Reishi mushroom

Ganoderma lucidum

Ganoderma lucidum

Ganoderma lucidum was first described as Boletus lucidus in 1781 by William Curtis, who found it growing on a common hazelnut tree in London. [28] The name is derived from the Latin words gan, meaning “shiny,” and derm, meaning “skin.” Lucidum translates as “shiny” or “brilliant.” Reishi, a Japanese word, roughly translates to “divine or spiritual mushroom.” It is also known in Japan as Mannentake, or “ten-thousand-year mushroom,” Saiwai-Take, “good fortune mushroom,” or Sarunouchitake, meaning “monkey’s seat.” In Chinese, it is called Ling Zhi, which means “spirit plant,” or “tree of life mushroom.” [40]

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In a clinical trial of patients in the primary stage of hypertension, Reishi showed significant results at lowering blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and blood cholesterol.

Natural History

(Ecology, Where and How it Grows)

Ganoderma lucidum is white-rot polypore fungus that has a distinctive large, glossy, dark-red-to-brown laccate basidiocarp, typically in the shape of a bracket, shelf, or “conk,” with a cream-colored underside and leading edge where growth is occurring. Recent genetic and biogeographic studies have shown G. lucidum has a range that is likely restricted to temperate parts of western Europe, but can also be found in parts of Siberia and northwestern China. The full biogeographic distribution of this species is still not known, and there will have to be further studies to confirm that it really is constrained to its current known range.[28] It is typically found growing on the bases and stumps of many different species of deciduous trees, such as maple, elm, willow, sweetgum, magnolia, locust, and oak.[11] Occasionally G. lucidum appears growing on coniferous trees, although this is likely the very closely related species G. tsugae or G. oregonense. In fact, there are many species in the genus Ganoderma, and any “Reishi” encountered in the wild could easily be any one of them, and not the true G. lucidum.

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At Verdant Leaf we grow/cultivate our Reishi mycelium by…

Our Reishi fruiting bodies are grown on a substrate composed of organic oats and sawdust that has been collected from Epilogue LLC, a local lumber mill located near to the Verdant Leaf Farm. Epilogue focuses on stewarding urban trees and reclaiming hardwoods which otherwise would have gone to waste. The sawdust from the wood they reclaim is then salvaged by us and used in our growing process. We add the spent substrate from our fruiting blocks to our compost, which is used to regenerate the soil on our farm. Our Reishi mycelium is grown on organic brown rice and incorporated, along with the fruiting bodies, into our products to ensure that you receive the full spectrum of nutrients produced by this incredible fungus.


(The Cultural and Sociological Impact of this Species)

G. lucidum has been used traditionally as medicine in China and Japan for at least 4000 years.[34] Reishi has been widely depicted in art throughout China, Japan, and Korea, appearing on tapestries, statues, paintings, and even temple walls.[40]  Much of the imagery started to become prolific in the 1400s CE, likely due to its strong association with Taoism.[26] Interesting examples include the scepter wielded by the Emperor of China, and Reishi’s depiction on the archways and railways of The Forbidden City and The Summer Palace, as well as a depiction appearing on a Mongolian grave dating to the first century.[40] The Ling Zhi was seen as a great gift in China up until the 1950s, and was presented to Chinese leaders and high ranking officials.[53]


  • Is a natural adaptogen i.e. a metabolic regulator that has been proven to help in environmental adaptation and to prevent external harms.[23]
  • Has ganoderic acids which have a molecular structure similar to steroid hormones.[10]
  • Full of unique bioactive molecules, polysaccharides, and triterpenoids.[10]
  • Polysaccharides, specifically β-d-glucans, have demonstrated antitumor effects and help shield against mutagens (a chemical or physical agent capable of changing DNA).[10]
  • Reishi’s polysaccharides exhibit immune system modulatory effects by activating the cytokines associated with inflammatory response.[10]
  • Triterpenoids have shown anti-hypertensive, hypocholesterolemic, hepatoprotective, and antihistamine effects, as well as antitumour and anti-angiogenic activity.[10]
  • Has hepatoprotective effects.[57]
  • Has hypotensive, antithrombotic, and hypolipidemic properties.[3]
  • Boosts antioxidant enzymes associated with heart health: glutathione (GSH), glutathione s-transferase (GST), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), catalase (CAT), and superoxide dismutase (SOD).[3]
  • Supports cell protection from free radicals and peroxidation.[10]
    Supports anti-tumor effect through anti-angiogenesis and immunomodulation (modifying immune system function).[10]

Health Benefits

Depression & Mood

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Reishi has shown similar outcomes in the reduction of anxiety as the anxiolytic drug Diazepam.[4]

In a 2016 study, it was found that mice given an ethanol extract of Reishi had similar outcomes in reduction of anxiety when compared to the anxiolytic drug Diazepam.[4] They determined this using a light/dark box and elevated plus maze model, where time spent in the light or in open space is an indicator of reduction of anxiety.

