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    The Mushroom Of Immortality

    Although the health benefits of the Reishi Mushroom might just now be starting to garner some fresh attention, this wonderful fungus has long been revered as a medicinal powerhouse.

    Known by some cultures as the “mushroom of immortality”, Reishi has been used for thousands of years to increase vitality, bolster the immune system, support cardiovascular health and promote longevity.

    What is the Reishi Mushroom?

    If nothing else, the Reishi Mushroom is stunningly beautiful. It doesn’t take the shape of your typical cap and stem mushroom, but rather starts as a pencil like “antler” and forms a fan like formation, or “conk”. Because of this, Reishi Mushrooms are easily identifiable, even though they can take on a variety of deep and vivid colors.

    In nature, the mushroom grows on dead or dying hardwood trees in deciduous forests all over the world. It can generally be found throughout the warmer seasons, but is most commonly found fruiting in the fall. The fruiting body of the Reishi grows much slower than other mushrooms, but it also takes much longer to decay, sometimes even remaining on trees throughout the winter.

    The scientific name for the Reishi is Ganoderma lucidum. It is classified as a “polypore” mushroom, meaning that, rather than gills, its underside is composed of thousands of pores in which it releases its spores. The cap, or “conk”, is exceptionally tough and woody, and the taste is extremely bitter, making the mushroom completely inappropriate for culinary use.

    Even though the Reishi mushroom will likely never earn a spot at the dinner table, it’s amazing powers to heal and support the body make it a perfect candidate for regular supplementation

    Health Benefits of Reishi

    The reported health benefits of Reishi Mushroom are impressive and convicing.

    With both a long history of use, and some serious scientific fire power to back it up, it's easy to see why Reishi is the most commonly used medicinal mushroom in the world.

    So what are some of the reasons that people take Reishi for health?

    These are some pretty impressive health claims- and suggest that almost anyone could benefit from regular supplementation with Reishi. The common theme from the above health benefits is that Reishi seems to be able to improve overall health, by improving the immune system- supporting the body’s natural ability to fight disease and illness.

    You can easily see why this leads to the thesis that Reishi mushroom helps promote vitality and longevity, harmonizing the natural rhythms of the body and supporting overall wellness.

    So what is actually in the Reishi mushroom that can cause these incredible benefits?

    Beta-D-Glucans and Triterpenes

    The two major components that researchers have extracted and identified as beneficial from Reishi are the water-soluble polysaccharides (beta-glucans) and the triterpenes.

    The beta-glucans are thought to be responsible for the anti-cancer effect of Reishi mushrooms. They do this by stimulating and strengthening the immune system, which can reduce tumor proliferation and prevent tumor metastasis. Stimulating and strengthening the immune system also has other benefits, such as reducing susceptibility to colds and flu, and preventing other diseases and ailments.

    Reishi also contains a group of triterpenes known as “ganoderic acids”. Other than causing the mushroom to have an extremely bitter taste, these ganoderic acids are thought to be responsible for supporting organ health, notably the liver and heart, improving blood circulation and reducing the incidence of allergies.

    Traditionally, Reishi is not taken to combat a specific disease or illness after it has taken hold- but is rather intended to be taken regularly, along with proper diet and exercise.

    This helps to support overall health and harmony in the body, which is much harder to define and pin-point with medical terminology. The idea is that it is much easier to prevent disease than to treat illness, and better maintain overall balance in the body than to heal it from sickness.

    Reishi Mushroom Studies and Evidence

    There have been plenty of rigorous scientific studies done to try and quantify and evaluate the reported health benefits of Reishi Mushrooms. Many of these studies have focused on the beta-glucans and the ability to slow the growth of cancer cells and tumors.

    A recent meta-study, completed in April 2016, set out to evaluate “the clinical effects of G. lucidum on long-term survival, tumour response, host immune functions and quality of life in cancer patients, as well as adverse events associated with its use." The study involved 5 trials, which analysed 373 subjects suffering from various stages of cancer. These subjects were administered Reishi mushroom during the course traditional treatment methods. Placebo groups were also included in the trials.

    Although the study could not conclusively state that Reishi mushroom alone were as effective as other treatments, it did find that “patients who had been given G. lucidum alongside with chemo/radiotherapy were more likely to respond positively compared to chemo/radiotherapy alone.” It also found that “patients in the G. lucidum group were found to have a relatively better quality of life after treatment than those in the control group.

    This study would suggest that, since there were very low and minor incidences of adverse reactions to Reishi, it would be worth taking in addition to traditional treatment.

