For generations, Lingzhi has been used by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners to nourish the ‘three treasures’1 – jing (essence), qi (vital energy), and shen (spirit). “If eaten customarily, it makes your body light and young, lengthens your life, and turns you into one like the immortal who never dies,” a famous herbalist of China’s Shu Dynasty, Shen Nong, is recorded as having said some 2,400 years ago.
Indeed, the name Lingzhi is itself combination of the Chinese characters for ‘spiritual potency’ and ‘essence of immortality’.
Today, scientific research continues to uncover what makes this mushroom one of nature’s most potent medicines. Among other things:
• It is packed with active compounds called polysaccharides, which have immune-boosting and anti-aging properties – explaining why in folk art, Lingzhi is often featured with the God of Longevity.
• It is filled with triterpenes, the compound that gives it its bitter taste, but which also helps prevent hypertension and relieve allergy symptoms. In fact, the more bitter the taste, the higher the quality of the mushroom.2
• It is rich in beta-glucans, complex sugars that research suggests may prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. A 2008 study3 also found that the active components of Lingzhi combined with green tea may inhibit tumour growth.
• In TCM, Lingzhi is said to influence the heart, lungs, liver and kidney channels, and is therefore often prescribed to tonify Qi, calm the mind, and relieve cough and asthma.
A word of caution: Lingzhi stimulates the immune system, and should never be taken by those who are on immunosuppressant drugs.
Beyond the physical, Lingzhi has a long history of being used as a spiritual aid. Monks and mountain hermits have traditionally used Lingzhi to heighten their focus, increase their will power, and maintain emotional balance.
It is important to bear in mind, however, that not all Lingzhi mushrooms – and related medicinal products – are created equal, which is why it is imperative to always use a trusted source.
Here are a few things to look out for:
Potency: The seeds, cultivation site and sowing method all contribute to the potency of the mushroom. The level of polysaccharides are highest when Lingzhi is grown slowly in a nutrient dense environment, on natural wood and not grain. Eu Yan Sang cultivates this medicinal mushroom on natural wood logs, monitoring every stage of the cultivation process, from seed authentication to harvesting, to ensure optimal growth and potency.
Right product: There is currently no regulation on which part of the mushroom is sold as traditional medicine. Look for products made from the fruiting body, or better still, the mushroom’s spores, which are even richer in nutrients and therapeutic properties. Spores are released from the underside of the fruiting body when the mushroom ripens and can onlymust be harvested in the 10 hours following their release. The spores are extremely rich in triterpenes, and are the most valuable part of the mushroom. It takes about 1,000kg of Lingzhi mushrooms to yield a single kilogramme of spores, which explains why products made from the spores are more expensive.
Extraction: The spores are surrounded by a hard outer shell that is impossible for humans to digest. To access the nutrients from this most potent part of the mushroom, the spores must be cracked. Eu Yan Sang uses supercritical CO2 technology to ensure a cracking rate of at least 99 per cent, which maximizes the release of nutrients and allows better absorption by the human body. It also tests the acidity value of the spores as oxidized spores offer no health benefits.
1 ChineseMedicineLiving.com. (2015, November 3). Reishi/Lingzhi- The Mushroom of Immortality. Retrieved from Chinese Medicine Living Website: https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/eastern-philosophy/reishi-ling-zhi-the-mushroom-of-immortality/
2 Oriveda. (2013). Reishi- The Facts. Retrieved from Oriveda Website: https://oriveda.wordpress.com/reishi-the-facts/
3 Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. (2008, April 14). Extracts From Reishi Mushroom And Green Tea Shows Synergistic Effect To Slow Sarcoma. Retrieved from ScienceDaily: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408175308.htm
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Lingzhi remains among the most widely-researched, respected and used TCM herbal remedies – and for good reason