In mice, ethanol extract of Reishi was also found to have an antidepressant effect similar to that of SSRI fluoxetine. These findings were ascertained in Forced Swim Test and Tail Suspension Test models. The Forced Swim Test and Tail Suspension Test measure when, during a stressful situation, mice will stop moving and “give up.” It was observed that mice who received the extract “demonstrated significant decrease in immobility time” compared to those in the control group.[30]


Polysaccharides present within Reishi, aka Ganoderma lucidum, exhibit immune system modulatory effects by activating the expression of cytokines associated with inflammatory response, such as interleukin-1, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor-α.[4]

G. lucidum has been shown to have immunomodulatory effects upon active constituents of different cells, including: macrophages, NK cells, mast cells, B-cells, T lymphocytes, and B lymphocytes. 

It has been dubbed an “efficient T cells activator” due to its ability to “induce the production of numerous cytokines… including Interleukin-10 (IL-10), Interleukin-1b, Interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-a and Interleukin-2 (IL-2)” in the “peripheral blood mononuclear (PBM) cells of human (primarily T cells) in an in vitro study.”

It has also been reported that the β-D-glucans in G. lucidum can “lead to change in the activities of macrophages, T-helper cells, NK cells, and other effector cells using lymphocyte surfaces through specific receptors or serum specific proteins.”[3]

A 12-week supplementation study of a commercially available G. lucidum pill, Ganapoly, was conducted on 34 patients with advanced stage cancer. 80% of those patients demonstrated “cellular immunological enhancements, including IL-2, IL-6, and IFN-γ secretion in plasma and NK cell activity.”[60]


In a 2013 study, mice were pretreated with the G. lucidum spore, receiving either low (0.1/kg), medium (0.5/kg), or high doses (1.0 g/kg) for a period of 7 days. Mice then received a hepatotoxic dose of heavy metal cadmium+2 Cd(II) of 3.7 mg/kg. Evaluated 8 hours later, the G. lucidum spore was shown to protect against “Cd(II)-induced liver injury in a dose-dependent manner.” G. lucidum decreased oxidative damage to the liver, decreased the presence of cadmium in nuclei, mitochondria, and microsomes, and induced metallothionein, a protein that helps detoxify the liver of metals.[14]

Antioxidants: Free-Radical scavengers

oxidative stress & chronic inflammation

Oxidative stress damages cell membranes, proteins, DNA, and sets the stage for chronic inflammation. 

Caused by an imbalance between the accumulation of “free radicals” i.e. reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS), and the body’s ability to detoxify itself of them, oxidative stress sets in when free radicals have not been stopped by adequate antioxidant defenses.

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Reishi scavenges free radicals in the body. Current research shows that it may even be a “mitochondrial antioxidant,” capable of scavenging ROS within the mitochondria.[9]

Because free radicals consist of one or more unpaired electrons, they are unstable. Seeking to become stable, they pair with other molecules, driving oxidation in the human body. A chain reaction takes place when a free radical pairs with an electron it has taken from another molecule, leaving that once-stable molecule unstable. The cycle persists in which a cascade of free radicals are formed as each tries to become stable.[36] 

Acute inflammation happens when we sprain an ankle, hurt our backs, or cut ourselves. It is a natural process of the immune system for white blood cells to rush to the site of injury to begin healing, and is critical for survival during physical injury and infection. In recent years, research has revealed that certain social, environmental, and lifestyle factors can promote systemic chronic inflammation (SCI) that can, in turn, lead to several diseases that collectively represent the leading causes of disability and mortality worldwide, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and various other autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders.[12]

