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Ingredient review

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum/lingzhi)

Description

What is it?

Medicinal mushrooms of the Ganoderma genus are called the “Mushrooms of Immortality” for their uses to maintain general health and increase longevity. (1)(32) In Traditional Japanese medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the mushrooms are called reishi, or lingzhi, respectively. (32)

The name Ganoderma lucidum has been broadly used to describe laccate mushrooms of this family. (23) However, on a global scale, species belonging to the Ganoderma genus have been widely misclassified as lucidum species, creating confusion and possible mislabelling of Ganoderma-based products available in the dietary supplement market today. (1)(22)(23

Strictly based on chemical composition, Ganoderma lucidum is a mushroom native to Europe, whereas Ganoderma lingzhi is native to Asia. However, products labeled as Ganoderma lucidum are frequently of the lingzhi species, the type most often cited for its medicinal effects despite its bioactive constituents’ distinct chemical compositions, known as polysaccharides and triterpenes. (17)(23)(35) Polysaccharides act primarily through immunomodulation to provide anti-bacterial, anti-oxidative, and anti-tumorous properties, whereas triterpenoids have broader anti-angiogenic, anti-histaminic, anti-hypertensive, anti-tumorous, hepatoprotective, and hypocholesterolemic properties. (8)

Notwithstanding the taxonomic-based complications of reishi-containing products, the use of Ganoderma lucidum will refer to reishi from a broad sense rather than it’s biochemical identification in this review. 

Main uses

Anti-oxidant
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy adjuvant
Immunomodulation
Sense of well-being
Symptoms related to cancer (emotional, cognitive, or physical)

Formulations

Formulation
Comparison
Whole mushroom
Whole mushroom By weight, G. lucidum is ~90% water and 10% other components, including polysaccharides and triterpenes (32)
Polysaccharides make up ~0.5% of the weight of the fruiting body (3)
Typical TCM doses range between 50-300 g per day (12)
Crude dried extract
Raw (unfractionated) extracts are not processed in a manner to isolate specific biochemical constituents. As 10% of the weight of G. lucidum are non-water constituents, crude dehydrated mushroom extracts are 10x more concentrated than the whole mushroom (e.g., 10 g of whole mushroom = 1 g crude extract) (32)
Water-soluble extracts
Primarily used to refine the polysaccharides of G. lucidum (32) Doses found in research (see below) most often range between 1,500-3,000 mg taken in divided doses
Ethanolic extracts
Mainly used to refine the triterpenes of G. lucidum (32) Doses found in research (see below) are much lower than water-soluble doses and listed at 6 mg per day
Ganopoly®
A water-soluble extract containing 25% weight per weight of G. lucidum polysaccharides; one capsule (600 mg) is equivalent to ~30 g of reishi fruiting body, where the total recommended daily dose (5400 mg) is equal to 270 g of whole mushroom fruiting body (12)
Ji 731 injection/ Jisheng injection/ Polysaccharidum of G. lucidum Karst Injection
Intramuscular medicine containing polysaccharides from G. lucidum spores. Approved by China’s FDA in 2000, it treats neurosis, polymyositis, dermatomyositis, atrophic myotonia, and muscular dystrophy, as well as conditions related to immunodeficiency (36)

Dosing & administration

Adverse effects

G. lucidum is generally considered safe and without clinically significant adverse effects or greater prevalence of side effects than placebo. Reported possible adverse effects include mild gastrointestinal distress (e.g., nausea, diarrhea, constipation), dizziness, headache, rhinorrhea, sore throat, dry mouth, insomnia, and rash. (6)(18)(21)(24)(25)(40) G. lucidum may also induce respiratory allergy. (27)

Pharmacokinetics

Absorption

  • Two G. lucidum triterpenes, Ganoderic acid A (GAA) and Ganoderic acid F (GAF), are rapidly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and detectable in blood within 5-10 minutes, with max concentrations reached within 30 minutes, as shown in humans. (29)(30)
  • As shown in humans, GAA was better absorbed in a fasted state compared to in a fed state, but absolute bioavailability is low. This is consistent with rat studies demonstrating GAA, GAF, and ganoderic acid D absolute oral bioavailabilities of 10-22%. (4)(13)(19)(28)(30)

Distribution

  • Ganoderic acids are widely distributed. (33)(37)

Metabolism

  • GAA is primarily metabolized by the liver to ganoderic acid C2 via phase I reduction, oxidation, oxidoreduction, and hydroxylation, as well as phase II glucuronidation and sulfation, as shown in rats and in vitro. (2)(37)
  • GAA was reduced by CYP3A, as shown in vitro. (2)

Excretion

  • Triterpene acids, including GAA metabolites, are primarily excreted in bile, but can also be found in urine, as shown in rats and in vitro. (2)(15)(34)(37)
  • GAF and GAA half-lives can range between 30-40 minutes, respectively, as shown in humans. (29)(30)

References