisone (Stavinhoa WB et al. 3rd Academic conference, Japan, Aug 18-20, 1990)
~ A placebo-controlled study on 48 patients with advanced cancer showed that Reishi extract had pronounced immune benefits including an increase in T lymphocytes and a reduction in CD8 counts. Patients who received Reishi reported reduced side effects from chemotherapy or radiation as well as a faster post-operative recovery (Shiao MS et al. Am Chem Soc 547, 1994;342-354) (Kupin VA, 4th International Symposium on Ganoderma lucidum; Seoul Cancer Res Ctr, June 10, 1992,pp49-50)
~ Research into Reishi has shown that it has a group of active constituents called polysaccharides, it is these which have been demonstrated to have immune enhancing properties. Another group of compounds in Reishi are called triterpenes and these substances have been shown to have anti-allergy, stress relieving and blood pressure lowering properties (Tomada M et al. Phytochemistry 25:28, 1988:17-20).
Safety of Reishi
If you look at the literature on the Internet you will see cautions for people using anti-coagulant (blood thinning) medicine whilst using Reishi as it likewise reduces blood stickiness -- my advice in this regard is of course to continue to use the herb but get your clotting levels checked frequently and if you need to use less drugs to get your blood to the optimal level then that's great!
Reishi is clearly a potent immune modulator therefore you will also see a number of cautions or warning against using it whilst taking immune-suppressant drugs or if suffering from an auto-immune condition. Please note that these concerns are theoretical, not based on actual adverse events, and in my own experience it is one of the safest of all agents you can give to a person with a disordered immune system and is one of the first herbs I think of when we need to tread very carefully indeed.
My view is that Reishi is an extremely safe herb that may be taken in high doses when needed by the young or old and during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding.
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I often work with people who have weakened immune systems. They may simply be run down and tired as a result or it may be much more serious; auto-immune conditions, health sapping allergies or even in some cases, cancer.
Reishi is one of the medicines I almost always use in cases of significantly compromised immunity and I can definitely confirm that Reishi has profoundly beneficial effects on the immune system.
If you who are reading this are studying herbal medicine or if you just have your own reasons to need to know this plant ally at a much deeper level then I warmly encourage you to take a good therapeutic dose (I would give a patient 4 capsules to be sure they would really feel this even though two might be a more standard level) and then see what happens! If you allow your mind to become quiet, because of course you can easily remain busy and distracted if you want to, then you will see some of the magic of Reishi become very apparent. Without being at all 'druggy' or weird it has the most marvellous property of helping to achieve a gentle, lucid, calm mind. I am sure this is a big part of how it is so helpful to the immune system. The less stressed and better overall we feel, the better we can repair and heal whatever is wrong with us.
There are an enormous number of Reishi products on the market. Like every other herb it is truly a case of caveat emptor (buyer beware). In my opinion and along with a number of esteemed colleagues I believe that, at the time of writing, the best place to get Reishi mushroom is from JHS in the USA. http://mushroomscience.com/ - this is a company that only does mushrooms and it does them really well (by the way I have absolutely zero financial involvement with them)
I know that JHS ship all over the world so if you do not have a herbalist or herbal supplier that already have them or can get them for you then you will still be able to do it yourself. I typically use between 2 and 4 a day of the capsules. 4 if I am worried about something or we need to start the treatment strongly to get an obvious result, just 2 if things are going well but we still need to keep the treatment going longer.
Reishi combines perfectly with Echinacea, Panax Ginseng and Withania to support immune health and vitality,
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Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Reishi is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another- why is this?
The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are more hot or cool and at the same time more dry or damp; more info about this here.
There is an old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Reishi can particularly offer its benefits when a nourishing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing' - something that is discussed here and shown in a chart here.
The rare Reishi
| Reishi is now widely available because the art of cultivating it (on Plum tree sawdust) has been refined over the last few decades but historically it was known as the "Phantom Mushroom" because it was so rare and difficult to find.
For example in Japan over ninety-nine percent of all the Reishi Mushrooms found growing in the wild are located on old Japanese plum trees and fewer than ten mushrooms can be found on 100,000 trees!
Reishi also grows at the base of deciduous trees such as the Maple but only 1 or 2 in 10,000 of these trees has it naturally growing in the wild.
Please understand that I cannot personally advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in my clinic but ideas
on how you might find a good herbalist in your area are here.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!
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