 The National Institutes of Health says that “chronic inflammatory diseases” are “the most significant cause of death in the world… Over the next 30 years, diseases associated with chronic inflammation are expected to increase. Currently, 3 out of 5 people, worldwide, die due to chronic inflammatory diseases.”[32] 

Antioxidants, as Harvard Health explains, “neutralize free radicals by giving up some of their own electrons. In making this sacrifice, they act as a natural ‘off’ switch for the free radicals. This helps break a chain reaction that can affect other molecules in the cell and other cells in the body.”[48] 

As a powerful antioxidant, Reishi, aka G. lucidum, scavenges free radicals in the body. Current research shows that it may even be a “mitochondrial antioxidant,” capable of scavenging ROS within the mitochondria.[9]

The anti-oxidative effect of G. lucidum peptide (GLP) was determined in a study published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry in 2004. In this study on mice, scientists found that GLP reduced levels of malondialdehyde, a key biomarker for oxidative stress, by 13.4% at the lowest dose of .01 mg/ml to as much as 65.4% in the highest dose (1 mg/ml). It was also found that mitochondrial swelling was inhibited between 27.3% and 90.5%, from the lowest to highest dosage, respectively.[45]

blood glucose

High blood sugar levels produce more reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS). An accumulation of these “free radicals” can lead to oxidative stress. G. lucidum has demonstrated that it reduces “the oxidative stress of mitochondria” by “inhibiting glutathione peroxidase activity (GPx),” as well as the “activity and nitration of manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD),” and reduction of “phosphorylation of redox enzyme p66Shc.” Its polysaccharides have also been shown to significantly down-regulate iNOS, and nitric oxide synthase, thus demonstrating its ability to reduce glucose toxicity, a condition which negatively affects the body’s tissues and organs.[55]

In 2019, a study on G. lucidum and its potential effects on diabetes found that rats with type 2 diabetes (acquired via a high-fat diet and β‐cell toxin Streptozotocin) which received a combination of G. lucidum inulin and polysaccharides showed an increase of insulin sensitivity, as well as normalized food intake and significantly improved body weight via an increase in carbohydrate utilization ability. A reduction in glycogen content was also observed.[56]


Triterpenoids are the compounds that are responsible for the majority of G. lucidum’s anti-cancer and cancer prevention properties. In vitro screening of anti-cancer effects using a set of 26 human cancer cell lines revealed that hematological cell lines are highly sensitive to G. lucidum extracts containing triterpenoids. An in vivo study should be done to shed light on the mechanism of the cancer-selective action. Cell cycle arrest, which occurs during checkpoints between phases in the cell cycle to halt the proliferation of cancerous or otherwise damaged cells, and apoptosis (pre-programmed cell death), were also induced with treatments of the same extracts.[57] 

In mice given food-borne carcinogens and inflammation-induced cancer, G. lucidum extracts enriched with triterpenoids prevented colon carcinogenesis by inhibiting inflammation and suppressing focal hyperplasia and aberrant crypt foci formation. Aberrant crypt foci form before colorectal polyps and are one of the earliest warning signs for colon cancer.[57] 

A study in which mice were implanted with Lewis lung carcinoma, triterpenoid-enriched G. lucidum extract was shown to inhibit primary tumor growth in the spleen and liver metastasis and metastatic tumor growth.[57] 

The anti-angiogenic (meaning it inhibits the growth of blood vessels) effects of G. lucidum have been proven through the use of a chick embryo chorioallantoic membrane assay.[56] The chorioallantoic membrane is a highly vascular membrane within the eggs of amniotic organisms such as birds and reptiles and is homologous to the placenta in mammals.

In a 2009 study, two different extracts were prepared, one containing total terpenoids (ganoderotriols, ganoderic acids, and terpenoid derivatives) and the other only containing acidic terpenoids (ganoderotriols and trace amounts of ganoderic acids). Both were tested in vitro and in vivo on mice. The extract containing total terpenoids had a higher efficacy than the extract containing only acidic terpenoids. 

