Ganoderma Lucidum, commonly referred to as Reishi or Ling Zhi, is a highly prized medicinal mushroom that has been part of Eastern cultures for thousands of years. One refers to Reishi as a mushroom of spiritual immortality. Reishi grows naturally on hardwoods (such as birch & alder) in temperate climates ranging from Japan to British Columbia. It varies in color, with red being the most common, and can appear as a conk, shell, or various other forms. Reishi belongs to a class of fungi known as polypores; polyporous mushrooms have recently been in the limelight due to their theorized importance in relation to healthy bees. Reishi is a saprophytic fungus, meaning it feeds on decaying organic matter. Through this modality, it assists in the process of humification that is theorized to be responsible for the existence of shilajit.
Humification is the natural process that turns once living plants into mineral rich humus, utilizing all sorts of microorganisms, fungi, & other creatures. During this cycle of breaking down, humic & fulvic acids are created that chelate metals in the decaying matter into smaller molecular complexes that are much more readily available to plants. This is the same concept that we discuss when pondering the health benefits of shilajit; assisting our bodies in breaking down & absorbing nutrients, as well as helping to chelate toxic heavy metals. It is interesting to ponder the symbiotic relationship between Reishi and its immediate environment as a microcosmic example of the possible synergy of premium quality Pürblack & Reishi in the human body.
The reason it is so crucial that cultivation of medicinal fungi such as Reishi takes place on hardwood is due to the presence of triterpenes in the tree. Reishi extracts these triterpenes from the tree and concentrates them in its fruiting body. Birch, in particular, contains a unique triterpene that is only active in acidic conditions; it is called betulinic acid.
In return for this extravagant diet of triterpenes, the Reishi generates & feeds the tree various phenols & sterols. Most notably is the beta glucan/polysaccharide lentinan, which exists for the purpose of strengthening the tree’s immune system. It’s ingenious of the fungus to do so, as a healthy host means a higher chance of surviving & thriving. Again, it is enjoyable to ponder the effects compounds like lentinan may have when consumed by humans, especially when amplified by the ashless humic acid and metabolites in shilajit.
Perhaps you can now imagine more easily why medicinal fungi grown on rice or oats can be problematic. This is especially true when there is no fruiting body present to extract alkaloids from (i.e., using only the mycelium biomass). It is also crucial to use hot water during the extraction, as all the scientific data points towards this as the most effective way of creating efficacious Reishi extracts. The polysaccharides dissolve into the water, which in turn contain the much sought-after beta-glucans.
It is hard to get high-quality Reishi extract. Most companies will cheat and promote Reishi fruiting body and mycelium instead of a genuine reishi extract. If you want genuine benefits from reishi as described in scientific literature, we recommend you use only Reishi from Mushroom Science.
Read part 2 of the article to find out about multiple Reishi benefits.