Today our series of articles on medicinal mushrooms in which we will discuss their history, applications, strengths and other facinating aspects.
Today we kick the series off with one of the most known medicinal mushrooms in the world, Reishi.
Reishi has occupied a firm place in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as a valuable mushroom to promote vitality and a long life. In English, its Chinese name means “mushroom of immortality”. Just like its use as a lucky symbol, this clearly shows just how greatly prized this mushroom remains to this day. Many of its traditional effects have since been proven in scientific studies. Its bioactive components include polysaccharides and antioxidants, among others. In particular, the immunomodulating and anti-tumour properties are the main focus of research into this medicinal mushroom.
Applications tested in practice
• General boosting of the immune system
• Allergy therapy
• Promotion of the physical and mental constitution
• Complementary cancer therapy
• Promotion of the heart and circulation
• Natural anti-aging agent
• Help for sleep disorders, nervous unrest and exhaustion
• Complementary therapy for liver disorders
Tried-and-tested combination options with other medicinal mushrooms:
• General boosting of the immune system: Agaricus, Shiitake, Coriolus
• Allergy therapy: Agaricus, Hericium (particularly for bowel cleansing)
• Promotion of the physical and mental constitution: Cordyceps
• Complementary cancer therapy: any mushroom is possible here, depending on the type of tumour
• Support for the heart/circulation: Shiitake, Agaricus, Maitake, Auricularia, Cordyceps
• Natural anti-aging agent: Cordyceps
• Help for sleep disorders, etc.: Hericium, Cordyceps
• Liver disorders: Maitake, Agaricus, Shiitake
Active Components of Reishi
In scientific studies, a variety of substances contained in Reishi have now been analysed, whereby the composition of the individual substances appears to be particularly effective. The substances of outstanding significance include the polysaccharides, which are important to support the immune system, as well as the antioxidants with their cell-protecting effect, and the triterpenes, which have an anti-inflammatory action. Reishi is also exceptionally rich in essential amino acids, which the human organism needs, as well as in various vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
Area of application and active components realtionships
- Strengthening the immune system and immunomodulation
The immunomodulating properties of Reishi are mainly attributed to polysaccharides, specifically beta-glucans. According to studies, they can improve the proliferation of T- and B-lymphocytes and boost the immune system.² In the process, a special proteoglycan, called GLIS, appears to make a major contribution. GLIS activates immunocytes like the B-lymphocytes and modulates cytokine production, which plays a key role in allergic reactions. In contrast, an increase in certain inflammatory cytokines is considered responsible for the immunological protective function against bacterial infections. A possible change in the balance between Th1 and Th2 helper cells caused by the components of the Reishi fungus could be responsible for efficacy in preventing and treating allergic reactions. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis can also benefit from a Reishi substitution. In a clinical trial, these patients displayed fewer inflammatory markers than the control group – an indication that the use of Reishi can also be considered very promising in general for autoimmune processes.
- Tumour-inhibiting and preventing effects
The polysaccharides in Reishi exhibit a broad spectrum of anti-tumour effects. They have a proven cytotoxic effect on cancer cells, improve macrophage proliferation and stimulate their activity against tumour cells. The ganodermic acids increase interleukin and interferon distribution, lead to the apoptosis of cancer cells by intervening in mitochondrial functions, and inhibit the formation of DNA and RNA in tumour cells, whereby the cells’ ability to proliferate is dramatically reduced. An anti-androgenic effect due to ganoderol B could explain the successful use of the mushroom for prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia. Most studies concern the immune-boosting effect of Reishi in cancer patients. These effects can be used to benefit immunological integrity, especially for chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
- Lipid- and cholesterol-reducing action
The oxygenosterols (ganoderols) contained in Reishi inhibit the body’s own cholesterol synthesis by interacting with mevalonic acid. In turn, mevalonic acid represents the precursor to cholesterol. Polysaccharides can also regulate lipid metabolism and prevent the lipid peroxidation of blood fats. This confirms the use of Reishi in the prevention of cardiovascular disorders and metabolic syndrome.
- Prevention of cardiovascular disorders
Reishi’s ability to protect against arteriosclerosis has long been recognised. In addition to promoting the normalisation of blood fat values and controlling the cholesterol level, the medicinal mushroom also stands out due to its antioxidant properties. This has a positive effect on aging processes, particularly in terms of the heart and blood vessels, but also in general.
Not all Resihi is the same
It is important that the medicinal mushroom product is of an impeccable quality in order for the human organism to be able to benefit from the health-promoting potential of the medicinal mushrooms. Responsible manufacturers like Hawlik enlist accredited, independent labs to monitor the farming of the mushrooms and the various stages of preparation. The lab results should be provided to all interested parties on request.
A further contribution to the best possible product safety is the processing of the raw material into a powder or extract in accordance with the strict quality standards set out in Germany, the observance of which can be documented with a seal. A medicinal mushroom powder produced with what is known as the shell-broken method is considered particularly high quality due to its good bio-availability. This method achieves a particularly fine grain size of 0.125 millimetres, which optimises the intake of the substances contained in the mushroom.
The most important components of the medicinal mushrooms include the polysaccharides from the pure mushroom. High-quality medicinal mushroom extracts are standardised for polysaccharides, whereby a polysaccharide value of approx. 20% – 30% is optimal, as this also corresponds to the natural composition of the mushrooms.
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