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Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi mushroom is widely used in Asia and around the world as an immunostimulant. With extracts derived from both the cap and the stem of the mushroom, its biologic activity is thought be due to beta-glucan polysaccharides and compounds called triterpenes.

Reishi has demonstrated immunomodulatory and antitumor effects in a few studies. It is purportedly used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including fatigue, high cholesterol, AIDS, hypertension, inflammation, and viral infections.

Further research is needed to determine the mechanisms responsible for any anticancer potential, and well designed clinical trials are needed to confirm the beneficial effects of Reishi.

Adverse effects from medicinal mushrooms are rare. However, because Reishi may interfere with immunosuppressant and chemotherapeutic agents, patients should use caution and consult their physicians before taking Reishi supplements.

TREATMENT: Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)

ALSO KNOWN AS: Ling zhi, ling chi, lin zi, mushroom of immortality

USES: Reishi mushroom is used to treat hypertension, viral infections, inflammation, and liver disorders, to lower high cholesterol, and for immunostimulation in patients with cancer and AIDS.

BACKGROUND: Reishi is a medicinal mushroom of the class Agaricomycetes, prevalent in both tropical and temperate regions of the world. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a tonic for strengthening and promoting longevity. Extracts of Reishi mushroom are commercially available as dietary supplements and are used by patients with cancer and AIDS to boost immune function.

RESEARCH: The active constituents of Reishi include beta-glucan polysaccharides and compounds known as triterpenes.[1] Reishi extracts were found to stimulate macrophages, alter the levels of tumor necrosis factor and interleukins,[2] and inhibit platelet aggregation[3] in vitro. Studies done in rats have shown that Reishi may alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea.[4]

In clinical studies, Reishi increased plasma antioxidant capacity[5] and enhanced immune responses in advance-stage cancer patients.[6] It also reduced the severity of symptoms in men with lower urinary tract symptoms.[7]

HERB-DRUG INTERACTIONS: ­Anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs: Reishi may increase the risk of bleeding.[8]

Immunosuppressants: Reishi can enhance immune response.[6]

Chemotherapeutic agents: Reishi can increase plasma antioxidant capacity, and can interact with chemotherapeutic agents that rely on free radicals.[5] Reishi polysaccharides inhibit CYP2E1, CYP1A2, and CYP3A enzymes, potentially interfering with the metabolism of drugs that use these pathways.[9]


1. Huang K: The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd ed. New York; CRC Press; 1999.
2. Chen HS et al: Studies on the immuno-modulating and anti-tumor activities of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) polysaccharides. Bioorg Med Chem 12:5595-5601, 2004.
3. Hobbs C: Medicinal Mushrooms, 3rd ed. Loveland, Ore; Interweave Press; 1996.
4. Wang CZ et al: Effects of ganoderma lucidum extract on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in a rat model. Am J Chin Med 33:807-815, 2005.
5. Wachtel-Galor S et al: Ganoderma lucidum (‘Lingzhi’); acute and short-term biomarker response to supplementation. Int J Food Sci Nutr 55:75-83, 2004.
6. Gao Y et al. Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients. Immunol Invest 32:201-215, 2003.
7. Noguchi M et al: Randomized clinical trial of an ethanol extract of Ganoderma lucidum in men with lower urinary tract symptoms. Asian J Androl 10:777-785, 2008.
8. Tao J, Feng KY: Experimental and clinical studies on inhibitory effect of ganoderma lucidum on platelet aggregation. J Tongji Med Univ 10:240-243, 1990.
9. Wang X et al: Effects of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide on CYP2E1, CYP1A2 and CYP3A activities in BCG-immune hepatic injury in rats. Biol Pharm Bull 30:1702-1706, 2007.
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