Reishi Mushrooms Effects On Immunity, Cancer, And Spirit

A female hand holding a piece of reishi mushroom

Ling zhi is the Chinese name of Ganoderma lucidum, the reishi mushroom. This oriental fungus has long been used in Chinese traditional medicine to strengthen Heart qi, in addition to being one the most efficient single herbs to calm the Spirit (shen). 

Reishi Mushrooms are large with a lustrous laccate surface and a woody consistency. In Asian countries like Japan and China, the reishi mushroom is known as “the food of the immortals”, and is used as an aid for spiritual journeying and meditation.

A number of clinical studies show evidence that G. lucidum not only modulates immune function, but also has important anti-cancer properties, is antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, sedative, and has therapeutic effects on metabolic syndrome as well.

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Reishi in Chinese Medicine

Reishi has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over two millennia. It is listed in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, a classic text written in the Eastern Han dynasty of China (25-220 CE). The Ganoderma species are found at the top of the Superior Herbs section, and are ranked higher than all other plant-based medicines.

Red Ganoderma is bitter and balanced. It mainly treats binding in the chest, boosts the heart qi, supplements the center, sharpens the wits, and [causes people] not to forget [i.e. improves the memory]. Protracted taking may make the body light, prevent senility, and prolong life so as to make one an immortal. Its other name is Dan Zhi (Cinnabar Ganoderma). It grows in mountains and valleys.

Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing

The traditional uses of G. lucidum in Chinese medicine are many. As it is now being discovered in the scientific studies, this mushroom has a very broad and varied range of medicinal applications. 

According to the official Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China, Ling zhi is a medicine that is energetically compatible with the Heart, which is the abode of the shen.

“Shen” indicates the activity of thinking, consciousness, self, insight, emotional life, memory, and volition, all of which depend on the Heart. I translate this as “Mind“ when it refers to the Shen of the Heart.

Giovanni Maciocia

Wild Ling zhi used to be extremely rare to find. In the days before it was cultivated, only the wealthiest classes could afford it. For this reason, for thousands of years G. lucidum has remained a rather mysterious substance. Thanks to the refinement of cultivation methods and an increased demand worldwide, the effects of this amazing mushroom are starting to be known to the general public. 


  • Reishi has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years.
  • Reishi has a wide range of medicinal applications and is energetically compatible with the Heart in TCM.

Properties of Reishi in Conventional Medicine

Reishi is the Japanese term for the Ganodermataceae family of which Ganoderma is a genus. The three main bioactive compounds with therapeutic properties present in G. lucidum are peptidoglycans, triterpenes, and polysaccharides. Cultivated reishi presents a big variation in the percentage of each of these components, however.

Scientifically supported therapeutic effects of G. lucidum:

    • Immunostimulating. Reishi mushrooms have a potent effect on immunity, lessening immune activity when it is over-activated and reinforcing the immune system when it is weak.
    • Anticancer. Reishi mushrooms contain the polysaccharides beta-glucans which prevent metastasis (tumor proliferation). It has shown positive effects when supplemented during cancer treatments. 
    • Hepatoprotective. Several animal studies have shown a potent regenerative effect of reishi extract and other products in chemical-induced liver injury. 
    • Gastroprotective. One study in rats where G. lucidum polysaccharides fractions of 0.5 and 1.0 g/kg were administered for 14 days significantly accelerated ulcer healing by 40% and 56%, respectively. In addition to that, the administration of 1.0 g/kg of extract “significantly restored mucus and prostaglandin levels compared with the control group”.
    • Antidiabetic. Studies in animals and humans show evidence of a significant hypoglycemic effect of G. lucidum polysaccharides. 
    • Antiviral and antibacterial. Different studies show important inhibitory effects of G. lucidum extracts on herpes, HIV, varicella zoster, Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E. coli, Micrococcus luteus, S. aureus, B. cereus, Proteus vulgaris, and Salmonella typhi.

In addition, reishi has also been reported in some of these studies to have antioxidant effects that prevent kidney damage, substantial effects on oxidative stress, improve conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, lowering cholesterol, prevent allergic reactions, improve sleep, and some others. 


  • Reishi mushrooms have various therapeutic properties, including immunostimulating, anticancer, hepatoprotective, gastroprotective, antidiabetic, antiviral, and antibacterial effects.
  • Reishi mushrooms contain bioactive compounds such as peptidoglycans, triterpenes, and polysaccharides.
  • Reishi mushrooms have also been reported to have antioxidant effects, improve conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, lower cholesterol, prevent allergic reactions, improve sleep, and more.

Reishi and Spiritual Practices

In the oldest existing text of Chinese pharmacopeia it is said that the continued intake of reishi makes the body lighter. A light body is also connected to spiritual attainments, such as the realization of Calm Abiding (samatha).

According to Chinese medicine, the “spiritual” effects of G. lucidum stem from its tropism to the Heart and shen. Reishi has been traditionally used to support certain meditation practices, and nowadays many people report experiencing vivid and lucid dreams while supplementing with it. 

Although rarely discussed publicly, there exist in both Buddhism and Taoism techniques that involve lucid dreaming for the sake of practicing in one’s dream. These are quite advanced practices that become extremely precious once they are mastered, since in the dream state there is seven times more clarity than in the awakened state, and time doesn’t apply in dreams. 

Preparation and Dosage

Traditionally, reishi has to be sliced before being processed due to its woody consistency. Ling zhi decoction time is 20 minutes. It is helpful to soak the slices in warm water overnight before boiling them.

The standard daily dosage of ling zhi is 3–15 g in a decoction and 1.5–3 g as a pill or powder. 

Nowadays there are hundreds of reishi extracts available on the market. The standard dose for basic reishi mushroom extract is 1.44 g – 5.2 g, and for the ethanolic extract, it is 6 mg but those values can vary depending on the quality of each particular product. 


This information should not be used to diagnose or handle a health issue or illness, and people who are looking for individual medical counsel should consult with a certified physician. Continuously seek the direction of your doctor or another qualified health supplier regarding a medical condition.

Bibliographical References:

Hempen C. H. & Fischer T. (2009). A Materia Medica For Chinese Medicine. Plants, minerals and animal products. Munich: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

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