Reishi Mushroom Benefits
Reishi mushrooms date back to the Chinese dynast in the year 221-21- B.C. Throughout Chinese history, this has been one of the most sought-after mushrooms in Chinese history, where it is known as “lingzhi.” Some Chinese texts record medicinal uses of Reishi for more than 2,000 years.
Because quality mushrooms are hard to come by and have a remote habitat, they were reserved for the imperial family for the most part in their Chinese history.
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The mushrooms were also considered a part of the elixir of eternal life that had emperors sending out entire armies to look for the mushroom. Because of its reputation as a highly medicinal mushroom, Reishi Mushrooms have earned the name the “Mushroom of Immortality.”
What is Reishi Mushroom?
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is a bitter-tasting, edible fungus thought to have incredible health benefits. The mushroom is also thought to have positive effects on the immune system and used for support in various conditions and diseases.
The mushroom is has a beautiful appearance and is found on dead or dying hardwood trees in the conk or antler form in what is called the fruiting body of the mushroom.
Reishi mushrooms are unique in many aspects, including in how they grow. They don’t have the typical stem and cap appearance of other mushrooms, and they also don’t grow up, instead, they grow out. They are known as a shelf or bracket fungi.
They are also classified as a polypore, meaning instead of gills, the underside of the mushroom has thousands of pores and bacteria called Basidia that make spores. The bacteria releases spores into the air for dispersal into new areas when it is time for Reishi mushrooms to reproduce.
The Life of a Reishi Mushroom
Reishi mushrooms start off white. During the growth of the mushroom, the underside retains the same colour. The mushrooms have a kidney-shaped conk, which turns red or orange and develops a sheen as the mushroom grows.
The name “Ganoderma” means “Shiny skin” which describes the wet or painted appearance of the Reishi mushroom. It’s also called the “varnished conk” in reference to its shiny appearance.
As the mushroom ages, the sheen fades, so older ones look dull. The dullness may also indicate a recent spore release.
The normal conk size for Reishi mushrooms is about 1 to 2 inches thick and about 12 inches across, but they can get larger under certain conditions.
The Composition of Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms are concentrated with beneficial compounds. They are thought to have over 200 polysaccharides and significant amounts of alanine, leucine, glutamic acid, and aspartic acid. Some compounds like Ganoderic acid are unique to the Ganoderma genus and have been found in Reishi mushrooms.
The vast selection of nutrients means Reishi mushrooms have exceptional benefits. But the researchers have identified two major components that have the most impact in Reishi mushrooms.
Beta-glucans or Beta-d-glucans are a type of water-soluble complex carbohydrate that also functions as a fermentable fibre. They are a polysaccharide that survives digestion and are broken down by gut microbes in the colon.
Their complexity is because of their molecular structure which consists of carbon chains with branches or side chains. Differences in side chain arrangement may be the reason why beta-glucans found across the fungal kingdom appear to have different functions.
When combined with proteins, beta-glucans form polysaccharide peptides which are similar to those found in Reishi mushroom. There’s thought to be a connection between medicinal potency and the degree of molecular complexity.
These compounds aren’t soluble in water. They require alcohol or fat in the body to break them down and extract their benefits.
Ganoderic acid is one of the main triterpenoids found in Ganoderma species and is responsible for the mushroom’s bitter taste.
Research has uncovered over 100 triterpenes in Reishi alone about 50 of these aren’t present in any other fungi.
The triterpenes molecules are made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur atoms. They come in various types and have different functions. They have been associated with various impressive benefits.
Sterols act as hormone precursors. They only become functional hormones when activated. In humans, cholesterol is the best example of a sterol. Reishi mushrooms have numerous sterols, including ergosterol which is the precursor to vitamin D. The perceived benefits of these compounds have triggered studies that are currently looking into the relation of sterols and their impact on human health.
Reishi Mushrooms are thought to have impressive health and naturopathic benefits. Research has commenced on the benefits of these mushrooms. While most of the studies are ongoing, initial results and anecdotal reports show Reishi have multiple benefits, include;
Stimulates and regulates the immune system
Reishi’s immunological benefits are among the most celebrated and most cited. Its ability to stimulate and regulate the immune system is possibly the core and foundation of the mushroom’s benefits. In line with its stimulation and regulation benefits, Reishi is also though to reduce inflammatory responses involved in allergic reactions.
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Promotes and supports cardiovascular health
Heart disease is the world’s leading killer among disease. Anything that you can do to keep your health better is worth looking into and Reishi mushrooms have had a lot of attention. The mushrooms are thought to have some promising effects because they are rich in antioxidants which prevent heat damage and prevent lipid peroxidation. The mushrooms are also thought to offer additional benefits by lowering LDL, reducing triglyceride production and increasing HDL. Researchers think the collection of beta-glucans and triterpenes plays a role in mitigating oxidative stress and reducing the risk of cellular damage.
Adequate sleep is crucial to the body’s overall well-being and its ability to heal and restore itself. Reishi mushrooms could help improve your sleep cycle and prevent problems like developing chronic diseases because of the concentration of triterpenes that appear to make it easier to fall asleep, improve sleep quality and provide the body with more opportunities for repair and recovery.
Reduces anxiety and stress
Some of the same properties that make Reishi good for sleep may also reduce stress allowing the body to respond better to emotional triggers.
Besides the highlighted benefits, Reishi mushrooms are touted to have other benefits like protecting the brain, balancing hormones, preventing liver damage, stabilising blood sugar, and promotes a healthy gut. In essence, there’s no limit to the benefits of Reishi mushrooms.
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