REISHI I CORDYCEPS
Mushroom Immunity Support - Ganoderma
Lucidum - Red Reishi - Lingzhi
The lingzhi or reishi mushroom
(Traditional Chinese; pinyin: língzhī; Japanese: reishi; literally:
"supernatural mushroom") encompasses several fungal species of the
genus Ganoderma, and most commonly refers to the closely related
species, Ganoderma lucidum and Ganoderma tsugae. G. lucidum enjoys
special veneration in East Asia, where it has been used as a
medicinal mushroom in traditional Chinese medicine for more than
4,000 years, making it one of the oldest mushrooms known to have
been used medicinally. Because of lingzhi's presumed health
benefits and apparent absence of side-effects, it has attained a
reputation in the East as the ultimate herbal substance. Lingzhi is
listed in the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic
Taxonomy and naming
Names for the lingzhi fungus have
a two thousand year history. The Chinese term lingzhi was first
recorded in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE). Petter Adolf
Karsten named the genus Ganoderma in 1881.
 Botanical names
The lingzhi's botanical names have
Greek and Latin roots. The generic epithet Ganoderma derives from
the Greek ganos γανος "brightness; sheen", hence "shining" and
derma δερμα "skin". The specific epithet lucidum is Latin for
"shining" and tsugae for "hemlock" (from Japanese Tsuga ).
There are multiple species of
lingzhi, scientifically known to be within the Ganoderma lucidum
species complex and mycologists are still researching the
differences among species within this complex.
 Chinese names
Chinese language lingzhi compounds
ling "spirit, spiritual; soul; miraculous; sacred; divine;
mysterious; efficacious; effective" (cf. Lingyan Temple) and zhi 芝
"(traditional) plant of longevity; fungus; mushroom; excrescence".
Fabrizio Pregadio explains, "The term zhi, which has no equivalent
in Western languages, refers to a variety of supermundane
substances often described as plants, fungi, or "excresences"."
Zhi occurs in other Chinese plant names such as zhima
"sesame", and was anciently used a phonetic loan character
for zhi 芷 "Angelica iris". Chinese differentiates Ganoderma species
between chizhi 赤芝 "red mushroom" G. lucidum and zizhi "purple
mushroom" G. japonicum.
Lingzhi 靈芝has several synonyms.
Ruicao "auspicious plant" (with "auspicious; felicitous omen"
and the suffix cao "plant; herb") is the oldest; the (ca. 3rd
century BCE) Erya dictionary defines qiu 苬 (interpreted as a
miscopy of jun "mushroom") as zhi "mushroom" and the
commentary of Guo Pu (276-324) says, "The [zhi] flowers three times
in one year. It is a [ruicao] felicitous plant." Other Chinese
names for Ganoderma include ruizhi "auspicious mushroom",
"divine mushroom" (with shen "spirit; god' supernatural;
divine"), xiancao 仙草 "immortality plant" (with xian "(Daoism)
transcendent; immortal; wizard"), and lingzhicao or zhicao
Since both Chinese ling and zhi
have multiple meanings, lingzhi has diverse English translations.
Renditions include "herb of spiritual potency" or "mushroom of
immortality", "numinous mushroom", "divine mushroom",
"divine fungus", and "magic fungus"
 Japanese names
Japanese language reishi is
a Sino-Japanese loanword from lingzhi. This modern Japanese kanji 零
is the shinjitai "new character form" for the kyūjitai "old
Reishi synonyms divide between
Sino-Japanese borrowings and native Japanese coinages. Sinitic
loanwords include literary terms such as zuisō (from ruicao)
"auspicious plant" and sensō (from xiaocao) "immortality
plant". A common native Japanese name is mannentake 万年茸 "10,000
year mushroom". The Japanese writing system uses shi or shiba 芝 for
"grass; lawn; turf" and take or kinoko 茸 for "mushroom" (e.g.,
shiitake). Other Japanese terms for reishi include kadodetake 門出茸
"departure mushroom", hijiridake "sage mushroom", and
magoshakushi "grandchild ladle".
 English names
English lingzhi or ling chih
(sometimes misspelled "ling chi") is a Chinese loanword. The Oxford
English Dictionary gives Chinese "líng divine + zhī fungus" as the
origin of ling chih or lingzhi, and defines, "The fungus Ganoderma
lucidum, believed in China to confer longevity and used as a symbol
of this on Chinese ceramic ware." The OED notes the earliest
recorded usage of the Wade-Giles romanization ling chih in
1904, and of the Pinyin lingzhi in 1980.
Lingzhi is a polypore mushroom
that is soft (when fresh), corky, and flat, with a conspicuous
red-varnished, kidney-shaped cap and, depending on specimen age,
white to dull brown pores underneath. It lacks gills on its
underside and releases its spores through fine pores, leading to
its morphological classification as a polypore.
