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Reishi Mushroom Health Benefits

By Megan Ashton

Ganoderma lucidum, commonly referred to as reishi, is derived from the cap and stem of the Japanese reishi mushroom. Reishi has been a popular medicinal herb for at least 2,000 years in the Far East, where it is touted as the mushroom for longevity and eternal youth. Reishi is available fresh or dried for use in food, as well as in concentrated capsule, pill and extract form..

Mechanism of Action

Reishi has analgesic, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasetic, cardiovascular and antidiabetic effects, states the Vitamin-Supplements.org website. Phytochemicals are potent antioxidant compounds found in plants that are thought to prevent disease in humans. The primary active ingredients in reishi are two phytochemicals known as beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes. The phytochemicals in reishi are reported to prevent free radical-induced damage to the body, reduce allergy symptoms, treat and prevent hypertension and stimulate the production of immune-supporting antibodies. Reishi also is touted as an adaptogen, a substance thought to reduce the effects of mental, physical and emotional stress.

Cancer

According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, reishi is used as an immune stimulant by cancer and HIV patients. Reishi also might help to prevent the growth and proliferation of tumors. In addition, MSKCC states that reishi has been found to increase the amount of antioxidants in the blood plasma and enhance the immunity of advance-stage cancer patients. Reishi might, however, interact negatively with certain cancer drugs, and if you have cancer you should take reishi only under the supervision of your doctor.

Cardiovascular Health

Reishi is thought to support and promote cardiovascular health and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use it for the treatment of coronary artery disease. Phyllis Balch states in her book “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” that reishi is used to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease, lower high cholesterol levels and improve blood flow to the heart. Reishi also helps to prevent blood clots by keeping the blood thin and preventing it from clumping, a condition known as platelet aggregation.

Additional Purported Uses

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses reishi to slow aging; build resistance to disease; reduce inflammation; cleanse the blood; support liver, kidney and nerve function; enhance strength and stamina; and improve lower urinary tract function in men. It also is used to treat hay fever, insomnia, fatigue, viral infections, stomach ulcers, depression and impotence. These uses are based on anecdotal evidence, however, and not on solid scientific research.

Dosage and Precautions

According to vitamin-supplements.org, the therapeutic dosage of reishi for health maintenance and prevention is 2.5 grams per day, divided into four doses and taken on an empty stomach. Reishi might cause unwanted side effects, such as dry nose and throat, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and gastrointestinal upset. Reishi also might interfere with the action of certain medications, including immunosuppressants, anticoagulants and certain chemotherapy drugs. Talk with your health care practitioner before supplementing with reishi.

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