The reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum, is a functional fungus with a long history of use. It has been prized by East Asian cultures for centuries and has recently found popularity in the Western world, where it is proving to have very modern benefits. Let’s explore the effects of this ancient mushroom and how products like reishi powder are revolutionizing its use in the present day.
Reishi Mushroom History and Folklore
Reishi has been popular in East Asia for hundreds of years and is one of the most revered herbal remedies in these ancient cultures. In Chinese, it is known as lingzhi, which roughly translates as “spirit mushroom.” It is used as a general tonic and said to promote longevity, often being given as a symbolic gift on birthdays.
Reishi is sometimes called the “mushroom of immortality,” and it has starred in many myths and legends throughout history. In one famous example, an emperor hears a rumor that a magical mushroom is growing on the mysterious Penglai island, just off the coast of China. The mushroom is said to bestow great power and eternal life upon anyone who consumes it. The emperor sends out one search party after another, but none of them return. Some say that the expeditions landed in Japan and the crew settled there, while others believe they perished at sea. It is widely believed that the mushroom that caused all this drama was none other than reishi.
This tale may be exaggerated, but reishi does have some proven benefits. It is now making waves in the modern world, with products like reishi powder flying off the shelves. Here are just a few of its most sought-after effects:
1. Powerful Polysaccharides for Enhanced Immune Function
Like many mushrooms, reishi is rich in immuno-modulating compounds called beta-glucan polysaccharides. They are large carbohydrate molecules that the body cannot digest easily, meaning they have a dramatic effect on the immune system. They keep it in a primed state, meaning that it can act more effectively against invading microbes. They may also help the immune system to function more effectively in chronic diseases, such as cancer.
2. Amazing Anti-Inflammatory Activity
Although reishi enhances immune function, it can also inhibit immune hyperactivity, which results in inflammation. Therefore, it may be helpful for anyone living with autoimmune disorders, allergies, or conditions like asthma.
3. Reishi Researched for Reduced Anxiety and Improved Sleep
In addition to beta-glucan polysaccharides, reishi is rich in bioactive compounds called phenols and flavonoids. They have a range of functions in the body and may help to reduce anxiety and improve sleep. One study showed that reishi’s anti-anxiety effects were so powerful they were comparable to the popular tranquilizer, diazepam.
Reishi Powder: Harnessing the Modern Benefits of this Ancient Mushroom
Reishi is not edible in the traditional sense of the word because it is hard and woody, with a very bitter taste. Historically, people would consume it by making a tea-like drink known as a decoction. It involved simmering the mushroom twice, for 20 minutes each time, and mixing together the resulting liquid. Unfortunately, this process is time-consuming and does not effectively extract all of reishi’s active compounds since some are not soluble in water.
One solution is to create a tincture by steeping the mushrooms in strong alcohol for several weeks, then mixing the alcohol with a water extract as detailed above. Provided the final alcohol content is high enough, it will remain shelf-stable for many years. So, although making a tincture is not simple, at least the hard work does not have to be repeated regularly.
Luckily, there are now plenty of other options available that make enjoying the benefits of reishi a breeze. This is a blessing since most of us are living hectic modern lives and don’t have time to brew a decoction or prepare a tincture.
Reishi powder is one of the best options and can be used in numerous ways. Some of the most popular consumption methods include adding a scoop to a morning smoothie or porridge or sprinkling over soups, stews, or sauces for some extra mushroom goodness. Reishi powder has a subtle earthy flavor and even works well in recipes like hot chocolate for a warming and comforting treat.
Best of all, because reishi powder is made from the whole mushroom, there is no need to worry about whether you are getting enough of the active ingredients or not. Just sit back and enjoy all of the benefits it has to offer. Pure bliss!