Ganoderma lucidum generally occurs
in two growth forms, one, found in North America, is sessile and
rather large with only a small or no stalk, while the other is
smaller and has a long, narrow stalk, and is found mainly in the
tropics. However, many growth forms exist that are intermediate to
the two types, or even exhibit very unusual morphologies,
raising the possibility that they are separate species.
Environmental conditions also play a substantial role in the
different morphological characteristics lingzhi can exhibit. For
example, elevated carbon dioxide levels result in stem elongation
in lingzhi. Other forms show "antlers', without a cap and these may
be affected by carbon dioxide levels as well.
Ganoderic acid A, a compound isolated from Lingzhi.
Ganoderma lucidum produces a group
of triterpenes, called ganoderic acids, which have a molecular
structure similar to steroid hormones. It also contains other
compounds many of which are typically found in fungal materials
including polysaccharides such as beta-glucan, coumarin,[citation
needed] mannitol, and alkaloids.
Ganoderma lucidum, and its close
relative Ganoderma tsugae, grow in the northern Eastern Hemlock
forests. These two species of bracket fungus have a worldwide
distribution in both tropical and temperate geographical regions,
including North and South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia,
growing as a parasite or saprotroph on a wide variety of trees.
Similar species of Ganoderma have been found growing in the
Amazon. In nature, Lingzhi grows at the base and stumps of
deciduous trees, especially maple. Only two or three out of
10,000 such aged trees will have Lingzhi growth, and therefore its
wild form is generally rare. Today, Lingzhi is effectively
cultivated both indoors under sterile conditions and outdoors on
either logs or woodchip beds.
The word lingzhi was first
recorded in a fu 賦 "rhapsody; prose-poem" by the Han dynasty
polymath Zhang Heng (CE 78–139). His (ca. 100) Xijing fu 西京賦
"Western Metropolis Rhapsody" parallels lingzhi with shijun 石菌
"rock mushroom": "Raising huge breakers, lifting waves, That
drenched the stone mushrooms on the high bank, And soaked the magic
fungus on vermeil boughs." The commentary by Xue Zong (d. 237)
notes these fungi were eaten as drugs of immortality.
The (ca. 1st-2nd century CE)
Shennong bencao jing "Divine Farmer's Classic of Pharmaceutics"
classifies zhi into six color categories, each of which is believed
to benefit the qi "life force" in a different part of the body:
qingzhi 青芝 "green mushroom" for liver, chizhi 赤芝 "red mushroom" for
heart, huangzhi 黃芝 "yellow mushroom" for spleen, baizhi 白芝 "white
mushroom" for lung, heizhi "black mushroom" 黑芝 for kidney, and
zizhi 紫芝 "purple mushroom" for essence. Commentators identify this
red chizhi (or danzhi 丹芝 "cinnabar mushroom") as the lingzhi.
(Ganoderma Rubra) is bitter and balanced. It mainly treats binding
in the chest, boosts the heart qi, supplements the center, sharpens
the wits, and [causes people] not to forget [i.e., improves the
memory]. Protracted taking may make the body light, prevent
senility, and prolong life so as to make one an immortal. Its other
name is Dan Zhi (Cinnabar Ganoderma). It grows in mountains and
The (ca. 320 CE) Baopuzi, written
by the Jin Dynasty Daoist scholar Ge Hong, has the first classical
discussion of zhi. Based upon no-longer extant texts, Ge
distinguishes five categories of zhi, each with 120 varieties:
shizhi 石芝 "stone zhi", muzhi 木芝 "wood zhi", caozhi 草芝 "plant zhi",
rouzhi 肉芝 "flesh zhi", and junzhi 菌芝 "mushroom zhi. For example,
the "mushroom zhi".
excresences. These grow deep in the mountains, at the base of large
trees or beside springs. They may resemble buildings, palanquins
and horses, dragon and tigers, human beings, or flying birds. They
may be any of the five colors. They too number 120 for which there
exist illustrations. All are to be sought and gathered while using
Yu's Pace [a Daoist ritual walk], and they are to be cut with a
bone knife. When dried in the shade, powdered, and taken by the
inch-square spoonful, they produce geniehood. Those of the
intermediate class confer several thousands of years, and those of
the lowest type a thousand years of life.
