Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum (Curtis) P. Karst. 1881) is a parasitic or saprophytic fungus belonging to the Ganodermataceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
G. lucidum species.
The following terms are synonymous:
– Agaric-igniarium trulla Paulet (1793);
– Agaricus lignosus Lam. (1783);
– Agaricus pseudoboletus Jacq. (1778);
– Boletus castaneus Weber (1787);
– Boletus crustatus J.J. Planer (1788);
– Boletus dimidiatus Thunb. (1784);
– Boletus flabelliformis Leys (1761);
– Boletus laccatus Timm (1788);
– Boletus lucidus Curtis (1781);
– Boletus rugosus Jacq. (1774);
– Boletus paintus Brot. (1804);
– Boletus vernicosus Bergeret (1783);
– Fomes japonicus (Fr.) Sacc. (1888);
– Fomes lucidus (Curtis) Cooke (1851);
– Ganoderma japonicum (Fr.) Sawada (1931);
– Ganoderma mongolicum Pilát (1940);
– Ganoderma nitens Lázaro (1916);
– Ganoderma ostreatum Lázaro (1916);
– Ganoderma pseudoboletus (Jacq.) Murrill (1902);
– Grifola lucida (Curtis) Gray (1821);
– Phaeoporus lucidus (Curtis) J. Schröt. (1888);
– Placodes lucidus (Curtis) Quél. (1888);
– Polyporus japonicus Fr. (1838);
– Polyporus laccatus (Timm) Pers. (1825);
– Polyporus lucidus (Curtis) Fr. (1821);
– Scindalma japonicum (Fr.) Kuntze (1898).
The term Ganoderma comes from the Greek γάνος gános luster, radiance and from δέρμα dérma pelle: with shining skin.
The specific epithet lucidum comes from glossy, luminous, brilliant, clear lucidus: for the general appearance.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Ganoderma lucidum is generally a saprophytic fungus that grows in late spring, summer and autumn, on broad-leaved trees, especially oak and chestnut, and sometimes even olive trees.
Ganoderma lucidum is recognized for having a hat up to 15 cm in diameter, circular, kidney-shaped or fan-shaped, with vertical or oblique stem, glossy-lacquered or opaque surface in very old age, reddish-brown color, with a yellowish edge of the hat, often with concentric streaks that give it a zoned appearance.
The tubules are short, 10-20 mm high, white and then yellowish.
The pores are small, have a diameter of 0.2-0.3 mm, 4-5 in number per mm, round-irregular, white-yellowish.
The stem is almost always eccentric, concolorous to the cap or darker, of variable size 15-30 cm, nodular, shiny, rarely absent.
The flesh is elastic, then leathery, woody but not too much, almost rusty, with a light, pleasant smell of tannins and a woody, tannic flavor.
In old age it can be subject to the attack of woodworms which practically reduce it to dust.
Under the microscope, spores of brownish color in mass, ovoid, with the truncated apex, warty, 9-11.5 x 6-9 µm, are recognized.
The basidia are claviform, tetrasporic.
Ganoderma lucidum has been cultivated in China and Japan since ancient times, dried and then reduced to powder; it is used for the preparation of decoctions, ointments, liqueurs or is simply transformed into tablets.
Customs and Traditions –
Ganoderma lucidum is a mushroom that is not immediately edible: in fact, a dried powder is used for the purposes of treatment.
This mushroom is called the king of herbal medicine and many herbalists consider it superior to ginseng.
The name by which the Reishi is known gives an idea of how much it is revered in China and Japan. The ancient Chinese called it Ling zhi, which means “spirit plant”. It has been called the “mushroom of a thousand years”, “the mushroom of spiritual power” and “the mushroom of immortality” because it is believed to promote longevity. Reishi is the name by which it is known in the West and derives from the Japanese.
There are reports of its use in China since several centuries before Christ. It has a documented history in Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine of over 2,000 years, but there are signs of its use dating back over 4,000 years. The 16th century pharmacopoeia, Pen T’sao Kang Mu, describes the uses of Reishi as follows: “… positively affects vital energy, heart Qi …, increases intellectual capacity and strengthens memory …”. It has been called the “king of medicinal herbs” so much so that many herbalists consider it superior to the legendary ginseng.
According to legend, the Taoist priests of the first century AD. they were the first to experience it. It appears that they included it in magical potions that ensured longevity, eternal youth and immortality. At the time, they practiced alchemy and were known for casting spells and preparing strange measures. They were considered wizards or sorcerers; by modern standards they could be called charlatans.
Let us remember, however, that alchemy was the beginning of chemistry, and the shamans, who treated the sick by evoking the force of nature, were the first doctors.
