Reishi Mushroom, the Universal Calmer

Written by Dr. Jewel Alfoure, ND

The Root of Most Diseases: Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is an abnormally prolonged form of inflammation that is damaging to tissues. For example, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia, and other autoimmune and rheumatic diseases can be caused by long-term immune sensitization and chronic inflammation (1). 

Chronic inflammation is not only a hallmark of autoimmune disease; it is also a hallmark of some cancers (2). 

One of the most significant advancements in modern medicine is the development of potent anti-inflammatory agents. Some of those agents play a life-saving role in our allopathic healthcare every day (3).

Although they may be life-saving in some conditions, allopathic anti-inflammatory agents come with a long list of side effects that make them very hard to use for long-term support. Thus, though universally connected to many conditions, inflammation is one of the hardest physiological reactions to control safely (3).

Safe control of inflammation can help support people with autoimmune diseases, decrease the risk of allergies, promote better mental health, significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions and facilitate faster healing (4).

Types of inflammation

Acute inflammation is a method that the body uses to physically protect itself. The inflammatory signal is the result of a complex signaling pathway. Those signals are important as they facilitate both the protection and the healing of our bodies. 

Without a healthy inflammatory response, our bodies lack one of the most important pathways to maintaining good health after injury (5).

The modern corticosteroid is an excellent agent for successfully combatting both acute and chronic inflammation.  Though effective in reducing inflammation, corticosteroids are a treatment that most doctors avoid using. Their use is reserved for only critical, highly complex conditions. Potent anti-inflammatory agents may completely shut down the immune capacity and leave the body vulnerable to infections (3-5).

Natural Inflammatory Balance

Natural medicine has provided many types of supportive anti-inflammatory agents for centuries. Those agents target immune cytokines and calm immunity, making the body more likely to heal. We have all heard of the benefits of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory agent, for example (6).

Though active in function, most natural agents are either anti-inflammatory or immune-supportive. The natural world offers many overlooked anti-inflammatory agents. Some of the best anti-inflammatory medicines come in the form of mushrooms. Mushrooms are known to be agents of immune support. However, some other mushrooms, like Lion's Mane, have been associated with mental health support and memory. One mushroom with a unique healing profile, however, is the reishi (7). 

Reishi mushroom

Reishi mushrooms are a type of medicinal mushroom that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. They are also known as Ling Zhi in China and Japan. Reishi mushrooms have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more (8). 

Reishi mushroom contains many types of antioxidants, including beta-glucans and esters, that have been shown to fight oxidation in the body. Reishi also includes many other types of natural compounds, including amino acids, sterols, and triterpenoids (8,9).

In addition to antioxidant activity, it has been shown to have antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects. 

Though nature offers many different anti-inflammatory agents, reishi remains a unique form of anti-inflammatory, immune-supportive agent. This uniqueness comes from the capacity of the mushroom to stabilize immunity in a manner that helps the body fight off infections while still calming an over-reactive immune system. As an anti-inflammatory agent, reishi has a wide safety profile and offers benefits that touch many of our organ systems (11). 

Reishi Mushroom Health Benefits

  • Anti-cancer

  • Immune stabilizer

  • A cardiovascular support agent

  • Liver protective

  • Neurological support

  • Promotes relaxation

  • It improves one's mood

  • It enhances energy levels

  • It aids in sleep

  • Regulates blood pressure

  • The blood sugar regulator

  • It discourages clot formation

The Immune Effects of Reishi Mushroom

Some studies reveal the most shocking findings when it comes to the health-supportive capacity of the Reishi mushroom. For example, when patients with chronic bronchitis were given reishi mushrooms for four months, there was a significant improvement in their condition. The improvement was attributed to reducing the excitability of some nerve pathways. This means that the improvement in the state is due to direct effects on the nervous system and anti-inflammatory potential (11).

Studies on animals show that treatment with reishi improves many of the inflammation parameters, including swelling and pain. Therefore, triterpenes in the mushroom have been the predominant chemical of interest when studying the anti-inflammatory potential of the reishi mushroom (11,12). Triterpenes have been linked to direct inhibition of histamine release from mast cells in animal inflammatory models. The inhibition of histamine release is thought to be primarily responsible for their anti-inflammatory actions. As an anti-inflammatory compound, triterpenes have been studied extensively. Many studies show that they can help stop inflammation by blocking eicosanoids like prostaglandin H2 (13, 14).

Reishi mushrooms' active constituents

  • Beta-D-glucan polysaccharides (immune-modulating)

  • Triterpenes (cardiovascular/neurological support)

Due to the diversity of the immune-modulating effect of reishi, the mushroom has been evaluated for its gross immunomodulating properties. It was found that the mushroom does indeed demonstrate immune-modulating effects. The effects include:

  • Immune enhancement due to protein-bound polysaccharide complexes

  • An anti-oxidant capacity that improves the efficiency of the immune system

  • An increase in the power of detox enzymes

  • Enhancing cellular immune capacities results in antiviral, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and bacteriological effects.

  • Stabilization of the two branches of the immune system (TH1 & TH2)

  • a reduction in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-2

Reishi Mushroom for Allergies

Some studies show that hay fever patients have a marked improvement in symptoms with reishi supplementation. Improvements were studied in terms of quality of life and general allergic symptoms. The improvements in symptoms were kept even when the initial dose was reduced to a half dose for maintenance for the rest of the season. Therefore, it was suggested that the maintenance dose is enough to maintain maximal effectiveness for an entire season (11,12,14).

Some patients were reported to have improved as early as three to four days after the administration of the first dose of reishi. Improvements were related to overall well-being and directly linked to a reduction in the histamine-mediated allergic response (12,13,16).

The Universal Calmer in Action

It is important to note that the reishi mushroom is not only an agent for improving immune function. Preliminary studies demonstrate significant improvements in stress response, depression, and anxiety with the supplementation of reishi mushrooms (8,9,13). Though it seems unlikely that an agent can improve such vastly diverse health parameters, it is essential to remember that many health issues are caused by prolonged inflammation. Even depression and anxiety have been linked to an increase in inflammatory markers and have been demonstrated to improve with reducing the inflammatory load (17). Thus, reishi is not only a medicinal mushroom for those looking for pain relief but also an agent of overall health and wellbeing. 



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