Reishi’s Medical Properties

In the 16th Century pharmacopedia Pen T’sao Kang Mu, which contains hundreds of natural medicines the Chinese have used for thousands of years, compiler Le Shih-chen described the uses of Reishi. “It positively affects the life energy, or qi of the heart, repairing the chest area and benefiting those with a knotted and tight chest.” He wrote that it also increases intellectual capacity and banishes forgetfulness. “Taken over a long period of time, agility of the body will not cease, and the years are lengthened to those of the Immortal Fairies.” In the Orient, Reishi is considered a Fu Zhen herb (immune modulation). Presently, Reishi has various applications including lowering or raising blood pressure, stimulating liver actions, blood cleansing, and acting as an adaptogen in helping the body fight the effects of stress. Chinese herbalists prize it for its abilities to regenerate the liver. In high doses, and to some degree normal doses, Ganoderma maybe classified as a liver detoxicant and protectant. In traditional Oriental applications Reishi is also used to treat insomnia, gastric ulcers, neurasthenia, arthritis, nephritis, asthma, bronchitis, hypertension and poisoning. It is also being used in treating neuromuscular disorders — stress-induced tension, myasthenia gravis and muscular dystrophy — all with varying degrees of success. Toxicity studies show no toxic effects on humans. In research, patients are given much higher doses, as high as 10 grams of extract per day, with no ill effects.


The potency of Reishi mushrooms is usually based on its level of triterpenoids. One can determine the level of this by tasting it. The more bitter it is, the higher the level of triterpenoids. Because Reishi is a polypore, (a group of hard, woody, bracket-like mushrooms) it is not eaten, but cut into pieces and made into a tea. In China, the average dose is 3 to 5 grams a day. Other popular forms of delivery are the water/alcohol extracts and powders. Reishi mushrooms and mushroom extracts are generally analyzed for specific triterpenoids called Ganoderic acids. When buying a Reishi mushroom product, check for the analysis of how much triterpenoids is in the extract or powder. “There is no standardization yet, either here or in Asia for Reishi. You have to look for high ganoderic acid-A levels, which indicates high levels of other ganoderic acids,” said Kenneth Jones, a researcher/writer specializing in the ethnopharmacology of medicinal plants. One focus for future research is on Reishi spore extracts. In China, it has been used in injectable form in clinical treatments of various ailments with success. One of the things it has successfully treated is low energy, and debilitation following long illness.


Chinese women take Reishi for beautification of the skin. The results are probably due to the mushroom’s hormone-potentiating effects, Jones said.

Reishi is included in many Japanese patents for hair loss formulas, including products used for alopecia. Spore extract injections of Reishi are also being used to treat lupus in China. The mycelium of Reishi contains high levels of polysaccharides, which have been shown in research to induce the production of interferon. Interferon is a protein produced inside cells to fight viral infection. Polysaccharides are also tumor fighters and help stimulate the immune system. Reishi is being recognized for its adjunct use as an immune system stimulator when cancer therapy is being used. The use of Reishi as a cancer treatment in the Orient is centuries old. In following the concept of qi tonics, Reishi is used to strengthen the body’s resistance to outside forces. Former heart surgeon Dr. Fukumi Morishige, a leading authority on vitamin C in Japan, reports that when Reishi and vitamin C are combined the results against cancer and other diseases are far better than when Reishi is ingested. This is because the vitamin makes the polysaccharides more accessible to the immune system. It is also an adaptogen, with properties similar to ginseng. The adenosine in Reishi may explain why the Chinese use it for patients suffering from nervous tension. Adenosine relaxes skeletal muscles, calms the central nervous system and operates against the stimulating action of caffeine. “Reishi mushrooms are certainly an herb for the 90s and beyond,” commented Jeff Chilton, president of North American Reishi. “Considering that Reishi has a history of use that spans 2,000 years and is more highly revered than ginseng in the Orient, one could readily compare its potential to that of ginseng.”