6 Reasons to eat more reishi mushrooms, a superfood that boosts your immune health By Zoey Sky for Super Foods
In Eastern medicine, reishi mushrooms are used to treat various health complaints. According to several studies, this unique superfood also offers many benefits, such as improving your immunity and boosting your heart health.
Reishi or lingzhi mushrooms contain compounds like peptidoglycans, polysaccharides and triterpenoids that all contribute to the superfood’s many health benefits when consumed fresh or using the mushrooms in powders and extracts added to other foods and drinks.
Here are six of the science-backed benefits of reishi mushrooms.
They’re full of beneficial antioxidants
Studies have found that antioxidants can help protect cells from damage, decrease cell mutation and carcinogenesis. At the same time, these compounds can help protect your cells.
According to several studies, reishi mushrooms have exhibited antioxidant activity in vitro. Taking reishi mushroom supplements can help boost those antioxidant benefits.
They can help boost your immune system
The triterpenes in reishi mushrooms can help lower blood pressure and anti-allergy effects. Additionally, the superfood contains sterols that can help the development of hormones.
Both benefits contribute to improved immune system function.
Studies suggest that triterpenes and sterols acting together can help remove malignant or premalignant cells. They might also help boost the immune system resistance of these cells.
Additionally, research has found that reishi mushrooms can affect the genes in white blood cells and improve immune function. Those genes and their pathways are also linked to the superfood’s anti-inflammatory effects.
In some cultures, the mushrooms are used as an immunostimulant through their beta glucans (complex sugars) to treat HIV patients.
Experts believe that these immune system changes are behind some of the health benefits of reishi mushrooms since boosting the immune system helps the body fight infections and different kinds of cancer.
They possess anti-cancer properties
According to studies, the beta-glucans in the mushrooms may help halt the growth and spread of cancer cells. Research has shown that polysaccharides and triterpenes also have cancer-preventing effects.
In one small study, scientists reported that tumors shrunk in cancer patients who took reishi mushrooms. Additionally, the mushrooms can help alleviate chemotherapy-related nausea and improve radiation therapy.
Larger studies suggest that the mushroom can help kill cancer cells and other cancer-fighting measures. (Related: Study: Regular mushroom consumption can lead to lowered prostate cancer risk.)
Researchers note that reishi may have better effects on certain types of cancer than others. For example, prostate and colorectal cancers can respond to reishi mushrooms’ effects on testosterone, but more studies are needed for conclusive evidence.
Preliminary research has revealed that reishi mushrooms can help boost the activity of the white blood cells dubbed natural killer cells that help fight infections and cancer in the body.
They promote heart health
Data from a small 12-week study suggests that reishi mushrooms may help boost “good” LDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and decrease triglycerides.
They help regulate blood sugar
Data from several animal studies suggest that reishi mushrooms can help decrease blood sugar. Preliminary research in humans has also confirmed the findings and scientists think that the benefit is linked to a glucose-producing enzyme inhibition.
Other studies have revealed that the mushrooms could reduce kidney stress, which may benefit patients experiencing complications because of diabetes. Continued research can help confirm these benefits.
They can help relieve fatigue and depression
Reishi mushrooms are adaptogens and this means they can help your body fight stress. Studies have also shown that the mushrooms can reduce pain, body aches and mental irritability.
In one study, a small cohort of 132 people with neurasthenia took supplements for two months. Results showed that they experienced improvements in terms of headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
Additionally, breast cancer survivors reported improved quality of life after taking the mushroom powder for one month. They also reported lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Considerations before consuming reishi mushrooms
Note that while reishi mushrooms offer many health benefits, the dose of mushrooms can vary greatly depending on the form you take. Consult a trusted physician to determine which levels are best for you.
Reishi mushrooms may also cause some side effects, such as:
- Causing toxicity in some immune cells.
- Causing toxicity in the liver.
- Digestive issues
- Upset stomach
There is limited information on the side effects of reishi mushrooms so use caution before taking them if you:
- Have low blood pressure or other blood disorders
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Are undergoing surgery
Reishi mushroom energy balls
Try this recipe for reishi mushroom energy balls if you’re looking for a snack that will boost your energy and improve your immunity.
Ingredients for 9 servings:
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 Tablespoon dark chocolate, melted
- 1 Tablespoon goji berries
- 1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 1 Tablespoon tocotrienols
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon maca powder
- 1 teaspoon reishi mushroom powder
- Set the melted chocolate aside and place the rest of the ingredients in a food processor. Process for one minute or until the mixture sticks together when pinched. Pause to scrape down the sides.
- Pour the mixture onto a parchment-lined plate or baking sheet. Use your hands to roll nine or 10 one-inch balls.
- Refrigerate the energy balls for 10 minutes or until the mixture sets.
- Once the energy balls are set, remove from the fridge and drizzle the melted chocolate. Let the chocolate harden before serving.
Store the reishi mushroom energy balls in an airtight container. Refrigerate them for about two weeks or keep them in the freezer for up to one month.