At the end of the observation period, mice treated with total terpenoids had an average tumor volume that was 14 times lower than that found in the control group. Total terpenoids were also shown to inhibit fibrosarcoma and astrocytoma in mice via an inhibition of cell proliferation and induction of apoptotic cell death.[47]

In the aforementioned study it was demonstrated for the first time that the antitumor effects of G. lucidum are, at least partly, mediated by oxidative stress. This is despite the fact that several other studies have shown that Reishi possesses antioxidative properties. This is likely so because of there only being terpenoids present in the extracts used in this study, and hence there was a lack of the polysaccharides, diazepeptides, amino-polysaccharides, and sterols which have demonstrated antioxidative effects.[47]

Heart Health | Cardiovascular

In a 2016 study on mice, G. lucidum spore oil was found to have a “potential cardioprotective role” as demonstrated in RNA, which showed “reduced expression of genes associated with heart failure, including a novel circular RNA, circ-Foxo3.”[58] Cardioprotective substances support the heart and coronary arteries and work to protect them from injury, disease, or malfunction.  

Cardioprotective antioxidant properties of Reishi include its “propensity to elevate glutathione (GSH), a cofactor for antioxidant enzymes... glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione S-transferase (GST), catalase (CAT), and superoxide dismutase (SOD).[3]  

In a clinical trial of patients in the primary stage of hypertension, G. lucidum showed significant results at lowering blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and blood cholesterol (a waxy-like substance made by the liver). 

In a double-blind, randomized, multicentered study, extracted G. lucidum polysaccharide fractions showed improved ECG and a reduction in chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath.

In a study conducted on rats, Reishi extract reduced blood lipid levels and prevented the onset of atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in arteries.

Fatigue Fighting

Fatigue is defined as a mental and/or physical exhaustion caused by overwork, overexertion, exercise, or lack of sleep. It may also be a symptom of depression, illness, or anxiety.[14] Weariness, exhaustion, lack of motivation, lethargy, as well as physical weakness are all signs of fatigue.

Published in 2017, a lengthy review of the literature on the antifatigue functions and mechanisms of edible and medicinal mushrooms cites G. lucidum as beneficial for reducing fatigue in a number of ways. 

Firstly, Reishi reduces fatigue by enhancing “energy metabolism from carbohydrate and fat.” 

Secondly, G. lucidum was shown to “inhibit the accumulation of blood lactic acid” and “accelerate lactic acid clearance.” Lactic acid buildup is created during intense exercise or a demand of physical exertion, which suggests G. lucidum may also be helpful for supporting exercise and increasing endurance.

Lastly, adenosine, a nucleoside (building block of RNA) found in G. lucidum, has been shown to inhibit platelet aggregation, or the clumping of platelets in blood. This activity “may help to enhance blood circulation and mitigate fatigue.”[14]

nutritional information

  • Protein 10-40%
  • Fat 2-8%
  • Carbohydrate 3-28%
  • Fiber 3-32%
  • Potassium 432 mg/100 g
  • Phosphorus 225 mg/100 g
  • Sulfur 129 mg/100 g
  • Magnesium 7.95 mg/100 g
  • Sodium 2.82 mg/100 g
  • Calcium 1.88 mg/100 g
  • Copper 26 mg/100 g
  • Manganese 22 mg/100 g
  • Iron 2.22 mg/100 g
  • Zinc 0.7 mg/100 g
  • Thiamine (B1) 3.49 mg/100 g
  • Riboflavin (B2) 17.10 mg/100 g
  • Niacin (B3) 61.9 mg/100 g
  • Pyridoxine (B6) 0.71 mg/100 g
  • Ascorbic acid 32.2 mg/100 g

Nutritional values were derived from Khatian and Aslam (2018) and Sheikha (2022).

Medicinal Compounds

(Beta-Glucans, Phenols, etcetera)

Over 300 bioactive compounds have been isolated or detected from the fruiting body, spores, and mycelia of G. lucidum. The main bioactive molecules from G. lucidum are triterpenoids, polysaccharides, nucleotides, fatty acids, glycoproteins, sterols, steroids, proteins or peptides, and other trace elements.[51]  

Over 200 polysaccharides have been isolated from Reishi.[48]

Triterpenoids present in G. lucidum are responsible for its bitter taste. The chemical structure of the triterpenes is based on lanostane, a metabolite of lanosterol, the biosynthesis of which is based on the cyclization of squalene.

The first triterpenes isolated from G. lucidum are the ganoderic acids A and B, which were identified by Kubota et al in 1982.[22] Since then, more than 130 triterpenes with known chemical compositions and molecular configurations have been reported to occur in G. lucidum.[48] 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, ganoderiols, and ganodermic acids have also been identified.[51]


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