Reishi (pronounced ray-she) is also known in some parts of the world as Ling zhi, Yeongji, Mannentake, or even Hangul. Reishi is considered a special, sometimes even sacred and mythical herb grown in Asia and the surrounding regions. Used as a medicinal mushroom in China for more than 4,000 years, it was once thought by Chinese Emperors to hold the key to long life and vitality.
Reishi has been known by many different terms and nicknames throughout history. Sometimes called The Herb of Spiritual Potency, The Herb of Immortality, The King of the Herbs, God’s Herb, and even The Elixir of Eternal Youth, this little red mushroom has created a place for itself in the annals of Asian History. (Mannentake actually means 10,000 Year Old Mushroom, in Japanese.)
Although very little has been proven conclusively, it has been claimed that reishi can do everything from cure cancer to help bring a person’s high blood pressure down. Another reason for reishi’s immense popularity is that it has almost no side effects when taken. If side effects are experienced, they are usually very mild and innocuous.
Reishi is a type of polypore mushroom. It has a very soft, corky texture, and has an unusually flat, red-varnished, kidney-shaped cap. This is how someone can identify it in nature. Not only does the reishi mushroom have a shiny skin, but it usually grows in a fan or hoof pattern. Reishi is a wood-decaying fungi and grows on both coniferous and hardwood species of trees. As one of the main white-rot fungi, reishi has enzymes that allow it to break down wood components in logs, stumps, and wood chips.
Reishi mushrooms originated in China, but they are now grown the world over in places like Northern and Southern America, Africa, Europe, and many tropical locations.
Carbon dioxide plays a large role in the growth and development of “reishi” mushrooms. Depending on the carbon dioxide levels in the environment where the reishi mushroom grows, the mushroom can grow in different shapes and even take on different colors.
Each different color of reishi mushroom supposedly nourishes a different part of the body. It is believed inn Traditional Chinese Medicine, red colored reishi (Akashiba) supposedly helps the heart, purple reishi (Murasakishiba) supposedly helps the joints (arthritis), green reishi (Aoshiba) supposedly helps the liver, white reishi (Shiroshiba) supposedly helps the lungs and skin (acne), yellow reishi (Kishiba) supposedly helps the spleen, and black reishi (Kuroshiba) is believed to help the kidneys and the brain. Though there are six different types of reishi, herbalists generally call red reishi the most potent, and therefore, it is the most commonly used form of reishi. Most pharmacies and health supplement shops carry only the red variety of reishi.
There are many different compounds and nutrients found in reishi. Ganoderic acid, beta-glucan, mannitol, and alkaloids are all compounds found within the reishi mushroom. Other nutrients include Polysaccharides, Organic Germanium, and Triterpenes.
Reishi is grown both in nature and in greenhouses and artificial environments by reishi producers. In nature, reishi grows on decaying wood and at the bottom of the stumps of deciduous trees (especially maple trees, Japanese plum trees, and oak). In man-made environments, reishi is effectively cultivated both indoors (under sterile conditions) and outdoors on logs, wood chip beds, etc.
Reishi can literally be grown anywhere in the world. Anywhere. Of course, reishi does the very best in the tropical or temperate regions to which it is indigenous; however, if you do not live in such a region, you can build a greenhouse in your yard and grow reishi in an artificially created environment. The process of growing reishi is really quite simple. First and foremost, you need to purchase some reishi dowel plugs. These are almost like mushroom seeds. You can get these from most Fungi shops. Then you get some reishi logs. Decomposing logs work well, but you can also use wood chips or other fibrous compost. Next, you must inoculate the logs. Finally, you watch and wait! You will find, like most fungi, reishi mushrooms grow rapidly and you can harvest several batches of reishi from each inoculated log.
Due to its extremely bitter taste, reishi is almost never eaten straight. Although some health supplement enthusiasts have been known to eat them whole, reishi is usually boiled in water and the extract is made into teas, coffee, or cocoa.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an extract of the reishi mushroom fruit body is used to help with overall wellness. Although the fruit body contains many compounds and nutrients, the actual mycelium is almost never used.
The reishi mushroom is categorized as a medicinal fungus and exhibits a variety of biological properties. With over 200 active nutrients in reishi, it has been widely sought after by many holistic and health clinics worldwide. You can find it online, in pharmacies, at health stores, and almost anywhere herbs are sold.
Very popular among the health supplement enthusiasts, there are about 80 different species of reishi in total. One of the best known and well-studied of all the medicinal mushrooms, reishi has been used as a health supplement for thousands of years.
In closing, reishi has been called the Spirit Medicine; however, although it is available at pharmacies as an over-the-counter health supplement, it is highly recommended that you consult with your doctor before taking it. Although many studies have been done on reishi and many books have been written about this little red mushroom, the true health benefits are still unknown. Also, reishi should be viewed as a preventative medicine and not as a treatment or cure for health ailments.