What is Reishi?
Reishi is a medicinal fungus with a long history of use in Asia for promoting overall health and longevity. One of the common names for the herb in China translates to the “mushroom of immortality”.
The mushroom can be difficult to find and was reserved for only the wealthy or emporers throuhgout early Chinese history. We now have the ability to cultivate this medicinal fungus, but wild-harvested forms still remain the cream of the crop.
Reishi owes it’s well-respected status to a series of long-chain polysaccharides — which have the ability to modulate the human immune system. This effect has been formally studied many times over the years, but we still lack a strong understanding of how it actually works.
What makes reishi so special (and so hard to understand) is that it acts bidirectionally on the human immune system. People with low immunity experience an increase in immune activation after using reishi — while people with autoimmune disease (hyperactive immune reaction) will often experience a reduction of immune activity. In both cases, reishi pushes the activity of the immune system back towards the baseline.
Reishi is used as a general health tonic, to resist cold and flu infections, cancer, autoimmunity, allergies, infections, and anxiety.
The anti-anxiety effects of reishi are also hard to elucidate. in Chinese medicine the herb is considered a shen tonic — which roughly translates to spirit. In this medical system, shen is housed in the heart, and when it falls out of balance we experience symptoms of anxiety, Reishi is thought to stabilize the shen — resulting in improved anxiety symptoms.
Common Names for Reishi
- Ling Zhi
Herbal Actions of Reishi
- Muscle relaxant
- Nervine Relaxant
- Pulmonary trophorestorative
Safety & Contraindications
Reishi has been proven to be a very safe herb. The main warning for this herb is to avoid taking it alongside ACE inhibitor drugs due to similar mechanisms of action and potential for negative side effects.
Reishi is considered safe in relatively high doses and long-term use. In fact, the effects of the herb become greater the longer you take it.