Reishi is one of the most important herbs in the Chinese materia medica. The primary use of reishi in China, Korea and Japan is as part of a formula for treating cancer, via “biological chemotherapy” using Fu Zheng formulas. This is based on the ganoderma polysaccharides that have been tested to stimulate a 5-29 fold increase in tumor necrosing factor (TNF), interleukin 1+6, as well as Th1T lymphocytes.
Reishi has also been used for the prevention as well as the treatment of various diseases, such as chronic hepatitis, nephritis, high blood pressure, bronchitis, and tumors since ancient times. It’s considered a super immune amphoteric (a balancing tonic that stops working when you don’t need it anymore) which is said to provide extra protection for the entire body. It’s widely used to balance the immune system for those suffering from autoimmune disease.
Reishi is categorized in Chinese medicine as an herb “to calm the spirit and nourish the Heart”. It’s described as neutral in temperature and sweet and bitter in taste (especially red reishi). The neutral temperature means that reishi is deemed suitable for the majority of potential users. This herb is said to primarily affect the Heart, Kidney, and Lung meridians.
Modern uses of reishi mushrooms have focused on its significant anti-aging effects both as an oral and topical treatment (likely due to its anti-inflammatory properties). Historic accounts and modern studies agree that reishi does have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as some proven effects on blood pressure. It is widely used as a complimentary medicine to prevent cardiovascular disease. Yet in contemporary applications, reishi supplements are most often discussed as potent (but unproven) immune function enhancers.
It’s important to recognize that there is inconclusive evidence of some of the most popular purported uses of reishi supplements, including treating STIs, UTIs, and other infections. While the anti-inflammatory, immunostimulatory, and anti-allergenic properties of reishi may provide some relief from the symptoms of these conditions, it’s not an effective antimicrobial treatment and will not cure infections. Additionally, while animal studies indicate that reishi derivatives show potential as antidepressant and anti-anxiety supplements, there isn’t much research into the effects of reishi supplements on humans’ mental health. Consequently, while the full benefits and usages haven’t been completely evaluated, one should exercise caution when using reishi for these conditions.
PREPARATION & ADMINISTRATION
Reishi mushrooms, like lion’s mane mushrooms, are available for use in several forms. To best extract the benefits from the mushroom’s chitin, it’s best to simmer for long periods of time. It is most often available for use in dried or dried extracts states for decocting. Reishi, especially red reishi, tends to be quite bitter, making it less popular for use in daily meals. However, it can be added into bitter beverages like coffee. Reishi is a common ingredient in combined OTC herbal supplements, and pre-made reishi teas (for oral use) and reishi soaps (for topical use) are also available.
Reishi mushroom supplements are not without side-effects and carry significant risks for long-term use. Common side-effects include allergic reactions, stomach upset, and nasal and throat inflammation. Long-term use or taking reishi supplements in combination with alcohol or certain medications may lead to bleeding and liver damage. Reishi is also known to lower blood pressure, so symptoms of hypotension (such as dizziness) aren’t unheard of. People with low blood pressure or those taking blood pressure medications should talk to their doctor before taking reishi supplements.
You should consult with a certified herbalist, physician or other qualified healthcare professional before taking reishi.
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