What is reishi, Linghzi or ” Ganoderma Lucidum”?
“Reishi” is the name of the mushroom produced by a fungus called Ganodema lucidum.
Also known as lingzhi, this living being is found in nature, usually feeding on buried wood of old, weak or dead trees.
This mushroom is a functional food which presents unique features to maintain cellular health, to protect the organism and allow its adaptation to new conditions. Ideal for athletes, people who want to be healthy and want an extra help:
To date reishi has more than 3,000 scientific articles, more than 800 medical journals and more than 1,000 patents.
The differences between reishi extracts and whole reishi is huge: To start to understand them, we’ll first use bread as an example.
Someone can boil wholemeal bread in a pot, put the bread out when it is well cooked and continue boiling the water until everything dissolved concentrates in a brownish crust. If we grind this, we will have a “baguette” extract. It will concentrate group B vitamins which are soluble in water: B1 and B2 (B6, which is present in bread, will be missing because it will be destroyed by heat), concentrated starches (carbohydrates), concentrated gluten (proteins) and concentrated minerals: selenium, calcium, potassium, magnesium…
Is it better to have the aqueous extract of the bread than eating the whole bread?
Well, that depends on the aim wanted. If someone has a deficiency in vitamin B6, this extract will not help at all, as it has been completely degraded. But for someone who needs vitamin B2, the extract will be better than the starting bread. Ah! And for intolerants to gluten, the extract will cause severe damage to their intestinal epithelium because a few grams of extract will contain the gluten of a whole baguette.
An extract concentrates some substances, others are damaged during the extraction process, and the good ones can be harmful if highly concentrated.
Reishi extracts production
Almost all the extracts on the market are processed to obtain beta-glucans concentrates. The latter are extracted with sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and hydrochloric acid (HCL), highly reactive substances and therefore capable of separating the beta-glucans chains from the glucan matrix of the mushroom, at a high temperature. What happens there? First, the beta glucan itself is affected and loses some of its triple helix conformation (similar to the winding structure of DNA). This makes the beta-glucans lose activity, since in the group of active beta glucans, with 1-3, 1-6 bond, the ones that show this winding structure are the ones that have biological activity. Besides, aggressive treatments with soda, used to extract beta-glucans, chemically change lots of molecules with biological activity, making them lose their activity. In this case, bases (NaOH) and strong acids (HCL) are used, which at a home level corrode metals, hurt living tissue (they shouldn’t be touched by hand!), and react with almost everything, including reishi substances.
I have given an example of making an aqueous extract from wholemeal bread. But let’s prepare another extract: If we boiled the baguette in ethyl alcohol (extremely dangerous at home, because it can catch fire), and remove the bread from the liquid again and evaporated the alcohol until we obtained a crust, as we did in the previous process, we would obtain what would be called a “baguette” alcoholic extract. This would have zero B vitamins, since they do not dissolve in alcohol, and would lack almost all minerals: selenium, calcium, magnesium, which do not dissolve either… Besides, it would present residual proteins and, among the few substances that it would contain, we would find oils added to bread and some fat-soluble vitamins and other nonpolar compounds. The chemical composition of the extraction will be totally different from the extraction in water and therefore its activity in the organism would be completely different.
|Photomicrograph of Reishi mushroom powder (400X): we can see mushroom cells chopped by the grinding.||Photomicrograph of Reishi extract (400X): agglomerations of concentrated chemical compounds are observed.|
And going back to reishi:
Each extract concentrates different molecules and thus have different activity in the body. Consequently, there are medical studies conducted with very active chloroform extracts, which are not prepared commercially because the chloroform is very easily degraded and very dangerous too; also with ether extracts, extracts in methanol and, of course, in water and ethanol. Of the approximately 700 medical studies about reishi which have been published to date, there is only one kind of reishi that shows all the activity of all the extracts and, therefore, all properties: the pure reishi, not extracted! It will have less concentration of everything (the natural concentration), but it will have everything.
And regarding the extracts on the market: what problem is to be found?
