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Reishi (ling zhi)

What is reishi? What is it used for?

Reishi is a type of wild mushroom native to the coastal provinces of China. It grows in six different colors (red is the most common) and is usually found on decaying logs and tree stumps. In addition to China, reishi is cultivated commercially in North America, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

Reishi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. Its Chinese name, ling zhi, means "herb of spiritual potency," and it has traditionally been used to treat conditions such as fatigue, weakness and insomnia.

Reishi contains several ingredients with chemical properties, including sterols, coumarin, mannitol, polysaccharides and triterpenoids. Ganoderic acids may lower blood pressure and decrease LDL, or bad, cholesterol. The triterpernoids in reishi have been shown to reduce blood platelets from sticking together, which can lower the risk of coronary artery disease. Preliminary studies have suggested reishi may also benefit patients that suffer from altitude sickness and hepatitis B, although these studies still need to be confirmed.

How much reishi should I take?

Most herbalists and TCM practitioners recommend the following doses:

  • crude dried mushroom: 1.5-9 grams per day
  • reishi powder: 1-1.5 grams per day (1 ml per day taken as tincture or with tea)

What forms of reishi are available?

Reishi is available in both raw and dried form. Many specialty markets also sell reishi powder, which can be used in teas and tinctures.

What can happen if I take too much reishi? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Continuous (3-6 months) use of reishi products may result in dizziness, dry mouth, nose bleeds and upset stomach. Because it may decrease the effectiveness of blood platelets, it should not be used by people taking anticoagulant medications. It should also be avoided by pregnant or lactating women.

As of this writing, there are no well-known drug interactions with reishi.

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  • Hobbs C. Medicinal Mushrooms. Santa Cruz, CA: Botanica Press, 1995, pp. 96-107.
  • Jin H, et al. Treatment of hypertension by ling zhi combined with hypotensor and its effects on arterial, arteriolar and capillary pressure and microcirculation. In: Nimmi H, Xiu RJ, Sawada T, Zheng C (eds.) Microcirculatory Approach to Asian Traditional Medicine. New York: Elsevier Science, 1996;131-8.
  • Jones K. Reishi mushroom: ancient medicine in modern times. Alt Compl Ther 1998;4(4):256-66.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds.) American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 55.
  • Willard T. Reishi Mushroom: Herb of Spiritual Potency and Wonder. Issaquah, WA: Sylvan Press, 1990.



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