This article is mostly going to focus on decoding what the human studies are saying about Reishi and how this squares up with the anecdotal experiences of Biohackers online. For more of my own personal experiences, thoughts, and comparisons please see the written and video reviews in the sidebar.
Reishi[Title/Abstract] — PubMed — NCBI
PubMed comprises more than 27 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and…
It’s been studied worldwide and has been the subject of 44 articles of human research that can be found on Pubmed, in comparison Rhodiola has 180 articles and Panax Ginseng has 550.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Called Lingzhi; the Chinese referred to it as the Mushroom of Immortality and the Japanese as the 10,000-year Mushroom.
From the book Adaptogens:
Reishi is relatively rare in the wild, and throughout the history of China, its use was restricted mostly to the emperor, his court, and the upper classes.
Reishi is a Shen tonic:
The term shen usually is translated as “spirit,” which is frequently misunderstood by non-Chinese speakers. The word shen does not mean the soul (in traditional Chinese medicine, there are two aspects of the soul known as the hun and the po) or your individual spirit. It is a person’s mind/consciousness and emotional balance. Disturbances of shen produce anxiety, insomnia, bad dreams, moodiness, listlessness, and poor memory. Reishi is used for people with these conditions, along with other nervine, adaptogenic, or sedative herbs as they are indicated for the patient. It also is used for people with deficient qi and blood, which manifests as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, neurasthenia, and dizziness.
According to the State Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China Lingzhi…
“acts to replenish Qi, ease the mind, and relieve cough and asthma, and it is recommended for dizziness, insomnia, palpitation, and shortness of breath”
It was a favorite of the legendary herbalist Li Ching-Yuen who claimed to have lived over 250 years.
It’s native to China but can be found growing on decaying logs as far away as Canada.
Various species of reishi grow in Asia, Europe, North America, and even in the Amazon rain forest. In the southeastern and southwestern United States, it is found growing on oak trees. In the northeastern United States, it usually is found growing on maple trees.
Cognitively, I don’t really feel any different on reishi unless I take a high dose, then I may feel a little calmer, relaxed, wiser, difficult to explain, but it’s very subtle. But it may have short to medium-term beneits on state of mind that go un-noticed because of the subtlety. If you were to stop taking it after a few months it’s possible that you would notice the difference straight away.
From the book Adaptogens:
Reishi generates a sense of inner calm and harmony while also heightening mental perception, both logical and intuitive.
Reishi’s adaptogenic effects are mild and cumulative, but research shows it improves adrenocortial function and relieves stress.
Several Biohackers call Reishi an extremely underrated nootropic:
I seriously feel that I get at least a 10–15 iq boost from [Reishi]… [It] cause[s] ideas to flow to the point where [you’ll] amaze your self [with] what you come up with…
Regardless the nootropic and even antidepressant effect is insanely good; after a few days of taking it I’m fearless…
The most strongly demonstrated effected of Reishi is its helpful effect on Subjective Well-Being. Three double-blind studies totaling 230 human subjects showed that tested against a placebo, it had a helpful effect. However, all of these studies were done on patients suffering from different ailments, none were done on otherwise healthy people. Although, there is a significant preponderance of anecdotal data indicating a desirable effect in this regard.
I’ve come across several anecdotal reports of it having an anti-androgen effect — lowering testosterone. A couple of guys are saying that…
- It lowers libido
- Their erections are not as awesome as usual
- It makes them a little anti-social
The science draws a bit of a murky conclusion on this important characteristic.
Ganoderic acid DM: anti-androgenic osteoclastogenesis inhibitor. — PubMed — NCBI
Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2009 Apr 15;19(8):2154–7. doi: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2009.02.119. Epub 2009 Mar 4. Comparative Study
The in vitro studies have established the mechanism of Reishi which inhibits 5-alpha reductase enzymes, which would have anti-androgenic effects.
Randomized clinical trial of an ethanol extract of Ganoderma lucidum in men with lower urinary…
Asian J Androl. 2008 Sep;10(5):777–85. Epub 2007 Dec 20. Randomized Controlled Trial; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t
A double-blind human study of 88 males did not corroborate this effect. There was no effect demonstrated on testosterone.
In my view this does not disqualify Reishi as a Nootropic, I would use it if I were simultaneously doing other testosterone Biohacks like cold showers, no fap, meditation, and supplementation of things like Ashwagandha and Horny Goat Weed.
However, if you’re really concerned about your testosterone levels, this may not be the Nootropic for you. As always you want to self quantify and self-monitor how different Nootropics effect you.
It has a balancing effect on the immune system which can be helpful for those suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Psoriasis, Celiac disease, Thyroiditis or other auto-immune diseases where the defensive immune system of the body is malfunctioning and attacking itself.
