Reishi- The Mushroom of Immortality

The Truth About Medicinal Mushrooms and Cancer
25 December 2016

Reishi – our namesake

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is called Ling Zhi in Chinese which literally translates as Herb of Spiritual Potency. The reishi mushrooms have been consumed over the millennia in the Asian continent for both their health promoting and consciousness elevating effects. In fact, the cultural reverence held toward them is so profound that the Chinese goddess Kuan Yin is often depicted holding a reishi mushroom. Reishi mushrooms are often referred to in ancient Chinese medical texts as the Mushroom of Immortality and for good reason, as we will shortly explain.

Reishis are a polypore mushroom and lack the underside gills found in typical mushrooms. The mushroom itself has a shiny skin, kidney shaped fruiting body, woody texture and grows worldwide on the bases and stumps of deciduous trees such as oak, plum and other hardwoods.  Among the various medicinal mushrooms, reishis have received the greatest amount of modern scientific and medical research attention. Today they constitute a vital component in natural medicines used by Asian physicians and Naturopaths especially for their immune supporting properties.

Reishi Mushrooms Have Unique Biochemical Properties

Numerous scientific studies confirm the unique polysaccharidetriterpene and other properties present in reishi mushrooms that support specific immune functions in attacking cancer cells and their capacity to spread (1-12). In fact, G. lucidum contains more than 50 types of polysaccharides and peptide polysaccharide complexes along with some 120 bioactive compounds (27). Studies demonstrate potent antioxidant, anti-aging (13,14), radiation protective and DNA protective (15-17), anti-viral (18,21), anti-HIV (22), liver protective (13,14), auto-immune supportive (23-26), anti-aging and anti-oxidant effects (28,29).

Anti-Cancer and Anti-Metastasis Isn’t What You Think

The properties of G. lucidum do not kill cancer cells and do not actively inhibit metastasis or spread of the cancer within the body. That might be puzzling at first, however, reishi mushrooms operate with a different type of intelligence. The properties of the mushroom drive the human immune system to properly identify cancer cells, combat them and actively target their ability to grow and spread. This is demonstrated both in vivo and in vitro studies (9).

What is so fascinating is that not only is G. lucidum non-toxic to human cells, but it has selective anti-cancer activity demonstrated in breast and ovarian cancer (1,2,8), lung cancers such as pulmonary adenocarcinoma (3) liver cancers (4,5), bladder cancer (6) leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma (7,11,12) and colorectal cancer (10). These anti-cancer and immune-modulatory properties make it a popular choice for new alternative cancer medicines.

Cancer Drug and Radiation Protective

One of the major effects that cancer drugs such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy have on the body is a broad spectrum depletion of white blood cells. Reishi mushrooms enhance immune function and white blood cell count in patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapies by limiting the depletion of leukocytes, neutrophils, CD4 and Natural Killer cells (14-17). This may offer the potential of protective and restorative effects to patients undergoing conventional cancer treatment.

A Potent Anti-Viral

Herbal formulations containing G. lucidum have been shown to improve recovery time in patients with herpes genitalis and labialis (18), as well as to reduce the pain associated with herpes zoster otherwise known as shingles (19,20).  The biochemical components of G. lucidum including lucidenic and ganoderic acids together with various triterpenes demonstrate potent inhibitory effects on Epstein Barr Virus (21). Other compound isolates from G. lucidum such as ganoderic acid beta among others demonstrates significant anti-human immunodeficiency virus (anti-HIV)-1 protease activity (22).

Modulates Expression of Autoimmune Conditions

G. lucidum has a unique effect of modulating and reducing the chronic inflammatory expression characteristic in various autoimmune disorders by decreasing the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappaB) signaling pathway. In turn, specific inflammatory cytokines associated with autoimmune disorders diminish. Among research papers reviewed for this article, this effect was demonstrated in conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sarcoidosis.

  • Reduction of TNF-α production by macrophages in patients with Crohn’s disease (23)
  • Increases in IL-2, CD4, CD25, Treg cells in splenic, thymic and peripheral blood cells along with lowered IL-21, IL-1 and anti-double strand DNA in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (24)
  • Regression of cutaneous Sarcoidosis lesions with topical G. lucidum and goat’s milk based soap (25)
  • Reduction of inflammatory cytokine production involved in the expression of Rheumatoid Arthritis synovial fibroblasts by reducing nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappaB) transcription and reducing expression of Interleukins IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-8 (26)

Make Reishi Part of Your Home

Reishi mushrooms have been utilized and enjoyed in Traditional Chinese Medicine for generations in respect of its unique adaptogenic effects- the ability to modulate and harmonize conditions of deficiency or excess back to balance. We believe this amazing food should be readily available in every home cabinet and kitchen. Check out our store and other articles to see the delicious and effective ways you can make it a part of your life for you and your family.


Disclaimer. The information represented in this article is meant to provide concepts from evidence based research. It is not intended to treat or diagnose any health condition. For appropriate treatment methods please contact your healthcare provider. 

