Ganoderma lucidum, Lingzhi, Reishi

Ganoderma lucidum is known as Lingzhi in China or Reishi in Japan.

Originating from China about 6,800 years ago, this healthy mushroom is commonly referred to as the “Mushroom of Longevity”, with substantial preventive, protective, and therapeutic effects.

Ganoderma lucidum contains triterpenes, polysaccharides, and peptidoglycans, that may be responsible for its health effects.

These bioactive compounds play important roles in immune adjustment and the body’s relaxing, anti-aging, improvement of sleeping, rejuvenating, and whole-body wellness.

Western science has proven Reishi mushroom extracts to be analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antioxidant, anti-allergenic, and anti-tumor.

According to Chinese medicine, Reishi has a Shen effect (harmonizes the soul).

The Chinese believe that the spirit Shen lives in the heart. Reishi can nourish the heart and thus pull, harmonize, soothe the spirit, Shen.

It belongs to the huge Ganodermataceae family, which includes more than 210 different kinds of Ganoderma.

Common names

Scientific names: Ganoderma lucidum (Curtis) P. Karst, Ganoderma lucidum (Sheng H. Wu, Y. Cao & Y.C. Dai).

Synonyms: Boletus lucidus Curtis, Boletus laccatus Timm, Grifola lucida (Curtis) Gray, Polyporus lucidus (Curtis) Fr., Polyporus laccatus (Timm) Pers., Fomes lucidus (Curtis) Fr., and Ganoderma laccatum (Timm) Pat.

Common names: Reishi mushroom, Mushroom of immortality.

Japanese name: Reishi.

Chinese name: Lingzhi, Ling-zhi.

Swedish name: Lackticka.

Mechanism of Action

The major constituents in Reishi are polysaccharides, peptidoglycans, and triterpenes.

Polysaccharides

Various polysaccharides have been extracted from the fruit body, spores, and mycelia of lingzhi; they are produced by fungal mycelia cultured in fermenters and can differ in their sugar and peptide compositions and molecular weight (e.g., Ganoderans A, B, and C).G. lucidum polysaccharides (GL-PSs) are reported to exhibit a broad range of bioactivities, including anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, antiulcer, antitumorigenic, and immunostimulating effects.

Many preparations extracted from G. lucidum are used as a treatment for chronic diseases, including cancer and liver disease.

For example, Reishi polysaccharides have been shown to increase expression of the major histocompatibility (MHC) class I and costimulatory molecules on melanoma cells, resulting in enhanced antitumor cytotoxicity.

Peptidoglycans

Various bioactive peptidoglycans have also been isolated from Ganoderma lucidum, including G. lucidum proteoglycan (GLPG; with antiviral activity, G. lucidum immunomodulating substance (GLIS, PGY (a water-soluble glycopeptide fractionated and purified from aqueous extracts of G. lucidum fruit bodies, GL-PS peptide (GL-PP, and F3 (a fucose-containing glycoprotein fraction.

Triterpenes

Triterpenes isolated from Ganoderma spores have shown significantly anti-HIV-1 protease, anti-tumor, and anti-complement activities.

They can inhibit tumor invasion by reducing matrix metalloproteinase expression, and tumor metastases by limiting attachment to endothelial cells.In G. lucidum, the chemical structure of the triterpenes is based on lanostane, which is a metabolite of lanosterol, the biosynthesis of which is based on cyclization of squalene.

More than 100 triterpenes with known chemical compositions and molecular configurations have been reported to occur in G. lucidum.

Among them, more than 50 were found to be new and unique to this fungus.

The vast majority are ganoderic and lucidenic acids, but other triterpenes such as ganoderals and ganoderiols have also been identified.

Among other functions, lucidenic acid N, lucidenic acid A, and ganoderic acid E have shown significant cytotoxic activity against Hep G2, Hep G2,2,15, and P-388 tumor cells.

A review from 2018 looked at the presence of antitumor, antimicrobial, antioxidant and antiacetylcholinesterase compounds in G. lucidum extracts.

One conclusion was that triterpenoids have been reported as having anti-hypertensive, hypocholesterolemic, hepatoprotective, and anti-histaminic effects, along with the antitumor and anti-angiogenic activity.

Medicinal properties

Reishi mushroom is a fungus that holds an important place in the traditional medical systems of China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries for its health-promoting effects.

