Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reishi: The REAL Magic Mushroom

An acupuncturist once told me that if I only ever take one supplement  for the rest of my life, it should be reishi mushrooms. For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has hailed reishi as the "Mushroom of Immortality." We may be a few thousand years behind here in the West, but modern science is finally starting to catch up. 

According to Paul Grobins, a licensed acupuncturist from Gig Harbor, WA, "Reishi is known as the essential immune system regulator with a wide ranging variety of medicinal qualities." According to TCM, reishi benefits our heart, spleen, liver, brain, circulatory system, respiratory system, and overall immune system.
In the East, reishi is generally recommended for allergies, arrhythmia, bronchitis, coronary heart disease, fibromyalgia, hepatitis, hypertension, hypoxia, leukopenia, liver cirrhosis, neurosis, tumors, and purpura. Reishi acts as an analgesic for pain, including muscle soreness, menstrual cramps, and headaches. It fights viral and bacterial infections, lowers cholesterol, shrinks tumors, and decreases the signs of aging. They aren't kidding when they call reishi the "Mushroom of Immortality." It quite literally gives you a longer, healthier life.
They aren't kidding when they call reishi the "Mushroom of Immortality." It quite literally gives you a longer, healthier life.

Western scientists have been working diligently in the lab to verify whether or not these miraculous claims are true. A simple Google search will pull up multiple pages of studies and experiments. Science now knows that reishi mushrooms are full of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, polysaccharides and triterpinoids. 
The true healing properties seem to come from the polysaccharides and the triterpinoids. For example, beta glucans, which are polysaccharides found in reishi, have shown anti-tumor and immunostimulating activities in a lab setting(1)(2). Studies have also shown reishi's unique triterpene compounds may inhibit tumor invasion by reducing matrix metalloproteinase expression(3). It may also inhibit tumor metastases by limiting attachment to endothelial cells(4). Quite a few recent studies support anti-cancer claims with evidence that reishi induces natural killer cell cytotoxicity against various cancer cell lines(5). In studies with advance-stage cancer patients, reishi has been shown to increase plasma antioxidant capacity and enhance immune response(6)(7)(8). This only scrapes the surface of what reishi mushrooms have to offer.
Since the East is so far ahead of us when it comes to these magical mushrooms, it would be wise to seek their advice when including them in our routine. TCM practitioners recommend taking reishi on an empty stomach. When taken with vitamin C, the reishi is more readily absorbed. Shell-broken spores are better absorbed than non-broken shell spores. 
Because mushrooms are a food, they can be taken with other supplements and medications without side effects. However, it is normal to have detoxification symptoms  the first 3-7 days you take reishi, which is a sign they're working. These symptoms might include light dizziness, short-term thirst, and increased defecation and urination. For certain ailments, practitioners recommend pairing reishi with other Chinese herbs. Consult a licensed acupuncturist for detailed and personalized instructions. 
When you think of "magic mushrooms," reishi might not be the first thing to come to mind, but they will be once you start taking them yourself.

This article was originally published in the Feb/March 2016 issue of HydroLife Magazine.

(1) Mao T, van De Water J, Keen CL, et al. Two mushrooms, Grifola frondosa and Ganoderma lucidum, can stimulate cytokine gene expression and proliferation in human T lymphocytes. Int J Immunother 1999;15(1):13-22.

(2) Sun LX, Li WD, Lin ZB, et al. Protection against lung cancer patient plasma-induced lymphocyte suppression by Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2014;33(2):289-299.

(3) Chen NH, Liu JW, Zhong JJ. Ganoderic Acid me inhibits tumor invasion through down-regulating matrix metalloproteinases 2/9 gene expression. J Pharmacol Sci. Oct 2008;108(2):212-216.

(6) Wachtel-Galor S, Szeto YT, Tomlinson B, et al. Ganoderma lucidum (’Lingzhi’); acute and short-term biomarker response to supplementation. Int J Food Sci Nutr. Feb 2004;55(1):75-83.

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