The Reishi occupied the place of honor in China’s oldest medical treatise, the Divine Farmer’s Classic on Herb Roots, compiled around 200 AD. In typical Chinese style, the treaty divides the 365 ingredients it describes into three categories: superior, medium and acceptable. In the first, Reishi is at the top of the list, before ginseng. To belong to the superior category, an ingredient must have potent medicinal qualities and produce no harmful or side effects when taken for long periods. Here is what the book says about the Reishi: the taste is bitter, its atmospheric energy neutral; it is not toxic. It treats the accumulation of pathogenic factors in the chest. It is good for head qi, including mental activities. Tones the spleen, increases wisdom, improves memory, preventing you from forgetting. If taken for long periods it lightens the body, and you will never get old. Extend the years. It has spiritual power and develops the spirit, making you similar to immortals.
The fame of the Reishi as a “mushroom of immortality” reached the ear of Emperor Ti of the Chin dynasty about 23 centuries ago. The emperor set up a fleet of ships ruled by 300 strong men and 300 beautiful women, who he ordered to head to the East, where the Reishi was thought to grow, and return with the mushroom. The ships sank during a storm. According to legend, the castaways landed on an island, founding a new nation. That island, the story explains, is Japan.
In Pen T’sao Kang Mu (“The Great Pharmacopoeia”), a 16th century text, the compiler Le Shih-chen says of the Reishi: “It positively affects the vital energy, or Qi of the heart, by healing the chest area. and benefiting those with contracted chest muscles. Taken for a long time, the agility of the body will cease, and over the years they will lengthen like those of the Immortal Beings “.
In Chinese art, Reishi is a symbol of good health and long life. Images of the mushroom can be found on doors, architraves, arches and railings in all the imperial residences in the Forbidden City and in the Summer Palace. Often the story speaks of a Reishi engraved on the scepter used in official ceremonies. An emperor’s silk robe shows a peach tree, clouds and, in the foreground, a Reishi.
For the people, the image of the mushroom was used as a good luck charm or talisman. In ink drawings, tapestries, and paintings, subjects sometimes wear Reishi-shaped jade ornaments or jewelry. Kuan Yin, the Chinese goddess of healing and compassion, is sometimes depicted holding a Reishi in her hand. Some believe that the resurrection plant from the famous tale of the “White Snake” is this mushroom. In the story, known to all Chinese children and the subject of operas and songs, the White Lady travels to the distant Kunlun Mountain to procure the plant and bring her husband back to life. By demonstrating her love for the deceased, she obtains the herb, and the man is resurrected.
This mushroom can come in six colors:
– Red – akashiba;
– White – shiroshiba;
– Blue – aoshiba;
– Black – kuroshiba;
– Yellow – kishiba;
– Purple – murasakishiba.
According to tradition, the possible uses have also been differentiated according to the colors, but the species with the greatest beneficial action on the organism is the akashiba, that is the red one. Many market products containing Ganoderma lucidum, but these have little or no physiological action.
From a biochemical point of view, Ganoderma lucidum mainly contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fibers. The artificially grown variety has a content however similar to the wild type. Several scientific papers, in agreement, have reported the composition of the extracted mushroom, expressed in% as follows: folin-positive (68.9%), glucose (11.1%), proteins (7.3%), elements minerals (10.2%) (of which potassium, magnesium and calcium are the main components). However, there are differences, both from a qualitative and quantitative point of view, in the chemical composition of the fungus, which depend on the strain, the extraction process and the culture conditions.
About 4000 bioactive compounds have been isolated from the fruiting body of Ganoderma lucidum, including about 140 triterpenes / terpenoids, over 200 types of polysaccharides and glycoproteins, nucleotides, cerebrosides, ergosterols, fatty acids, proteins with specific activities, peptides and trace elements. Among the minerals it is important to note the presence of Germanium in high quantities, which explains many of its effects on health.
In general it contains:
– Mineral salts: Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Germanium;
– Vitamin B, in particular folin;
– 17 amino acids including all the essentials;
– Polysaccharides consisting of: glucose, galactose, mannose with traces of xylose and fucose;
– Beta-glucans and alpha-glucans;
– Hormonal precursor sterols;
– Substances with anti-histamine activity;
– Lucidene acid;
– Ganoderic acid;
– Genolucid acid;
however, we remind you that numerous scientific studies, both preclinical and clinical, have been carried out on this mushroom, as many pharmacological effects have been recognized. To date, however, there are no clinical studies that allow us to attribute scientific validity to the uses of the mushroom and their effectiveness, but it is expected that, given the amount of studies underway by Western medicine, this situation will change soon.
Preparation Method –
Ganoderma lucidum is one of the 10 most effective natural therapeutic substances in existence. In China and Japan it is considered the mushroom of immortality. It is used in the form of powder, in aqueous decoctions, in alcoholic extracts or in capsules, due to its marked pharmacological properties.
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Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.