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Reishi: Intro to Ganoderma lucidum and G. tsugae

Kings, Gods, and Immortaility in the Fungal World…what connects them? A little, woody tree-dwelling fungi commonly known as Reishi.

Reishi, or Ling Zhi, has long been considered a Mushroom of Immortality by Traditional Chinese Medicine practiioners because of it’s ability to nourish and tone the Three Treasures, Jing, Qi or Chi, and Shen. Translated into Western mindset, Reishi, or Ganoderma lucidum, nourishes and builds Body, Mind, and Spirit in those who take it daily. Scientists agree that Reishi’s immunomodulating properties are outstanding, particularly when they’re put to use helping prevent and heal through Cancer. Reishi’s popularity in recent years has been largely connected to a variety of studies demonstrating antitumor, immunomodulation, antibactrial, antiviral, antioxidant properties alongside beneficial effects of Reishi on the liver and gastric system, and immune system. The list of scientifically-proven benefits from taking Reishi has been growing from year to year with slow and steady progress, much like Reishi’s long-honored adaptogenetic and beneficial effect on the human body. It’s no wonder Ancient Healers counted Reishi an elixir of life!

What distinguishes Reishi from other Adaptogens?

Reishi has enjoyed a long-standing place of adoration by Traditional Chinese Medicine herbalists and practioners of Oriental Medicine for it’s ability to help us marshall our strength and find the energy we need to remain centered and strong in body, mind, and spirit amidst whatever life throws at us.

Modern herbalists group herbs with that skill into the category we call adaptogens; Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress. Most are best used for a shorter duration while you get through the stress and make changes to your life to reduce the stress.

What makes Reishi the King of Mushrooms and God of Herbs is that Reishi is both a powerful medicine and a long-term healer you can draw on every day of your life. Traditional Chinese Herbalists and modern Western Herbalists who look at constitution and energetic indicators before choosing an herb or team of herbs generally agree that most adaptogens are also tonifiying or building herbs. That means when they’re used properly, they’re great for folks who have deficiency conditions but can cause problems for folks who have excess conditions. Reishi is one of the few that’s gentle enough to be used by just about everyone for the long-term.

Get Growing with Ganoderma

Mycological experts have made great progress over the past few decades in cultivating Reishi and its cousins. In the wild, Reishi grows on a variety of trees, hardwoods being the ones that host the most potent individuals according to some TCM pracitioners.

Ganoderma lucidum is one of several varieties of Reishi that grow worldwide. Ganoderma tsugae is the Reishi mushroom that grows on Eastern Hemlock. Yellow Reishi is G. curtisii, and in the west G. oregonense is the dominant species. They may not be as rare in the wild as their reputation suggests, but with the advances mushroom cultivators have made, cultivated Reishi are helping herbalists keep up with the growing demand.

Growing your own Reishi at home is surprisingly easy, but mushroom farming isn’t for everyone. You can hunt for Reishi in your area. This article gives a good description of G. lucidum‘s characteristics and where to look. If mushroom hunting and growing isn’t for you, the good news is that Reishi is fairly widely available, thanks to the research and publicity it’s gotten in recent years.

Look for sources that grow organically, without chemicals, and preferably on logs rather than in sawdust. There’s much debate on how effective medicines made from mycelium are, as well. Look for whole fruiting body preparations rather than those that include the world “mycelium” in their ingredients list or description if you’re not convinced the fruiting body is needed to make the best medicine. (Learn more about Medicinal Mushrooms and hear what Jeff Chilton has to say about mycelium as medicine on This Real Herbalism Radio podcast.)


Candace Hunter

Candace Hunter is a self-taught herbalist and artist who never, ever practices on guinea pigs in part because her family and friends are generally up to the job. She is co-author of The Practical Herbalist's Herbal Folio series and author of Herbalism for the Zombie Apocalypse. She edits The Practical Herbalist website and Practical Herbalist Press publications. She has also recently entered into the field of podcasting with reckless abandon. Listen to her on Real Herbalism Radio today, see her work at, or find her on Facebook at Candace Hunter Creations.

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