Reishi Extract and Joint Health

By Dr. Markho Rafael

The use of Reishi as an herbal remedy dates back longer than any other medicinal mushroom in historic literature. The first written record can be found in Shen Nong's Herbal Classic, dating back two thousand years. Reishi (a.k.a. Ganoderma or Ling Zhi) is often considered a panacea " cure-all " in Traditional Chinese Medicine. While it may not be literally accurate to refer to Reishi as a cure-all, the fact that it appears to act as an inflammation modulator may be one of many reasons for its age-old veneration in the Orient.

While researching scientific papers in preparation for this article, seventeen out of nineteen presented positive results in using Reishi extract to treat inflammatory conditions. This appears to validate the traditional use of the herb in China, where it has long been used as an analgesic, and prescribed to treat inflammation and arthritis. Only two studies out of the nineteen that are referenced for this article showed inconclusive results. Both of those studies were conducted at the same institution. (1,2)

An American study conducted in 1993 by Lin et al. concluded that a water extract of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) demonstrated "significant anti-inflammatory activity." (4) A study out of India ten years later found that an extract of Reishi decreased inflammation in conditions of acute edema and chronic edema by 56% and 60%. (3) Seven additional research papers were found during the writing of this article that all concluded that Reishi is a potent anti-inflammatory medicinal mushroom. (5,6,7,8,9,10,11)

Next we'll be looking at some studies that more directly relate to the use of Reishi extract with arthritis. A paper published in 2006 by Blum et al. claimed to provide supporting clinical evidence demonstrating that use of Reishi extract for joint health was both safe and effective. (12)

Also that same year, a Chinese study by Xi Bao et al. came to the conclusion that Reishi plus another medicinal herbal remedy commonly used in China seemed to have a "beneficial immunomodulatory effect" on arthritis. (13)

The answer as to how, precisely, Reishi extract accomplishes this "immunomodulatory effect" may have been given by another Chinese study the following year, which states that an isolated Reishi polysaccharide peptide "significantly inhibited" RASF, which is an indicator of rheumatoid arthritis. (RASF stands for "Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts.") (14)

Several additional papers have been published that summarize positive results in the use of Reishi against arthritis. (15,16,17) One even states that Reishi compares favorably to prednisone, albeit without side effects. (18) On the other hand, a separate study found that supplementing with Reishi helped balance the side effects of prednisolone* that were experienced by some patients, including protein in the urine and cell toxicity. (19) (Prednisolone is the active compound of prednisone, which gets broken down by the liver and converted to prednisolone.)

In conclusion, the findings of 17 out of the 19 scientific papers referenced for this article agree that Reishi can help support joint health in cases of arthritis. However, it is important to always consult a licensed medical practitioner before using any herb for medicinal purposes, and to never change the use of existing prescription drugs without talking to your doctor about it first.

Note: "Reishi" is the Japanese name on the mushroom known in English as "Varnished Conk." It actually encompasses several closely related species, the most common of which is Ganoderma lucidum (Common Reishi or Red Reishi). This species can be found in the U.S. but is much more common in South East Asia. It is also well known by its Chinese name, Ling Zhi.

Other species frequently referred to as Reishi include: Ganoderma tsugae (Hemlock Reishi, common on Hemlocks in Eastern U.S.), Ganoderma sinense ("Black Reishi), Ganoderma resinaceum (Red Reishi), Ganoderma japonicum (Purple Reishi) and Ganoderma neo-japonicum (no common name or simply Reishi). - 30540

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