Reishi - Ganoderma Lucidum
Other Common Names: Ling chih, Ling zhi, Mannentake, Ganoderma
Western culture has often frowned on mushrooms, even fearing the small
innocuous forest growth. The French prize their truffles, but even
truffles and other edible fungi and mushrooms are not as highly valued
or show as much potential as a species of mushrooms called Ling Zhi or
Reishi mushrooms are polypore mushrooms. Mushrooms are the fruiting body
and reproductive structure of a higher order fungus organism, much like
an apple is the fruit of an apple tree. The actual mushroom "tree" is a
fine thread-like network called mycelium. This mycelium is for the most
part subterranean, living in soil, logs and other organic litter.
Unlike green plants, which produce many of their own nutrients by
photosynthesis, mushrooms primarily get their nutrients from dead
organic matter or soil. Mushrooms and their mycelium are nature's
original recyclers. Without them, the planet surface would be piled high
with dead, decaying material.
Mushrooms rise out of the mycelium when the right nutrients are amassed
and the right environmental conditions are present. Mushrooms release
spores at maturity. The wind spreads them and when they land on the
right spot, the cycle starts over again.
Known as reishi or mannentake to the Japanese and Ling Zhi to the
Chinese, G. lucidum is renown for its medicinal properties. Reishi often
is associated with health and recuperation, longevity, wisdom, and
happiness. It is believed that certain triterpenes and polysaccharides
may account for the multiple activities of Reshi. Thus, considerable
time and effort has gone into the isolation and characterization of
Reishi is a basidiomycete, lamellaless fungus belonging to the family of
polyporaceae. In nature, it grows in densely wooded mountains of high
humidity and dim lighting. It is rarely found since it flourishes mainly
on the dried trunks of dead plum, guercus serrata or pasonia trees. Out
of 10,000 such aged trees, perhaps 2 or 3 will have reishi growth,
therefore it is very scarce indeed.
Relatively rare and undiscovered in the West, Reishi and other mushrooms
have been revered as herbal medicines for thousands of years in Japan
and China. Emperors of the great Chinese dynasties and Japanese royalty
drank teas and concoctions of the mushroom for vitality and long life.
The ancient Taoists were constantly searching for the elixir of eternal
youth, and Reishi was believed to be among the ingredients.
In ancient time, reishi in medicine was considered so auspicious that
its medical efficacy has been attested to in the oldest Chinese medical
text (presumed to be over 2,000 years old). The book, which is known in
Japan as "Shinnoh Honsohkyo", is now accepted as being the original
textbook of Oriental medical science. In it, 365 kinds of medicines are
classified and explained. The medicines are basically classified into 3
categories: 120 of them are declared to be "superior" medicines, another
120 are classified as "average" medicines, and the remaining 125 are
placed in the "fair" category. The "superior" medicines are called
"God's Herbs" and they are for perpetual youth and longevity - the
medicines of the legendary wizards. The "average" category medicines are
those which can be taken as a tonic, and those in the "fair" category
are taken to remedy specific ailments. One must be careful about the
volume taken of the "average" and "fair" category medicines, and should
never take them continuously. However, the book states that for
"superior" medicines, any amount can be taken as desired on a continuous
basis with no unfavorable effects. Of the superior medicines listed in
the text, reishi was rated number one.
Although Ganoderma and its derivatives are not pharmaceuticals and have
not undergone rigorous clinical trials to be tested against cancer,
there is abundant in vitro, animal and indirect clinical evidence to
support its supplemental use in cancer. Standardization in bioactive
polysaccharide content and dosages will be necessary to assure its
rational use, and clinical trials in select cancers with defined
endpoints will confirm its efficacy.
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.
Reishi has long been known to extend life span, increase youthful vigor
and vitality. It also promotes good blood circulation by eliminating
thrombi in the blood streams. As a result, the person feels renewed
vitality. Deterioration of mind and body is arrested. Reishi is indeed a
herb with multiple applications.
Chemopreventive effects of plant polysaccharides [Aloe barbadensis
Lentinus edodes (LPS), Ganoderma lucidum (GPS) and Coriolus
versicolor (CPS)] were compared using in vitro short-term screening
methods associated with both initiation and promotion processes in
carcinogenesis. In induction of glutathione S-transferase activity, GPS
was found to be the most effective among plant polysaccharides. These
results suggest that some plant polysaccharides produced both anti-genotoxic
and anti-tumor promoting activities in in vitro models and, therefore,
might be considered as potential agents for cancer chemoprevention.