    There have been plenty of rigorous scientific studies done to try and quantify and evaluate the reported health benefits of Reishi Mushrooms. Many of these studies have focused on the beta-glucans and the ability to slow the growth of cancer cells and tumors.

    A recent meta-study, completed in April 2016, set out to evaluate “the clinical effects of G. lucidum on long-term survival, tumour response, host immune functions and quality of life in cancer patients, as well as adverse events associated with its use. The study involved 5 trials, which analysed 373 subjects suffering from various stages of cancer. These subjects were administered Reishi mushroom during the course traditional treatment methods. Placebo groups were also included in the trials.

    Although the study could not conclusively state that Reishi mushroom alone were as effective as other treatments, it did find that “patients who had been given G. lucidum alongside with chemo/radiotherapy were more likely to respond positively compared to chemo/radiotherapy alone.” It also found that “patients in the G. lucidumgroup were found to have a relatively better quality of life after treatment than those in the control group.

    This study would suggest that, since there were very low and minor incidences of adverse reactions to Reishi, it would be worth taking in addition to traditional treatment.

    How is Reishi Grown for Supplementation?

    Reishi mushrooms are usually grown on either logs or stumps in green houses or outdoor farms. They are also commonly grown on supplemented sawdust fruiting blocks, just like other gourmet mushrooms.

    In order to get the full health benefits of the Reishi Mushroom, the mushroom must be grown to completion and the entire fruiting body should be harvested.

    This is because the beneficial compounds of the Reishi, notably the beta-glucans and the triterpenes, are not found in high concentration in the mycelium alone. They need to be pulled out of the mushroom fruiting body via hot water and / or alcohol extraction methods.

    If the extracts are taken from grain spawn, they will contain high levels of starch and up to 25 times less concentrated compared to extracts from the whole fruiting body.

    Know the Difference: Mycelium On Grain vs Fruiting Body

    As mentioned above, “mycelium on grain” is a method of growing Reishi mushrooms for the purposes of supplementation without ever producing an actual mushroom fruitbody. Here, myceluium is grown out on grain, similar to the process of making grain spawn. This grain is then pulverized and sold as a Reishi supplement.

    This is the common method in which “mushrooms” for the purpose of supplementation are grown in the United States, where it is simply not cost effective to do otherwise.

    The problem is that most of the beneficial compounds (the beta-glucans and the tripterpenes) are contained in the mushroom itself, and are not found in significant quantity when produced from mycelium on grain. The end result is a supplement that is mostly grain starch, which cannot be compared to pure Reishi mushroom.

    Some research shows that beta-glucans are indeed found in mycelium-on-grain products, but there is substantial evidence to prove this research is flawed. The presence of beta-glucans is actually just a false positive for alpha-glucans– a compound commonly found in grain starch.

    Growing The Fruitbody

    This is what comes to mind for most people when they think of growing mushrooms. It involves actually growing the mushroom to completion and harvesting the entire fruitbody. This fruitbody is then used to produce an extract.

    If done this way, the end supplement will contain all the beneficial compounds of the mushroom, which is the reason why people seek out a Reishi supplement in the first place.

    There is no doubt though- it is much more expensive to produce mushroom supplements in this way. For this reason, the mushrooms are often grown overseas, where lower costs make it feasible.

    However, you can still find supplements produced from mushrooms grown overseas that are certified organic and of the highest quality. The end result is a product that contains high levels of beta glucans and low levels of starch- far superior to supplements produced from mycelium-on-grain.

    The bottom line when looking to buy Lions Mane supplements is to make sure you know what you are getting. You need to ensure that you are getting a full mushroom product that can live up to the claims, and not a bottle of grain starch.

    Ways to Supplement With Reishi

    At this point you might be convinced that it couldn’t hurt to try and get some of the benefits of Reishi Mushrooms. You aren’t going to find fresh Reishi at your grocery store.

    So what options do you have to get some Reishi in your diet?

    Finding Wild Reishi Mushroom

    You could always try your hand at finding this mushroom in the wild. Luckily, it is reasonably common and can be found growing on hardwood trees and stumps throughout the world, and commonly throughout the United States. In the southern states, you are likely to find it in oak forests, while in the Northeastern states, it is frequently found on maples.

    Reishi mushroom identification is relatively easy. Look for a reddish-brown “conk” shape, (although reishi can take on a variety of colors) growing at the base of trees, with pores rather than gills.

    When foraging for any wild mushroom, ensure that you have a good guide book and are 100% confident in your ability to identify the species properly before consuming it. Reishi is unique and relatively easy to identify, but you are always best to play it safe when hunting wild mushrooms.

