There are over 2000 edible kinds of mushrooms in the world, some more well-known than others. Names like Portobello, Shiitake, Oyster or just plain old White Button mushrooms have been consumed by humans for many centuries. These are the names of the varieties that fill the shelves at your local fresh food grocer; boxes of them waiting to become scrumptious meals.
But there are also names you may not be familiar with. Names like Brain mushroom, the Bleeding Tooth fungus and the Devil’s Cigar. While not all may seem as mainstream as others, there are also those that may not just be simply for the cooking pot. Their uses are far greater than one can imagine.
One such mushroom that may surprise you, is the Reishi, the Japanese name for it. It’s also known as the Lingzhi mushroom in China, Yeongji mushroom in Korea, Het Lin Chue in Thai and Linh Chi in Vietnamese.
History of the Reishi Mushroom
While most ancient texts mention Reishi mushrooms throughout the past 2000 years, several sources claim the fungus can be traced even further, all the way back to more than 4000 years ago. Even back then, texts about Reishi claim that they were eaten as “drugs for immortality”.
Many translations appear in written texts, many referring to the Reishi mushroom as one containing divine power, spiritual potency, magic, and immortality.
Chinese art symbolizes the Lingzhi as containing great health and longevity. Many ancient Chinese, on the other hand, consider the mushroom to be lucky and carried them as a talisman.
Where do Reishi mushrooms come from?
The best place to find this fungus, and maybe the more common, is at the base of Maple trees, although most deciduous trees are favored by the spores. It belongs to the Ganoderma genus and is also frequently known as bracket fungus.
Although the mushroom was considered rare in the past, due to only growing on 2 or 3 in every 10 000 trees, recent cultivation techniques have made this particular fungus much more readily available. The Reishi is harvested from hardwood logs and sawdust, or wood-chip piles, in most countries around the world.
The distribution of the Reishi in its natural habitat will see it grow in temperate and tropical climates, with some varieties discovered growing in the Amazon. Other places to see this mushroom growing in the wild include large parts of Asia, North and South America, Australia and Europe.
How do Reishi mushrooms taste?
The best way to describe the taste of Reishi mushrooms on their own is bitter. But despite their unpleasant taste, they are still an extremely sought-after mushroom, often sourced in other forms, besides fresh.
To add to their unappealing taste, they are also found to be quite chewy and hard or woody if eaten fresh. This is why Reishi mushrooms have recommended ways of consumption, whether in its fresh form or when dried.
This helps consumers avoid the overpowering bitterness, avoid potential side-effects that may ensue and leverage this mushroom’s many purported health benefits. Unfortunately, fresh forms of Reishi mushrooms can be quite difficult to find in some supermarkets, hence why dried mushrooms are preferred.
What’s the best way to prepare Reishi mushrooms?
In their fresh form, Reishi mushrooms are best when prepared in simmering water. Cooking times will vary based on the size of the mushrooms, but slicing them into thin strips will reduce this.
You’ll know when the mushroom is ready, as its texture will resemble cooked chicken. Because of the bitterness that remains, tamari or soy sauce can be added to mask the taste.
They can also be added straight to soups, creams and stews, the cooking process breaking down the chewiness of the mushroom. All of the medicinal powers will be saved within the liquids and a bonus is that the bitterness will be masked by the dish itself.
Don’t fancy a feast but prefer a drink instead? Then turning your Reishi mushrooms into a refreshing lemonade, a soothing tea or a medicinal tincture may do the trick. Tinctures are created by mixing the essence of any animal material or plant with alcohol. More information can be found below.
Start your drink by breaking your Reishi mushrooms into pieces, add them to boiling water and let them cook until the liquid resembles steaming coffee. Finally add some lemonade, fresh ginger or even vodka, so you can get all the wonderful health benefits.
But what’s the best way to consume a Reishi mushroom?
Reishi mushrooms are available in a variety of forms and this makes them quite a versatile choice for acquiring their health benefits in other forms besides natural. Common forms of Reishi include-
Compared with other mushroom varieties that have extensive options for consumption, including snacking, Reishi’s less-than-flavorsome taste makes them significantly less appealing for wider options.
Is there a preferred method for consuming dried Reishi mushrooms?
While fresh Reishi mushrooms are already full of extensive health benefits, the drying process actually increases the potency of these health benefits by up to 10 times. The potency of dried Reishi and its extract is not likely to happen normally in nature but scientific studies has shown incredible benefits when used in human trials.
Forms of Reishi Mushrooms
As a genuine superfood, the powder form of Reishi is useful in a large variety of ways, many of which you might already be familiar with. Powder is perfect for sprinkling on any stir-fries, stews or soups.
With yogurt and porridge, the powder can be a great pair with a healthy breakfast, or a smoothie and make for a pleasant alternative. Added to your morning tea or coffee is also quite common.
