Ever heard of medicinal mushrooms?

No…not the ones that many people did in college. 

Medicinal mushrooms. They are a small subset of mushrooms that have been used for thousands of years in Asia for everything from health and longevity to spiritual growth.   

A lot of folks ask me why, as a psychotherapist, I rave about something like mushrooms. 

Well, to be honest, initially when I heard about them, I wrote them off.  The whole thing just seemed weird. 

But, then I went home and started researching.  First, I found numerous studies testing mushrooms in fighting cancer, and also in aiding the immune system during chemotherapy.  That was enough to intrigue me.  

Since then, I’ve seen what they can do for people’s health, both physically and mentally, in so many ways. Did you know that you can google almost any health issue and “medicinal mushrooms” and see a research study? Go online and explore the phrase “medicinal mushrooms” and see what you find!

Because I’m all about helping people, I feel it’s important to educate about options for their health…and that includes medicinal mushrooms.

You actually may have heard of a few mushrooms that have medicinal benefits:  Lion’s Mane, Tremella, Turkey Tail, Agaricus Blazei, Chaga, Maiitake, or Shiitake.

Or several years back you might have heard when the Chinese Women’s Olympic team did so well that they were tested for steroids. What was the result?  They had been ingesting Cordyceps, known for helping with aerobic capacity and endurance.

The most studied medicinal mushroom on the planet, however, is Lingzhi.   It also goes by the Japanese name, Reishi, or the scientific name Ganoderma Lucidum.  Lingzhi was so valuable in ancient China that if a commoner found it, they had to turn it over to Royalty.

So why has Lingzhi been so revered over the millennia, and why is it now becoming known in the west?

Science can explain.  Over the last 20 years, scientists have identified many powerful compounds in medicinal mushrooms: Beta Glucans, Polysaccharides, Sterols, Triterpenoids, Statins, Ganoderic Acids, Adenosine, Selenium, Germanium, minerals, and vitamins.  And new constituents are being discovered regularly.

Western science is proving what many in Asian cultures have known for centuries. Studies show Lingzhi:

  • is a powerful immune system modulator 
  • can help allergies and autoimmune diseases
  • shows very strong anti-tumor activity and has been used in alternative and complementary cancer therapies
  • promotes cardiovascular health and regulates blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • reduces inflammation in the body and has very strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties
  • supports the liver, kidneys, and urinary tract
  • is adaptogenic (which means it helps the body adapt/heal from stress)
  • and much more.

This is why tell people about mushrooms.

Ready to rush out to buy some medicinal mushrooms?  Excited about getting some Lingzhi/Reishi?

Not so fast. There are important details to know.

First, there are some medicinal mushrooms readily available in your grocery store, so go explore!  Read up on them!  Some of these include Oyster, Lions Mane, Shiitake, Maitake, and others. Buy those and add them to your diet (as long as they are organic).  Go online and find the many great mushroom recipes!  You can also forage for some, like Chaga, and add it to drinks and smoothies.

Second, you just can’t just go to the corner store and buy Lingzhi, despite that it is the most powerful medicinal mushroom. Lingzhi needs to be processed because it is woody, and the chitin (outside) has to be broken down. Just putting a piece in a cup of tea is somewhat useless. To get the full benefits of Lingzhi, it is best to take it in supplement form.

It is important to know that there are over 400 compounds in the fruiting body (cap) of the Lingzhi mushroom.   This is the part of the Lingzhi that has been used for thousands of years, and the part that is used in most of the scientific studies.

However, in the US, very few supplement companies actually use the Lingzhi cap. Currently, most companies selling Lingzhi are actually selling you the mycelium, which are the roots.  Why? Because it takes 6-8 months to grow Lingzhi. And mycelium can be grown in a vat in a laboratory in less than 9 days. It’s cheaper and easier to produce. Lingzhi mycelium is missing important triterpenes and ganoderic acids. So….while there are many of the same compounds in the mycelium, there are specific ingredients that are NOT available except by ingesting the cap.

When people say they’ve tried Lingzhi/Reishi and it didn’t do much, it’s often because they’ve tried a brand that is either completely mycelium or has just a little bit of the fruiting body added so it can be labeled Lingzhi cap.  Be sure to read the label. And, if you look at a label and there is starch (or “rice”), that means it was grown in a laboratory and was not made with full-grown mushrooms. 

Additionally, to get all the benefits of Lingzhi, one needs to take extracts, not just ground “mushroom powder”. High-quality extracts use from 10-25 pounds of mushrooms resulting in one pound of extracted mushrooms.  Look for at least a double-extraction method or one that also includes enzymes that help break down polysaccharide molecules into substances more easily absorbed by the body.

So, do your research before using mushroom supplements.  And consider adding this powerful “food” to add to your daily health routine!

And if you’d like more information on high-quality mushroom teas, coffee, or supplements, please contact me.

Starla Sholl



Content provided by Women Belong member Starla R. Sholl, LCSW, PC