From the book Adaptogens:
Reishi possesses immune system modulating effects and has antitumor activity. It also regulates the immune system in cases of autoimmune disease and allergies.
One Biohacker remarked:
Reishi helps my autoimmune disease immensely…
Essentially, reishi causes a inverse relationship between the presence of bacteria and immune system activation. The mushroom is suppose to support and modulate the immune system and not just boost it like other herbs such as ginseng.
Ganoderma lucidum (“Lingzhi”), a Chinese medicinal mushroom: biomarker responses in a controlled…
Br J Nutr. 2004 Feb;91(2):263–9. Clinical Trial; Controlled Clinical Trial; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t
From a 2004 double-blind Hong Kong study
The results showed no evidence of liver, renal or DNA toxicity with Lingzhi intake, and this is reassuring. The present study of the effects in healthy, well-nourished subjects provides useful, new scientific data that will support controlled intervention trials using at-risk subjects in order to assess the therapeutic effect of Lingzhi in the promotion of healthy ageing.
Thanks to its auto-immune effects it can have a helpful effect with allergies. One British Biohacker reported
…this year Reishi has helped me kill off my allergies to cats, dust and pollen — I’ve been breathing in large amounts of ash pollen over the last few weeks (the UK has had high levels of this recently), and it seems pollen now just bounces off me. This time last year I was in serious trouble with eyes streaming and nose running and sneezing. I hope that this is a permanent change, so I will continue to eat Reishi forever. Hurrah for Reishi!
In China, it was traditionally used as an anti-cancer herb. An observational study of over four thousand women who were breast cancer survivors found that it did have a positive effect on social well being.
Anticancer effects of Ganoderma lucidum: a review of scientific evidence. — PubMed — NCBI
Nutr Cancer. 2005;53(1):11–7. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Review
From a 2005 review
Anticancer Effects of Ganoderma lucidum: A Review of Scientific Evidence
This article is a review of several small human and animal studies as well as in vitro studies done on reishi. The authors concluded that the mushroom not only may enhance the immune system but also has some antitumor activity. In one quoted study, 65 percent of patients with lung cancer had an improved quality of life and enhanced cellular immune response after using reishi.
I found the evidence of its helpful effects for those dealing with cancer thin; several in vitro studies demonstrating that it works against the chemical mechanisms of cancer and some rat studies.
I certainly would not rely on it to prevent or treat cancer.
Reishi extract protects against radiation and chemotherapy associated toxicity.
This website is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing…
Supposedly, it can actually help protect against radioactive isotopes in the atmosphere. From one in vitro study
The pre-administration of four kinds of extracts reduced the damaged degree by radiation.
Although this study concluded that the utility of this effect is for chemotherapy patients — it’s also maybe a good idea if you’re an extreme tourist planning on visiting Chernobyl, Ukraine or Fukushima, Japan.
It improves sleep after 3 days of dosing and has a helpful effect on insomnia.
One Swedish Biohacker reported:
I have tried many different forms of reishi, it is my favorite herb. The best I ever had and continue to use is Wild Reishi tincture from Dragon Herbs. Most potent and I get noticeable effects every time. Only downside is that it is expensive, but for me personally it is worth every penny. I sometimes have anxiety and stress problems and 3 droppers of this is as powerful as Xanax in that regard. Also good quality wild ginseng is highly beneficial in this regard as well. I used to be into artificial nootropics and supplements but after trying quality herbs and studying herbalism I’m never going back to man made chemicals.
From a 2005 double-blind study of 132 Chinese dealing with neurasthenia:
One hundred and thirty-two patients diagnosed with neurasthenia (fatigue), mild depression, and chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome took part in a study of reishi’s effects on those diseases. The group given a polysaccharide extract made from the mushroom had significantly superior reductions in fatigue and an improved sense of well-being compared with patients who received a placebo.
From another 2012 Chinese study of 48 women
This pilot study suggests that spore powder of Ganoderma lucidum may have beneficial effects on cancer-related fatigue and quality of life in breast cancer patients undergoing endocrine therapy without any significant adverse effect.
The liver and the kidneys are the organs responsible for processing everything we consume. So they are of special concern to Biohackers who are regularly consuming Nootropics or exotic anti-aging supplements that are not found in nature.
From the book Adaptogens:
Reishi protects the liver and enhances its ability to detoxify metabolic wastes.
However, there are not any strong human data verifying this effect. The best evidence I could find was a 2012 Indian animal study
The mitochondrial reactive oxygen species level was enhanced and mitochondrial membrane potential was declined significantly. Administration of G. lucidum significantly and dose independently protected liver mitochondria…
The findings suggest that protective effect of G. lucidum against hepatic damage could be mediated by ameliorating the oxidative stress; restoring the mitochondrial enzyme activities and membrane potential.