Pre-packaged Reishi tea is becoming a convenient method for obtaining the many health benefits of Reishi mushrooms, the ever-growing popular drink available in several variations, including organic, green and black.
Reishi coffee is also proving to be a widespread beverage choice, offered in several standard and de-caffeinated varieties. But maybe one of the easiest and convenient ways to add some healthy dried Reishi mushroom into your diet is through the many supplements on offer.
The convenience of a simple capsule, mixed with a concentrated form of Reishi powder, can be taken with a simple sip of your drink. There is a wide assortment of choices when it comes to offering the popular supplement, such as this.
If adding Reishi to your food, you may prefer to keep the mushroom intact, enjoying the actual ingredient in near-original form. To take advantage of the greater concentration of health benefits, there are options for dried Reishi mushrooms that might be suitable.
Choosing your own method for consuming this beneficial plant will come down to personal preference, taste, time and need. While you might prefer to use the plant in your cooking, others will opt for the simplicity of adding a capsule to their morning routine.
Whatever the choice, it’s never too late to make the choice and add some Reishi goodness to your day.
What are all the Reishi mushroom health benefits?
Reishi mushrooms are sometimes referred to as medicinal mushrooms. This is a broad category that encompasses many types of fungus that have been deemed to contain valuable and potentially health-boosting properties.
Used in ancient Chinese medicine for thousands of years, modern scientists have started to realize that there could be more to these little plants than first thought. Much more research is vital to substantiate the claims in so many written texts. But with each new trial, the evidence is starting to grow.
With a history of helping the sick as long as it has, it’s easy to see why modern Chinese and Japanese doctors have been adding the health benefits of Reishi to some of their own treatment plans for decades.
It was a way of fighting infections for centuries. The Reishi treatments was also useful in more modern times. These include many forms of heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
Reishi mushroom supplements have been prescribed to be used in conjunction with primary cancer treatments in Japan and China for well over 30 years. They have been deemed safe as a single-use agent, as well as in conjunction with chemotherapy treatments.
Are there any other health treatments Reishi mushroom is used for?
Quite an extensive list of ailments and conditions are noted as effectively being treated by Reishi mushrooms, the application of its properties varied by its many available forms. Personal results may vary and depend on your overall health, your age and some specific condition. The range of health issues include-
- High cholesterol
- Liver disease
- Respiratory diseases such as Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema, Lung cancer, Pneumonia
- Cancer, including treatments during chemotherapy
- Shingles, both during and after
- Cardiovascular disease
- Kidney disease
- Viral infections
- High blood pressure
- Strength building
Many people swear to the effectiveness of using Reishi mushrooms for the above conditions. Scientists, however, are still trying to substantiate the many claims. Studying the specific make-up of the fungus to understand its healing properties is one method modern science is trying to catch up with centuries of understanding by ancient healers.
Are there any side-effects to taking Reishi mushrooms?
As with any non-prescribed medicinal supplement, user-beware needs to remain front of mind. While drug manufacturers need to prove the effectiveness and safety of their products before getting a stamp of approval to sell drugs, supplement manufacturers do not.
Their product is seen more of a food than a health remedy and thus can be sold without regulation.
There is more than enough evidence of people having serious reactions when consuming certain types of foods. Allergies to seafood and shellfish are not uncommon; nor are allergies to dairy products, certain fruits like strawberries and kiwi and sesame seeds.
News stories often share the tragedies of nut allergies, certain seeds or even stimulants. Caffeine can have adverse reactions in some people, myself included. This can result in an irregular heartbeat that ends with a trip to the hospital.
The wisest choice is to try your chosen supplement in smaller quantities, to see if you are sensitive to Reishi mushrooms. You can always increase the dose at a later time, positive that there are no ill-effects.
If you don’t sense a dryness in your nasal passages, nose or throat after taking a small amount, then you may be fine. I say may, because of the many other side-effects recorded.
Reishi mushrooms: Possible Side-effects
Some of the side-effects people have experienced include-
- Upset Stomach
- Bloody Stools
There are other conditions to keep in mind before taking Reishi mushroom as a supplement. These include both high and low blood pressure where people are taking medication to treat their condition. Supplements may also affect medications for some immune system disorders and diabetes, so caution should be used.
Pregnant women and mothers currently breastfeeding should also be aware of the risks involved. Not enough research has been done to deem the supplement safe enough to be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
For those with a low platelet count, bleeding is more likely when high doses of Reishi supplements are used. Caution should be used and a gradual introduction to the fungus is recommended. This is to determine if any side-effects are likely to be experienced.
What if I’m already on medication? Any interactions I need to know?
The best practice is to always speak to your doctor or healthcare professional before using a supplement, such as Reishi mushrooms. Because of the lack of proven research results, any possibility of adverse reactions must be taken into account if already on other medication for pre-existing conditions.