Pregadio concludes, "While there
may be no better term than "mushrooms" or "excresences" to refer to
them, and even though Ge Hong states that they "are not different
from natural mushrooms (ziran zhi 自然芝) (Baopuzi 16.287)", the zhi
pertain to an intermediate dimension between mundane and
The (1596) Bencao Gangmu
("Compendium of Materia Medica") has a zhi 芝 category that includes
six types of zhi (calling the green, red, yellow, white, black, and
purple ones from the Shennong bencao jing the liuzhi 六芝 "six
mushrooms") and sixteen other fungi, mushrooms, and lichens (e.g.,
mu'er 木耳 "wood ear" " Cloud ear fungus; Auricularia
auricula-judae"). The author Li Shizhen classified these six
differently colored zhi as xiancao 仙草 "immortality herbs", and
described the effects of chizhi "red mushroom":
affects the life-energy, or Qi of the heart, repairing the chest
area and benefiting those with a knotted and tight chest. Taken
over a long period of time, agility of the body will not cease, and
the years are lengthened to those of the Immortal
Stuart and Smith's classic study
of Chinese herbology describes the zhi.
芝 (Chih) is
defined in the classics as the plant of immortality, and it is
therefore always considered to be a felicitous one. It is said to
absorb the earthy vapors and to leave a heavenly atmosphere. For
this reason it is called 靈芝 (Ling-chih.) It is large and of a
branched form, and probably represents Clavaria or Sparassis. Its
form is likened to that of coral.
The Bencao Gangmu does not list
lingzhi as a variety of zhi, but as an alternate name for the
shi'er 石耳 "stone ear" "Umbilicaria esculenta" lichen. According to
Stuart and Smith,
[The 石耳 Shih-erh
is] edible, and has all of the good qualities of the 芝 (Chih),
being also used in the treatment of gravel, and being said to
benefit virility. It is specially used in hemorrhage from the
bowels and prolapse of the rectum. While the name of this would
indicate that it was one of the Auriculariales, the fact that the
name 靈芝 (Ling-chih) is also given to it might place it among the
In Chinese art, the lingzhi
symbolizes good health and long life, as depicted in the imperial
Forbidden City and Summer Palace. It was a talisman for good luck
in the traditional culture of China, and the goddess of healing
Guanyin is sometimes depicted holding a lingzhi mushroom.
 Lingzhi research and therapeutic usage
Lingzhi may possess anti-tumor,
immunomodulatory and immunotherapeutic activities, supported by
studies on polysaccharides, terpenes, and other bioactive compounds
isolated from fruiting bodies and mycelia of this fungus (reviewed
by R. R. Paterson and Lindequist et al.). It has also been
found to inhibit platelet aggregation, and to lower blood pressure
(via inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzyme), cholesterol,
and blood sugar.
Laboratory studies have shown
anti-neoplastic effects of fungal extracts or isolated compounds
against some types of cancer. In an animal model, Ganoderma has
been reported to prevent cancer metastasis, with potency
comparable to Lentinan from Shiitake mushrooms.
The mechanisms by which G. lucidum
may affect cancer are unknown and they may target different stages
of cancer development: inhibition of angiogenesis (formation of
new, tumor-induced blood vessels, created to supply nutrients to
the tumor) mediated by cytokines, cytoxicity, inhibiting migration
of the cancer cells and metastasis, and inducing and enhancing
apoptosis of tumor cells. Nevertheless, G. lucidum extracts are
already used in commercial pharmaceuticals such as MC-S for
suppressing cancer cell proliferation and migration.
Additional studies indicate that
ganoderic acid can help to strengthen the liver against liver
injury by viruses and other toxic agents in mice, suggesting a
potential benefit of this compound in the prevention of liver
diseases in humans, and Ganoderma-derived sterols inhibit
lanosterol 14α-demethylase activity in the biosynthesis of
cholesterol . Ganoderma compounds inhibit 5-alpha reductase
activity in the biosynthesis of dihydrotestosterone.
Besides effects on mammalian
physiology, Ganoderma is reported to have anti-bacterial and
anti-viral activities. Ganoderma is reported to exhibit
direct anti-viral with the following viruses; HSV-1, HSV-2,
influenza virus, vesicular stomatitis. Ganoderma mushrooms are
reported to exhibit direct anti-microbial properties with the
following organisms; Aspergillus niger, Bacillus cereus, Candida
albicans, and Escherichia coli.
Due to its bitter taste, Lingzhi
is traditionally prepared as a hot water extract. Thinly sliced
or pulverized lingzhi (either fresh or dried) is added to a pot of
boiling water, the water is then brought to a simmer, and the pot
is covered; the lingzhi is then simmered for two hours.[citation
needed] The resulting liquid is fairly bitter in taste, with the
more active red lingzhi more bitter than the black. The process is
sometimes repeated. Alternatively, it can be used as an ingredient
in a formula decoction or used to make an extract (in liquid,
capsule, or powder form). The more active red forms of lingzhi are
far too bitter to be consumed in a soup.
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