What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word mushrooms? Maybe you thought of that delicious portobello mushroom burger you had for lunch, or you might be thinking about going foraging for mushrooms in the woods. What you may not know is there are over 10,000 different types of mushrooms, and some of these mushrooms are well known for their medicinal properties. One specific type of mushroom that has recently gained greater awareness is the Reishi mushroom. There is growing research that supports the many health benefits of Reishi mushrooms.
Did you know that I regularly contribute to a very cool health and wellness site called Foodtrients? I love working with this group which also puts out fantastic recipes and has a couple top-notch cookbooks out as well. I write about evidence-based nutrition topics and wanted to be sure to share this one about the Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms as they aren’t something you will find in your local grocery store.
Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
Though all mushrooms have health-promoting properties including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and immune-boosting compounds like beta-glucans, some mushrooms are more edible than others. Reishi mushrooms are made of non-digestible fiber and have a woody texture. More potent health benefits are said to come from young reishi mushrooms rather than older, drier ones. Because of their bitterness, Reishi is often taken in capsule or extract form. These medicinal mushrooms have a long history of use in Chinese and folk medicine but are now gaining popularity in the U.S. due to the body of research that continues to develop about the health benefits associated with Reishi.
Immune Modulating Capability
Reishi is used to boost the immune system and works as an immune modulator. In Chinese medicine, it is also used as a general tonic for health and balance, and as an adaptogen for adrenal support. Learn more about adaptogens here on FoodTrients. There are properties in Reishi mushrooms that block histamines through one of its active ingredients “ganoderic acid”, which is beneficial because histamines are the cause behind seasonal allergy discomfort including itchy eyes and throat, as well as stuffy and runny noses. Ganoderic acids also provide the antioxidant benefit from using these mushrooms. Reishi contains anti-inflammatory properties and has been compared in some studies to hydrocortisone, showing similar benefits. There is also evidence that Reishi supports neurological or brain health.
One of the major health benefits of all mushrooms, including Reishi, is their beta-glucan content. Beta-glucans are a form of polysaccharide or complex carbohydrate component of the cell wall of mushrooms that has been linked to enhancing natural killer cell function and inhibiting tumor cell growth. In other words, beta-glucans support the immune system and have anti-cancer benefits. Beta-glucans are components of all medicinal mushrooms that are strongly linked with human health benefits.
Cancer-Fighting, Heart-Healthy Benefits
Reishi is also well known for cardiovascular health and anti-cancer properties. There is evidence that Reishi mushrooms can lower blood pressure and even improve the general physical condition of the entire cardiovascular system. Animal studies show that Reishi may stop the body from creating excess cholesterol. Anti-cancer benefits include inhibiting tumor growth and reducing metastasis or the spread of cancer in the body) likely due to the way they stop tumors from developing their own blood supply and by stimulating the immune system which supports the body’s natural defenses. Reishi mushroom extracts also show promising effects when given during chemo and radiation and have been studied with a particular interest in breast, lung, and prostate cancers.
Dosing and Safety of Reishi Mushrooms
Though there are a lot of potential positive health benefits of Reishi mushrooms, there are some considerations, too. Due to the range of available Reishi products and a variety of preparations, there are studies that show a range of 200 mg-2 grams capsules taken between once and five times per day can reduce inflammation and enhance the immune system. Traditionally higher levels are used, and studies have shown that 1.5-9g of dried mushrooms, 1-1.5g of powder, or 1mL of tincture per day produce positive results. In cardiovascular studies, 5.4 grams per day helped alleviate chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath in patients with these cardiovascular symptoms. Given the range of doses studied, it is best to meet with a certified herbal specialist to determine what may be right for you.
Keep in mind that Reishi may have a tranquilizing effect on some people and is sometimes used to improve sleep. As always, be sure to check with your medical team to ensure that Reishi mushrooms are safe for you and will not interact with any other medication or conditions you may have. There are known interactions with medications, herbs, or supplements that thin the blood or decrease blood pressure or blood sugars.
What can you do with Reishi Mushrooms?
It can be a little difficult to find Reishi mushrooms if you are simply looking on the shelves of your local grocery store. You will probably have better luck purchasing Reishi mushroom powder online or from your local supplement store. After you purchase the Reishi mushroom powder, the question becomes what to do with it. Since Reishi is typically purchased in powder form, it is extremely easy to add it to your favorite beverages- coffee, latte, tea, smoothie, etc. Reishi does have a bit of a bitter taste so you will want to balance the bitterness by appealing to your other taste buds. Pairing the Reishi powder with flavors that are sweet, salty, savory, or sour can help to balance out the bitter taste. You can also utilize Reishi by adding it to your favorite recipes like my Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Energy Bites. The possibilities are endless, so you can get super creative with how you can utilize them to get all the health benefits of Reishi mushrooms.
Want some ideas for recipes you can use with Reishi mushroom powder? Check out my Turmeric Ginger Golden Milk Tea, Vegan Turmeric Banana-Mango Lassi, Green Smoothie with Matcha and Chia, and Vegan Chocolate Banana Shake Treat on the blog!
How do you use Reishi mushrooms? What recipes have you tried to incorporate Reishi mushrooms into? Let me know in the comments what you think!
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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