When I started researching for an article on Reishi, a Google search gave me this as the #1 top result: “Reishi is a bitter tasting mushroom with no proven health benefits.”
I thought What?!! How is this possible? Several articles on top Western medical websites seemed to be only about how bad Reishi is for you, and how little we know about it. Is this some actual conspiracy? Reishi is perhaps the one mushroom we have proven the most about. And of all the mushrooms I have ever tried, it is the one that I have felt the most immediately improved by, and it is always the first one I recommend. I’ve had a decade long romance with Reishi, and in fact was spending so much money on Reishi tincture for a while, that I taught myself how to make my own. It has healed wounds overnight that I really should have gotten stitches for. It has gotten me over major surgeries in half the time it should have, knit a broken femur of mine in record time, and even once got me through a bad relationship break up. I can be a little evangelical about it.
What shocked me more than the contrast to my personal experience with Reishi, was how blatantly incorrect the top online articles are. As noted by Christopher Hobbes (a legend in the mushroom community, and himself a fourth generation mycologist and research scientist), in 2002, 185 research articles were published on Reishi, and by 2020, that number had increased to over 800. It is the leading seller within the medicinal mushroom category of dietary supplements. According to Hobbes’ recent book, Medicinal Mushrooms, the Essential Guide, “A list of the biological effects of Reishi that have been proven through in vivo and in vitro studies reads like something of a panacea.”
Here is that thoroughly cited, very scientifically proven list:
- Benefits the heart and helps regulate cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels
- Prevents viral growth
- Reduces inflammation and helps protect against free radicals and tissue damage
- Activates immune function
- Inhibits tumor growth
- Protects the liver
- Relieves symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and depression
- Improves cognitive function
- Improves energy
- Benefits the lungs and respiratory tract
About the only thing my Google search got right about Reishi is that it is bitter. But so is coffee, come on. As if our modern findings aren’t enough, Reishi has held a holy place in Eastern medicine for thousands of years, references to it being found as early as 100 BC. In Chinese herbalism, it is referred to as “The Mushroom of Immortality,” and is a symbol for spiritual potency, well-being, and divine power. In Japan, it was traditionally hung in the doorways of homes, to keep bad spirits from entering.
Reishi is very slow-growing. The fruiting bodies can take 6 months or more to reach maturity, but we are currently experiencing a rare, highly-anticipated bloom of it on our farm this month. This means that for a short time, it will be available fresh in our stores and farmer’s markets. The rest will be dried, and allocated for teas and tinctures. To make Reishi tea (which is the most common way to consume it) take the fresh or dried fruiting bodies, and simmer them in water for at least 2 hours. The longer the better for this, so if you can do it overnight in a slow cooker, you’re really in business. I usually use about 1/2oz of Reishi for 8 -10 cups of water (or if you’re trying to quickly heal an injury, use a quality bone broth instead of water). When hours have passed, and the liquid is the color of black tea, portion it into pint-sized mason jars and refrigerate it. It is best consumed cold. I usually grab a pint of it from the fridge on my way out the door in the morning, and sip on it throughout the day. 800 scientists, and every herbalist since antiquity can’t be wrong – and neither am I.