Q. I’ve heard that a type of mushroom known as reishi has medicinal value. Can you explain?
A. Reishi mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. In the famous Chinese materia medica, the Shen Nung Ben Cao Jing (206 B.C.i8 A.D.), reishi mushroom is listed as one of the “superior tonics.”
This means that it was highly regarded and used to prolong life, increase qi (or the vital force) and prevent aging. Reishi mushrooms were used by Taoist monks and Chinese royalty; they appeared in many well-known Chinese paintings and silk tapestries, and on the robes of the emperor.
Reishi mushroom was called the “mushroom of immortality” and the “mushroom of spiritual potency.”
Modern research has found that reishi mushroom contains many different active constituents. According to the September 2000 issue of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, most of the research on reishi mushroom has been centered on its immune-enhancing, cardiovascular-regulating and blood-sugar-lowering actions, as well as its liver-protective properties.
Reishi mushrooms contain polysaccharides, a group of compounds that have effective immune-supportive properties. Beta-glucan, one of the polysaccharides in reishi mushrooms, has been found to stimulate white blood cells that help to fight and prevent infections. Reishi mushrooms can help boost immunity in those who suffer from frequent upper respiratory infections such as colds and flus.
Triterpenes, another major class of compounds found in reishi mushrooms, can affect the cardiovascular system; researchers in China have found that they can decrease high cholesterol and hypertension.
Although reishi mushrooms have an excellent safety record, they should not be used by people who are taking anti-coagulants and cholesterol-lowering drugs that inhibit HMG-CoA reductase (such as Lovastatin).
For people who have early stage Type 2 diabetes, reishi mushroom may help decrease blood-sugar levels. Animal studies have shown that the polysaccharides known as ganoderans can enhance the liver’s ability to metabolize glucose, elevate insulin levels and increase the ability of tissues to use glucose. (Note: a person on medication for lowering blood sugar should be careful when using reishi mushrooms because their blood sugar level may drop too low).
Reishi mushroom also enhances the liver’s ability to break down toxic compounds. One of the mushroom’s actions is to increase the level of the potent antioxidant glutathione inside liver cells.
The recommended dose of reishi mushroom is 400 milligrams three times a day, containing a minimum of 10 percent beta-glucan and 4 percent triterpenes
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com