This article draws upon research outlined in Robert Rogers Fungal Pharmacy, and from my firsthand mushroom play, experimentation, meditations and dreams.
Ganoderma lucidum, “The Conductor”
A respected conductor, Reishi knows the most beautiful song in the orchestra of life. While Reishi did not write the song, Reishi understands it, knows all the parts, and how they are meant to be played. Just like a conductor, Reishi unifies the musicians, sets the tempo and rhythm, and listens critically to shape the sound of the collective.
Reishi knows your part, too, and can help you remember it- like the conductor who gestures with his baton to direct when you need to come in, or when you need to step back, rest and listen, or play more dynamically. It is a relief to have a role, and to do what you are supposed to do. Confusion and forgetting cease. Playing your part in the song of life alongside all the other beings is wonderful.
Reishi heals through firmly reminding your body and spirit how to function correctly. Reishi is primarily composed of complex carbohydrates called water-soluble polysaccharides, triterpeniods, proteins and amino acids. Researchers identify water-soluble polysaccharides as the most active element found in Reishi with immune modulating, anti-tumor and blood pressure lowering effects. Immuno-modulating means that it regulates and reduces excessive immune response, and stimulates immune response when it is deficient to deal with viruses, bacterial infections, and even tumors. Water-soluble polysaccharides are anti-tumor because they support the p53 checkpoint (the guardian), which during cell division inspects and then acts to destroy abnormal cells. This guardian gene is damaged in cancer cells, allowing abnormal cells to move onto the next phase.
Reishi also lowers elevated blood sugar levels and is useful in treating hypoglycemia and late-onset diabetes- again, reminding and teaching your body how to regulate sugar and insulin levels. Similarly, Reishi lowers blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) and cholesterol levels with triterpenes, called ganoderic acids (also found in Cordyceps, Wood ear and Shiitake mushrooms). Studies indicate that ganoderic acids also help alleviate common allergies by inhibiting histamine release and by improving oxygen utilization and liver function. Triterpenes are bitter in taste and the level of the triterpene content contained in a product can be determined by the bitterness.
Reishi in particular strengthens the heart qi and chakra, as well as the chest and lungs. Repairing the chest area and benefiting those with a knotted and tight chest, it can be used to treat lung conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Personally, I feel Reishi strongly in my chest and heart.
Reishi is strongly connected to source (the sun? universal energy? qi?) through electromagnetic waves that spiral yellow from space, and through all life. It can help connect us to this source again if we have become disconnected. The healing happens through these waves spiraling through and correcting imbalances in our bodies. Connecting to qi is quite grounding, and this is another more spiritual/emotional affect of Reishi medicine. Daoist monks refer to Reishi as the mushroom of spiritual potency and say that it improves our inner lives.
Reishi is a strong protector, possibly related to this qi-building/connecting (life energy) ability, acting to protect the body. Reishi offers protection from radiation, and protects the liver and bronchial system/lungs. It can be made into sunscreen to protect from UV rays. It not only protects us on a physical level, but also a mental and spiritual one. It has been hung above doorways as protection from evil in Korea, Japan, China, and Mongolia.
Reishi is calmative, alleviating anxiety and nervousness associated with adrenal deficient conditions. It helps relax muscles and reduces the effect of caffeine on the body- gradually strengthening the nerves. Reishi helps treat insomnia, as it has a sedative effect. Personally I have experienced a profound desire to lie down and rest when taking Reishi tincture or holding the fruiting bodies.
Also known as the Spirit plant, tree of life mushroom, and mushroom of immortality, Reishi has been used as medicine for at least 4 millenia (4000 years). It is said to increase longevity, to “lengthen years to those of the Immortal Fairies” (Chen, 16th century Chinese physician). Cool!
Some say Reishi is best taken in the morning with an empty stomach. Drinking more water will also help enhance the effects of Reishi by helping the body get rid of poisonous waste. It is also recommended to take Vitamin C with Reishi as this will assist the body in absorbing the active ingredients in Reishi. Vitamin C helps break down the complex polysaccarides into smaller manageable pieces that the body can intake.
In the wild, Reishi grows on elm, alder, oak and on wild plum trees. In the Pacific Northwest there are local ‘Reishis’: Ganoderma oregense, Ganoderma applanatum (Artist Conk) and Ganoderma tsugae growing on Hemlock and Douglas Fir. Considered primary decomposers, they degrade dead wood for food. They are sometimes considered parasitic as they do also grow on living trees.