Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Also known as Ling Zhi, plant of immortality, and herb of spiritual potency

It is a saprophytic and/or parasitic fungus that grows on hardwoods, especially on oaks.  A related species, Ganoderma tsugae, grows on Hemlocks. G. lucidum grows throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and South America.

     A beautiful Reishi ‘polypore’ growing indoors from a sawdust substrate bag.

  A Reishi kit

Reishi mushrooms have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Reishi has the ability to balance the immune system. Recent scientific studies on Reishi carried out in Japan demonstrated anti-tumor and immune-modulating properties.  Reishi is currently accepted by the Japanese government as an adjunct treatment for cancer. See web links listed below.

 Active Constituents

  • Sulphur compounds
  • Proteins/amino acids
  • Alkaloids
  • Nucleosides and Nucleotides
  • Polysaccharides/Beta-glucans* (long branched chains of sugars)
  • Terpenes and Triterpenes* (responsible for the bitter taste)
  • Sterols
  • Steroids
  • A glucoside
  • A coumarin glycoside
  • Volatile oil
  • Riboflavin
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Minerals, including Mg, Zn, Mn, Fe, Cu, and Ge
  • Ergosterol
  •  Fungal lysosome
  • Acid protease

*key medicinal constituents


Overall benefits include immune enhancement/modulation, resistance to disease, re-balancing metabolic functionality, and supporting longevity. Specifically, various constituents of Reishi fruit bodies and/or mycelium have the following properties/effects: anti-oxidant; anti-inflammatory and inhibit platelet aggregation; anti-tumor and immuno-stimulating; anti-ulcer; hypoglycemic; enhance protein synthesis and nucleic acid metabolism; anti-allergenic and inhibit histamine release; inhibit cholesterol synthesis; anti-hypertensive and ACE-inhibiting; cardiotonic; anti-viral and anti-bacterial; immuno-modulating; analgesic; anti-hepatotoxic; adrenocortical tonic; diuretic; laxative; sedative; tonic; expectorant and anti-tussive.

Reishi is used in Western medicine to treat many aging-related diseases including: cancers; hyperlipidemia/elevated cholesterol and coronary heart disease; diabetes; chronic bronchitis; asthma; rhinitis; HIV-aids; hepatitis B; neurasthenia; dizziness; insomnia; anorexia; Alzheimer’s disease; leucopenia; progressive muscular dystrophy; gastric and duodenal ulcers; atrophic nyotonus; osteogenic hyperplasia and arthritis; liver failure; lupus; and conditions of suppressed or low immunity including mononucleosis as well as conditions of hyper-immunity such as some types of allergic reactions. Reishi can also be used as an antidote for poisonous mushrooms and as an ingredient in skin oils and creams for protection from UV radiation.

Reishi has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. In TCM Reishi is referred to as a Fu Zheng herb, meaning that it helps a person to resist disease. In TCM Reishi is considered to be warming and acts to nourish, tonify, remove toxins, astringe, and disperse accumulation. It is used to treat ‘deficient’ principles of qi (in blood/fluid; kidney).  Reishi has an affinity for lowqi-emitting phenomenon in the body – areas that are stagnant, not moving, or are very slow moving and where accumulation of toxins occurs. Reishi, in combination with other herbs, can help in cleansing and moving toxins. Reishi helps with yin deficiency quickly and powerfully but it is contra-indicated in extreme yang deficiency.

Physiological Effects

According to Christopher Hobbs, in his book Medicinal Mushrooms, Reishi has the following effects

  • Analgesic
  • Anti-allergic
  • Bronchitis-preventative
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-bacterial properties (against StaphylococciStreptococci and Bacillum pneumoniae)
  • Antioxidant
  • Antitumor
  • Acts to lower blood pressure
  • Acts to enhance bone marrow formation
  • Cardiotonic activity (lowers serum cholesterol; enhances myocardial metobolism; improves coronary artery hemodynamics)
  • Enchances natural killer cell activity (in vitro)
  • Expectorant and antitussive properties (mice studies)
  • Immuno-potentiation
  • Anti-HIV activity (in vitro and in vivo)
  • Improves adrenocortical function
  • Stimulates production of Interleukin-1 (in vitro)
  • Stimulates production of Interleukin-2 (in vitro)
  • Liver-protective and detoxifying
  • Protection against ionizing radiation
  • Slight anti-ulcer activity
  • Increases white blood cells and hematoglobin in peripheral blood (mice studies)


