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by Salix Roots
August 23, 2018
Reishi lightens the body and promotes longevity. Taken long term, it will make you feel like you are flying, so you are able to ascend to heaven. This ascension occurs on the level of the mind… there will be an arousal of sensuality, an orgasm of the brain.
Jeffrey Yuen, 88th generation Taoist priest
The mushroom commonly known as Reishi (in Japanese) or ‘Ling Zhi’ (in Chinese) is one of the most exemplary medicinal mushrooms in the world. At least five species of Reishi are used in traditional medicine in China and Japan, each for different reasons. Ganoderma lucidum is the scientific name of the one I will be exploring here, and it is considered the most potent of all the species of Reishi.
Reishi is now commonly known in the West but has been used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for at least four thousand years. In ancient China, Reishi was and continues to be revered as a miracle tonic elixir and is said to usher in many cycles of good health. Chinese paintings, embroideries, and sculptures of the gods and immortals depict Reishi as a sacred symbol of longevity and truly one of the most powerful tonics in all of existence.
Reishi is highly revered for its uniquely astounding myriad of medicinal properties. Reishi can restore, tone, and invigorate systems in the body while enhancing our overall vitality.
In vivo and in vitro studies have found Reishi to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral (has been shown to be active against numerous viruses including Epstein-Barr, HIV, HBV, and the flu), antioxidant rich, analgesic (reduces pain), antiallergenic, stimulating and modulating to the immune system, liver protective, liver regenerative, antitumor (inhibiting or regressing tumors), and a wonderful tonic for the heart and lungs.
Let’s explore some of those categories in a bit more depth. Reishi is an immune modulator, meaning that it regulates the immune system while strongly protecting the body from harboring disease. Reishi is a great preventative, protective medicine – truly an ally to work with on a daily basis for long periods of time in an effort to keep the body in an optimal, high-functioning state of health.
It is important to create resilience in our bodies especially if we live in a place where the air is polluted or we are aren’t eating a wholesome diet, or if we regularly feel anxious, rushed, or uncontrollably emotional. In truth, our society is so filled with pollution of various kinds that it just makes sense to step up our game when it comes to wellness just as an evolutionary response to dealing with the body burden that we are unwittingly accumulating – both physically and psychologically. Carrying stress and accumulating toxins in our body inhibits our immune response and overall vitality. Working with Reishi gives our body the strength to mitigate stress and create resilience, all the while imbuing our psyche and spirit with a newfound sense of vigor and fortitude.
Taking Reishi on a regular basis protects our mitochondria and reduces both dermal and cellular oxidation on our skin and in our DNA. This is why this herb is touted as the “mushroom of immortality” in China, or in Japan where it is known as the “ten-thousand-year mushroom.”
In the forest where Reishi grows, this mushroom also provides immunity and protection to all the species that it grows around. And did you know that the Ganoderic acids that are found in Reishi have been shown to improve oxygen flow and inhibit histamine response, which has effectively helped people deal with seasonal allergies? Yup.
Naturally, Reishi is ranked in a powerful class of herbs known as adaptogens, meaning that this all mighty mushroom helps the body deal with stress more gracefully, is completely non-toxic and can be taken consistently over long periods of time, and can normalize our physical and psychological health. It’s a jack-of-all-trades kind of mushroom, and goes exactly to where the body needs it the most.
Reishi is considered powerful heart medicine, both physically and energetically. The polysaccharides that are responsible for supporting the immune response are also working in the body to lower blood pressure and stabilize blood sugar levels. Reishi has been used effectively as a treatment for coronary heart disease, as well as for lowering high cholesterol. Reishi improves cardiovascular circulation, improving the supply of oxygen and energy to the cardiac muscle. It benefits those in high altitudes as it increases oxygenation of the blood, which benefits both the heart and lung.
More energetically, Reishi allows us to heal our hearts if they have been neglected, wounded, or are just simply needing more of our attention. Reishi is often found in heart healing formulas on apothecary shelves, as it gives us permission to remember the importance of heart-based sensory awareness in this increasingly thinking-based, information overload culture. If you need some heart healing or want some encouragement to drop your attention down into your heart and abide in the wisdom that it contains, you may want to bring Reishi along for the ride as a medicine that can assist you in the journey.
