THE INCREDIBLE REISHI: The Mushroom of Immortality

THE INCREDIBLE REISHI: The Mushroom of Immortality

For more than two millennia, the Traditional Chinese Medicine pharmacopeia has revered Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)--a.k.a. Lingzhi in Chinese--as a spiritually potent “mushroom of immortality” with one of the longest therapeutic histories of all mushrooms.

Historically, the 400-some bioactive compounds in this medicinal mushroom have been used to promote vitality, increase stress tolerance, boost immune function and strengthen mental clarity, among numerous other therapeutic benefits (more on that below). 

Whereas Western societies are less familiar with the Reishi mushroom, it is arguably the most well-studied herbal medicine in the world.


'Mushroom of Immortality'

Life Extension, Relaxation & Rejuvenation

The Reishi mushroom is an edible type of medicinal fungus that has been used for various healing abilities for thousands of years. A true superfood, these mushrooms are strongly anti-inflammatory and tied to longevity, better immune function, and mental clarity. It’s possible that’s why they have adopted the nickname, “King of Mushrooms”, among many other celebratory monikers.

With its shiny, plastic-like fruiting body, you may even mistake Reishi for a stage prop at first glance. In the book Healing Mushrooms, Tero Isokauppila writes about one of the mushroom’s other nicknames, “the varnished conk”. Conk, shares Isokauppila, is “another name for the fruiting body of some tree-consuming funghi.” Growing on mostly dead or dying eastern hemlock trees, lingzhi can range in color from red-orange to purple, and even black. So rare and coveted is this “King of Mushrooms” that it has even been harvested to the point of near extinction at times.


Around 396 BC in the Changbai Mountains of Ancient China, Reishi was first discovered. In little time, it earned a reputation as an exclusive tool of the rich and powerful for anti-aging, as Chinese emperors sought immortality to preserve and prolong their legacies. Given how rare it is to find Reishi in the wild, for nearly 2,000 years it was reserved for ordained royalty in China. Today, its cultivation is significantly more widespread, and we regular folks can now thankfully access its potent plant magic, too. For most of history, in Traditional Chinese Medicine fully grown Reishi mushroom was dried, cut into slices, boiled in hot water, and then steeped to make a healing tea or soup. In modern times, manufacturers of Reishi products have adapted a new processing technique of boiling Reishi multiple times at high pressure, allowing the active ingredients to form a tincture or an extract powder (like Anima Mundi’s Reishi powder).


In Chinese medical texts, a category known as “tonic herbs” identified foundational substances recommended for daily consumption because of their essential properties. Among approximately 50 tonic herbs listed in Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbalists considered it perhaps the most sacred of all. As a result, “mushroom of spiritual potency” and “plant of longevity” are some of the other monikers this superfood has earned over thousands of years. Of Reishi’s many proponents, venerable monks and Taoists of all walks have been known to celebrate Reishi as a “Shen tonic”, or in other words, a powerful “spirit nourishing herb”.  



Throughout history in holistic medicine practices, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reishi mushrooms have been considered to be adaptogen herb-like substances. That means they help us deal with the negative effects of stress, such as increased inflammation, depleted energy levels, damaged blood vessels, and various types of hormonal imbalances.

Over the past several decades, dozens of different studies have been conducted in Japan, China, the US, and the UK demonstrating that Reishi mushrooms are capable of protecting us against numerous diseases and illnesses. Because they work as an “immune modulator”, Reishi can help restore hormonal balance, bring the body back to homeostasis, and regulate activity of the immune system, including fighting tumors and cancerous cells. Additional research shows that Reishi acts as a normalizing substance, regulating various cellular functions and systems, such as the endocrine (hormonal), immune, cardiovascular, central nervous, and digestive systems.

So significant is the body of research on “the borderline miraculous medicinal properties of Reishi”, writes Conscious Lifestyle Magazine co-founder Justin Faerman, that doctors in China, Japan, and other parts of Asia consider it a first line of defense against auto-immune diseases ranging from cancer and AIDS to hepatitis, either in place of or in conjunction with established pharmaceutical treatments. And we need not wait until we are ill to integrate Reishi into our daily diets; in fact, its spiritually activating properties help restore balance in the body’s organs and glands in a slow, gentle process of adapting healthfully over time.

1. TAKE OUR YOUR CELLULAR TRASH. Reishi contains both polysaccharides and triterpenes, which promote autophagy. This literally translates to “cellular eating”. If our body isn’t regularly taking out this “cellular trash” efficiently, expedited aging and dis-eases are more prone to plague us.

2. FROM ANTI-AGING TO KEEPING THE SKIN YOUNG. Reducing dermal oxidation (the cause of wrinkles and other visible signs of aging) and protecting cellular DNA from oxidant damage before it sets in are just some of the incredible ways Reishi works internally and externally to keep your face feeling fresh.

3. RADICAL IMMUNE SUPPORT. Healing Mushrooms author Tero Isokauppila writes, “Reishi’s adaptogenic properties help to stabilize your immune system so that it operates at its full potential.” Enough said!

4. BALANCES HORMONES. “The specific triterpene compounds in Reishi fruiting bodies support and balance the endocrine system,” shares Mommypotamus founder Heather Dessinger. Without an optimally functioning hormonal system (unfortunately rare for most of us) the body is unable to fully relax and rest throughout the night. Reishi recreates hormonal balance.

5. JUMPSTART HEALTHY CYCLES. In addition to its traditional use in generating healthier sleep cycles, Reishi has also been employed as a treatment for sleep disorders, insomnia, and fatigue, including chronic fatigue syndrome. As it works to regulate the body, it allows for deeper rest. 

6. LOWER STRESS, ANXIETY + UNCLUTTER THE MIND. As with most adaptogens, this fungi makes us more resilient to stress, boosts our stamina, and helps us feel more energetic. Donald Yance, CN, MH, RH(AHG), describes it as an “elite herb” and “the perfect remedy for the typical American suffering from constant stress.” With our stress levels lowered and our minds clearer, we tend to also experience less fatigue and sleeplessness as we relax more completely.

7. TREAT/REDUCE RECURRING INFECTIONS. Frequent infections (urinary tract, bronchitis, respiratory, etc.) can be reduced or altogether eliminated in some cases with the support of Reishi mushrooms. 

8. BOOSTS GUT HEALTH. Research has also shown that mushroom polysaccharides provide food that produces healthy gut bacteria and a well-functioning immune system. “Trust your gut!”

9. STRENGTHENS THE LIVER.  The liver is one of the body’s greatest natural detoxifiers. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the liver is identified as having a strong impact on our mood. As Reishi is traditionally used to enhance positive emotions and to reduce depression, anxiety, and anger, this may also result in strong health benefits for the liver according to TCM.

10. RELIEVES ALLERGIES, ASTHMA + PROVIDES LUNG SUPPORT. Ethnobotanist David Winston and herbalist Steven Maimes write, “[Reishi] is an immunomodulator capable of strengthening the immune system and down-regulating excessive immune system response in patients with immune dysregulation (autoimmune diseases) and allergies.” Reishi has also been used to treat asthma, due to the triterpenes it contains, and their ability to encourage a more balanced histamine response.


Here is a suggested recipe for Black Elder + Rose Truffles 

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