If you are not very familiar with Eastern medicine, its history and its practices, you may not know that they tend to and have made very popular the use of some well, odd, or seemingly odd things. For example fungi … or mushrooms. In particular the reishi mushroom.
The reishi mushroom is fungus that grows naturally in hot, humid Asian countries and for nearly 2000 years has been a staple in Eastern culture for medicinal purposes. (1) This celebrated fungus seems to have quite an impressive resume in the potential health benefits it brings to the table. Some of these benefits include boosting immune system function and fighting cancer.
So let’s take a look at the top 5 benefits that the reishi mushroom claims it can offer …
Cancer Fighting Properties
Red reishi has certainly made its presence known among those fighting cancer, particularly breast and prostate cancers. (2) Some of the research has shown that red reishi has an impact on testosterone (3) and this is what is generating more interest in studies that look into this specifically.
A 2012 study involving 4,000 breast cancer survivors showed that around 59% of them consumed red reishi. (4) Now that is not an overwhelming percentage but it is a measurable result. Several test tubes studies have also shown that red reishi can cause cancer cells to die … but once again neither of these findings have sufficient nor conclusive data backed up with human trials.
There is a lot of excitement with respect to what is being shown as red reishi’s influence in boosting immune system function. (5) These findings are based almost solely on test tube studies, however what we are seeing is that red reishi has a positive and impressive impact on the genes in our white blood cells, to the point where it would indicate that red reishi may actually shift the inflammation pathways in these cells. (6)
While these benefits on the immune system have largely been studied in individuals who are ill, the benefits of red reishi’s impact on our immune system are also being observed in healthy individuals as well.
Once again we have a case where there is supporting research followed up with words like “insufficient” and “inconclusive.” But as far as lab studies and what the date is currently showing, and with great promise, is that red reishi may increase your GOOD cholesterol, or LDL! (8)
Without more placebo-controlled research studies, whether or not taking red reishi as a means to either improve heart health or maintain good heart health is still up in the air. From what I’ve read it does seem that there are certainly positive effects with little risk, in taking reishi if there is a concern of cardiovascular risk factors.
Improved Mental Health
It seems as though the benefits of taking red reishi are also being seen and studied with respect to “quality of life.” Most of these studies however, have been conducted involving individuals with certain medical conditions and who were more likely to experience anxiety, depression and fatigue.
An 8 week study done by the New Zealand Institute of Natural Medicine Research, involving 132 subjects, found that the participants experienced less headaches, dizziness and irritability. (9)
While we are seeing some very positive influence with red reishi’s influence on mental health, it’s important to keep in mind that these studies have been done with individuals experiencing certain medical conditions. This data is not yet confirmed as to whether or not it would benefit otherwise healthy individuals.
A Powerful Antioxidant
Antioxidants are substances that protect our cells from free radicals. We are exposed to free radicals every day, and there has definitely been a growing trend to find more “natural” ways to fight off and protect our cells from the damage that free radicals cause.
There are many individuals, holistic practitioners and alternative therapists who are convinced that red reishi is an effective and powerful antioxidant food/supplement. There is not enough evidence, as far as scientific research and data that supports this claim. (10)
In researching the reishi mushroom was was glaringly obvious to me was the lack of sufficient research that has been done in human trials. I guess I was expecting, since it’s been around as long as it has, that there would have been much more clinical and human trial done to provide some concrete data.
Now while I am a huge advocate of natural and organic supplements to promote and support overall optimized health, I’m also mindful of the fact that before starting any new supplement or supplement protocol, your own due diligence has got to be done before getting on board with something.
What works for one person may not work for another. And if you are taking something that is having little to no effect, then do you really want to continue spending money on it?
There are so many natural and AMAZING supplements out there, some with a great track record and others that are still being researched and studied. Red reishi certainly seems to have the potential for staying power, but there also needs to me a lot more research done to back it up.