You probably know all about the benefits of adding goji berries and kale to your diet, but do you know about the powerful healing properties of the reishi mushroom? If not, it’s time to get acquainted, because the reishi mushroom just might be the most dynamic superfood yet.
While the reishi mushroom, or “Lingzhi” in Chinese, is still relatively unknown in Western cultures, this fascinating fungus has been revered in Asian societies for thousands of years and is one of the oldest symbols of well-being and longevity. These “mushrooms of immortality” are found growing on plum trees in the wild and were originally reserved for use only by royals.
There are many varieties of reishi, the most common of which has a soft, cork-like texture and an ear-shaped cap that ranges in color from red-orange to black. The reishi mushroom has a rather bitter, woody taste, which is why it is traditionally prepared in a tea or as an extract. It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that researchers began to rigorously study the medicinal properties of the reishi mushroom, which is known to the scientific community as ganoderma lucidum.
Due to its growing status as a veritable panacea, the reishi mushroom is now cultivated commercially throughout the world and is available in a variety of formats from teas and tinctures to capsules and can even be found in superfood protein powder blends.
Here are four incredible, scientifically studied health benefits of the reishi mushroom:
1. Life span-extending properties
In 2009, Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry published a study conducted in Taiwan that displayed the life span-extending properties of the polysaccharides found in the reishi mushroom. These unique molecules promote longevity by boosting immune system function and preventing abnormal blood vessel formations that could lead to life-threatening cancerous growths.
2. Anti-cancer properties
The reishi mushroom has not only been shown to prevent the development of cancers, but research has indicated that the reishi mushroom may also eliminate existing cancer cells in the body. In 2010, Pharmacological Reports published a study that highlighted the role of ganoderic acid, a triterpinoid found in the reishi mushroom, in the inhibition of the development and metastasis of tumors.
In 2011, another study expanded on these findings, suggesting that bioactive compounds within the reishi mushroom may actually seek out and eradicate existing cancerous cells within the body.
3. Liver regeneration
As recently as 2013, a study in Food and Chemical Toxicology used the reishi mushroom to reverse chemical-driven liver damage in mice. The same triterpenes that displayed anti-cancer properties in other studies appear to aid the release of free radicals and promote liver cell regeneration.
4. Neuroprotective properties
In 2012, Neuropharmacology released a study that determined that the reishi mushroom can have highly therapeutic effects on neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. In this study, it was shown that reishi extract supports the production of nerve growth factor, a protein that is vital for healthy neurological function.