The problem is that many companies sell extracts without knowing what they are concentrating, how they have modified it and what changes they have caused in its chemical/physical composition. Rather, they choose what can be sold better, what is more profitable and what has more “marketing”: in the reishi, triterpenes and beta-glucans.
Several things that any extract in the market lacks:
Fungal dietary fiber: it is discarded because it is entirely insoluble. Here we find: chitin, hemicellulose, complex structural polysaccharides… that in the organism have many functions:
And more! During the extraction processes, reishi proteins lose their conformation; they denature or precipitate and subsequently lose much of their biological activity: let’s not forget that the protein LZ8 has much of the immunomodulatory capacity of the reishi…
All this, without mentioning the many molecules affected and eliminatedin the extraction processes.
To answer this question, first we have to clarify what a spore is, so as to understand its chemical composition and nutritional virtues:
Spores are similar to plant seeds. They serve for the reproduction of fungi.
Just as we may plant a seed and it will germinate and produce the plant in suitable conditions, if we place a spore under ideal conditions, it germinates and produces the fungus (which in the future will produce mushrooms, like the reishi mushroom).
Photomicrograph of spores of Ganoderma lucidum (400x). They are like microscopic seeds.
Both seeds and spores, as reproductive structures, accumulate a lot of energy inside in very little space. This is required to feed the individual in its early stages. In nature, the best substances for accumulating concentrated energy are oils and fats, and therefore seeds and spores have a great amount of oils and fats. Because of this, humans extract oil from sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, colza, almond seeds… etc. and not from other parts of the plant. And the same happens with fungi:
The spores of the fungus Ganoderma lucidum have much oil inside and therefore are chemically very different from the reishi mushroom. This results in very different properties.
To give us an idea about how chemically different they are, I’ll go on with the example of the apple that we give in several areas of this website: We know that apples are very tasty and healthy, with lots of vitamin C, rapid assimilation sugars, pectins that contribute to the intestinal transit, water … However apple seeds are toxic: eating a little glass of them can be mortal! This is because they contain a high amount of cyanogenic glycosides, substances that, upon contact with the stomach, release hydrocyanic acid - hydrogen cyanide- very poisonous.
In the same way, reishi spores have such a different chemical composition from the reishi mushroom that, for example, according to the results of this research, they shouldn’t be consumed in patients with stomach tumors: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24282100
while the mushroom can be considered, according to the researchers of this other publication, as an aid against stomach tumor cells: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24892846
In many websites, they erroneously attribute the same properties to spores and the reishi mushroom, while this is totally wrong.
Spores, of course, also have virtues as a dietary supplement, however, they must be studied and see what they can be good for or not.
To finish, let’s mention that the vast majority of research conducted on the living being Ganoderma lucidum (this includes the mushroom, spores and mycelium), is based on the reishi mushroom, not on spores or mycelium, which are different things and have different properties. Only the reishi mushroom is considered as food by the Spanish Agency of Consumption, Food Safety and Nutrition in Spain (AECOSAN)
Reishi crop (Ganoderma lucidum mushroom). Notice the edge of the cap is full of hanging spores. Spores are like “the seeds” of the mushroom, a very different product in chemical composition and properties from the reishi mushroom.
Why do we sell only pure powdered reishi?
“Our reishi is pure powdered reishi, nothing else”. It is not an extract, or a derivative, or a concentrate, or fungus powder, it is 100 % pure powdered reishi mushroom. Its advantages are many and among them, we can highlight:
1- Guarantee of properties: reishi powder is the only reishi that guarantees the presence of all its natural properties. The extracts used in dietary supplements, coffees, teas, etc… only have the properties of the substances that have been concentrated and, therefore, lack many molecules of high interest present in natural reishi.
2- It’s only reishi: This means eliminating additives, bulk additives and irritant colouring agents, present in many tableting and encapsulation processes. It’s more healthy and natural.
3- Safety Guarantee: reishi powder has been consumed for more than two thousand years and therefore has a food security higher than lots of foods which are currently consumed.
On the other hand, reishi concentrates or reishi extracts in the market, as they concentrate active/ medicinal substances to a great degree, have been seen to be harmful to some cells.