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)
A U.S. based study conducted in 1993 showed that a water extract of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) exhibited “significant anti-inflammatory activity.” (4) Ten years later, an Indian research paper was published which stated that the use of Reishi extract helped decrease inflammation in acute edema by 56% and in chronic edema by 60%. (3) Using the “Article References” link on this page, you will find references to seven additional research articles that confirm Reishi extract as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. (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 in 2006, a paper by Xi Bao et al. concluded that Reishi in conjunction with another Chinese herbal remedy might exert a beneficial immunomodulatory effect in patients with rheumatoid 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 majority of research on the use of Reishi extract for inflammation or arthritis appears to support its effectiveness. Please remember that it is very important to always consult a licensed medical doctor before using any herb for medicinal purposes.
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).
Dr. Rafael works as a herbal researcher and writer since 1996, specializing in medicinal mushrooms. Click on Extract of Reishi for organic mushroom products and free articles on mycomedicinals. Reishi Arthritis Article References