It has a long history of use as a Chinese folk medicine for the promotion of health and longevity.

Lingzhi is used for a great variety of purposes, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep disorder, hepatitis, leucopenia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and cancer.

It is also widely used to promote health in those under a “sub-health” status.

Numerous in vitro and animal studies have demonstrated the antitumor and immunomodulatory effects of Reishi mushrooms.

It is used as an immunostimulant by patients with HIV and cancer.

Also, extracts of Reishi have been shown to have renoprotective, anti-inflammatory, and hepatoprotective properties both in vitro and in vivo.

Immunomodulatory

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) possesses a broad spectrum of immunostimulating activities, as well as anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic properties.

Over 900 papers have reported on in vivo and in vitro effects for the Reishi Mushroom.

A wide range of antitumor and immunomodulatory mechanisms have been observed.

This includes an enhanced function of antigen-presenting cells, the mononuclear phagocyte system, humoral immunity, and cellular immunity.

For example, Reishi contains more than 100 oxygenated triterpenes, many of which exhibit a marked effect on the activity of NK cells.

Experimental results on cell-mediated immunity showed that G. lucidum could increase the percentage of CD5+, CD4+, and CD8+ T lymphocytes.

Experimental results on humoral immunity in horses showed that G. lucidum could help horses to produce a significantly higher quantity of specific antibodies in a shorter time.

Smaller studies have shown that Reishi can increase plasma antioxidant capacity and can enhance immune responses in cancer patients.

Anti-cancer

In vitro and animal studies on Ganoderma lucidum indicate that it has immunomodulatory and chemopreventive effects, alleviates chemotherapy-induced nausea, enhances the efficacy of radiotherapy, and increases the sensitivity of ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin.

Reishi polysaccharide peptide (Gl-PP) has demonstrated antitumor effects in mice and potential antiangiogenesis, a reduction of Bcl-2 antiapoptotic protein expression, and an increase of Bax proapoptotic protein expression; therefore, inducing cell apoptosis might be one of the mechanisms of action for the inhibition of human carcinoma cells.

In one study, the antitumor effect of an alcohol extract was investigated using MCF-7 breast cancer cells.

The extract inhibited cell proliferation in a dose- and time-dependent manner.

Furthermore, this compound can directly induce apoptosis in MCF-7 cells, which might be mediated through the upregulation of a proapoptotic Bax protein and not by the immune system.

There are likely multiple mechanisms underlying the antitumor effects of G. lucidum.High doses of Gl-PP resulted in a decrease in the secreted vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). 

Reishi may directly inhibit vascular endothelial cell proliferation or indirectly decrease the growth factor expression of tumor cells.

It has been demonstrated that G. lucidum induces apoptosis, inhibits cell proliferation, and suppresses cell migration of highly invasive human prostate cancer cells PC-3.

In another study, a water-soluble reishi extract appeared to suppress the development of colorectal adenomas. 

Remission of hepatocellular carcinoma was reported in a few cases in a single study.Reishi has been reported to increase CD4 cells in vivo. CD4 cells are white blood cells that play an important role in the immune system. CD4 cells are sometimes also called T-cells, T-lymphocytes, or helper cells.

Reishi can induce natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity against various cancer cell lines via activation of the natural cytotoxic receptors (NKG2D/NCR) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-signaling pathways, which result in exocytosis of perforin and granulysin.

In ovarian cancer cells, Reishi can induce G2/M phase cell cycle arrest activated caspase 3 to induce apoptosis, increased p53, and inhibited Akt expression.

Antidiabetic

One study published in 2017 looked at four distinct polysaccharides from Reishi and their effect on fasting serum glucose (FSG), fasting serum insulin (FSI), and fat to bodyweight ratio.

It also looked at mRNA levels of hepatic glucose regulatory enzymes as well as levels of phosph-AMP-activated protein kinase.

One of the fractions was found to be very active in down-regulating hepatic glucose enzyme mRNA levels.

Insulin resistance was also improved as well as a decrease in fat to bodyweight ratio.

The conclusion of the study is that the results strongly favor an antidiabetic potential for the F31 fraction of Ganoderma lucidum.

Researchers from the Institute of Vascular Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong published a study in the May 2009 edition of Phytomedicine.

The researchers fed 0.03 and 0.3 g/kg of Reishi extracts to diabetic mice over a one-month period.

