There are some things that just go together: Peanut butter and jelly. Pizza and beer. Ariana Grande and high ponies. But are you ready to add mushrooms and chocolate to the list? Mercer Morrison explains:
Eastern medicine makes use of many different plants and fungi. Interestingly, the reishi mushroom is particularly popular.
It has a variety of potential health benefits, including boosting the immune system and fighting cancer. However, its safety has recently come into question.
This article will tell you what you need to know about the potential benefits and risks of reishi mushroom.
What Is the Reishi Mushroom?
The reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is a fungus that grows in various hot and humid locations in Asia.
For many years, this fungus has been a staple in Eastern medicine.
Within the mushroom, there are several molecules, including triterpenoids, polysaccharides and peptidoglycans, that may be responsible for its health effects.
While the mushrooms themselves can be eaten fresh, it is also common to use powdered forms of the mushroom or extracts that contain these specific molecules.
These different forms have been tested in cell, animal and human studies.
Below are 6 scientifically studied benefits of the reishi mushroom. The first three are backed by stronger evidence, while support for the others is less conclusive.
1. Boost the Immune System
One of the most important effects of the reishi mushroom is that it can boost your immune system.
While some details are still uncertain, test-tube studies have shown that reishi can affect the genes in white blood cells, which are critical parts of your immune system.
What’s more, these studies have found that some forms of reishi may alter inflammation pathways in white blood cells.
Research in cancer patients has shown that some of the molecules found in the mushroom can increase the activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells .
Natural killer cells fight infections and cancer in the body.
Another study found that reishi can increase the number of other white blood cells (lymphocytes) in those with colorectal cancer.
Although most immune system benefits of reishi mushroom have been seen in those who are ill, some evidence has shown that it can help healthy people, too.
In one study, the fungus improved lymphocyte function, which helps fight infections and cancer, in athletes exposed to stressful conditions.
However, other research in healthy adults showed no improvement in immune function or inflammation after 4 weeks of taking reishi extract.
Overall, it is clear that reishi impacts white blood cells and immune function. More research is needed to determine the extent of the benefits in the healthy and ill.