Reishi is a tree fungus that is highly revered throughout the history of Asian herbalism. Its Japanese name, reishi, is most commonly used. In China it is called lingzhi, and the Vietnamese name is linh chi; all of which mean “soul/spirit mushroom” or “supernatural mushroom.” Reishi is said to support a long, vibrant and beneficial life, and has earned the titles “mushroom of spiritual immortality,” and “good luck herb.” Its Western botanical name is Ganoderma lucidum, so named for its shiny upper surface.
Reishi is a member of a class of tree mushrooms called Polypores, due to their fine porous bottom surface, as compared to the gilled underside of most common and edible mushrooms. Polypore mushrooms grow in forests on dead wood. High quality, semi-wild ganoderma is grown outside on cut logs, and commercial varieties are cultivated in controlled environments on moistened rice, oats, hay, and other substrates, with varying degrees of quality (1).
Polypore mushrooms are generally not edible, as the cellulose is tough and fibrous, with a lignin structural matrix similar to cork wood. The fruiting body and mycelia are used to create reishi products, but the fruiting body is thought to be the most valuable part for health. Cracked spore and spore oil products are recently available, but I believe breaking the spore cell wall is destructive to reishi’s natural design and intention.
Polypore mushrooms include varieties of reishi that vary in color, and its many cousins such as Ganoderma oregonese, chaga (Inonotus obliquus), maitake (Grifola fronderosa), Phellinus lintaeus, and turkey tail (Coriolus versicolor). These mushrooms are found growing in many regions, with varieties of ganoderma occurring around the world.
Many studies have proven the effectiveness of polypores for supporting general immunity (2), and reishi is also said to enhance spiritual perception. Its illustrious reputation was cultivated over thousands of years of experiential observation, and a great deal of Asian art and literature has documented reishi as a spiritual herb, although modern scientific analysis has not yet developed the mechanisms to evaluate these properties.
Chinese folklore attests that one who takes reishi can attain immortality, and that regular consumption can “initiate benevolent cycles of health.” My favorite saying is that reishi is a “bridge between Heaven and Earth.” Reishi is said to imbue immortality when taken regularly. “Celestial Immortals” have been described throughout Chinese literary history. Many of these Immortals are still said to dwell in the high realms of China’s five sacred mountains. The Queen Mother of the West, China’s Matriarch, lives atop Kunlun Mountain and holds a reishi mushroom in her lap. Historic writings in the Shennong Bencao, possibly dating to 5975 B.P (before present) state that reishi can “prolong life so as to make one an immortal.” Ge Hong (1734 B.P.) created an elixir with gold reishi that was sought after by emperors. He stated that reishi could pertain to “an intermediate dimension between mundane and transcendent reality,” and that the mushroom could “produce geniehood.” Li Shizhen (437 Before Present) stated that it could “lengthen life to that of the Immortal fairies.”
The Science Behind It
Since discovering reishi, I have sought to decipher the possible biochemical pathways responsible for its purported spiritual enhancement and its ability to support long life. I began with the impressive modern research on reishi’s immune-supporting potential. Analysis reveals polypores contain a class of powerful polysaccharides called Beta 1-3-6 glucans, which are found to activate cytokines, special enzymes that penetrate and invigorate white blood cells, or macrophages ~ our body’s primary immune defense agents. When macrophages are empowered, the immune system will be engaged in cellular protection from anti-microbial activity through phagocytizing and general blood cleansing. Reishi also contains organic germanium (up to 6000 parts per million or PPM, and is high in triterpenes, also called ganodermic acids, which comprise the bitter component and are measurable as the therapeutic biomarker (3) (bitter is better).
When the body’s internal defenses are strong, we feel safer and more protected, which relieves the adrenals of the stress from worry and insecurity.
When the body’s internal defenses are strong, we feel safer and more protected, which relieves the adrenals of the stress from worry and insecurity. If we feel empowered, we are confident and willing to engage in life’s adventures. This optimistic attitude can brighten one’s light. Confident people will attract many friends and admirers, and in time, we become “The Light,” inspiring those around us. We then find we can help people, and we receive help. Thus, we unveil the “benevolent cycles of health” mentioned before.
Benefits of Reishi
We have long known that mushrooms benevolently affect consciousness. Reishi is not psychotropic and does not alter perception, yet it benefits mental clarity and helps instill a reverent attitude. Reishi enhances spiritual enlightenment, and seems to “weave us into the mycelial web of life.” The subterranean relationship of fungi with plants is called mycorrhiza. Humans attempted to sever ourselves from this relationship through disassociation with the ground (pavement, shoes, tires, etc.). Protracted taking of reishi appears to resuscitate our connection to everything else; plugging us back into our Earth. Nature is calling us to reunite for common survival, and that is why I believe reishi and other tonic herbs and superfoods are emerging in our consciousness that this time.
It is relatively simple to create and maintain the micro-environments and conditions for growing our own reishi, so it cannot be controlled, usurped, sequestered, or denied from us. Wild reishi is a worldwide phenomenon that could never be exhausted or endangered, therefore, we all have access to this life-changing messenger. By taking reishi, we could quickly experience the rapid unfoldment of our higher stage of evolution, which could metaphorically correlate with the Fourth Chakra energy of the Heart ~ the energy of giving. Of reishi’s five colors, the red reishi is associated with the heart. Curiously this is the variety that is revealing itself to us as we walk in the woods, and is even seen growing on trees in city streets.
The timing of this is impeccable for our advent into a higher phase of evolution, as Earth will not continue to provide the seemingly inexhaustible resources we have been used to consuming. As we take reishi, we understand our destiny as propagators and managers of life on Earth rather than simple usurpers and consumers. In our pending advanced evolutionary phase, we begin replenishing the fruits of Mother Earth. We will be required to redirect the majority of our activities to collective remediation of nature.
Our unfolding awareness of reishi carries the messages of this new empowerment. After 20 years of personal use and observation, I believe that taking reishi, along with other tonic herbs and a wholesome living-food diet, will provide the accelerated progression of our evolution into caring beings that live symbiotically with our planet. As more people take reishi, we may quickly and effectively adapt to and apply the changes that are immanent, and the Human race and our world will be healed and preserved.
- Hennicke, F., Cheikh-Ali, Z. Distinguishing commercially grown Ganoderma lucidum from Ganoderma lingzhi from Europe and East Asia on the basis of morphology, molecular phylology, and triterpenic acid profiles. Phytochemistry July 2016, Vol. 127- 37
- Mori, M. – compilation of numerous studies. The Cooperative Research on Ganoderma Lucidum (Lingzhi/Reishi). Wakan Shoyaku Botany, Tokyo Japan.
- Watchel-Galor, S., Tomlinson, B., Beizie, I. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi), a Chinese medical mushroom; biomarker responses in a controlled human supplementation study. British Journal of Nutrition (2004) 91, 263-269
Rehmannia Dean Thomas is President of Shaman Shack Herbs (shamanshackherbs.com) and creator of the online course on Tonic Herbalism (GateofLife.org). His books include Raw Chi, Shilajit; The Resin of Life, and Healing Thresholds.