Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) and its properties
Ganoderma lucidum is the best known fungus in mycotherapy and probably also the one with the highest number of studies and is generally known by the Japanese name of "Reishi", while the Chinese name is Ling Zhi or Ling chi. This basidiomycete has an almost ovoidal shape and flat hat, its surface is wavy and irregular, yet it is smooth and very shiny. Visually, the entire surface of the Ganoderma lucidum hat is divided into multiple growth rings. The stem is lateral, of the same color as the hat. The meat is woody, very leathery, of a white-ocher color. Saprophytes of hardwoods or hardwoods, especially oak, grows from spring to autumn.
Why is it so appreciated?
It is appreciated for its therapeutic properties in eastern countries, especially in China, Malaysia, Japan, where it is intensively cultivated, dried and processed into medicinal preparations (powder, decoctions, ointments, tablets, etc.). The Latin word lucidus means "shiny" or "bright" and refers to the painted appearance of the mushroom surface.
Lingzhi has been recognized as a medicinal mushroom for over 2000 years and its powerful effects have been documented in ancient scriptures (Wasser 2005). In the Supplement to the classic of Materia Medica (502-536 AD) and the Ben Cao Gang Mu of Li Shin-Zhen, which is considered the first pharmacopoeia in China (1590 AD, Ming dynasty), the fungus was attributed toning properties, the increase of vital energy, strengthening of cardiac function, memory increase and antiaging effects.
Mycotherapy uses the hat and the stem of the fungus. It is used primarily as an immunomodulator.
What does Ganoderma contain?
The active constituents include polysaccharides and triterpenes including the ganoderic acids. Some polysaccharides present in Reishi, beta-glucans, have shown antitumor and immunostimulant activity and can also induce the maturation of normal monocytes and leukemic blasts (immature cells) in dendritic cells. The identified triterpenes have adaptogenic, anti-hypertensive, anti-allergic effects and can also inhibit tumor invasion by reducing the expression of metalloproteinases and decreasing tumor metastases by limiting attachment to endothelial cells.
In addition to these, mushrooms contain a wide variety of bioactive molecules, such as steroids, phenols, nucleotides and their derivatives, glycoproteins. Mushroom proteins contain all the essential amino acids and are particularly rich in lysine and leucine.
The low total fat content and the high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids compared to the total fatty acids of fungi are considered significant contributions to the health value of fungi (Chang and Buswell 1996, Borchers et al., 1999; Sanodiya et al., 2009).
Potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, iron, zinc and copper represent the majority of the mineral content (Borchers et al., 1999) of this fungus. Ganoderma also contains organic Germanium (according to research by Dr. Kazuhiko Asai, it contains 800-2000 parts per million of germanium, ie 4-6 times more than the amount contained in Panax Ginseng): although germanium is not an essential element, low doses, it has been credited with immunopotenzanti, anticancer, antioxidant and antimutagenic activity (Kolesnikova, Tuzova and Kozlov 1997). Organic germanium is an oligoelement that is essential to improve oxygen at the cellular level and for this reason is considered a powerful antioxidant. Its presence is recommended in all cases of chronic degenerative diseases, both cardiovascular and metabolism in general (diabetes, dyslipidemia, cancer).
What are your actions?
Reishi extracts are able to:
- increase the immune defenses, through the stimulation of macrophages, the action on the levels of TNF-a (Tumor necrosis factor) and interleukins;
- increase the antioxidant capacity of the plasma and improve the immune responses in some cancer patients;
- improve the symptoms of the lower urinary tract in men by inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, an important enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, which is upregulated in benign prostatic hyperplasia;
- have chemopreventive effects, alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea, improve the efficacy of radiotherapy, and increase the sensitivity of ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin. It was also effective in preventing cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity;
- exercise mild anti-diabetic effects and may improve dyslipidemia;
- Demonstrate antihypertensive activity as an ACE inhibitor (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme) and a good antioxidant capacity. Cardio-protective effects were highlighted in a 2011 study of 26 people with medium hypertension;
- protect the liver from the toxicity induced by various toxic substances. Moreover, it has been found the protective power in vivo against hepatic necrosis induced by harmful substances. Positive effects on patients with chronic hepatitis B were evidenced by the polysaccharide fraction of the fungus. In some cases a remission of hepatocellular carcinoma has been described;
- act as an anti-allergic: studies on the anti-allergic action have shown the inhibition of the production of histamine and, more in general, a modulation of the immune system, with rearrangement of a correct balance of Th1 / Th2 lymphocytes. In vivo studies have shown efficacy in cases of allergic rhinitis models. The ganoderic acids (mainly the ganoderic acid C) have shown anti-inflammatory activity both systemically and topically in vivo. Acids A, B, G and H showed higher activity than acetylsalicylic acid. One study showed that 50 mg of this fungus has an anti-inflammatory effect of 5 mg of hydrocortisone.
Further research is underway to determine its safety and efficacy, as an adjuvant in the treatment of cancer or even as an anticancer.
Regarding herbal-drug interactions, studies have documented interactions with: anticoagulants (Reishi may have inhibitory effect on platelet aggregation, Immunosuppressants (Reishi can improve immune responses), chemotherapeutic drugs (it should be borne in mind that Reishi can greatly increase the antioxidant capacity of the plasma).
In conclusion, Ganoderma lucidum is a well-known Asian fungus with a wide range of applications. With its growing popularity, numerous studies are underway on the composition, cultivation and reputational effects of Ganoderma, and there are data that support its positive health benefits, including anticancer effects; blood glucose regulation; antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral effects; and protection against the liver and gastric lesions.
Dr. Laura Comollo
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