Reishi / Ling Zhi – The Mushroom of Immortality

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

English Name: Reishi mushroom
Pinyin: Ling Zhi
Latin: Ganoderma
Temperature: Neutral, warm
Organs/Meridians Entered: Heart, Liver, Lungs, Kidney
Parts Used: Fruiting body (mushroom), spores, mycelium

Reishi mushrooms are one of the most powerful tonics on earth, and have been used since the beginning of human history as a protector herb, longevity tonic and to aid in spiritual development. Research has now confirmed that reishi is an immune modulator and a very potent antioxidant, and it is being used in modern treatment of cancer and to combat the effects of chemotherapy in China as well as in the West.

Reishi / Ling Zhi - The Mushroom of Immortality : Chinese Medicine Living

Reishi Mushroom History

Reishi mushrooms were first described by the famous herbalist Shen Nong in the Shu Dynasty more than 2400 years ago. Reishi was classified by Shen Nong as a superior herb – meaning that it could be taken continuously without side effects. The definition of a superior herb is an herb that it is a substance that it essential to life, can be taken continuously without negative side effects and promotes excellent health and long life by harmonizing the body, mind and spirit.

Shen Nong said of Reishi that “if eaten customarily, it makes your body light and young, lengthens your life and turns you into one like the immortal, who never dies.”

Shen Nong observed that there were at least six different types of ganoderma; red, purple, green, black, white and yellow. Red and green are the types that are commonly found in Chinese herbal shops, and purple is the most rare and difficult to find. Black reishi is fairly common and can be found in most Chinese herbal shops that sell bulk herbs. As the reishi becomes older, it gets larger, but larger is not necessarily better for medicinal use. You want to choose a reishi that is still relatively fresh and moist inside. When reishi age, they become dry and brittle. One way to identify a reishi is good enough to use is that if it is between about 6 – 10 inches in diameter and the skin is highly glossy.

Duan wood reishi are the best of the best of reishi mushrooms. They are grown on specific varieties of wooden logs, without chemicals (reishi’s should never be grown with chemicals!), in a pristine mountain environment. In the wild, reishi’s grow on a large variety of trees in forests throughout Asia, and like humans, they are what they eat. Depending on what type of wood the reishi grows on determines its strength and potency. Ideal types of trees for potent reishi mushrooms to grow on are specific types of hardwood trees indigenous to parts of China. The Chinese have made extensive studies on reishi’s and the types of trees that they grown on and how they affect their potency and medicinal uses.

Reishi / Ling Zhi - The Mushroom of Immortality : Chinese Medicine Living

Reishi Mushroom & Traditional Chinese Medicine

Reishi or Ling Zhi have a very long history in Chinese medicine. As mentioned above, they were first recorded by the famous herbalist Shen Nong almost 2500 years ago and have long been known for their powerful healing properties. Some of reishi, or ganoderma’s medicinal properties are as follows:

  • A super immune tonic, strongly protects the entire body from disease
  • Tonifies the three treasures – Jing, Qi and Shen
  • Nourishes the heart
  • Protects the liver
  • Used traditionally as an anti-aging herb
  • Improves vitality, strength and stamina
  • Has a mild tranquilizing effect on the central nervous system
  • The ancient Chinese have traditionally used it to enhance spiritual and meditative practices. It is often called “the mushroom of spiritual potency” by Taoist adepts and spiritual seekers.

As you can see, reishi mushrooms, or Ling Zhi, have many medicinal uses in Chinese medicine. They are considered sweet and neutral in nature and enter the heart and liver meridians. Reishi are used traditionally in Chinese medicine to tonify the “three treasures” which are jing, qi and shen. Reishi is a strong protector of the entire body, is an herb that is said to have strong anti-aging properties, and promotes calmness, balance and inner awareness.

The discovery by modern science that they are immune modulators have made them popular in treating cancer patients, helping to build the immune system to fight the cancer, as well as combat the destructive effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Reishi Mushroom as a Spiritual Aid

Reishi Mushrooms for Meditation : Chinese Medicine Living

Reishi has a long history of being used by those seeking the spiritual life – monks, Taoists and mountain hermits. Reishi was used because it was believed to help calm the mind, relax the body, strengthen the nerves, improve memory, heighten concentration, improve focus, increase will power and ultimately, result in deep wisdom. This is why it was referred to as “The Mushroom of Spiritual Potency” by these seekers. Reishi is still revered all over Asia for the attainment of overall health, longevity and spiritual attainment.

Reishi Mushroom and Cancer

Because of mushrooms’ powerful immune boosting properties, many mushroom extracts are now being used as cancer fighting medicines because they strengthen and modulate the immune system and have anti-cancer, anti inflammatory, antiviral and liver protecting effects. Ling Zhi is used in Chinese medical cancer treatment to build up the body, increase vitality, increase overall strength and prolong life. Reishi mushroom is a strong immune booster and has been proven to alleviate the effects of chemotherapy like nausea and kidney damage, and has been shown to protect cellular DNA because of its strong anti oxidative properties.

Other mushrooms used in cancer treatment include shitake mushroom (xiang gu), turkey tail mushroom (yun zhi), Chinese caterpillar fungus (dong chong xia cao), cloud mushroom (hui shu hua), and chaga mushroom. Each has proven to be powerful medicine against cancer and its effects.


Reishi / Ling Zhi - The Mushroom of Immortality : Chinese Medicine LivingHave you loved a Reishi today?

Reishi mushrooms are incredibly powerful tonics that protect the entire body, build the immune system, help with spiritual practices and have anti-aging properties. The Chinese have been using them for thousands of years for all of their beneficial effects. It is wonderful that they are also now being used in modern cancer treatment for their immune-boosting effects and their ability to combat the effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Nature offers us many gifts, and it seems that reishi is one of the best and most researched one of them all.

Reishi / Ling Zhi – The Mushroom of Immortality


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