consuming reishi

How to prepare

Consuming a Reishi mushroom is different from consuming culinary mushrooms. This is because of the very rigid structure of the Reishi fruiting body: When fresh, its structure mostly resembles leather or rubber, while in its dried state it is just as tough as a piece of wood. For this reason, people have found methods to extract the bio-active compounds of interest out of the Reishi mushroom.

The easiest and most used method is by boiling small pieces of the Reishi mushroom in water. In my experience, one Reishi mushroom can be combined with one liter of boiling water. Reishi mushroom pieces may be fresh or dried and the smaller they are, the more surface area is created that gets into contact with the boiling water. To get most of the compounds out of the mushroom, this process of boiling is done for a lengthy amount of time: typically, at least one hour of boiling/simmering after which the mushroom pieces are removed from the water. What you end up with is a sort of mushroom tea, or more scientifically you can call it a water extract. This mushroom tea can be consumed directly as a hot tea beverage but can also be cooled down and stored in the fridge or freezer for later use. Combining the cold Reishi tea with fruit juice is my preferred choice, but I also sometimes add the Reishi tea to (mushroom-) soup. Once I have some Reishi extract stored in the fridge or freezer, you will definitely see me adding some tablespoons of Reishi extract to my daily cup o' coffee. The taste of Reishi tea is quite bitter, which most people do not appreciate in the culinary sense, but when added to hot coffee it introduces an interesting smokey taste.

grown reishi in bag sprouted outwards on warm-colored background

Reishi tea is generally consumed for its health benefits. For healthy individuals it helps with keeping disease at bay and for individuals that suffer from ailments or disease it can alleviate these. The mechanisms of action should be sought in Reishi's capacity to activate the immune system and its capacity to stimulate organ functions such as liver and kidney functions. The latter is thought to be related to Reishi's body toxin reducing effects. The large sugar molecules that Reishi tea contains (such as β -glucans and glycoproteins), can be considered to act as indigestible fibers, which may act as prebiotics that stimulate gut health. In general, individuals that consume Reishi tea may find that they suffer less from viral infections such as common colds, suffer less from fatigue, and recover faster after sports exercise. Even though Reishi tea is considered to be a medicine in Chinese Traditional Medicine and is used in Japan to counteract the detrimental actions of chemotherapy, Reishi tea cannot be seen as a medicine in the Western medicine world. It contains a myriad of bio-active components, that have widely different effects on the human body. These include effects on blood sugar levels, effects on the immune system, effects on gastro-intestinal health, effects on mental health and effects on more general topics like fatigue. Some individuals that suffer from sleep related problems, may find that consuming Reishi tea alleviates these problems. When suffering from any ailment or disease, Reishi tea cannot replace conventional treatments, and care should be taken when taking conventional medicines to prevent detrimental cross-effects from Reishi tea.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reishi is considered to be a “superior herb”, which in that context means that Reishi tea can be consumed in any amount without detrimental effects. A word of caution is needed here, as in my experience it is best to start consuming Reishi in low amounts (10-30ml) on first use, and gradually increase the daily consumption of Reishi tea to around 100 ml per day. Elderly persons, diabetes patients, organ recipients and individuals suffering from any serious disease should take extra caution when consuming Reishi tea.

During the past decades, a wealth of scientific studies has been dedicated to the studying of the effects of consuming mushrooms for health, or the studying of specific bio-active components isolated from mushrooms. The number of scientific articles published that describe the relationship between specific ailments/diseases and specific mushroom species, may act as a good indicator for those mushroom species’ capacity to alleviate these conditions. In the table below, an overview is provided for the most important mushroom species that are grown for human consumption or for their medicinal uses. The table contains an overview of the number of scientific articles that resulted from querying the mushroom species in combination with the health-related term that is depicted at the top of each table column. What stands out is that the Reishi mushroom is the most widely studied mushroom species in relation to Immunity, Longevity, Cancer, Diabetes, the Microbiome, the Brain, and the Skin. When looking at the total amount of scientific studies when combining all health-related terms that are present in the table, the Reishi mushroom has the highest amount of scientific literature dedicated to it (1283 articles on 7 April 2021). What furthermore stands out, is that the Turkey Tail mushroom has the most scientific articles dedicated to it in relation to antiviral properties and that the Caterpillar fungus has most scientific articles in relation to fatigue and antimicrobial properties. For the mycologists amongst us, these outcomes will not come as a surprise.

Table with PubMed results - results found on 7 April 2021. Mushroom species was combined with the health related term in the regular search function.
SpeciesCommon nameImmunityFatigueLongevityAntiviralAntimicrobialCancerDiabetesMicrobiomeBrainSkinSARS-CoV-2Total
Ganoderma lucidumReishi2391246781994878832623911283
Cordyceps sinensisCaterpillar fungus1702611523572668418422131050
Pleurotus ostreatusOyster mushroom1050550275155452821350719
Coriolus versicolorTurkey tail9162852341657111040615
Lentinula edodesShiitake11222319110313125352408
Agaricus bisporusButton mushroom4505131081037228290340
Grifola frondosaMaitake8521263711737111561338
Agaricus blazeiAlmond mushroom67322042106142931269
Inonotus obliquusChaga2420243973272463204
Hericium erinaceusLions mane332382943783531172
Flammulina velutipesEnokitake320120463437250150
Pleurotus eryngiiKing oyster21017381848650108
Coprinus comatusShaggy ink cap4001639189125094
Boletus edulisPorcini20019130107033
Cantharellus cibariusChanterelle60011181112031
Volvariella volvaceaStraw mushroom5002891110027
Tuber melanosporumBlack truffle2111503410018
Pholiota namekoNameko3001450000013
Table with PubMed results – results found on 7 April 2021. Mushroom species was combined with the health-related term in the regular search function.

What furthermore deserves attention, is that apart from use in human health, Reishi extracts have recently attracted attention for use in pet health, and for use in bee colony health. As for the latter, in a recent study by Paul Stamets and coworkers (Stamets et al., 2018), Reishi extracts were found to act as strong antiviral agents and were found to lower viral levels in bee colonies by several hundred folds to thousand folds for a number of viral infections. Because of these promising outcomes, and because honeybee colonies worldwide suffer from collapse often caused by viral infections, I would like to invite beekeepers to start growing Reishi mushrooms in their homes using the grow kit that I offer, after which they can administer Reishi tea to their bee colonies.