The reishi trade moves huge amounts of money around the planet. Multitude of plantations are flourishing across the globe, in all latitudes and climates. Thus, today, reishi is cultivated in more than 15 countries1. In 2004 its economic value was estimated at 2.5 trillion3 American dollars. Currently, considering the large increase in plantations in countries such as India, Malaysia and many South America countries, its current value could be estimated at 10-15 trillion American dollars.
The interest in this species results in pyramid selling businesses emerging and moving millions of dollars with reishi products like coffee, chocolate, tea and other substitutes.
The genus Ganoderma presents more than 400 taxa worldwide (link). Many of the species included in this taxonomic group produce mushrooms that look very similar to the species Ganoderma lucidum, that is, the reishi, and therefore they can be mistaken very easily. Due to this great diversity and the morphological difficulty of the classification, there are currently “reishi” crops in the world that are producing mushrooms very similar to Ganoderma lucidum but that are not really this species.
Ganoderma (reishi?) crop in subtropical area: It is impossible to know which species of Ganoderma they are cultivating only by looking at the picture.
This means that today the consumer finds products called “reishi” in the market that come from different organisms/species and therefore have different properties: they are different products! To explain this, the equivalent in the vegetable world would be that oranges, mandarins, grapefruit or lemons were sold in the market without distinction, indicating that all of them are the same and have the same properties. Of course, regarding these fruits, their colors and tastes and, above all, the experience of consumption, make us not confuse them, but at a scientific level, to understand the differences and why they have different alimentary properties: All of these fruits belong to the Citrus genus, just like all the “presumed” reishi belongs to the genus Ganoderma, but each one comes from different species, genetically different, and therefore have different composition and properties.
It is important to clarify that, in most cases, the trader has the best will and thinks that he is really selling reishi and, what’s more, reishi of quality: there is no attempt to deceive the consumer. The problem lies not in him but at the beginning of the market chain: There is an initial error in the classification of the species in the starting growing plant. The carpophore “father” of the crop, isolated from nature, was not 100% confirmed by a specialist and was not subjected to a genetic identification protocol. In countries with high diversity, with among 400 taxa of Ganoderma, it is not easy to identify a true reishi and there are not specialists in all the countries either. From this initial confusion, something different is cultivated and sold and this error is transferred through the market chain to the final consumer. Even though in some cases the mistake is made with Ganoderma species of high medicinal interest, other times taxa that have hardly proved any applications are cultivated and sold, resulting in disappointment for the final consumer.
Taking this into account, when it comes to consuming pure, active and effective reishi, it is very important to acquire it from specialized companies and even demand a genetic account from them, which will be the surest way to be certain about what is being consumed, as some companies in the market already offer.
1- Data obtained from the data base of the association International Mycology Association, http://www.mycobank.org for specific and infraspecific Ganoderma genus taxa.
2- Rogers, R. (2011). “The Fungal Pharmacy: The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms and Lichens of North America.” North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA: 608.
3- Lai, T., Y. Gao and S. Zhou (2004). “Global Marketing of Medicinal Ling Zhi Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (W.Curt.:Fr.) Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Products and Safety Concerns.” 6(2): 6.