The Medicinal Mushroom

In America today, the fool-proof presents at gift-giving season are iPads, chocolates, and fitness bands.  If you were in China two-thousand years ago and wanted to give a high-quality holiday gift to someone you respected, you would do well to give a ripe specimen of the corky, reddish mushroom known as Reishi.  While most of us would hesitate to tie a bow around something that grows on dying trees, the legacy of the Reishi mushroom will change anyone’s mind.

This mushroom, also called Ganoderma lucidum, has been prized in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years as a fungus with tremendous life-giving power.  Its Chinese name, lingzhi, connotes the divine and supernatural.  In Asian traditions, these mushrooms have been used to treat chronic hepatitis, nephritis, hypertension, arthritis, neurasthenia, bronchitis, asthma, gastric ulcers, insomnia, anorexia, dizziness, mushroom poisoning, and coronary heart disease (Wasser 2005).  Despite their sensational name, they are an ordinary growth commonly found on conifers in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Why do herbalists think so highly of this tough, red fungus?  In addition to the strong testament of Chinese tradition, recent clinical trials have begun to answer this question.  The mushroom’s most important compounds are polysaccharides (molecules made up of sugar chains) and triterpenes (bitter-tasting compounds created in many kinds of living organisms), which have well-documented benefits for our health.  These important compounds promote healthy cell proliferation and stimulate the immune system (Sliva 2003).  Specifically, compounds such as beta-glucans and phenols have been found to have cytotoxic and antioxidant effects.  Besides their benefits, Reishi mushrooms are special because they are non-toxic (Wasser 2005).

The effects of supplements containing Ganoderma lucidum vary.  Some supplements use the spores, while others use the fruiting body (a technical name for the stalk and cap).  Neither part of the mushroom is regulated by the FDA, so there is a chance that certain supplements labeled as containing Ganoderma will be inert.  However, the research cited above confirms that certain compounds found in bona fide mushroom matter have some positive effects for several aspects of human health, including the immune system and cell growth.  

Reishi mushrooms were a rare and special find in ancient times, but in the 21st century you do not need to go on a mushroom hunt to enjoy the benefits of this natural—or supernatural—spore.  We include Ganorderma lucidum as one of seven all-natural ingredients in our synergistic supplement ImmunoPCTN, which is formulated to support healthy immune system function and healthy cellular growth.  A 30-day supply fits nicely in a stocking.

Happy Holidays,

David DeLuca



Sliva, D. (2003). Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi) in Cancer Treatment.  Integr Cancer Ther 2: 358.  doi: 10.1177/1534735403259066

Wasser, S. P. (2005).  Reishi or Ling Zhi (Ganoderma lucidum).  In Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements.  (pp. 603-622).  New York, NY: Marcel Dekker, Inc.