Reishi mushrooms, which are also known as Ling Zhi (or “The Mushroom of Immortality”), have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. The ancient Chinese believed that the mushroom would help them overcome life's obstacles and achieve spiritual enlightenment. During the Tang Dynasty (618-905 CE), Reishi mushrooms were so highly prized that they were reserved exclusively for members of the imperial family. Anyone else who dared to eat them would be put to death.
Today, Reishi mushrooms are still prized in traditional Chinese medicine for their ability to promote vitality and long life. They are considered an adaptogen, which means that they help the body deal with stress and protect against environmental toxins. In this blog post, we'll explore the history and traditional use of Reishi mushrooms, as well as some of the current research on its benefits.
The first recorded use of Reishi was made by the Chinese Emperor Shennong (2697-2599 BCE), who is the mythological father of Chinese medicine. He is said to have tasted hundreds of herbs and mushrooms in order to ascertain their medicinal properties. After trying Reishi, he proclaimed it an “elixir of life” and a cure for all diseases.
Emperor Shennong’s work was later compiled into the Shennong Bencao Jing (The Divine Farmer's Herb-Root Classic), which is considered one of the oldest surviving books on Chinese herbal medicine. Emperor Shennong was not just a herbalist though; he also introduced agriculture and irrigation to China, and is credited with the invention of a system of currency and the calendar.
Another early source of information about the medicinal power of Reishi mushrooms comes from the Shennong Bencao Jing or the Divine Husbandman's Classic of Materia Medica (206 BCE to 220 CE), a pharmacopoeia that contains information in 365 different medicines derived from minerals and plants. The Divine Husbandman's Classic of Materia Medica asserts that Reishi mushrooms have five distinct properties: they nourish the vital essence, fortify the body, calm the spirit, improve mental function and promote longevity.
Reishi was classified as a superior herb, also known as “tonic” herbs, which are considered to have general benefits for the whole body. They were believed to enrich blood circulation and enhance vital energy or Qi (pronounced “chi”). They were recommended for the treatment of a wide variety of diseases, including:
-High blood pressure
Ben Cao Jing Ji Zhu known as The Supplement to Classic of Materia Medica (502-536 CE) is an important document for Chinese medical history because it was the first book that tried to distinguish between myths and facts about medicinal mushrooms. The book is a commentary on the Shennong Bencao Jing and discusses how to use mushrooms in medical practice.
In the book, Reishi is called “the mushroom of immortality” and is described as being superior at treating diseases of the internal organs. In addition, it was believed that Reishi could be used to treat people with a variety of ailments such as anxiety and insomnia. This commentary helped to solidify Reishi’s place in traditional Chinese medicine as a highly respected mushroom with a wide range of benefits.
Also known as the Great Pharmacopoeia, this is the first comprehensive and illustrated book on herbal medicine. It was compiled by Li Shizhen (1518-1593), a Chinese pharmacist and author who is considered to be the father of modern pharmacology. The Compendium of Materia Medica contains detailed information on over 1000 different herbs, including Reishi mushrooms. It also includes illustrations of the plants, as well as their medicinal properties.
Li Shizhen described Reishi as a powerful medicine that was able to reduce fatigue, improve sleep quality and enhance memory. He also noted its beneficial properties for the treatment of heart disease, coughs and asthma. He believed that it would help nourish the body and strengthen the immune system.
Reishi was first commercially cultivated in China in the 1960’s by mycologists at the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IMCAS). They were able to develop a process to commercially cultivate Reishi on a large scale. This led to an increase in its popularity and it soon became one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms in the world.
Reishi is still used today in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of a wide variety of conditions and is available in its dried form, as a powdered extract, or tincture. It is thought to be beneficial for the immune system, cardiovascular health, respiratory health, and mental well-being. Some modern day uses include:
– Supporting overall health and vitality
– Reducing fatigue and stress
– Enhancing cognitive function and memory
A large number of scientific studies have been conducted on the mushroom in recent years, and there is some evidence to suggest that it may be beneficial for a variety of conditions, including:
– Heart disease (by reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure)
– Type II diabetes (by lowering blood glucose levels)
– Immune system support (by increasing the number of natural killer cells)
The medicinal properties of Reishi mushrooms are believed to stem from several compounds called triterpenes. These compounds are thought to be responsible for many of the mushroom’s medicinal properties, such as its anti-inflammatory and immune system enhancing effects.
Over the last few decades, dozens of studies on Reishi's medicinal properties have been conducted; many focusing on its antioxidant activity and ability to strengthen immune function. These studies suggest that Reishi may play a role in preventing or managing a variety of health conditions. More research is needed to confirm these findings, but the potential benefits of this amazing mushroom are clear.
Reishi mushrooms have a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. There are many historical texts that reference Reishi and its various benefits for the body. Modern day research is starting to confirm many of these benefits, and studies suggest that Reishi may play a role in preventing or managing a variety of health conditions. It is clear that this incredible fungi has many potential benefits for human health, and more research is needed to confirm its medicinal properties. As science continues to explore the potential of Reishi mushrooms, we may be able to one day unlock the full potential of this amazing mushroom!