    Hunting for Reishi in the wild is exciting and rewarding, but might not be the best way to ensure a steady supply of the mushroom if you are looking for regular supplementation.

    Of course you could always try to grow Lion's Mane yourself.

    Lions Mane mushroom is relatively easy to grow, and can be grown at home using the methods and techniques found on this site. If you get good at growing and get your timing right, you shouldn’t have a problem having a constant supply. You can also dry them and powder them so that you can grow a bunch and save them for later.

    A much less involved option is to grow them at home using a mushroom growing kit. These kits are about as easy as it gets for growing mushrooms at home. Usually, a Lions Mane kit consists of a fruiting block that has already been fully colonized and will arrive at your house ready to fruit. You simply need to slice some holes in the bag and place it in a reasonably humid environment.

    Although it could get quite expensive over the long term, getting a kit is still a reasonable way to get fresh lions mane. Plus, it’s a ton of fun!

    Growing Reishi Mushroom

    You could also try growing Reishi yourself! Although mushroom growing is relatively complex and getting into the hobby is a trip into the rabbit hole, it can be quite rewarding and fun. Reishi is a vigorous grower and mostly beginner friendly. You might even be able to get a kit to make the whole process nothing more than adding water and waiting.

    After you've mastered the art of growing mushrooms, you may be able to ensure yourself a steady stream of reishi mushroom- but it definitely isn't the most cost effective option. And to boot, reishi is not something you can just go ahead an eat, like other mushrooms.

    It is extremely woody and tough, and the taste is almost unbearably bitter. Plus, you really need to take the time to make an extract to really get all the benefits.

    Whole Dried Reishi

    A much easier option to get whole Reishi mushrooms is to purchase dehydrated and packaged Reishi mushrooms from a reputable supplier. This saves considerable time and effort over harvesting and drying the mushrooms yourself.

    As with anything you consume for the health benefits, you want to make sure you are getting a quality product. Try to find organically grown Reishi, free from pesticides or heavy metals.

    Reishi Mushroom Tea

    If you are able to obtain dried or fresh Reishi pieces, one common way to supplement with Reishi Mushrooms is to make a tea. This is essentially a hot water extract, which draws out the medicinal benefits from the mushroom fruiting body into a bitter tasting tea. It can be “enjoyed” hot, or it can be brewed in large batches and placed in the fridge where it can last up to a week. This way you can take a quick shot of the tea as part of your regular routine.

    There is no doubt, it tastes awful, but considering the benefits one can get from this mushroom, it might just be worth it.

     

    How to Make Reishi Mushroom Tea

    Making Reishi Mushroom tea is relatively easy, and can be done at home with dried or fresh Reishi and common kitchen items.

    Step 1:

    Obtain whole Reishi conks or antlers (the fruiting body), which can either be dried or fresh. Fresh Reishi works better for making a tea, but can be hard to come by unless you grow it yourself or are skilled at identifying and hunting in the wild.

    Step 2:

    Cut the Reishi into thin slices. Reishi is extremely tough and woody, so you will have to work pretty hard to slice it up. Be careful not to cut yourself!

    Step 3:

    Place the Reishi strips into a pot of boiling hot water. The recommended ratio of mushroom to water varies depending on how concentrated you want your tea. If you are new to Reishi, it is suggested to start with a lower concentration at first to see how your stomach reacts, and how easily you can handle the bitter taste.

    A good amount to start is about 5 grams dried Reishi (25-30 grams if fresh) per 4 cups of water. If you don’t have a scale, 5 grams of dried Reishi should fit nicely in the palm of your hand. It doesn’t have to be exact.

    Step 4:

    Once you’ve added the Reishi to the boiling water, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 2 hours. Yes, this is a long time, but it takes a while for the hot water extraction process to take place, and too short a simmer time would be a waste of mushroom.

    Step 5

    Remove the pot from the heat. Once it’s reasonably cooled, strain the tea to remove the woody mushroom pieces. You can use cheese cloth, or even a regular kitchen strainer.

    Step 6

    Enjoy? You can either drink the tea hot, or place it in the fridge were it will last a couple of days to a week. You can try and cut the bitter taste with honey, but honestly, you might just need to embrace the flavor. Another common way to get over the bitterness is to just take 1 oz shots with cold Reishi tea from the fridge.

    Supplementing With a Powder

    By far the best way to supplement with Reishi is with a pill or powder. You can easily add powdered extracts into tea, coffee or other foods.

    FreshCap currently offers Reishi as part of our 6 mushroom blend, Thrive 6!