Reishi Mushrooms

Hailed in ancient Eastern medicine as the “mushroom of immortality” and the “medicine of kings,” you’d expect reishi to offer you some pretty astounding health benefits, right? Your assumptions are correct. This prized fungus may be able to boost your immune system, fight cancer, ward off heart disease, calm your nerves and relieve both allergies and inflammation.

“Reishi indeed sounds like a cure-all,” writes Rebecca Wood in her book “New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.” She goes on to explain reishi’s wide range of uses: “An immunostimulant, it is helpful for people withAIDS, leaky-gut syndrome, Epstein-Barr, chronicbronchitisand other infectious diseases. It is used as an aid tosleep, as a diuretic, as a laxative and tolower cholesterol.” It almost seems too good to be true.

How can one fungus help thehuman bodyin so many ways? Traditional Eastern medicalscienceexplains reishi’s wide range ofmedicinalapplications better, perhaps, than mainstreammedicineever could. According to Eastern thought, thebodyneeds to defend itself against threats to its “equilibrium.” These threats can be physical, such asvirusesand bacteria that causeinfection; emotional, such as stressors that causeanxiety; or energetic, in that they reduce alertness. Whatever the threat,reishihelps the body maintain its defense against these threats to its equilibrium, helping the body to maintainbalance. In this sense, diseases likeheart diseaseand cancer mean that the body is out of balance, which is why an equilibrium-enhancing remedy such as reishi can help so many diverse ailments.

Skeptics can doubt the previous explanation as Taoist “mumbo jumbo,” but laboratoryresearchproves many of reishi’s medicinal applications. As Dr. Andrew Weil writes, reishi “has been the subject of a surprising amount ofscientific researchin Asia and the West.” Research shows that the polysaccharide beta-1,3-D-glucan in reishi boosts theimmune systemby raising the amount of macrophages T-cells, which has major implications for people suffering from AIDS and other immune systemdisorders.

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