Reishi mushrooms (scientific name Ganoderma Lucidum) are a type of polypore mushroom belonging to the Ganoderma genus (Ganoderma means “bright skin” in Greek) with no gills under their cap. Their pores are released from their flat and corky sides. Reishi contain far more nutrients than ordinary mushrooms and are said to help people live for longer hence the name “mushroom of immortality”.
The mushroom has been used for over two thousand years in traditional folk medicine to treat various health ailments, especially in Asian countries like China and Japan. For centuries, Reishi have been referred to as the “mushroom of immortality” due to their ability to treat various age-related diseases and increase longevity. Their name “lingzhi” actually translates to mushroom of immortality in Chinese. They are also known as the “herbs of spiritual potency” in Asian folk medicine.
These nutrient-rich fungi are typically converted into powder form. The powder is then used in dishes and drinks, with far more nutrients than other mushrooms. Reishi contain antioxidants and detoxifying substances. If you wish to know the medicinal reasons for trying the mushroom of immortality, read on.
Where To Find Reishi Mushrooms And When
Reishi mushrooms are rarely found in the wild, but you may see them growing randomly in small numbers in hardwood tree forest across Asia in China, Korea, and Japan and more rarely in North America. They grow alone in tree stumps of hardwood trees such as oaks, elms and maples as parasites or saprotrophs. However, only one in ten thousand trees will bear the mushroom, making them a very rare sight. Therefore, their commercial cultivation is necessary for producing larger numbers of the mushroom and exporting its by-products across the world.
Their natural peak season is summer.
How To Identify Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms have a giant kidney-like shape and a tarnished brown cap color (again similar to that of kidneys) which looks shiny when wet but chalky and dull when dry. The cap may also display small beige pin-like dots. The average cap size is 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in diameter although the caps may grow larger than this. The cap edges range from off white to light yellow, depending on the age of the mushroom. When the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are high enough, the mushrooms will not form flat caps and may grow long finger-like forms instead. Their texture is soft and somewhat corky. Their spores, released from their undersides, are white or light brown when magnified, depending on maturity of the mushroom. Finally, the flesh when cutting the cap in half is firm and off-white.
Luckily, Reishi mushrooms have no poisonous look-alikes and the mushrooms that do look similar, such as the red-belted conk mushroom, are also edible.
How To Grow Them
You can grow your own Reishi mushrooms by getting some Reishi mycelium and a woody substrate such as wood chips or sawdust to inoculate it with the mushroom culture. The mushrooms are fairly easy to grow in a plastic bag without any strict environmental settings. However, it may take up to five months to notice significant growth. If you want to grow more than a couple of mushrooms and have more space indoors, you can grow them in a small greenhouse of around three feet by five feet (91 by 152 cm) under plastic shading. The basic growing method is as follows:-
- Find your container or place of inoculation and fill it with a thick layer of sterilized substrate such as wood chips.
- Apply a layer of nutrient-rich soil over the substrate(optional) and a few fruiting blocks (buy these online) and inoculate them with the Reishi mushroom mycelium.
- Spray once or twice a week to maintain the necessary humidity levels.
- You should notice some “fingers” growing after a month, with complete fruiting bodies forming after three to four months.
- Harvest them using with a paring knife (cutting them off their fruiting blocks).
Note: the mushrooms grow best in hot and humid but shaded environments away from direct sunlight or wind.
Just like their Chinese name suggests, these mushrooms are famous for their health-boosting and longevity properties. Although there are not many scientific studies proving their health benefits, existing research has shown that the mushrooms contain various antioxidant substances like polysacharides, polyphenols and triteptenes which fight inflammation and free radical damage, slowing down aging and age-related disorders. Reishi mushroom extracts may boost the immune system’s power to fight off bacterial and viral infections such as allergies, flu virus, candida and slow down the growth of cancerous cells. Additionally, Reishi mushroom compounds have liver-protecting properties and may be used to treat Hepatitis and other liver disorders. A more detailed breakdown of Reishi’s medicinal properties is given below.
It May Fight Cancer
Reishi mushrooms have gained ground as tumor busters. When eaten, the mushroom compounds attach themselves to cancerous cells in the system and force them to die off. Reishi is not an officially accepted cancer treatment, however, it is often suggested as an alternative and additional treatment option, along with conventional treatment, such as medication. Furthermore, some studies suggest that these mushrooms can prevent or reduce the odds of developing cancer if taken on a regular basis.
The Mushroom Of Immortality Gets Rid of Liver Toxins
Reishi mushrooms are great detoxifying agents. Based on information from the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, Reishi may protect the liver from toxic substances. Reishi also appear to decrease the level of Hepatitis “B” in the livers of patients with the disease.
Reishi Balances Your Blood Sugar
Diabetes patients should be aware that Reishi can’t fully replace the action of insulin. It can, however, help balance out blood glucose. This action is beneficial not only for diabetics but also for those affected by low or abnormally high sugar on a daily basis. You should keep in mind though that eating too much Reishi alongside your diabetes pills may actually make blood sugar drop to a very low level so make sure you control your consumption.
It’s A Mood Booster
Anti-Depression drugs may work to a certain degree, but they often come with unwanted side effects. Reishi mushrooms can be an alternative treatment option, as they decrease levels of depression, anxiety and pain in patients of neurasthenia. While there are not many studies suggesting Reishi’s effectiveness in tackling depression, the results in neurasthenia patients look very hopeful and worth considering.
Reishi Is Neuroprotective
Reishi can protect your brain and nervous system. It encourages the formation of new nerves in the brain, and this can be beneficial in cases such as Alzheimer’s. The mushroom extract makes a great addition to your daily meals if your family has a history of developing Alzheimer’s or similar diseases.
It Helps Decrease Blood Pressure
Are you one of the many people affected by elevated blood pressure? If so, then Reishi mushrooms may help you keep your blood pressure under check. It helps boost cardiovascular activity and that ultimately leads to lower blood pressure. This is yet another reason for Reishi’s nickname of the mushroom of immortality.
Reishi Mushroom Sleep Benefits
This mushroom won’t make you fall asleep in seconds. However, it can help you to develop a better sleep cycle when ingested on a regular basis. Reishi tea and extract are among the most potent ways to make sure you are getting your ideal amount of sleep every day.
It Keeps Anxiety And Stress Under Control
Reishi mushrooms are good for reducing stress and anxiety. They are adaptogens, which means that they are able to help the body adapt to stress levels.
How To Cook Them
Reishi have a corky and hard texture. Consequently, they are usually cut into slices and dried or converted into powder form. They have a bitter and woody taste. Because of this, they are mainly used for their medicinal properties in teas, tinctures and energy drinks.
To make your own Reishi mushroom tea either:-
a) simmer two to three dried slices with water in a pot for around two hours, or
b) simmer using one teaspoon of mushroom powder with water in a pot for ten minutes
Then transfer the liquid into a tea pot. Serve with a natural sweetener of your choice to balance out its bitter taste.
Reishi mushrooms, in all their forms, such as dry, tea, extract, or powder, provide numerous health benefits.
They help tackle cancer, balance sleep cycles, control depression and anxiety and many other things. To reap some of these benefits, try to incorporate Reishi – the mushroom of immortality – into your daily routine.
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