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Works Cited:

  1. Suarez-Arroyo IJ et al. Anti-tumor effects of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi) in inflammatory breast cancer in in vivo and in vitro models. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57431.
  2. Jiang J et al.Ganoderma lucidum suppresses growth of breast cancer cells through the inhibition of Akt/NF-kappaB signaling. Nutr Cancer.2004;49(2):209-16.
  3. Kashimoto N et al.Inhibitory effect of a water-soluble extract from the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum (Rei-shi) mycelia on the development of pulmonary adenocarcinoma induced by N-nitrosobis (2-hydroxypropyl) amine in Wistar rats. Oncol Rep.2006 Dec;16(6):1181-7.
  4. Weng CJ et al.Inhibitory effects of ganoderma lucidum on tumorigenesis and metastasis of human hepatoma cells in cells and animal models. J Agric Food Chem.2009 Jun 10;57(11):5049-57.
  5. Aimei Li et al.Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract inhibits hepatocellular carcinoma growth by downregulating regulatory T cells accumulation and function by inducing microRNA-125b. J Transl Med. 2015; 13: 100.
  6. Lu QY et al.Ganoderma lucidum extracts inhibit growth and induce actin polymerization in bladder cancer cells in vitro. Cancer Lett.2004 Dec 8;216(1):9-20.
  7. Müller CI et al.Ganoderma lucidum causes apoptosis in leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma cells. Leuk2006 Jul;30(7):841-8.
  8. Hsieh TC,Wu JM.Suppression of proliferation and oxidative stress by extracts of Ganoderma lucidum in the ovarian cancer cell line OVCAR-3. Int J Mol Med. 2011 Dec;28(6):1065-9.
  9. Liu J et al.Anti-androgen effects of extracts and compounds from Ganoderma lucidum. Chem Biodivers.2009 Feb;6(2):231-43.
  10. Dan X et al.A Ribonuclease Isolated from Wild Ganoderma Lucidum Suppressed Autophagy and Triggered Apoptosis in Colorectal Cancer Cells. Front Pharmacol.2016 Jul 25;7:217.
  11. Chang YH et al.Ganoderma lucidum extracts inhibited leukemia WEHI-3 cells in BALB/c mice and promoted an immune response in vivo. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem.2009 Dec;73(12):2589-94.
  12. Calviño E et al.Ganoderma lucidum induced apoptosis in NB4 human leukemia cells: involvement of Akt and Erk. J Ethnopharmacol.2010 Mar 2;128(1):71-8
  13. Sa-Ard, P et al.Antioxidant, antibacterial and DNA protective activities of protein extracts from Ganoderma lucidum. J Food Sci Technol.2015 May;52(5)
  14. Dudhgaonkar S et al.Suppression of the inflammatory response by triterpenes isolated from the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum. Int Immunopharmacol.2009 Oct;9(11):1272-80.
  15. Smina TP et al.Ganoderma lucidum total triterpenes prevent γ-radiation induced oxidative stress in Swiss albino mice in vivo. Redox Rep. 2016 Nov;21(6):254-61.
  16. Zhuang SR et al.Effect of citronellol and the Chinese medical herb complex on cellular immunity of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy/radiotherapy. Phytother Res. 2009 Jun;23(6):785-90
  17. Wang DH et al.Antitumor activity of extracts of Ganoderma lucidum and their protective effects on damaged HL-7702 cells induced by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi.2006 Oct;31(19):1618-22.
  18. Hijikata Y, Yamada S, Yasuhara A.Herbal mixtures containing the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum improve recovery time in patients with herpes genitalis and labialis. J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Nov;13(9):985-7.
  19. Hijikata Y, Yasuhara A, Sahashi Y.Effect of an herbal formula containing Ganoderma lucidum on reduction of herpes zoster pain: a pilot clinical trial. Am J Chin Med. 2005;33(4):517-23.
  20. Hijikata Y, Yamada S. Effect of Ganoderma lucidum on postherpetic neuralgia. Am J Chin Med. 1998;26(3-4):375-81.
  21. Iwatsuki K et al. Lucidenic acids P and Q, methyl lucidenate P, and other triterpenoids from the fungus Ganoderma lucidum and their inhibitory effects on Epstein-Barr virus activation. J Nat Prod.2003 Dec;66(12):1582-5.
  22. Min BS et al.Triterpenes from the spores of Ganoderma lucidum and their inhibitory activity against HIV-1 protease. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo).1998 Oct;46(10):1607-12.
  23. Liu C et al.Anti-inflammatory Effects of Ganoderma lucidum Triterpenoid in Human Crohn’s Disease Associated with Downregulation of NF-κB Signaling. Inflamm Bowel Dis.2015 Aug;21(8):1918-25.
  24. Cai Z et al.Anti-inflammatory activities of Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi) and San-Miao-San supplements in MRL/lpr mice for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus. Chin Med.2016 Apr 29;11:23
  25. Saylam Kurtipek G et al.Resolution of Cutaneous Sarcoidosis Following Topical Application of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi Mushroom). Dermatol Ther (Heidelb).2016 Mar;6(1):105-9.
  26. Ho YW et al.Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide peptide reduced the production of proinflammatory cytokines in activated rheumatoid synovial fibroblast. Mol Cell Biochem.2007 Jul;301(1-2):173-9.
  27. El Enshasy HA,  Hatti-Kaul R. Mushroom immunomodulators: unique molecules with unlimited applications. Trends Biotechnol.2013 Dec;31(12):668-77.
  28. Sa-Ard, P et al. Antioxidant, antibacterial and DNA protective activities of protein extracts from Ganoderma lucidum. J Food Sci Technol.2015 May;52(5)
  29. Dudhgaonkar S et al. Suppression of the inflammatory response by triterpenes isolated from the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum. Int Immunopharmacol.2009 Oct;9(11):1272-80.