The extracts lowered the blood glucose levels of the mice within a single week, leading the researchers to believe that the mushroom inhibits an enzyme used by the liver to produce glucose.

Researchers at the Department of Pharmacology of Peking University in Beijing published a study in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Asian Natural Products Research.

The aim of this study was to look into Reishi’s effects on diabetic kidney disease.

After the eight-week trial period, the diabetic subjects exhibited noticeably reduced markers of kidney stress, as well as lowered triglyceride and blood sugar levels.

The researchers concluded that Reishi mushrooms can prevent or halt the progression of diabetic kidney complications.

Other clinical studies indicate its benefits in improving lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in men, and in exerting mild antidiabetic effects, and in improving dyslipidemia.

However, randomized controlled trials do not support the use of reishi to address cardiovascular risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes.

Hepatoprotective

Reishi stimulates phagocytosis, increases T-cell activity, and is a treatment for viral hepatitis: it has been widely used for a variety of infectious diseases such as bronchitis and hepatitis.

Renoprotective

Clinical studies indicate that Reishi can benefit from improving lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in men.

Another study showed that meroterpenoids, chizhines A–F (1–6), and the individual enantiomers of these substances significantly inhibit monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP-1) and fibronectin production in a dose-dependent manner.

Anti-inflammatory

Ganoderma lucidum extracts can significantly inhibit the release of IL-8, IL-6, MMP-2, and MMP-9 in cancer cells under pro-inflammatory conditions.

Antioxidant

G. lucidum has been able to demonstrate antioxidant activity, free-radical scavenging, and chelating abilities.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Application fields in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Ganoderma lucidum is a medicinal mushroom used in TCM for the prevention or treatment of a variety of diseases including a number of forms of cancer.

The specific applications and attributed health benefits of lingzhi include control of blood glucose levels, modulation of the immune system, hepatoprotection, bacteriostasis, and more.

In TCM, Ling-zhi is used for nourishing and tonifying Qi of Zang organs, as well as nourishing Qi and blood.

Other indications include conditions of a deficiency of Qi and blood, such as stress, weakness, body fatigue, and mental fatigue.

TCM Indications Summary

  • Reishi has a general strengthening of the immune system. It’s often used as a complementary cancer therapy and is useful in allergy therapy.
  • It’s a valuable support for a physical and/or mental health condition.
  • It gives heart and circulation support.
  • It’s a natural anti-aging agent.
  • It is a remedy for sleep disorders, nervous restlessness, and exhaustion. Reishi calms the mind.
  • It’s a complementary therapy for liver disorders and strengthens the kidney essence.
  • It transforms mucus and stops cough.
  • It reduces dyspnoea (shortness of breath).

Characteristics

Neutral, sweet, and slightly bitter.

Channel Tropism

Heart, liver, lungs (mainly).

Possible Uses

  • Fatigue.
  • High cholesterol.
  • HIV and AIDS.
  • Hypertension.
  • Immunostimulation.
  • Inflammation.
  • Strength and stamina.
  • Viral infections.
  • Lower urinary tract symptoms.

Preparations

There are many variations of Reishi preparations which include liquids, capsules, and powders.

Also, some manufacturers work on specific extracts and concentrations of polysaccharides and triterpenes.

For example:

  • Reishi with 50% polysaccharides and 20% β-1.3/1.6 D-glucans. More effective in boosting immunity and more suitable for more acute conditions.
  • Reishi with a minimum of 3% polysaccharides and a minimum of 4% of triterpenes. Reishi with 30% polysaccharides and containing a wide range of active substances is better in cases of chronic conditions.
  • Reishi with a minimum of 20% polysaccharides and a minimum of 10% of triterpenes.
  • Reishi with a minimum of 15% polysaccharide and a minimum of 10% beta-glucan.

The manufacturer can alter the % and number of compounds by different extractions methods. Read more about single and dual extraction methods

Recommendation

Preventive use

500 mg up to 2 grams of extract.

Health problems, acute use

1,5 grams to 5 grams of extract. Up to 9 grams of crude dried mushroom.

Notes

  • Intake of Vitamin C may increase the absorption of active substances.
  • Use 5 out of 7 days each week.
  • Recommendations for medical mushrooms have a wide span ranging from a few hundred milligrams up to many grams a day. Historically, a huge variation of preparations, powders, and strengths of extracts has been used. Sometimes, it can be difficult to compare different products and recommendations.