In Daoism, it is believed that before we are born, we each sign up for a particular curriculum; a particular series of lessons that we are supposed to learn in our lifetime. We then go through the experiences necessary to create the right conditions where these lessons can be learned. If we are working with Reishi in our lives, it can help us to acquire the wisdom within these lessons and nudge us closer towards realizing our true purpose and potential.
Reishi has the tendency to bring us closer to our goals by connecting us to our intrinsic power. If you are finding yourself stuck, lacking clarity in your life’s path, or not feeling guided by your true calling, try working with Reishi everyday for at least one month. It might be just the thing that can help clear the fog and reveal what it is you’ve been searching for. Reishi has long been used as a spiritual catalyst, facilitating personal development and clarity of mind in those who consistently work with it. It’s also a really wonderful tool for those struggling with anxiety, excess worrying, restlessness, or patterns of cyclical thinking.
Reishi works on our consciousness on a very deep level, helping to heighten concentration, calm the mind, and relax the body. It has been used in Nootropic, or cognitive enhancement formulas in recent years, and is also a wonderful herb to use if you are looking for some support around your meditation practice.
Reishi mushrooms grow on a wide variety of trees, often dead or dying, especially Hemlock, Oak, Elm, Maple, Willow, Sweet Gum, Magnolia, Plum, and Locust. They will sometimes grow on coniferous trees such as Pine, Larch, and Spruce. They tend to grow in temperate regions. The Latin for the primary medicinal species lucidum means “shiny” or “brilliant”. So does the Genus name, Ganoderma. This is because the cap has a shiny or polished look to it, and it quite easy to identify in the wild because of its brilliant, often crimson red and crisp orange colored luster.
Reishi can be harvested at any time and is best processed when its malleable enough to cut up into smaller pieces and either worked with fresh or dried. The smaller the pieces are the more the surface area is exposed so that any liquid medium you decide to put them in will absorb more of Reishi’s powerful chemistry.
Reishi is traditionally used in a tincture or tea form, but can also be incorporated into a soup base, worked with in powdered form, or in a syrup decoction. It can be brewed in fermented beverages or infused into honey. It tastes really nice combined with coffee or cacao. There are endless possibilities for how one can work with it and there is no such thing as taking too much Reishi.
Tinctures are an easy way to bring Reishi out and about with you, but if you go that route, be sure that you get a dual extract. A dual extract means that the Reishi was extracted in both alcohol and water. Because Reishi contains a wide variety of constituents, it needs both liquids to pull out the full spectrum. Reishi has non-water soluble compounds that are called triterpenes, which give Reishi a bitter flavor and are responsible for the reduction in oxidative damage on a cellular level. These triterpenes are best extracted in alcohol. Reishi also contains polysaccharides, long branching chains of complex sugars that are responsible for the immune modulating, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor activity of Reishi. These polysaccharides are best extracted in water. So, a dual-extract is a tincture that combines both the alcohol and water extracts. You can find Reishi products in herb shops everywhere, or even grow your own quite easily at www.fungi.com, which sells easy to use starter kits.
Whatever method you choose, have fun with this fungus and know that Reishi is here to support you in ways that are multitudinous and irreducible in essence. This is an ancient medicine for modern times and one that is abundantly available and ready to support you at whatever stage of the journey you are at.
Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Herbal Antibiotics Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria, 2nd Edition. Storey Publishing, 2012.
Godino, Jessica. “Reishi, The Spirit Mushroom.” 2013. https://www.fourflameshealing.com
“Haeon.” History, http://www.haeon.com/about-reishi/history/.
Isokauppila, Tero. Healing Mushrooms: a Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Adaptogenic Mushrooms for Whole Body Health. Penguin Publishing Group, 2017.
Martin-Kilgour, Zak. “Wild Reishi Mushroom Benefits Your Shen More than Any Other Herbal Adaptogen.” www.secrets-of-longevity-in-humans.com/reishi-mushroom-benefits.html
Muskat, Alan. "No Taste Like Home - Reishi." 2018. http://www.alanmuskat.com/reishi.php
Suttie, Emma. “Reishi / Ling Zhi – The Mushroom of Immortality.” 2015. https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/eastern-philosophy/reishi-ling-zhi-the-mushroom-of-immortality/
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