- Latin: Ganoderma lucidum
- Family: Ganodermataceae
- **Other names: **Ling Zhi, Shaman’s mushroom, Nourish spirit mushroom, soul mushroom, mushroom of divinity
- Part used: Fruiting body (cap)
- Origin: Brown-black saphrophyic fungus found in China’s coastal provinces and in the Pacific Northwest of US; grows on roots, trunks and rotting tree stumps of oak and other broad-leaved trees.
- Adaptogenic (nourishing)
- Neurocardiac restorative
- Inhibitory effect on tumor cell growth
- Low stamina and vitality
- Overtraining syndrome
- Herpes simplex I and II
- Chronic stress
- Epstein barr infection (glandular fever)
- Cerebral/nervous deficiency (heart weakness, neurasthenia, memory loss, mental capacity loss)
- Allergies and hypersensitivities
- Nerve pain
- Modern day evidence: Arthritis, cancer, chronic hepatitis B, coronary heart disease, diabetes type 2, hypertension.
- Dosage: 1:2 – 0.5 – 2.5ml daily
- Safety: No toxicity recorded.
- Energetic: Restoring, calming, relaxing and dissolving. In traditional Chinese Medicines, it’s regarded to be warming, nourishing, detoxifying, astringent, and dispersive of stuck energy.
Reishi is an extraordinary herbal medicine.
It belongs to a class of herbal medicines that are modern day herbal gems as they cover so many bases and are so appropriate for modern times. It’s one of those herbs that can reach into the realm of the soul and the spirit and can create profound change when taken over a long period of time.
Reishi comes to us from Asia. It has strong roots in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. The name Reishi in Japanese translates to “Divine mushroom” or the Chinese name ling zhi translate to “Spirit plant”. The three Chinese characters for Reishi, symbolises “Shaman”, “praying for”, “rain”. To further add to it’s mythic kudos, is that it’s the plant that the goddess of compassion, Kuan Yin, carries.
Medicinal mushrooms bring a completely different quality to the herbal dispensary. They have complex mycelial networks under the ground and in tree trunks. They look invisible, but when the conditions are just right they fruit as it’s out of nowhere almost instantly. They come from decay, darkness and moistness, which are all qualities of yin. (Yang energy is intense, outward, sunny and extroverted and yin energy is lunar, contracted, quieter and resting) and this is the a signature of reishi: nourishing, calming and restoring. Herbalist, Peter Holmes, describes this beautifully:
*The name ling for this remedy, difficult though it is to translate, actually refers to the spiritual insight and potency achieved by shamans – it is very probable that the mushroom was traditionally used by early shamans and Daoists as an aid for journeying and meditation practices. Reishi generates a sense of inner calm and harmony, while also heightening mental perception, both logical and intuitive. – Peter Holmes. *
Reishi has five main healing spheres is the body (most likely more, but these are my reflection from my time using this plant).
Nourishing the Nervous & Adrenal System
Reishi is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are a class of herbal medicines that help us adapt to stress and build resilience. The special quality that Reishi has over other adaptogens is that it is supports the immune system. I use Reishi in my practice for clients who are exhausted, are picking up all the bugs going around and may have a hormonal imbalance playing out also. For people in a depleted state like this, I don’t want to use anything stimulating on their nervous system, I want to nourish and build them up. Reishi is calming to the nervous system without being sedating. It’s very useful when there is anxiety, insomnia or excess muscle tension.
Reishi helps to strengthen multiple components of the immune system. It helps us to fight infections and balance exaggerated immune responses (allergies and autoimmune conditions). Not all herbs have the ability to do both. This is why Reishi is referred to as an immunomodulator. It’s actively antiviral , making is useful for treating stealth viral infections such as Epstein Barr virus, cytomegalovirus and herpes virus infections (this includes cold sores, shingles, genital herpes and chickenpox).
Reishi is a liver protector and liver tonic. It has been shown to be effective in helping heal hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and is useful for people who are regularly exposed to chemicals and experiencing fatigue, headaches, skin rashes and difficulty digesting rich foods or alcohol.
A lesser known use for Reishi is it’s ability to balance high levels of testosterone, making it a valuable remedy in health plans for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). It is an alpha 5 reductase promoter which means it supports the action of an enzyme that breaks testosterone down from it’s potent form to it’s less potent form. PCOS is a condition where higher levels of testosterone result in acne and male pattern hair growth
The heart and cardiovascular system
This is where the beauty of traditional understanding meets scientific understanding. In traditional Chinese medicine Reishi is a herb that is understood to calm The Shen, which is the Chinese concept that the soul resides in the region of the heart. They understand that symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia is an unsettling of The Shen and Reishi is a herb that calms the spirit and heart.
In modern medicine understanding it is known to reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure. This makes this herb very useful for people experiencing metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance because it’s covering so many bases in helping to improve the balance of the blood sugars as well as improving metabolism of fats (quite like tulsi and gymnema in this action). And another word from Peter:
“Beyond Reishi mushroom’s restoring and regulating effects on metabolism and immunity, however, lies a deeper power. Its adaptogenic effect not only offers a wide range of protection from unproductive stress, but also directly modulates metabolic and immune functions themselves. By enhancing our adaptation response to stressors, Reishi will finely calibrate these intricate and delicate functions” – Peter Holmes
I love combining reishi with other restorative herbs in liquid extracts in my clinical practice. It’s also very useful in powdered form as a tea or as a functional food. These are some favourite formulas:
Reishi, withania and milky oats – these three herbs that form the basis of mixes I create for women who are exhausted, depleted and running on empty.
Reishi and elderberry tea as an immune system tonic through autumn and winter.
Reishi, astragalus, siberian ginseng and liquorice for a deep immune system tonic especially if you’re recovering from the flu or a nasty viral infection
If you’re cultivating a meditation practice (or any kind of mindfulness practice) and you’re prone to anxiety, muscular tension or scattered energy – Reishi combines beautifully with skullcap, holy basil and blue lotus.
This one is quite a treat and is especially perfect for winter: reishi hot chocolate. Combine a teaspoon of Reishi powder with a teaspoon of cacao, vanilla, cinnamon and a milk of your choice for a delicious, warming restorative tonic.
Reishi is remarkably safe and doesn’t have any known interactions. But as always, ensure you take it wisely.