Side Effects & Safety

Contraindications

  • Warfarin or other blood thinners: Reishi may increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Chemotherapy: In theory, reishi may make some chemotherapy drugs less effective.
  • Immunosuppressants: Reishi can stimulate immune responses.
  • Cytochrome P450 2E1, 1A2, and 3A substrate drugs: Lab studies suggest compounds in reishi may affect drug concentrations, although clinical relevance is not clear.

Adverse reactions

Nausea and insomnia have been reported.

  • Hepatoxicity: Two cases with the use of powdered reishi mushroom, leading to death in one instance.
  • Pseudoparasitosis/Chronic diarrhea: In a 49-year-old man with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following prolonged consumption of powdered reishi mushroom extract.
  • Pseudoparasitosis: Due to similarity in structure with Clonorchis sinensis ova, in a patient with a history of long-term ingestion of Reishi mushrooms.

Herb-Drug Reactions

  • Anticoagulants / Antiplatelets: Reishi may increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Immunosuppressants: Reishi can enhance immune response.
  • Chemotherapeutic agents: Reishi can increase plasma antioxidant capacity, and in theory may interact with chemotherapeutic agents that rely on free radicals.
  • Cytochrome P450 substrates: In vitro, reishi polysaccharides inhibited CYP2E1, CYP1A2, and CYP3A, and may affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes.

Herb-Lab Reactions

  • Reishi extracts may prolong INR, PT, and APTT.
  • Reishi mushroom spore powder may elevate the level of glycoprotein CA72-4.
  • High levels of CA72-4 have been reported in several malignancies including gastrointestinal, ovarian, endometrium, and lung cancers.

Background and taxonomy

Lingzhi has been recognized as a medicinal mushroom for over 2000 years.

The book Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, written in the Eastern Han dynasty of China (25-220 AD) describes botanical, zoological, and mineral substances.

It describes the beneficial effects of several mushrooms with a reference to the medicinal mushroom G. lucidum.

In the Supplement to Classic of Materia Medica (502-536 AD) and the Ben Cao Gang Mu by Li Shin-Zhen, which is considered to be the first pharmacopeia in China (1590 AD; Ming dynasty), the mushroom was attributed with therapeutic properties, such as tonifying effects, enhancing vital energy, strengthening cardiac function, increasing memory, and antiaging effects

.According to the State Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (2000), G. lucidum acts to replenish Qi, ease the mind, and relieve cough and asthma, and it is recommended for dizziness, insomnia, palpitation, and shortness of breath.

However, in the most famous book of herbal medicine in China, the Bencao Gangmu (1578), a number of different lingzhi-like mushrooms were used for different purposes and defined by color.

No exact current species can be attached to this ancient Lingzhi, but according to Dai et al. (2017), as well as other researchers and based on molecular work, red reishi is most likely to be Ganoderma lingzhi Sheng H. Wu, Y. Cao & Y.C. Dai (2012).

This is the species that is most widely found in Chinese herb shops today, and the fruiting bodies are widely cultivated in China and shipped to many other countries.

About 7-10 other Ganoderma species are also sold in some shops, but have different Chinese and Latin names and are considered different in their activity and functions.

The differences are based on concentrations of triterpenes such as ganoderic acid and its derivatives which vary widely among species.

The species was described in 1781 by British mycologist William Curtis (1746 – 1799), who gave it the scientific name Boletus lucidus.

From the opposite hemisphere, it was the famous Finnish mycologist Petter Adolf Karsten (1834 – 1917) who transferred this polypore to its present genus in 1881, renaming it Ganoderma lucidum.The lingzhi’s botanical names have Greek and Latin roots.

Ganoderma derives from the Greek ganos (γανος; “brightness”), and derma (δερμα; “skin; together; shining skin”).

The specific epithet, lucidum, is from Latin, meaning “shining”.

References

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  • Xiao C, Wu Q, Zhang J, Xie Y, Cai W, Tan J. Antidiabetic activity of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides F31 down-regulated hepatic glucose regulatory enzymes in diabetic mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2017;196:47-57.
  • Seto SW., et.al. Novel hypoglycemic effects of Ganoderma lucidum water-extract in obese/diabetic (+db/+db) mice. Phytomedicine. 2009 May;16(5):426-36. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2008.10.004. Epub 2008 Dec 23.
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