What You Should Know
Ganoderma lucidum is an edible woody-brown color saprotrophic fungus that lives on dead or dying trees and old stumps or logs.
Also, know as Reishi or Lingzi mushroom is very typical for traditional Chinese medicine.
While Ganoderma lucidum has historically been prepared as teas or infusions, other modern preparations include capsules, tinctures, and fractionated extracts of mushrooms, mycelium, and spores.
Reishi is also added to chocolate bars, candies, energy drinks, and even coffee blends!
Ganoderma lucidum Health Benefits
In laboratory and animal tests, reishi mushrooms have been observed to exhibit the following properties:
Ganoderma lucidum has not been approved for any specific therapeutic purpose by the FDA in the United States.
Reishi mushrooms are one of the primary herbs of choice in any immune deficiency disease. It possesses a broad spectrum of immunostimulating activities, as well as anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic properties. Reishi contains more than 100 oxygenated triterpenes, many of which exhibit a marked effect on the activity of NK cells.
Ganoderma lucidum shows promise for a wide variety of cancer-related therapies. It has been shown to be an effective adjunct therapy, which means it improves health when taken alongside other medications, for breast cancer, hepatitis, fatigue syndrome, and prostate cancer.
Ganoderma lucidum Side Effects
Do Not Take If
You are taking warfarin or other blood thinners: Reishi may increase the risk of bleeding.
You are undergoing chemotherapy: In theory, reishi may make some chemotherapy drugs less effective.
You are taking immunosuppressants: Reishi can stimulate immune responses.
You are taking cytochrome P450 2E1, 1A2, and 3A substrate drugs: Lab studies suggest compounds in reishi may affect drug concentrations, although clinical relevance is not clear.
Liver toxicity: In two cases with the use of powdered reishi mushroom, one of which resulted in death.
Chronic diarrhea: In a 49-year-old man with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following long-term use of a powdered reishi mushroom extract.
Treatment error: A long-term user of reishi mushrooms was mistakenly treated for a parasite that in lab specimens appears similar in structure to reishi mushroom.
Ganoderma lucidum Mushroom Identification
The mushroom itself is kidney or fan-shaped and has a distinctive red to orange color, and a shiny lacquered finish on the top. It’s a polyspore, so it lacks gills, but the underside is white (or tan or grey in older specimens) and has pinprick like dots. The flesh on the underside develops a brown/tan bruise when pressed.
Grows on hardwood stumps and logs including oaks, elms, beeches, maples, and more. The tsugae (tsuga means hemlock) species seem to prefer conifers, mainly hemlocks.
Kidney or fan-shaped and reddish with a wet, lacquered appearance when young. The shiny, reddish cap is one of the main identifying features of reishi mushrooms. As they age the flesh becomes tougher and spores drop. Air currents often blow these spores to the top of the mushroom, dulling its shiny cap.
The cap rarely gets larger than a foot across and an inch or two thick. It may or may not be attached to a stem.
The newest growth often shows up as a whitish edge. A main difference between the two species is that Ganoderma lucidum has a more brownish flesh color and Ganoderma tsugae has whiter flesh.
Spores come out of tiny pores on the underside of the mushroom rather than gills. This is why they're known as polypores (poly means "many").
Spore print: Brown in both species.
Ganoderma lucidum prefers warmer regions and is found in many parts of Asia, Australia, South America, Southern Europe, and the Southeastern United States. Ganoderma tsugae likes colder temperatures and can be found as far as the Northeastern United States.
Typically late summer into the autumn is when they reach full maturation. When a young specimen is found, it is good to know that it may take several weeks for the fruit to reach full size.
Ganoderma lucidum Species
Identifying reishi mushrooms varies a bit from region to region as different species have evolved based on location.
Is the species used in traditional Chinese medicine. It grows on hardwood (especially oaks) in warmer regions, such as Asia, the south Pacific, southern Europe, and the Southeastern United States.
Found in the Northeastern United States, the species name “tsugae” means “hemlock tree” which tells you where you should begin looking for this species. Though it’s almost always found on hemlock, it can occasionally be found on birch or maple if they were growing close to hemlock. They can be found freshest between May and July. This species is also known as hemlock varnish shelf.