Treating Venereal Disease
It may be helpful in treating sexually transmitted diseases like Hepatitis B (HBV), but the evidence for this is not strong enough that I’ll be throwing away my condoms anytime soon.
From a double-blind study of 90 kiwis out Massey University in New Zealand
The polysaccharide fractions and triterpenes isolated from Ganoderma lucidum have shown protection effects on the liver in animal studies. This double-blind, randomised, and multicentered study aimed to evaluate the safety and effect of a G. lucidum extraction, Ganopoly, in chronic hepatitis B…
Our study indicates that Ganopoly is well tolerated and appears to be active against HBV in patients with chronic hepatitis B.
Mechanism of Action
Some Chinese research indicates that it has a beneficial effect on the birth of new brain cells, but the evidence of this effect is pretty thin. If you’re really looking for a real Neuroplasticity hack I recommend Vitamin B12 or Dual N-Back brain training.
Are the main Bioactive ingredients on Reishi, a British Biohacker articulates why
The triterpenes are important as they have many functions; my understanding is they contain ganoderic acids that can have anti-cancer activity (cytotoxicity activity and apoptosis of certain cancer cells), help maintain good cholesterol and help to regulate blood pressure. And, for allergies, they inhibit histamine release, important for me. However, I get the impression that many of the water-soluble polysaccharides/beta-glucans can also do the same thing (e.g. certain beta-glucans can induce cell apoptosis), so whereas I, personally, feel more comfortable using dual extracted pills with a high triterpene concentration, I’m sure hot water-only powder extracts would be fine too. I would imagine that most of the usage of Reishi over the centuries in traditional chinese medicine has been through drinking Reishi tea, which effectively would be a water-only extract, and that seems to have worked out well for them.
Reishi contains 119 triterpenoids.
It’s not a building block of the essential neurotransmitter but it tunes the exquisitely complex cholinergic system.
Selective cholinesterase inhibition by lanostane triterpenes from fruiting bodies of Ganoderma…
Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2011 Nov 1;21(21):6603–7. doi: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2011.04.042. Epub 2011 Apr 17. Research Support…
According to a 2013 Korean paper
Because new compounds exhibiting specific anti-acetylcholinesterase activity are being sought as possible drug candidates for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and related neurodegenerative diseases…
These results indicate that these lanostane triterpenes are preferential inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase and may be suitable drug candidates.
Reishi contains more than 100 distinct polysaccharides; these bioactive carbohydrates have a synchronicity of anti-aging and immunoprotective effects.
Taste and Aesthetics
It should taste somewhat bitter.
Red reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is very bitter, and most people would find it unpalatable as a tea or cooked in food.
However, apparently, some of the extracts are a lot more palatable, one reviewer reported
This one I can say by far has the best taste. The flavor is mild and I would even describe it as satisfying somehow. I like it and would definitely consider getting some more…
The flavor actually kind of has a creamy/creamer quality to it with a slight bitter aftertaste. The flavor is very pleasant and satisfying to the core of my being.
It will add a bitter taste to your coffee!
A Chicagoan Biohacker reported
The energy is so subtle and mellow. I’ve had massive problems with getting overly caffeinated on coffee, easy to get a little angry sometimes with the brain buzz, so this is just working so great…
Coffee has left me a wreck, battling the addiction for years, just an obsession, it just robs your gut flora and that affects your immune system… so the reishi coffee is just a life saver right now.
Vs Lion’s Mane?
Numerous Biohackers well acquainted with mushrooms agreed that Reishi has superior Nootropic effects to Lion’s Mane, one American Biohacker reported
…it has more noticeable positive effects than Lion’s Mane, which I have been taking continuously for a year. It feels mildly sedative (it is a benzodiazepine receptor agonist); not to a distracting degree. I feel subjectively “cleaner” on this stuff, and I would recommend it over Lion’s Mane for most people. Reishi has a very impressive array of apparent benefits.
Mushrooms have a particular capacity for absorbing the toxins of the environment they are found in. Eating mushrooms from a less than a totally pristine environment can make you really sick. This is why your mom hopefully warned you not to eat random mushrooms that you found growing outside. This is why sourcing is really important when it comes to Reishi, not all Reishi is created equal.
It’s important to avoid Reishi Mycelium that is grown on grain, this unnaturally produced Reishi is high in residual starch and short on the Nootropic nutrients.
