Reishi Mushroom: Ancient Forest Being as Medicinal Ally for Trying Times

First off, let’s define what I mean by Reishi. Reishi is a polypore fungus, which means that it is a mushroom that does not have gills. It has pores underneath the surface of its’ shelf like fruiting body that release the spores. Reishi, like other polypores, grows on the wood of dead and decaying trees. In a forestry service guide to forests I read once, it described reishi is a “pathogen” for trees. I’m not going to argue with the forestry service, but I’m not quite sure I agree with that loaded definition.

Reishi is a beautiful mushroom, don’t you think? Just look at that shiny lacquered appearance, the coloration, the kidney shaping. I am always in awe of this mushroom when I have the good fortune to cross its’ path.


A beautiful specimen

There is some debate around the taxonomy of Reishi. To be sure, various species have been named.

Ganoderma lucidum is the species that has been most studied and used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Opinions differ as to whether or not we have G. lucidum in the US.

There is also Ganoderma tsugae, which generally grows exclusively on hemlock trees and has a reddish coloring. I am not referring to this species when I talk about reishi, simply because it is too warm in my bioregion for G. tsugae (or red reishi).

One reishi that we do have in our bioregion is Ganoderma curtisii, which I like to call affectionately Deep South Reishi, as it appears to be native to the Southeastern U.S. Some mycologists and taxonomists have said that G. curtisii and G. ludicum are actually the same, and that G. curtisii should be lumped togethere with G. lucidum.


A young Ganoderma curtisii

I am not an academic mycologist, but I will say that the morphological differences of these two mushrooms are great enough that I will refer to them seperately. G. curtisii lacks the distinctive laquered shiny coating of G. lucidum and the coloring tends toward shades of yellow/gold/white instead of red/brown.


A much older specimen of G. curtisii. Note the distinct lack of laquered appearance.

Other species of Ganoderma that I have worked with are Ganoderma sessile, which I consider to be comparable in action and quality to G. lucidum and G. curtisii;


and Ganoderma applanatum or Artist Conk. Artist Conk is absolutely a potent and valuable medicinal mushroom, but I feel like it is different enough to be considered something entirely different.

I haven’t attempted to cultivate reishi, but it can definitely be done. I am lucky to know a mushroom farmer in Texas who does grow it, and I have gotten some of their beautiful reishi.


reishi grown at Fallen Oak Mushroom Farm in Wimberley, TX

As an herb, reishi is one of those panacea herbs. You can look at a list of conditions it is helpful for and wonder who couldn’t benefit from reishi. It has been in the pharmacopoeia of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, and in fact there is a term “reishi babies” to describe the super calm and happy disposition of infants whose mothers used reishi mushroom both during the pregnancy and also breastfeeding.


  • Adaptogenic
  • Antioxidant
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Immunomodulator
  • Nervine
  • Antimicrobial
  • Blood sugar balancing


  • immunostimulating polysaccharides (Beta glucans)
  • bitter triterpenes (ganoderic and ganoderenic acids)
  • ling zhi 9 protein


  • strengthens immune system and down regulates excessive immune response in autoimmune issues and allergies
  • For “shen” disturbances- anxiety, insomnia, bad dreams, moodiness, listlessness, poor memory
  • Has positive effect on cardiovascular function
  • Anti-inflammatory activity for asthma, COPD, Hepatitis B and C
  • Improves adrenocortical function
  • Cell protectant. This can be useful in the treatment of cancer- 5 to 20 fold increase in cancer fighting compounds. It can even be used safely in conjunction with modern medical interventions.

Body system affinities:

  • heart
  • lungs
  • nervous system
  • bone marrow

On an energetic level, reishi has much to offer as well.

Mississippi herbalist Lindsay Wilson, writes of reishi in her blog post on Madhupa Maypop:

“What I have gathered from my dreams is that this mushroom works on our DNA structure; it addresses and positively alters family lineage health and spiritual issues that have been passed down for generations.”


On a personal note, my mother is/was an artist. I say was because she is now too unwell to create much of anything these days. We certainly have our mother/daughter dynamic issues, but there is also a deeper ancestral rift that has become evident  to me via experiences in non ordinary reality. My mother used to go out to the woods when I was younger. She never took me, because it was church to her, and I understand that now. She came back with turtle shells, animal bones and sometimes these mushrooms which she lacquered to preserve them and used them in her art. This is one of the pieces that contain reishi. She didn’t know that they were medicine for the body, but she recognized them as powerful and that they had something for her that she needed. I’m not sure yet what will unfold with my work with reishi in this realm, but I definitely sense something there. I’ll let you know.

I will be teaching a class this spring on Medicinal Mushrooms in Shreveport, Louisiana. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can’t help being a tease about it. I’m really really honored to be in a position to share about these beings so near to my heart. I hope you will join me.


  • Winston, David Adaptogens
  • Hobbs, Christopher Medicinal Mushrooms 
  • personal experience


4 thoughts on “Reishi Mushroom: Ancient Forest Being as Medicinal Ally for Trying Times

  1. Pingback: Adaptogens in Bio-regional Herbalism | Red Earth Wildcrafted

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