It is believed that the Reishi mushroom was the first mushroom used to promote health for over 2000 years in Asia however, it is now recognized by the United States for its medicinal value. This fungus was rare and difficult to harvest however it is now cultivated making it available to everyone at a reasonable price. This mushroom carries of number of benefits including its ability to lower cholesterol and blood lipid levels, immune booster, combat fatigue, combat high blood pressure, act as a blood thinner, and anti-tumor capability.Reishi mushrooms contain polysaccharides, triterpenes ergosterol, enzymes, alkaline molecules, glucosides Coumarins, Vitamins C, Vitamin B2 and amino acids, adenosine, triterpenes such as ganoderic acids, Ganomycin (antibiotic)and much more.
Reishi is used to boost the cardiovascular system by increasing blood flow, improving oxygen utilization in heart muscle, slowing the clotting process, lowering cholesterol, decreasing plaque formation and lowering blood pressure.It has been demonstrated that the triterpenes and in this case ganoderic acids are responsible for lowering blood pressure as well as lowering cholesterol. This has been observed in patients who were administered oral Reishi who were not responding to high blood pressure medications. Ganderic acid apparently inhibits angiotensin converting enzymes (ACE). The angiotensin cascade is responsible for smooth muscle contraction in blood vessels which causes the vascular system to shrink in size causing the blood pressure to increase. So triterpenes allow for the vasculature to essentially relax which in turn decreases blood pressure.
Triterpenes also interact with the nervous system to lower blood pressure. Reishi’s ability to lower cholesterol is that the triterpene component inhibits a certain liver enzyme that is part of the pathway that makes cholesterol. This enzyme is known as 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMG-CoA). By lowering the production of cholesterol by the liver, this will decrease the build up of plaque in the arteries.
The build up of plaque increases hypertension due to narrowing of blood vessels and increases the probability of heart attack and stroke.Reishi also contains mannitol which is a sugar alcohol that is known to act as an osmotic diuretic. Basically what this does is to create a more dilute urine by way of the kidneys and thereby lowering blood pressure due to the loss of excess water. Adenosine and coumarins have also been found in Reishi and are responsible for slowing down the clotting process allowing for blood thinning and increased blood flow. This allows more nutrients and oxygen to perfuse all tissues allowing them to work better. More oxygen and nutrients means the ability to make more ATP to run metabolic pathways. Adenosine is also a vessel dilator and muscle relaxant and can prevent cramping and leg soreness.
The polysaccharides found in Reishi are known to increase the number of macrophages and increase their phagocytic ability while increasing production of chemical messengers known as interleukins. Reishi’s ability to boost immune function imparts an antiviral and anti-carcinogenic quality. This mushroom also carries antioxidant properties allowing for free radical scavenging protecting cells. Certain triterpenes have been reported to inhibit histamine release from neutrophils thereby decreasing the potential for allergic responses.
Beyond Reishi’s ability to combat hypertension, plague formation, lower bad cholesterol and trigliceride levels, act as a blood thinner, relax smooth muscle cells of the vasculature and boost the immune system and fight cancer, it has medicinal benefits for the nervous system. It has been reported to improve sleep and wake cycles by supporting non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) or gamma wave sleep, improve memory function for Alzheimer’s patients, and reduce anxiety without side effects. It is also known to have pain relieving effects particularly on skeletal muscle by allowing for relaxation.