While speaking of the reishi mushroom, it is very important to highlight that the Spanish Agency for Food Safety (ECOSAN), as well as other competent institutions, classify reishi as a food and it should be consumed as such thing and never be used as a medicine.
Like many foods, the consumption of this mushroom reduces the platelet aggregation in the blood. However, consumption of 1.5 g / day of pure reishi does not produce any alteration in the blood, thus consuming an amount that does not exceed the 2 g/day may be considered not to affect the action of Sinthrome or other oral anticoagulants.
An interestisng fact is that there are other common foods in our diets that interact with Warfarin (Sinthrome) with a greater intensity than the mushroom, that is the case of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, green tea, chamomile, anise, sage, ginseng, St. John's wort, devil's claw, ginkgo, tansy… foods to take into account when evaluating their influence on blood thinners.
On the other hand, it is always important to highlight that if you have a rich and varied diet in these and other foods, it is possible that blood clotting problems that cause serious diseases such as stroke, blockage of arteries that oxygenate the heart, etc. will be avoided. Before, more than 100 wild/cultivated plants were consumed in a common diet, now, with supermarkets, we are reduced to a few of them.
It is important to remember that a varied and balanced diet and daily physical activity are the key to maintaining wellness and quality of life.
1-. That it is true Reishi: in the market there are reishi extracts, reishi mycelium (mycelium of the reishi mushroom) and reishi spores (spores of the reishi mushroom). They are really different things!! For it to be reishi, the bottle or container must say: reishi mushroom powder. Look at the ingredients!
2-. That the reishi is micro ground: This technique breaks the mushroom cell walls and allows our gastric, intestinal juices, etc, to access the interior of the cells during digestion and consequently take out and use all their content. 1 gram of micro ground reishi can be equal to 3 g of another not micro ground reishi! (Depending on the grinding size)
3-. That it is clear of pollutants: the eco-label of the product will ensure much cleanness; however, the absence of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, main pollutants of mushrooms, can only be found in some reishis in the market. A polluted reishi has the virtues of the reishi, but it will pollute us gradually too.
Photo of reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) located in a Mediterranean oak forest, in the province of Palencia.
In our forum for technical questions, numerous clients have asked us about the differences among "varieties" and shapes of reishi, called deer horn shaped reishi, Japanese reishi, rokkaku reishi. We explain the differences among them here.
Real varieties of the reishi mushroom
To date, let us first say that, regarding biological varieties of reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), there are only three of these: Ganoderma lucidum var. nicotianae, published in the journal Sylloge Fungorum (England) in 1912. Ganoderma lucidum var. badium, described by Patoullardi in the mycological Bulletin of the Mycological Society of France, in 1899. Ganoderma lucidum var. resinosum, also found by the mycologist Patoullardi. None of these three varieties are cultivated, so we cannot say they are better or worse than the Ganoderma lucidum reishi type because there is no data to evaluate.
The varieties of reishi called Rokkaku Reishi, deer horn shaped reishi, or yoki reishi do not exist. There are currently only 3 varieties of Ganoderma lucidum, the ones already mentioned.
Throughout history, they have tried to obtain another 2 varieties of Ganoderma lucidum: Ganoderma lucidum var. orbiformis, which is currently considered a species itself but that belongs to another genus (Polyporus orbiformis). Ganoderma lucidum var. typicum, whose name is also invalid nowadays.
Two fruiting bodies of Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum variety Type). With and without developed cap. Picture of our crops.
Everything that is out of those varieties mentioned before, is simply marketing. Instead of varieties, they should be called ways of cultivation.
Growth forms of reishi regarding the cultivation method
The deer horn shaped reishi, also called Japanese Rokkaku Reishi, is a "normal" reishi which is forced to grow in "deer horns" shape. This way of growth is achieved in the crop by increasing the CO2 of the fruiting room and diminishing light: under these conditions, reishi does not develop his cap, it just forms branched stems with this characteristic hornlike shape. Currently, greater biological activity of this reishi is not proven, but it can be stated that they have less protein and less assimilable substances than a reishi grown with light and low levels of CO2, as we will explain later.
