Reishi Mushrooms: 6 Awesome Health Benefits Of This Superfood

Photo: @rank600

You probably know all about the benefits of adding goji berries, apple cider vinegar, magnesium-rich foods, and adaptogens to your diet, but do you know about the powerful healing properties of the reishi mushroom? If you think mushrooms are only good for topping off your pizza or scrambling into your favorite veggie dish, think again. Thanks to the reishi mushroom's incredible healing properties and versatility, I think it's pretty safe to say that reishi mushroom might just 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. If the royals swore by them, why shouldn't you?

So, what do you need to know about reishi mushrooms? First, 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.

Photo: @luknaja

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. In other words, reishi mushrooms might not taste completely amazing on their own, but when mixed and consumed in the right way, they can be straight-up delicious. Now that you know that reishi mushrooms are so good for you and taste amazing, let's talk facts: Here are six incredible, scientifically studied health benefits of reishi mushrooms:

1. Reishi mushrooms may help you live longer.

Want to increase your longevity? Reishi mushrooms can certainly help with that. 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. In other words, if you drink reishi mushroom tea every day, it could have huge long-term payoffs.

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2. Reishi mushrooms have anti-cancer properties.

While so much of what causes and prevents cancer remains a mystery, there have been studies conducted around reishi mushrooms that find that regular consumption could help fight against cancer cells. The reishi mushroom has not only been shown to prevent the development of cancer, 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. The research surrounding the impact reishi mushrooms has on cancer is pretty solid, so why not give it a try?

3. Reishi mushrooms may help regenerate the liver.

If you want to keep your liver doing its job effectively (in other words, eliminating toxins), trying giving reishi mushrooms a try. As recently as 2013, a study in Food and Chemical Toxicology used the power of 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.

Photo: @luknaja

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4. Reishi mushrooms have neuroprotective properties.

Want to improve your memory and protect your brain against some of the diseases that come with aging? There are a number of ways to do this, and reishi mushrooms might be one of them. In 2012, Neuropharmacology released a study that determined that reishi mushrooms 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.

5. Reishi mushrooms can give your immune system a boost.

No matter what the season, our immune systems can always use a boost—because hey, summer colds are a real thing, and they aren't any fun. A number of studies have shown that reishi mushrooms can affect the genes in white blood cells, thus altering and lowering inflammation levels. When your inflammation levels are lowered, your body is better able to fight off infection.

Most of the studies that have been conducted on reishi mushrooms and the immune system have been done on people who are sick and fighting infection, but with all the benefits that come with the regular consumption of reishi mushrooms, there's no reason to believe they won't give your immune system a boost—even if you're healthy.

6. Reishi mushrooms could help improve mood and might fend off depression.

Struggling with depression, anxiety, or irritability? While reishi mushrooms won't cure it once and for all, there is some evidence to suggest that eating, drinking, or taking reishi mushroom supplements could do quite a bit to ease some of the symptoms. One small study conducted on 132 people with a condition called neurasthenia found that when they ingested reishi mushrooms, their aches, pains, and dizziness eased up. Not only that, but their feelings of irritability improved, suggesting that reishi mushrooms provide a mood boost. As an added bonus, it seems that reishi mushrooms help with pain as well.

Interested in giving reishi mushrooms a try? Here's what you need to know if you want to use medicinal mushrooms.

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