A particularly hard and woody reishi species, varying in size from 2 to 30 inches wide. Color is duller than others and lacks a lustrous shine. Very difficult to cut, and often must be cut with a saw into strips for drying. This species is an opportunist and can be found on many different tree species, both hard and soft wood.
Distributed from Massachusetts to Nebraska, this species has an especially dramatic ochre colored cap, that dulls as the mushroom ages. It has a matte rather than lacquered finish on its cap. Found on hardwood logs, usually oak or maple, but occasionally other hardwoods as well.
A red shiny species that grows 3 to 16 inches across. The flesh is very soft and bendable, and unlike other species, if damaged the outer growth margin will produce a sap-like resin. Found on hardwood, usually oak or maple, but occasionally other hardwoods as well.
As its name suggests, this species is native to the pacific northwest where it grows on conifers. The fruiting body is very large and can be up to a meter across.
Ganoderma lucidum Cultivation
Different members of the Ganoderma genus need different conditions for growth and cultivation. Moreover, different types are favored in different geographical regions.
For example, in South China, black G. lucidum is popular, whereas red G. lucidum is preferred in Japan.
G. lucidum thrives under hot and humid conditions, and many wild varieties are found in the subtropical regions of the Orient.
Artificial cultivation of Ganoderma lucidum has been achieved using substrates such as grain, sawdust, wood logs.
Since it takes several months to culture the fruiting body of G. lucidum, mycelia-based and culture broth-based products have assumed greater importance due to demands for increased quality control and year-round production.
The processes and different growth parameters (e.g., temperature, pH) involved in submerged mycelial culture can easily be standardized under controlled conditions, and purification and other downstream processing of active components such as polysaccharides released into the culture medium usually involve relatively simple procedures.
Different culture conditions and medium compositions have also been reported to strongly influence mycelial growth and the production of biopolymers (e.g., polysaccharides) that are extruded from the cell.
For example, Yang and Liau (1998) reported that polysaccharide production by fermenter-grown mycelia of Ganoderma lucidum was optimum at 30°C–35°C and a pH of 4–4.5, and the addition of supplements such as fatty acids was found to accelerate mycelial growth and the production of bioactive components.
Recipe: Reishi Mushroom Tea
Dried reishi mushrooms (3 - 5 grams)
A standard reishi recommendation is - a day, although doses up to 15 grams are not uncommon for more serious illnesses.
The amount of water is your choice as well. It all depends on how many cups of tea you want to drink. I use about 4 - 5 cups of water for every 3 - 5 grams of reishi (you can see how exactly I am about this). This will boil down to a fraction of the original amount.
Bring the water to a boil in stainless steel or ceramic pot. Don't use aluminum for such a prolonged boiling process.
Add the mushroom pieces. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering, not outright boiling. Let it simmer for 2 hours.
Remove from the heat, strain, and set aside. Allow the liquid to cool a little, as it's quite hot. You can repeat the process with the strained pieces until the resulting extraction is no longer bitter or colored.
Recipe: Reishi Mushroom Soup with Carrots and Kale
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion diced
4 cloves garlic diced
2 tbsp Fresh ginger peeled and grated
2 carrots sliced 1/2" thick
1 bulb fennel diced (fronds reserved)
2 cups Cremini mushrooms sliced
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms sliced (or 1/2 cup dried)
6 cups water
1/4 cup dried ground reishi mushroom
1/4 cup miso paste
1 tbsp allspice
1/2 tbsp thyme
3 cups kale chopped
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Fennel fronds minced
In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes.
Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the ginger and the remaining vegetables (except the reishi powder) and saute for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Add the water, reishi powder, miso paste and dried spices. Bring your soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
Stir the kale into the hot soup to wilt. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with fresh fennel fronds and enjoy!
Recipe: Ganoderma lucidum Cappuccino
250 ml reishi tea or 1 sachet Reishi Elixir by Four Sigmatic dissolved in 1 cup (250 mL) water
15 ml cacao powder125 ml almond milk or coconut milk
10 ml coconut oil or ghee
15 ml honey to taste
Place all ingredients in a high-speed venting blender; mix until smooth.
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