The following are some facts about Reishi:
Reishi (Rhabdophila) is a small greenish-brown mushroom with white spines and two long slender stalks. Its flesh is firm and not mushy like many other mushrooms. It contains high amounts of protein, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. It is rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein.
It contains high levels of vitamin A, B1, B2, C and E. Vitamin D is present in very low concentrations; however it may have beneficial effects on bone health. Reishi also contains trace elements such as zinc, copper and selenium which are all essential for human nutrition.
Reishi is used medicinally in Japan where it is known as “Kurage” or “Mizu no mizutama”. It has been used since ancient times in traditional Chinese medicine. Reishi has been studied extensively because of its potential therapeutic properties.
In addition to being consumed fresh, dried or powdered, reishi can also be made into a tea.
Reishi is also known as mushroom of immortality, 10,000 year mushroom, mushroom of spiritual enlightenment and mushroom of wisdom.
Elixer of Life:
One of the main reasons people take reishi is to increase the length and quality of life.
The active chemical agents in these mixtures are triterpenes. Two other herbs that contain this group of chemicals are licorice root and the Chinese herb Astragalus membranaceus.
Triterpenes have an anti-inflammatory effect, and are currently being studied as a treatment for cancer. They also promote generation of new cells and may help the body use carbohydrates more efficiently.
In 1979, researchers noticed that a group of healthy people who consumed reishi had remarkable improvement in their blood pressure. These people consumed reishi on a regular basis but this effect cannot be attributed to reishi alone because they also followed a healthy lifestyle.
The use of reishi mushroom as a life extender is based on the theory that it creates a more youthful immune system. The idea is that an older immune system acts younger, or more effectively, when exposed to reishi. This is difficult to prove because it means testing the functioning of the immune system of a large group of people for a period of many years. At present there does not seem to be any evidence that reishi increases longevity.
The claim that reishi increases the length and quality of life is difficult to prove and relies on people’s beliefs. Such claims can’t be disproved so reishi will probably remain popular with people who want to feel they are doing something to increase their odds of living longer, healthier lives.
One of the most intriguing things about reishi is that it has been shown, in experimental animals, to protect the brain after a stroke. This has not been tested in people and is probably not related to its other properties.
It is possible that reishi does have specific benefits for people with certain health conditions. However, there is currently no evidence that it can prevent or cure cancer or any other disease.
Reishi also appears to decrease cholesterol levels. However, this effect may not be related to a general effect on the immune system. Red yeast rice, which is being used as a treatment for high cholesterol, also has this effect even though it is not generally thought of as an immune system booster.
Reishi and Cancer:
Drinking reishi tea has not been shown to improve the chances of survival for people with advanced cancer. Also, there are currently no data that suggest that reishi can cure any type of cancer.
Drinking reishi tea may improve the chances of surviving cancer for some people. But this claim is very difficult to prove, mainly because so many other things influence a person’s chances of surviving cancer, such as the type and size of the tumor and the stage it has advanced to.
Also, since reishi is thought to strengthen the entire immune system, how could you tell if it was effective just by looking at survival times?
Some studies in mice and test tubes have shown that extracts from the reishi mushroom may stop the growth of cancer cells. Most of these studies used high concentrations of the extract. Also, most of these studies were done with cancer cells growing in a petri dish or injected into mice; it is difficult to apply the results of these types of experiments to humans. Also, most of these studies used the term “cancer” very loosely. Many of the “cancers” were actually cells that were growing normally but in the wrong place, like skin cells growing in the lungs.
The most promising results have come from studies of anticancer drugs that were based on reishi or used reishi as a starting point. Although these drugs work against some types of cancer in some people, they often have severe side effects. Since the drugs are based on reishi and reishi appears to have anticancer activity, many people have high hopes for this mushroom. Indeed, reishi may eventually turn out to be an effective anticancer drug, but it probably won’t be a cure-all.
Reishi and the Immune System:
Reishi does appear to have some effect on the immune system in animals and in test tubes. The effects of reishi on immunity are fairly well documented. However, these effects probably do not translate into a cure for the common cold or any known disease.
Reishi does increase certain aspects of the immune system in animals, and in test tubes. However, it is not yet known whether this has any benefit in people. Also, since many different things can affect the immune system, it is difficult to know whether reishi does or does not affect the immune system without doing specific tests.
In theory, strengthening the immune system may help people fight off viral and bacterial infections. However, this has not been proven (except in a few isolated cases), and reishi is not considered to be an “immunity booster.” In fact, it is currently recommended that people who are immune-suppressed for whatever reason avoid using reishi or other so-called immunity boosters.