When a superfood’s called “the king of mushrooms,” you know it’s got something special going on. Reishi mushrooms are known for their cell-regenerating, immune-boosting potential, which could go a long way to improving your quality of life.
The health benefits of reishi mushrooms
While reishi mushrooms are generally safe for most people to experiment with, they can cause some side effects—digestive and otherwise—so you should consult with your doctor before taking them. (That goes double if you’re pregnant, breast feeding, about to have surgery, or have any type of blood disorder or high/low blood pressure.)
Once your MD gives you the all-clear, however, there are lots of ways that reishi ‘shrooms can potentially enhance your health. Below are 10 benefits that have been uncovered by scientists.
1. Boost the immune system: Historically, reishi mushrooms have been used as an immune system enhancer—they’re even used in Asian cultures as an immunostimulant for patients with HIV and cancer. The beta glucans (complex sugars) in the mushroom are believed to stimulate the immune system to prevent infection.
2. Can alleviate fatigue: Reishi mushrooms are adaptogens, plants that help the body combat stress. In one study of 132 patients suffering from neurasthenia (a condition characterized by physical and mental exhaustion), consumption of a compound found in reishi mushrooms was shown to improve aches, pains, and feelings of irritability.
3. May be an ally against cancer: Numerous studies have been done on reishi mushrooms’ effect on cancer cells. The results have been intriguing—one small study in the Journal of Oncology found that tumors shrunk in three cancer patients that were taking reishi mushrooms. Researchers believe beta glucans in the mushrooms may prevent new blood vessel growth, which is key as cancer cells need a steady blood supply to grow. The triterpenes (AKA essential oils) in the mushrooms may also inhibit the development and metastasis of tumors. Additional research indicates that the mushrooms could alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea and improve the efficacy of radiation therapy.
4. Could lower blood pressure: Compounds in reishi mushrooms may help keep high blood pressure at bay, according to a rat study carried out in 2014. But again, if you’re currently taking blood pressure medication, consult with your doctor before taking reishi mushrooms—the combination could lower your BP to dangerous levels.
5. Might be good for the brain: Research done on animals indicates that reishi mushrooms may be therapeutic for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and may also be able to protect the brain from seizures.
6. Has allergy-fighting potential: Some studies have shown that reishi mushrooms may have antihistamine effects and can improve the body’s oxygen supply, which is key to those suffering from chronic and allergic asthma.
7. Contains cholesterol-lowering compounds: Both triterpenes and beta glucans may reduce total cholesterol and LDL—commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol.”
8. May be helpful for diabetics: Reishi mushrooms were found to decrease blood sugar in one small double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Plus, after seeing noticeably reduced kidney stress and lower blood-sugar levels in test subjects, a different group of researchers concluded that reishi mushrooms may prevent or halt kidney complications in diabetes patients.
9. Could improve liver function: Reishi mushroom spores were found to promote liver cell regeneration in mice, improving the organ’s ability to shuttle toxins out of the body. A healthy liver can also be critical to supporting other health benefits mentioned above, including managing blood sugar and allergies.
10. Rich in antioxidants: Despite the fact that their other nickname is “the mushroom of immortality,” reishi mushrooms won’t, in fact, make you