To maximize the Nootropic benefit of the mushroom you would not want to consume it raw or as a whole powder extract, the best form is dual alcohol hot water extracted; an English Biohacker clarifies what this means:
“…this indicates that they extract with hot water, then mix with alcohol to a certain concentration to reduce the solubility of certain molecules, and cause them to drop out of solution (“further concentrate” seems to indicate that they’re modifying the water extract, rather than beginning another extraction). This is in line with what is commonly referred to as alcohol precipitation (I came across this term several times today while reading about mushrooms); the wikipedia even mentions that the process I described is used to concentrate polysaccharides. So in other words, it’s a water extraction which is then further purified using alcohol — — but there can be nothing in the final product which was not first soluble in water.”
The most credible source of this form that I’ve identified is Reishi Organic 16:1 Dual Extract sold by Lost Empire Herbs in the USA. 16:1 extract means that 16 kilograms of Reishi mushrooms are used to produce just a single gram of this extract.
The Mycelium is a part of the mushroom, which at least in the case of Reishi, contains less of the bioactive components, than the stem or the cap. It’s cheaper than extracts of the cap and stem but the Nootropic or biohacking effects desired will likely be diminished.
If you’re getting your Reishi from a source other than the ones recommended here that are verified by 3rd party analysis, you’ll want to actually taste it, it should be bitter if it has a grain-like taste that’s not a good sign according to Jeff Chilton, author of The Mushroom Cultivator.
Mushrooms are Extraterrestrial?
At least according to Terence McKenna mushrooms are an alien species. He claims that certain psychoactive components of mushrooms are found exclusively in mushrooms. Not elsewhere in nature.
If we are to entertain his Stoned Ape theory they were crucial in the evolution of simple hominids into modern humans; mushrooms are capable of communicating and imbuing us with an alien intelligence; that can inspire and aid our personal development and capacity for invention.
NASA has discovered that mushroom spores can survive in the vacuum of space for millions of years.
This theory requires drawing some pretty disparate connections between ethnobotany, NASA experiments, and philosophy but it certainly adds to the mystique of mushrooms.
One Biohacker reported some undesirable borderline hallucinogenic effects from a high dosage:
I’ve heard that you can’t take too much Reishi and there should be no psychological side effects, but I can absolutely testify that this is not the case for me. I always take it about an hour before bed, and what happens to me on high doses is first I get a strong pulsating feeling in my forehead followed by rapid and disjointed visions. My mind races with these visions, which seem nonsensical, for hours before I can finally get to sleep. Some of these pictures are clear as day with my eyes closed, e.g. I remember seeing these two humanoid alligators standing next to my bed and could make out the minute details of their scales and eyes.
An unconfirmed side effect reported by one cheeky Biohacker
Previous experimentation with reishi was cut short when I began to have nose bleeds when performing cunnilingus. Thats no good.
A study monitoring 18 humans dosed with about 1.5 grams daily over the course of 28 days noted zero toxicity after that time.
Avoid using reishi if you have mushroom allergies.
When combined… after a while you get a bit of a “mad scientist”/crazy feeling…Not high-energy mania, but more of a “hyperthreading” feeling. Not anxiety per say but it is an interestingly uncomfortable sensation for sure. Like you are making connections and recalling data ALMOST too quickly for comfort. This effect is highly exaggerated if one doses too high or redoses during the day.
I decided to put these two together: half a teaspoon of Mucuna (extracted to 15% L-DOPA) and a teaspoon of dual-extracted Reishi (30% polysaccharides, 3% triterpenoids, >30% betaglucans) along with some Valerian before going to sleep. Let me tell you, this combination is extraordinary to induce vivid, deep and meaningful dreams you wouldn’t imagine. You become more or less lucid in the dream world, but unlike the typical reaction in lucid dreaming the dream does not start to vanish but you can start to adventure there. I tried levitation that I had been thinking of trying. I also went to a club in a dreamworld that resembled my city and felt like I was on party drugs. Flying, sex, anything is possible with practice.
I’ll withhold judgment until I do a thorough personal trial with Reishi, but I’m pretty underwhelmed by what the scientific research is saying about Reishi.
Compared to some of the research chemicals I see Biohackers using as smart drugs, it has a lot of meaningful preponderance of human research indicating its safety and effectiveness but if you’re really a stickler for the science you’ll want to stick with Adaptogens like Rhodiola, Eleuthero, and Ginseng.
I’ve concluded that it’s kind of a wimpy Adaptogen, I’ve yet to find a unique value it offers to Biohackers that other more proven Adaptogens or Nootropics don’t do better. Sourcing it right really matters with Reishi, as a mushroom it would be better to not use Reishi than to use a substandard supply of it. I’d rather use other Nootropics of more standard quality.
Perusing the anecdotal reports; the people who report that this is a really beneficial Nootropic invariably are long term users of it, they attribute months or years of dosing as being transformationally beneficial to one’s mindset and raw motivation.