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What Is a Reishi Mushroom?

Some cancer patients use reishi mushrooms to control nausea.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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A reishi mushroom is a type of bracket fungus native to Asia, where it has been utilized in traditional medicine for thousands of years, once as a highly prized treatment reserved for high ranking government officials and the royal family, due to the rarity of wild reishi mushrooms. Like other bracket fungi, reishi mushrooms grow on the trunks of trees, developing shelf-like fruiting bodies. Classically, the top of mushroom is red in color, although it may be red, brown, black, cream, or yellow as well, and the bottom is creamy to white, depending on the age of the mushroom and its growing conditions.

Also known as Ganoderma lucidum, ling zhi, red mushroom, or the mushroom of immortality, the reishi mushroom has been the subject of some limited scientific studies to explore its potential applications, and to tease out the bioactive substances present in the mushroom. One of the big issues with studying natural compounds utilized in traditional medical treatment is that it can be difficult to identify which constituents are actually having a healing effect, and what kind of dosages would be most appropriate, and this has been the case with the reishi mushroom.

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Theoretically, the mushrooms have an immune boosting property, which has been supported in some studies. They may be taken by cancer patients, AIDS patients, and other people with compromised immune systems to help fight disease. These mushrooms also appear to have compounds which prevent tumors from spreading, and they have been linked with lowered blood pressure and improved liver function. Some cancer patients also claim that the mushrooms are very effective for nausea management.

However, a reishi mushroom preparation can be dangerous for people taking immunosuppressant drugs, such as people preparing for organ transplant, and they also have compounds which can interfere with some pharmaceuticals. The mushrooms have been shown to interact negatively with some drugs in laboratory environments, and since it is impossible to test for a negative reaction to every single imaginable drug, additional cases of adverse reactions may be uncovered in the future.

As with all medical treatments, people who are considering the use of a reishi mushroom regimen should consult their doctors to talk about their treatment options, and they should take the mushrooms under the supervision of a doctor. It is also important to obtain them from a reliable source. Patients may experience side effects like nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth as a result of taking reishi mushrooms, and as always, extremely adverse side effects should be reported to a doctor.

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