Health food stores always stock all kinds of weird-sounding products. From herbal tinctures to medicinal supplements, anything and everything can be expected to be found there.
However, one of the most recent additions to health food stores, and even pharmacies, are medicinal mushrooms like reishi.
But what are reishi mushrooms? Why do we see reishi mushroom capsules sold alongside other medicinal supplements designed to improve the immune system? Is it helpful?
What Actually Is A Reishi Mushroom?
Everyone is familiar with regular mushrooms, both as delicious foods and simply fungus that you see growing in nature. However, much like other naturally-growing organisms, people have figured out ways to use mushrooms for our medicinal benefit.
A reishi mushroom is just one example of the many different types of medicinal mushrooms currently in existence.
Considered to be first used within Chinese medicine, reishi mushrooms have been used to treat all manner of different conditions and issues.
In terms of appearance, reishi mushrooms are typically a sort of rusty brown color, and their caps look a little bit like a kidney bean. In fact, they just look like any old mushroom you would find at the store.
However, their plain appearance belies their potential, as people have been using them as a specialized treatment for immune-related disorders for literally thousands of years.
But how is this possible? Do they offer tangible benefits, and what does science say about their use?
What Kind of Medicinal Benefits Could We Expect from Reishi Mushrooms?
Medicinal mushrooms are taken for a variety of different reasons. While there are some folk medicines focused on general wellness, many of them, like reishi mushrooms, are more about tackling specific issues.
Reishi mushrooms are often taken to boost the immune system, whether to fight off a potential infection or illness or to prevent it. Interestingly, some research can back up this claim.
One study by Wachtel-Galor et al. for the journal of Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects found that reishi mushrooms possess a considerable amount of polysaccharides.
These polysaccharides are made up of beta-glucans, among other things, which directly affect our immune systems. Beta-glucans are believed to stimulate the immune cells, putting them on slight alert, helping strengthen the immune system over time.
Another study by Cheng et al. for the Journal of Nutrition & Cancer found that reishi mushrooms help control and limit inflammatory responses in the human body.
The fact that a simple mushroom can affect the inflammation response is incredibly vital.
While we all hate experiencing inflammation when injured or sick, it’s a necessary process that helps the body protect itself against intruders and infections.
Though precise science is still being studied and understood, it does indeed appear that reishi mushrooms can positively impact our collective physical health.
Final Thoughts on What's a Reishi Mushroom, and Why Is It so Good for My Immune System
Using mushrooms as medicinal supplements, or taking any kind of supplements whatsoever, is something we should all be cautious with.
Folk medicine goes back thousands of years, but it’s a slippery slope in thinking that it must be good if people have been doing something for a long time.
In fact, there are plenty of substances that humans have used in the past that are actually dangerous to consume, especially long-term use.
However, with that being said, the current science surrounding mushrooms as supplements is pretty positive.
While we can only wait for more reliable information to become available, medicinal mushroom supplements do seem to have some pretty helpful effects.
It isn’t just reishi mushrooms, either – take a look at any health food store, and there will likely be entire shelves dedicated to medicinal mushrooms.
So why not take a look and try some for yourself? If you are concerned about consuming reishi for the first time, it’s a good idea to speak with your local health care provider for some additional support.