Why does the reishi with little CO2 and little light grow with "horn" shape? (growth forms designated as deer horn shaped reishi, antler shaped reishi or rokkaku reishi)
In nature, when Ganoderma lucidum bears fruit (the fungus that produces the reishi mushroom), it usually does that on buried wood or roots of trees. It very rarely bears fruit at the lower part of trunks of oaks or holm oaks, where other species do appear, such as G. pfeiferii (often confused with Ganoderma and collected for consumption, especially the pileated forms).
How does the fungus know when to form its cap? The fungus "checks" the CO2 and light where it grows: in the ground or inside the wood, there is more CO2 than outside, due to the fermentation of the organic matter, so inside the ground or inside the wood, it will grow with a stick or horn shape, until it comes out to the surface, where the concentration of CO2 is lower, and the mushroom develops his "cap". This is the strategy that the fungus uses to release its spores out in the open: if it developed the cap under the ground or inside the wood, it could not scatter its spores, as they would stay underground, but by developing the cap in the open air, the spores will spread successfully.
In a cultivation unit, growth can be forced so that reishi will never develop its cap, and this is achieved simply by increasing the CO2 concentration and diminishing light in the fruiting room, thus, the fungus is led to believe it is underground, and develops its growth in "horn" shape called deer horn shaped reishi in Japan, antler shaped reishi or Rokkaku Reishi: It is really Ganoderma lucidum bearing fruit in high CO2 concentration and low light conditions.
Is it better the deer horn shaped reishi growth form, Japanese reishi, than the reishi grown with a developed cap?
In research conducted on almost all the mushrooms, including the reishi, it can be observed that their caps have more proteins than the stems, and therefore the former are more digestible but less tough and resistant. This can be explained by the fact that the stem of a mushroom has the structural function: to grow the cap above the ground to be able to release the spores ("microscopic seeds") to the wind and being able to reproduce in another places. Thus the stem is more resistant than the cap (it has a greater support function) and this means that, in a chemical level, it has more structural carbohydrates (beta glucans) and fungal chitin compounds, which are indigestible but very tough. This higher percentage in fungal fibers leads to a lower protein content.
It happens the same with a meadow mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), that has a fibrous stem which is often removed before cooking, or a parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) whose cap is huge, it’s all the same: we only eat the cap.
The "deer horn shaped reishi" consists of reishi stems with a “horn shape” and, consequently, they have the composition of a mushroom stem: they have fewer proteins than the cap and therefore less immunomodulatory proteins, and they will be less assimilated by the body too. In the end it is a less digestible product than the reishi grown under high oxygen and light conditions (normal growth). At a nutritional level, there are no studies that confirm that this growth form of reishi has higher properties than the normal reishi, in fact, it would be more correct to think otherwise.
Reishi fragmented for analysis of antioxidants and proteins. Own picture.
In nature, it is very difficult to find reishi shaped with this horn form because there are few places where high concentrations of CO2 are naturally met; we could locate it near wetlands in warm climates, where there is much fermentation activity and a lot of CO2 released, or places with high concentrations of organic matter and fermentation too (high CO2 content), near organic waste landfill sites, for example.
Nowadays, the genus Ganoderma has 427 taxa (including species, subspecies, varieties, forms, etc.) around the globe.
The following .pdf file collects the list of all the taxa of Ganoderma currently found in the world, with references to the people who gave their names (authors) and the year of publication of each taxon.
Moreover, each of the taxa has an associated webpage where you will be able to find much more information about the taxon: description, photographs (in some cases), classification, link to molecular bases, etc.
We hope it will be useful for you.
Beta-glucans are a kind of polysaccharides which are very common in nature. They are formed by the linkage of thousands of sugars, one after another and branched too, giving rise to huge structures. The ones present in many mushrooms like reishi, have the ability to modulate the immune system and thus they are considered to have antitumor and anticancer virtues, among others.
Beta-glucans contained in oat decrease blood cholesterol.