Those using anti-platelet medication or using anticoagulants should pay particular attention. Some common examples of these include-
- NSAID (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
As stated before, those on medication for high or low blood pressure should also consider any possible interactions and consult their doctor. When discussing this with them, ensure you mention any other herbs or supplements you are also taking on a regular basis.
It is far better for your doctor or healthcare professional to gain a complete awareness of your lifestyle choices. This is so all of the possible interactions can be explored and confirmed.
With people regularly taking fish oil, krill oil, Ginseng, Manuka honey, Cranberry supplements, Garlic supplements or one of a multitude of other possibilities, understanding the interactions of each capsule should be considered.
What about Reishi mushroom tincture?
To put it simply, a tincture is a type of elixir from mixing plant or animal material extracts with a liquid. This liquid could be anything from vinegar to alcohol, depending on the acidic content of the extract.
Alcohol is one of the more popular mixers when mixed with mushroom extract. You can store them for much longer periods of time.
Reishi mushroom tincture options include alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. If opting for one of these faster-acting options, be sure to read. Follow all instructions carefully as overdosing, interactions and side-effects can all come into play.
Can I pick my own Reishi mushrooms?
When it comes to foraging, Reishi mushrooms are one of the safest types to hunt for. They have no known poisonous look-a-likes, making them safe and easy to identify by beginners and experienced foragers alike.
Although different species of Reishi may be more difficult to distinguish between, the differences are more scientific than practical uses.
You’ll want to find Reishi mushrooms with bright caps and white undersides. The darker the underside, the older the mushroom. And although safe as a young fungus, older ones may harbor dangerous and potentially harmful molds.
Confirmed that the Reishi mushroom is young with a white underside. Then, either cut the specimen from the tree or gently pull it.
Reishi tends to grow at the base of trees and around other plants. Ensure the other plants aren’t poisonous, thereby affecting the mushroom with it. Poison ivy could be one such culprit.
Can I store my Reishi?
Store the Reishi mushrooms soon after harvesting, as they tend to spoil quite quickly. Place them into a brown paper bag for safe storage between 3 and 5 days.
One of the best methods for keeping them longer is to dry them after cutting the mushroom into thin strips. Storing dried Reishi in an airtight container and out of the sunlight will keep them usable for far longer.
How about just growing my own Reishi mushrooms?
There are plenty of options to purchase the necessary equipment needed for growing your own Reishi mushrooms. This includes ready to grow spores. While some offer you the opportunity to use your own logs or saw-dust, providing you with ready-to-use liquid syringes, other options include complete kits.
Another method used is purchasing ready-to-grow plugs that you insert into pre-drilled holes within your setup. Sealing the holes with bee or cheese wax will ensure a positive start to their life.
One of the wonderful aspects of growing your own Reishi mushrooms is to see the type of product you can produce. Each individual mushroom is formed based on the log it grows on, the climate, the food, and nutrients available, as well as the air make-up around it.
If, for example, the carbon dioxide levels are high, a cap will not form the mushroom instead growing antlers or fingers.
Why not experiment a bit and try a little of all 3 variations? Set some up in different areas of your shed, garden or wherever you think they will grow. Use a variety of logs for them to grow and watch as each variation blooms to life.
Think I’ll just buy mine
While you may find fresh Reishi mushrooms at your local grocer or supermarket, they can be difficult to find. Things to look for if you do manage to find some, are bright-looking caps and a clean white underside.
They are susceptible to bruising so care is essential when testing them for firmness. Dried options are also available from most supermarkets. They should be well within their use-by date as well as in a sealed container or packet.
Online options are too numerous to mention. But, conducting a quick google search of the reliability of your chosen supplier may also unearth potential problems. Always use reliable sources and if the supplier lacks positive reviews, then it’s a simple search to find an alternative.
Once you have found your reliable source of high-quality Reishi products, you can rest assured that you are well on the way to experiencing the health benefits of this fungus in no time at all.
Many online sources of information can help in your journey. You will soon discover the natural properties of Reishi mushrooms for yourself.
Reishi mushrooms certainly are incredible plants
Just like the Shiitake, Oyster, Morel and Porcini, the Reishi mushroom offers us a lot more than simply being something extra to add to soup. The health benefits that these plants offer us are still being discovered to this day. Research continues as you read this.
With more discoveries being made every day, it’s hard to understand why someone wouldn’t want to add some to their diet.
Some may not be suitable for long term consumption while others are perfect for eating in their raw form. They each bring something unique to the table.
With their many varieties, tastes, appearances, and benefits, mushrooms really are one of the world’s true super-foods. And given the plentiful supply of produce, prices of this unique piece of nature make it available for anyone.
Whether it’s boosting your immune system, fighting an infection or treating fatigue, Reishi mushrooms have proven themselves to be on your side when it comes to winning the battle.
With many options to choose from, there has never been a better time to utilize these amazing little plants. There are a multitude of stores and suppliers ready and waiting to ship your order. But, how will you choose to find out the incredible healing properties for yourself?