An adaptogen helps to increase resistance to a large range of biological, environmental, psychological, and chemical stresses

  • The terpenes give Reishi an adaptogenic quality, providing protection from a wise range of biological, environmental, and social stresses; it is used in Western medicine to increase resistance by stimulating the immune system and also by normalizing, or modulating immune response
  • Reishi balances the five organs (lungs, liver, kidneys, heart, spleen), toning and sedating
  • Reishi has broad re-balancing effects, both strengthening, toning, and modulating key metabolic systems including: the insulin/glucose response system; the blood lipid system; the immune response system; and the stress response system
  • Glycans of the fruit bodies significantly reduced plasma sugar levels in hyperglycemic mice
  • Reishi also normalizes, or modulates blood lipids and thus it has cardiotonic activity
  • Reishi is also used to re-balance the stress response and is effective in treating hypertension, insomnia, and anxiety
  • Sterols in Reishi act as hormone pre-cursors

Immune Enhancement

Anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects
  • RNA from Reishi disrupts viral diseases by inducing interferon production
  • Reishi inhibits diseases by helping immune cells (Natural killer cells and killer T-cells) destroy viruses
  • Reishi inhibits bacteria: Staphylococci, Streptococci and Bacillus pneumoniae
  • Polysaccharides increase RNA and DNA synthesis in the bone marrow where immune cells such as lymphocytes are made
  • Reishi increases the strength and the lifespan of white blood cells such as neutrophils
  • Reishi augments immunoglobulin G (IgG)
  • Reishi augments and/or modulates NK and killer T-cell activity

Immune modulation and allergy alleviation

  • Reishi polysaccharides modulate T-cell activity: they expand the memory of T-cells and activate suppressor T-cells
  • Reishi inhibits histamine release from white blood cells
  • Reishi ganodermic acids, oleic acid, sulphur, and LZ-8 protein (from the mycelium and young fruitbodies) help to alleviate allergies
  • Resihi inhibits and/or modulates type I, II, III, and IV allergic sensitivity reactions – it is a broad spectrum anti-allergic agent
  • Type 1 hypersenstivity reactions (IgE-related) are those to pollens,  proteins, and insect venoms (protein allergens). Patients produce an abnormally high rate of IgE antibodies as well as releasing abnormally large amounts of histamine;  Reishi helps to modulate this process by increasing the activity of suppressor T-cells (to suppress IgE antibody production) and by inhibiting histamine release
  • Type II hypersensitivity is called ‘cytotoxic hypersensitivity’ and involves antibodies and cytotoxic immune cells (NK and killer T-cells) that seek out and attack viral, foreign, and tumor cells; Reishi augments and/or modulates NK and killer T-cell activity
  • Type III reactions are in response to an excess of antigens bound to antibodies – antigen/antibody complexes; these are common to autoimmune and chronic viral diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis in which IgM-bound antigens are deposited in soft tissues (joints) where they cause inflammation and platelet aggregation; these complexes are normally destroyed by macrophages but when the load is excessive NK cells and killer T-cells are called in to help. Type III sensitivities also include farmers’ lung, library lung, and mushroom workers’ lung (from fungal spores), as well as glomerulonephritis and vascular inflammation
  • Type IV reactions are delayed reactions characterized by contact dermatitis such as poison ivy; these involve the activation of cytotoxic T cells (NK and natural killer cells) by antigens; these are associated with autoimmune conditions such as ulcerative colitis, diabetes mellitus, and myasthenia gravis.
  • Evidence suggests that Reishi helps to alleviate food sensitivities by balancing both IgA and IgG antibodies
  • Reishi inhibits Candida albicans
  • Reishi provided relief to 60-90% of chronic bronchitis sufferers and older patients experienced greater relief


  • Reishi is officially listed as a substance for treating cancer by the Japanese Government; long-term treatment of cancer with Reishi has success.
  • Vitamin C appears to increase the absorbability of Reishi polysaccharides, improving treatment of cancer and other types of diseases
  • Reishi ‘wakes up’ the immune system early to fight cancer, helping to prevent it
  • Reishi polysaccharides stimulate macrophages to produced more tumor-necrosis factor and a number of interleukins
  • 50% of the cancerous tumors in mice completely regressed 10 days after injection of Reishi; even in small doses, a polysaccharide from Reishi inhibited 100% of tumors in mice

Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and cardiotonic

  • Reishi reduces blood fat levels, including triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol); triterpene derivatives of ganoderic acid are responsible for inhibiting cholesterol biosynthesis
  • Reishi improved 81.77% of heart disease patients in 9 Chinese hospitals
  • Reishi helps to lower blood pressure – significant reduction in blood pressure was noted in humans after taking Reishi tablets for 10 days; triterpenes (Ganoderic acids) seem to be responsible for this effect; effect is attributable to ACE inhibition, an activity common to some pharmaceutical drugs [ACE = angiotensin converting enzyme]Adenosine inhibits platelet aggregation
  • Adenosine inhibits platelet aggregation
  • Reishi is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent; it is a potent scavenger of free radicals. It is suggested that Reishi’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects may be derived by potentiating the activity of the body’s own anti-oxidant enzymes, especially super oxide dismutase
  • Reishi protects against cobalt X-ray radiation – it has a ‘radioprotective’ effect similar to that of L-cysteine, a naturally occuring amino acid that is an especially active scavenger of free radicals
  • Reishi improves the function of red blood cells in transferring oxygen; Reishi acts as an altitude adaptogen, alleviating symptoms of altitude sickness
  • Reishi, prepared as an alcohol extraction, aids against liver necrosis and hepatitis; Reishi helps to regenerate the liver; it decreases damage to liver cells caused by viral antigen-antibody complexes


  • Reishi contributes to pain relief and to muscle relaxation
  • Reishi has a calming, sedating effect on the nervous system; it helps to relieve insomnia, anxiety and restlessness

Dosages and Preparations

  • Fruiting bodies (mushrooms) and mycelial, or culture products, are both effective
  • Potency can vary depending on environmental conditions and the substrate on which it is grown
  • For moving qi and thus, for detoxification, use a treatment of: Reishi; then detox herbs; then tonic herbs; then symptomatic treatment; then Reishi again; in a cyclic manner
  • Reishi is often used in combination with other herbs such as Astragalus and with anti-oxidant vitamins
  • Reishi is prepared from mature polypores, young fruiting bodies, and from mycelium
  • Reishi is prepared as a water extract and as an alcohol/solvent extract (the latter for hepatic treatment)

Powdered capsules contain about 400 mg. of Ganoderma lucidum. For mild to moderate immune support take 2 to 3 capsules morning and evening; for specific immune suppressed conditions take 2-3 capsules 3 times per day.  It is best to take tonic and ‘constitutional’ herbs for at least 3 months and up to 9 months

To make a water extract that is stronger and more readily assimilated simmer mushroom pieces in water for about 1 hour. Strain off the dark tea and add fresh water to the pieces; simmer again for 30 minutes. Strain the new tea and add it to the first decoction. Combine the 1st and 2nd decocotions and simmer, reducing this liquid to a thick paste which may take several hours.  Knead this paste into non-gluten flour or maca to make a ‘dough’; small pieces can be encapsulated (in 00 caps), or dried (in a dehydrator or oven on low heat), or frozen. Take 1 cap or piece morning and evening. Dried extract pieces can be powdered (in a coffee grinder), encapsulated, or sprinkled onto food or added to ginger tea/decoction.

One can also make tea - simmer the pieces for 40 – 60 minutes, strain, and then add to ginger and/or licorice decoctions.

For soups, add a variety of vegetables, including sea vegetables, to the tea stock. One can also add barley and meat (for deficiency conditions).  Other mushrooms can also be added – tender ones like Shiitake and Oyster can be eaten but the fibous ones such as Reishi, turkey tail, and artist’s conk are too fibous to eat and so should be left aside once their essence has permeated the broth/soup.

One can also make an alcohol tincture. For instructions about making tinctures see the books and/or website below or other books on herbs.  Take ½ to 1 teaspoon morning and evening.

For normal health maintenance and bronchial diseases a dose of 1-6 grams is standard. More serious diseases are usually treated with a 9-15 gram dosage but one can safely take 35 grams per day. Start with a smaller dose and work up to a larger one so your body has time to adjust.

The extract can be added to a drink, smoothie, or placed directly on the tongue.


Willard, Terry Ph.D, with research by Kenneth Jones. Reishi Mushroom: Herb of Spiritual Potency and Medical Wonder.  Sylvan Press, Seattle, Washington USA.  1990.

Hobbs, Christopher, L.Ac. Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture.  Botanica Press, Summertown, Tennessee USA. 1986.