Conclusively, clinical observations have indisputable proof of reishi's
efficacy against cholesterosis, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, fatty
liver, hemorrhoid, tooth-infections, obesity and various problems that
arise from high serum cholesterol level compounded by a lack of blood
circulation. Reishi is also recognized to have some effect in cases of
stroke, cerebravascular accident, coronary insufficiency, myocardial
infarction, phlebitis etc. - problems that arise directly from arterial
blockage. Furthermore, it is found to be effective in treatment of
typical dermatitis, bronchitis asthma, allergy rhinitis, chronic
hepatitis etc. - problems related to allergic reactions. Reishi inhibits
thrombi to facilitate medication absorption; it also has an additive
effect that strengthens the prostate gland situated between the bladder
and the urinary tract. It has the same effect on the early stage of
diabetes mellitus. Bladder infection is accompanied by the usual thrombi
formation. Treatments with reishi arrest the latter thus eliminating
complications within a short period. Other clinical tests showed that
administering reishi instead of insulin can reverse blood sugar level
back to normal after one year.
The fruit bodies of Ganoderma lucidum have been used for the prevention
and treatment of various diseases in the Orient. Its antitumor and
immune enhancing properties, along with no cytotoxicity, raise the
possibility that it could be effective in preventing oxidative damage
and resulting disease. Using agarose gel electrophoresis, the potential
of Ganoderma lucidum extract as a radioprotector and antioxidant defense
against oxygen radical-mediated damage was evaluated. The results
clearly demonstrate that the hot-water extract of Ganoderma lucidum
shows good radioprotective ability, as well as protection against DNA
damage induced by metal-catalyzed Fenton reactions and UV irradiation.
The data suggest that Ganoderma mushroom merits investigation as a
potential preventive agent in humans.
Administration of hot water soluble extracts of Ganoderma lucidum (36 to
72 g dry weight/day) decreased pain dramatically in two patients with
postherpetic neuralgia recalcitrant to standard therapy and two other
patients with severe pain due to herpes zoster infection.
This review highlights some of the recently isolated and identified
substances of higher Basidiomycetes mushrooms origin that express
promising antitumor, immune modulating, cardiovascular and
hypercholesterolemia, antiviral, antibacterial, and antiparasitic
Medicinal mushrooms have a long history of use in folk medicine. In
particular, mushrooms useful against cancers of the stomach, esophagus,
lungs, etc. are known in China, Russia, Japan, Korea, as well as the
U.S.A. and Canada. There are about 200 species of mushrooms that have
been found to markedly inhibit the growth of different kinds of tumors.
Searching for new antitumor and other medicinal substances from
mushrooms and to study the medicinal value of these mushrooms have
become a matter of great significance. However, most of the mushroom
origin antitumor substances have not been clearly defined. Several
antitumor polysaccharides such as hetero-beta-glucans and their protein
complexes (e.g., xyloglucans and acidic beta-glucan-containing uronic
acid), as well as dietary fibers, lectins, and terpenoids have been
isolated from medicinal mushrooms. In Japan, Russia, China, and the
U.S.A. several different polysaccharide antitumor agents have been
developed from the fruiting body, mycelia, and culture medium of various
medicinal mushrooms (Lentinus
edodes, Ganoderma lucidum, Schizophyllum commune, Trametes
versicolor, Inonotus obliquus, and Flammulina velutipes). Both cellular
components and secondary metabolites of a large number of mushrooms have
been shown to effect the immune system of the host and therefore could
be used to treat a variety of disease states.
As recorded in the oldest Chinese medical text, reishi is the "king of
herbs", the superior herb for perpetual youth and longevity. Continuous
intake will achieve the best results.
McGlasson, Assistant Editor. Health Foods Business/January 1992 Consumer
Education Series. Reishi: Ancient Medicine Is Modern Hope
- Kim HS, Kacew S, Lee BM. Carcinogenesis 1999 Aug;20(8):1637-40. In
vitro chemopreventive effects of plant polysaccharides (Aloe barbadensis
miller, Lentinus edodes, Ganoderma lucidum and Coriolus versicolor).
- Kim KC, Kim IG. Int J Mol Med 1999 Sep;4(3):273-7. Ganoderma lucidum
extract protects DNA from strand breakage caused by hydroxyl radical and
- Hijikata Y, Yamada S. Am J Chin Med 1998;26(3-4):375-81 Effect of
Ganoderma lucidum on postherpetic neuralgia.
- Wasser SP, Weis AL. Crit Rev Immunol 1999;19(1):65-96. Therapeutic
effects of substances occurring in higher Basidiomycetes mushrooms: a
modern perspective. International Centre for Cryptogamic Plants and
Fungi, Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa, Israel.