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Reishi Mushroom - History and Benefits of "The Mushroom of Immortality”

A Guide to Reishi Mushroom

Reishi mushroom, also known as “lingzhi”, which literally translates to “mushroom of immortality” has a rich and ancient history of medicinal use. Over 2,000 years ago, Chinese healers began to use this fascinating mushroom for medicinal purposes. 

History of Reishi Mushroom

 

ancient history of reishi mushroom timeline

Dating back to the Han dynasty, over 2000 years ago, is when the reishi mushroom was discovered to have medicinal uses by Chinese healers. Ancient Chinese scripts have documented reishi mushroom as an “elixir of immortality”. In addition to these texts, reishi has also shown up in ancient artworks related to Taoism. Going further even, ancient carvings, paintings, and furniture have been discovered to feature the reishi mushroom. One of the first texts to document the medicinal value of herbs was Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, written during the Han dynasty era of Ancient China, around 2000 years ago. This text is also known as “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classics.” Within the book, botanical, zoological, and mineral substances are described. Reishi Mushroom is featured, being described as a mushroom with therapeutic properties, tonifying effects, strengthening cardiac function, enhancing vital energy, increasing memory capability, and anti-aging effects. 

Wild reishi mushroom remains a rare commodity, and before people started to grow and cultivate it, it was mostly limited to Chinese nobility. As the world changed and the access to this mushroom grew, it started to become a staple in many everyday people’s lives across all of Asia. Reishi mushroom remains a commonly used treatment for many ailments across modern day Asia, and its use in the West is starting to grow dramatically.  

Reishi Mushroom Benefits

Reishi is being increasingly used across the world to assist with health and wellness. Reishi mushroom has been used to boost the immune system, to provide stress relief, and to assist with sleep. Also, reishi is highly sought after by those with heart disease and high blood pressure due to its benefits for your heart and circulatory system.

1. Immune System

Reishi Immune System

Your immune system has a couple of important functions. It helps fight off illness and regularly conducts 'immune surveillance' which searches the body for potentially harmful organisms and risky cells. As you age, your immune system can slow down and deteriorate. This can lead to an increase in illness, poor regulation of swelling, and a surplus of risky cells (free radicals) in your body.

Reishi essentially teaches your immune system to work smarter rather than harder. It's Beta-D Glucan content helps it to boost and enhance your immune system while it's anti-inflammatory properties help reduce troublesome swelling. With a properly functioning immune system, your body will naturally perform more immune surveillance, which leads to a decrease in harmful cells. 

2. Stress Relief 

Reishi Stress Relief

Reishi helps with stress relief by easing your mind and relaxing your body. Reishi can also affect you physiologically due to its adaptogen power. An adaptogen is a substance that helps you react positively to stress by supporting your adrenal system. So not only will reishi relax you, but it will also help your body fend off stress.

3. Cardiovascular Health

Reishi Cardio

A 12 week study consisting of 26 people had results showing that reishi mushroom may increase good HDL cholesterol and decrease triglycerides.

Reishi mushroom has been found to have a larger effect on people who tend to have more severe high blood pressure, rather than those with just slightly high blood pressure. It has been shown to lower blood pressure in severe cases.

4. Allergy Relief

Reishi Allergy Relief

Seasonal allergies, pollen allergies, pet allergies and more are all caused by your body releasing too much histamine when you come in contact with a substance your body is confused about. Some people are allergic to everything, while others only suffer through pollen or pets. 

Reishi is a histamine regulator, which means it can moderate the amount of histamines released into your body when you come in contact with scary, scary pollen. This allows you to avoid the unnecessary swelling, dripping, crying, and sneezing sometimes induced by a mild allergy. 

It is important to note that Anaphylaxis is different from mild to severe allergies. It is the result of a serious and sometimes deadly sensitivity to something, most commonly peanuts, shellfish, and bees. Reishi should not be used to treat or prevent Anaphylaxis. In cases of Anaphylaxis, an epipen is usually necessary, and is only short-term relief so that one can make it to a doctor or emergency clinic. 

 

Birch Boys and Reishi Mushroom - Harvesting Process 

birch boys reishi mushroom

Here at Birch Boys, we only use 100% wild-harvested reishi mushroom. We harvest our reishi off of hemlock trees in the Adirondack Mountains, in the state of New York. All of our mushrooms are sustainably harvested.

Technically speaking, Red Reishi is a term that can refer to two distinct species of mushrooms, either Ganoderma tsugae or Ganoderma lucidum. Ganoderma tsugae is more native to colder regions, such as the Northeastern United States. Ganoderma lucidum prefers warmer climates, such as Asia, South America, and Australia.

That begs the question - Which one is better? In short, it depends on the quality of its habitat, among other environmental factors. Despite being recognized as two separate species, comparative analysis suggest that the bio-active components within the two mushrooms fall somewhere between extremely comparable - to virtually identical. The informed consensus is quite clear that you should worry less about the type of Reishi you're getting, and more about where you're getting it from.

Most Reishi products contain Ganoderma lucidum, as it has become highly commercialized. Ganoderma lucidum can be sourced in abundance from Chinese farms that grow their Reishi artificially on spawn-logs or from bags of mulch or wood-pulp substrate. 

At Birch Boys, we harvest the North-American variant of Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae), commonly referred to as the "Hemlock Bracket", because it grows on fallen hemlock trees. We work with loggers, foresters, and outdoor professionals to sustainably source Reishi from it's natural habitat. Our harvesting domain spans 200,000 acres of North American Forest in which we've obtained exclusive mushroom foraging rights. 

 

 Quick Tip: If you attempt to pick reishi on your own, be sure to utilize sustainable harvesting practices. To do this, make sure that you have waited until after the mushroom has dropped its spores before harvesting. You'll know the spores have dropped by the obvious dusting of rusty-brown spore powder beneath the mushroom. (See the image below for an example).

 

Reishi mushroom spore powder

Conclusion

While we acknowledge there is so much more we can learn about Reishi - from its under researched life cycle - to its applications in modern medicine, one thing is for sure... The "Mushroom of Immortality" is the most profoundly historic mushroom in the world. Remarkably, Reishi has managed to establish its permanence in Chinese medicine as well as advancing its ascent within the western world, where soon it will reach new heights in its own cultural relevance.

 

Sources:

Chu, TT, Benzie IF, Lam CW, Fok BS, Lee KK, Tomlinson B. Study of potential cardioprotective effects of Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi): results of a controlled human intervention trial. Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong. April 2012. Accessed July 10, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21801467.

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