I get a warm feeling in my heart whenever I talk about the reishi mushroom. I have personally felt more positive physiological benefits (specifically regarding stress and sleep) from welcoming this magical mushroom into my life than just about any other substance! One of the feelings I like to compare it to is getting a big, warm hug and an “it’ll all be okay” from a kind grandma after you bomb an important exam.  In fact, a common anecdotal experience among reishi users is an increased sense of peace and well-being.

Since I mention reishi often and use it frequently, I am going to give you some background on The Queen of Mushrooms so you can decide for yourself if it’s right for you!

Background

Reishi, also known as Ling Zhi, is well loved in traditional Chinese medicine. It is known as “the mushroom of immortality” because of its powerful anti-aging abilities and its reported benefits for all around wellness. The herbalist Shen Nong who first described and classified reishi over 2,400 years ago said of the mushroom “if eaten customarily, it makes your body light and young, lengthens your life and turns you into one like the immortal, who never dies.” This wisdom is currently being clinically validated in the vast amount of scientific research being done on the reishi mushroom.

Although there are about 6 varieties of reishi mushroom, the red reishi (ganoderma lucidum) grown in the east is the variety most often utilized and studied for its medicinal benefits. There is another type (Ganoderma tsugae), also with extensive health benefits, found commonly growing on dying hemlocks mainly in the northeastern US and Canada. If you find some in the US (I found one covered in fire ants one time and got bitten trying to harvest it!) this is most likely the one.

Reishi is an immunity warrior

Reishi mushroom is highly regarded for its abilities to fight tumors and cancer, strengthen the immune system, and reduce inflammation. The bioactive compounds found in reishi including triterpenes, polysaccharides, fatty acids, and many more have been shown in clinical settings to have pharmaceutical benefits, which means it can be used for medicinal purposes.

Reishi is an immunomudulator, meaning that it helps modulate the immune system. If the immune system is too active, allergies and autoimmune conditions occur. If it is not active enough, frequent illnesses and even cancers can result. Many studies have been carried out on the various cancer fighting abilities of this mushroom, and if this aspect fascinates you I highly encourage you to check it out further!

Reishi doing its job against cancer

Reishi is a sleep champion

The reishi mushroom is also famous for its ability to promote healthy deep sleep. In traditional Chinese medicine, it was prescribed for its sedative abilities for those who suffered from restlessness, insomnia, palpitations, and other anxiety related symptoms.

Modern clinical studies are also catching on; in this study, reishi “significantly decreased sleep latency, increased sleeping time, non-REM sleeptime and light sleep time” in rats, and this more recent one also confirmed the findings

Reishi as an adaptogen

Reishi is just one of many substances known as adaptogens, or plants that help the body adapt to stress and are safe for regular, long term consumption. This list includes herbs like Ashwaghanda, holy basil, rhodiola rosea, and many more.

Although adaptogens do a similar thing by helping your body cope with stress, they are all a little different and should be used in different ways for different people. For example, reishi is great for when you are experiencing adrenal related issues, burnout, and trouble sleeping and reduced immunity as a result of stress. Other adaptogens have similar benefits but are more stimulating or more aimed towards balancing hormones.

I tend to use reishi as my go-to adaptogen because I’ve found that for me, sleep is the first thing to go during times of stress, but good sleep is also necessary to help me deal with the stress and anxiety. Since reishi is such a powerful promoter of sleep and restfulness of the mind, it helps me break the “no sleep=anxiety=even less sleep=even more anxiety” downward spiral. Drinking a cup of reishi hot chocolate in the evening is one of my favorite ways to relax and feel as though everything is right in my world!

Other Cool things

Reishi has lots of other benefits, too, and here are just a couple of the cooler ones that I found:

Reishi mushroom extract stimulates nerve growth factor, which has neuroprotective effects against mitochondrial toxins and may offer protective benefits against Huntington’s disease.  This incredible study showed that reishi protected dopamine producing neurons by inhibiting inflammation in the brain, along with promising evidence that reishi could not only be used to protect against Parkinson’s disease, but other mental illnesses caused by decreased dopamine production!

Another notable superpower of reishi is undoubtedly its anti-aging capabilities. According to this article, “researchers using laboratory mice have detailed life span extension of 9% to more than 20% —the equivalent of 7 to nearly 16 years in human terms.” (references in article) This is truly exciting stuff!

How to get it

One important thing to remember when looking for a reishi supplement is that quality and sourcing matters a lot if you are after the medicinal properties. You should find one that is sourced from real trees, not sawdust, and is made from the fruiting body of the fungus rather than the mycelium. A good supplement will tell you where it came from on the label.

Reishi can be taken in capsule, tincture, or loose powdered form. My go-to source for my reishi is, of course, Four Sigmatic! I’m a little nuts about it. They have a ready made hot chocolate if you want something easy to rip open and stir into some hot water or milk, a powerful and delicious elixir if you want a stronger drinkable option, and what I use most often, their reishi spores. (Use the code Sarahdiff at the checkout to save 10% on your whole order!) I mix a heaping teaspoon or more into a smoothie, hot chocolate, or baked goods, and it lasts me a good, long time. There are other great medicinal mushroom sources out there too (my local tea shop makes an excellent tincture!), but just make sure they are of a good quality before investing. You should be able to feel a difference!

Since reishi is rather bitter on its own, it goes extremely well with chocolate. One great reishi hot chocolate recipe that is similar to my own can be found here: Reishi Powered Adaptogen Hot Cocoa . I’ll be posting my own simple recipes including reishi spores soon!

COnclusion

If you’re feeling stressed out, uptight, over worked, wound up (shoutout to a certain song by Robin Thicke) and having trouble sleeping, I encourage you to try reishi for yourself! (Of course, if you are taking any medications (specifically, blood thinners and other blood pressure medication) or have any medical conditions, discuss the addition of this mushroom with your healthcare professional.)

Is there an adaptogen or herb you gravitate towards during times of stress? I’d love to hear about it and what it does for you!

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