Medically reviewed on July 11, 2018
Scientific Name(s): Ganoderma lucidum (Leysser ex Fr.) Karst. Family: Polyporaceae.
Common Name(s): Reishi , ling chih , lingzhi ( ling zhi ), “ spirit plant ,” Ganopoly
The polysaccharide content of reishi mushroom is responsible for possible anticancer and immunostimulatory effects. Reishi may also provide hepatoprotective action, antiviral activity, and beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and diabetes. Few clinical trials have been conducted.
The Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China recommends 6 to 12 g reishi extract daily. Ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) in doses up to 5.4 g daily (equivalent to 81 g of the fruiting body) for 12 weeks has been used in a few clinical trials.
Contraindications have not been identified.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
Adverse reactions are mild and may include dizziness, GI upset, and skin irritation.
There are few reports of toxicity with the use of reishi mushroom.
The reishi mushroom is a purplish-brown fungus with a long stalk, brown spores, and a fan-shaped cap with a shiny, varnish-coated appearance. Reishi grows on decaying wood or tree stumps, 1 preferring the Japanese plum tree but also found on oak. The mushroom is native to China, Japan, and North America but is cultivated throughout other Asian countries. Cultivation of reishi is a long, complicated process. The reishi grows in 6 colors, each thought to have different characteristics and known as: Aoshiba (blue reishi), Akashiba (red reishi), Kishiba (yellow reishi), Shiroshiba (white reishi), Kuroshiba (black reishi), and Murasakishiba (purple reishi). 2 , 3
Reishi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 4,000 years for treating fatigue, asthma, cough, and liver ailments, and to promote longevity. 2 The Chinese name lingzhi means “herb of spiritual potency.” 2 A Japanese name for the reishi is mannentake , meaning “10,000-year-old mushroom.” Reishi's use is documented in the oldest Chinese medical text, which is more than 2,000 years old. 4 Cultivation of reishi began in the 1980s. A survey conducted in Hong Kong found G. lucidum to be the third most common herbal preparation taken by preoperative surgical patients. 5
The reishi mushroom is high in polysaccharide content with at least 36 different compounds identified, 6 including beta-d-glucan and GL-1. 2 , 3 , 7 Triterpene constituents also have been analyzed. 8 Triterpene antioxidants, including ganoderic acids A, B, C, and D; ganoderol A and B; ganoderol A; lucidenic acid B, and ganodermanontriol have been found in reishi. 1 , 2 , 6 , 9 , 10 , 11 Terpenoids 1, 2, and 3, and terpenes lucidenic acid O and lucidenic lactone are also present. 3 , 6 , 12 A peptidoglycan from reishi contained approximately 7% protein and 76% carbohydrate. 13 Certain enzymes from reishi have been reported, 14 as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Lanostan, coumarins, ergosterol, and cerevisterol are also components of reishi. 2 , 3 , 12
Uses and PharmacologyCancer
Anticancer effects of reishi have been reported largely from in vivo experiments, and data from clinical trials have been published. It is generally accepted that the anticancer effects are due to immune enhancement 3 , 15 and may be exhibited from diverse chemical constituents in reishi. 6 , 16 , 17 Experiments focused on the stimulatory effects of the higher molecular weight polysaccharides (eg, ganopoly, beta-d-glucan, GL-1) on the immune system, 3 , 7 , 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 and the suppressive effect of the triterpenes (eg, ganoderic acid) on the growth and invasive behavior of cancer cells. 15 , 16 , 18 , 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 An ethanol soluble compound ganoderol B binds to androgen receptors and inhibits the sterol enzyme 5-alpha-reductase in experiments in rats. 1Clinical data
Clinical trials have been conducted in patients with advanced cancer. 15 , 16 , 35 Not all published trials are randomized and blinded. Ganopoly in doses up to 5.4 g daily (equivalent to 81 g of the fruiting body) for 12 weeks were used. Increased cellular immunity indices were reported in 80% of cancer patients in one trial. 36 Quality of life improved in 65% of patients in another trial. 16 In a further trial, varying results were obtained. It was proposed that ganopoly could reverse the immunosuppressive effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 36 , 37
In a case report of the effect of lingzhi on gastric large B-cell lymphoma, the patient consumed 3 times the recommended dose for 5 days (60 capsules daily). Histological changes were recorded 11 days later, showing only a dense infiltrate of T lymphocytes remaining. 38Cardiovascular effects
The effect of reishi on the cardiovascular system has been investigated. Decreases in high blood pressure were reported to be attributed to the ganoderic acids. 2 Angiotensin-converting enzyme-inhibiting triterpenes from reishi have been described. 3 , 39 Inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis, enhanced antioxidase activity, decreased platelet aggregation, 2 , 3 , 40 and reduced lipid peroxidation have been demonstrated in animal and in vitro experiments. 2 , 3 , 10Diabetes
In animal experiments, ganopoly affected carbohydrate metabolism and promoted insulin secretion. In a clinical trial of patients with type 2 diabetes, ganopoly 1,800 mg 3 times daily reduced postprandial glucose values. The glucans ganoderan A and B (glucans) inhibited hypoglycemia in clinical studies. 3Hepatitis
In in vitro and in vivo animal experiments, hepatoprotection by extracts of ganoderma against induced liver damage has been demonstrated. 3 , 26 , 41 , 42 , 43 Polysaccharide ganopoly therapy for 6 months resulted in normalization of aminotransferase levels in 33% and cleared serum hepatitis B surface antigen in 13% of trial participants compared with control. 3Rheumatoid Arthritis
The effect of reishi on the immune system has been studied in in vitro experiments. In an experiment using synovial fluid from patients with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers demonstrated an inhibitory effect of a polysaccharide extract on the proliferation of synovial fibroblasts, possibly via the nuclear factor-kappa B transcription pathway. 44 Two clinical trials have been conducted involving patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Both trials used a combination of lingzhi plus San-Miao-San, therefore making it difficult to attribute the positive outcomes to the individual agents. 5 , 45Other effects
Polysaccharides isolated from reishi have been proven effective in vitro against herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2. 46 Reishi isolates also have been tested against other viral strains, including influenza A, and demonstrated effectiveness against their replication. 47Chronic fatigue syndrome
A multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in China. Ganopoly 5.4 g daily was administered for 8 weeks, resulting in a reduced sense of fatigue and lower Clinical Global Impression severity scores. 31
Traditional practitioners recommend 0.5 to 1 g daily, 2 to 5 g daily for chronic illness, and up to G. lucidum 15 g extract daily for serious illness. 5 The Chinese pharmacopoeia recommends 6 to 12 g extract daily. 5 Doses up to Ganopoly 5.4 g daily (equivalent to 81 g of the fruiting body) for 12 weeks have been used in clinical trials. 35
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
In a small, placebo-controlled trial designed to determine adverse reactions related to reishi use, 4 g of extract daily for 10 days taken by healthy adults resulted in no differences between participants receiving reishi and those taking placebo. 48 No changes in blood CD4, CD8, or CD19 were observed, and insignificant increases in CD56 were noted. 48
Ganodermic acid S and adenosine-related compounds found in reishi are thought to cause platelet inhibition, and a protease compound has been demonstrated to competitively inhibit thrombin-fibrinogen binding in in vitro experiments. However, another placebo-controlled trial using 1.5 g of extract daily for 4 weeks did not result in any changes in platelet or hemostatic function. 49
Research reveals little information regarding toxicity with the use of reishi mushroom. A mean lethal dose has been estimated to be 10 to 21 g per kg body weight. Animal experiments have tested dosages up to 38 g/kg. 5
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