The amount of beta glucans present in a product, itself, does not speak about its properties. For example: over 99% of the content of paper towel rolls are beta glucans.
So, what is important regarding beta-glucans? For reishi mushrooms and other mushrooms, the important beta-glucans are those with immunological action, that is, those that get linked by 1-> 3, 1-> 6 linkage, and the most active within this group are those that show triple helix conformation, very similar to how DNA is coiled.
Picture of a 1-3 and 1-6 beta glucan. Thousands of these units form a polysaccharide of beta-glucan type.
It is considered that the triple helix structure present in the beta-glucans of fungi is the one that interacts on cell receptors, leading to an immune response in the body: it is like a key that when turning activates the mechanism.
In the market, it is common to find reishi extracts which indicate the amount of beta-glucans they contain, but what industries do not know is that the beta-glucans of reishi deteriorate during the extraction process: their triple helix conformation is lost by the action of the most common extractants. Losing this spatial conformation means losing much of their activity: it is like bending the key used to go into a house and then try to open the door with it, it does not work.
Today, the only safe way to consume intact beta-glucans is consume them in well processed pure reishi.
Thus, the amount of beta glucans of a product is not a datum that serves to compare the quality between a reishi or reishi extract and another. The type of beta-glucans that it possesses is the relevant thing: if they have many triple helices and if those are damaged or not. In addition, the mulecular weight of the beta-glucan, its branches, if it’s linked to other molecules such as proteins or peptides… also affects its properties... but that's for another post.
And finally, in pure reishi, does processing influence the quality of the beta-glucans and other polysaccharides? Really a lot! Recent research shows that there may be a difference up to 30% in antioxidant power between a reishi dried with one or another technique. And no one has studied the grinding process, which is usually much more aggressive (and probably has more influence on it). What’s more, if we add to this that the polysaccharides of reishi and their activity vary depending on the strain of the cultivated reishi, the food that feeds the fungus or the temperature at which it develops, in the end one gets to understand why there is such a big difference in quality between a good pure reishi and another.
Many people have asked us through the forum and by email about the colours or the Reshi or ling zhi (as it is called in China) and the different properties assigned to each color. Here we make it clear where this color issue comes from and if it is real or not somehow.
In the current gender Ganoderma, where the "real" reishi is found, there are over 400 different taxa (here you will be able to see the updated list 2016) which present some variability in color, from orange and red colours to black colours.
Picture of the book Shennong Materia Medica (100 BC). The first book that speaks about the colours of the Ling Zhi.
"Red" Reishi is the common name of several taxa of the gender Ganoderma that are spread around the planet. The most studied for its medicinal properties is Ganoderma lucidum: it is the species that has the most scientific studies, more than 800 publications in international journals. Other reishis with properties in the planet are: Ganoderma oregonense (US), Ganoderma japonicum (in Japan) or Ganoderma sinense (in China). If the mushroom had another color (green, blue, purple ...) it would not be any of the above taxa and therefore its properties and virtues would be different.
The first book that talked about the colours of the reishi or lingzhi was written 100 years before Christ, in the book Shennong Materia Medica, by an unknown Chinese author. He spoke about 6 colors with 6 different properties (one for each color). Nowadays and due to advertising reasons, there are multilevel companies that, taking that into account, state their product presents a perfect combination of all the different colors of the reishi. Thus, they often say that their product has: red reishi for the cardiovascular system, purple reishi for bone or joint problems, green for kidney problems, white for the respiratory system, yellow for blood vessels and black for kidneys and brain.
What is true about that? According to the descriptions of the mushrooms in the above-mentioned book, today it is known that each of these colours represents 6 species of different fungi. Although 2 of them might belong to the genus Ganoderma, the 4 remaining have nothing to do with it (white, black, blue and green colours).
Assigning colours to the reishi is very confusing because 4 colours of the 6 colours of the reishi (ling zhi) discussed since antiquity do not belong to the genus Ganoderma. It's just a marketing strategy.
In a future post, we will talk in detail about these mushrooms that the book Shennong Materia Medica deals with.