How Reishi Mushroom Fights High Blood Pressure

Fact checked by Victor Cheung

Lately, the use of natural remedies —especially mushrooms— in medicine has spread like wildfire. Despite the need for more evidence to prove their long-term safety and effectiveness, integrating medicinal mushrooms like reishi mushrooms are turning from an alternative into a new potential candidate in treating many diseases like hypertension (having high blood pressure).

But what do we mean by saying a potential candidate for the treatment of high blood pressure? We’re going to answer this question in this article.

What is Reishi Mushroom?

Reishi mushroom is a type of fungus that grows in hot and humid weather, most commonly found in Asia.1 This mushroom has a rich nutritional profile containing triterpenoids, polysaccharides, and peptidoglycans which provide it with a diverse set of medicinal properties.2,3 These mushrooms and their extracts can be consumed in powdered form or eaten fresh.

Reishi mushroom helps treat and manage the following health conditions:4–8

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes9
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Viral infection
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure10
  • Obesity
  • Boosts the immune system11
  • Has anti-aging properties

They’re found in various locations all over the world with distinct shapes and colors including red, black, blue/green, white, yellow, and purple which gives them diverse functions too.12

In case of high blood pressure, red-colored reishi is the one under the spotlight owing to its beneficial effects on the liver, lungs, and heart. They’re also considered the most effective type of reishi mushrooms in terms of their high polysaccharide content (beta-glucans) and antioxidant properties. Red reishi mushrooms are also the most common among other colors.

As nutritionist Dr. Sarah Brewer shares in an interview with Express “Red reishi mushroom supplements contain four peptides that act in a similar way to ACE inhibitor antihypertensive drugs. It contains ganodermic acids which have a structure similar to steroid hormones involved in the regulation of blood pressure, blood clotting, blood flow, and oxygen uptake. Although it is too woody and fibrous for culinary use, it is widely taken in the form of tablets or capsules.”

Reishi Mushroom Fights High Blood Pressure

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts it “The higher your blood pressure levels, the more risk you have for other health problems, such as heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. High blood pressure can damage your health in many ways. It can seriously hurt important organs like your heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. The good news is that, in most cases, you can manage your blood pressure to lower your risk for serious health problems.”

To better manage your high blood pressure, the National Health Institute recommends “High blood pressure can often be prevented or reduced by eating healthily, maintaining a healthy weight, taking regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking.” To know more information about blood pressure, you can learn here. Luckily, recent scientific evidence has revealed that reishi mushrooms had a positive effect when it comes to lowering high blood pressure.13

1. Reishi has Hypotensive Effects From Peptides Content – Molecules Journal

According to a research study published in Molecules journal in 2014, data from an experiment conducted on lab animals showed that reishi mushrooms had hypotensive effects due to their peptides content which can be added to antihypertensive medications or used alone in foods.14

2. Reishi has No Significant Effects Regulating Blood Pressure – Cochrane Database for Systemic Reviews

Another study published in Cochrane Database for Systemic Reviews in 2015, studied the effect of reishi mushroom on cardiovascular diseases in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, the findings of this review revealed that there were no significant effects on regulating blood pressure making them useless in treatment.15

3. Reishi Effective in Increasing Blood Flow and Reduce Blood Pressure – Phytomedicine

In a study published in the journal of Phytomedicine in 2018, reishi mushrooms were given to lab rats and studies to see their effect on blood pressure. The results showed that they were very effective in increasing blood flow and reducing blood pressure as well as showed superiority in comparison to other antihypertensive medications (losartan).16

Thus, with these contradicting results, there’s a need for further investigations on a larger scale in the form of clinical trials to adequately and accurately determine the long-term safety and efficacy of reishi mushroom in treating high blood pressure and cardiometabolic disease in humans.17

Dosage of Reishi Mushroom

There’s no universal dose for reishi mushroom as it can differ depending on several factors like:

  • Overall health of its user
  • User’s age
  • The condition to which the user is taking the mushroom for
  • Any underlying medical conditions
  • Type of reishi mushroom used
  • Any medication that the user may be taking

Additionally, it can differ according to the source of reishi, whether you’ll be taking it in supplement form, extract, or naturally in your diet. According to WebMD, a typical oral daily dose for reishi mushroom is:18

  • 1.5 to 9 grams of crude dried mushroom
  • 1 to 1.5 grams of reishi powder
  • 1 milliliter of reishi solution (tincture)

That being said, we recommend you ask your doctor first about the appropriate dose suitable for you, as well as read the label on the bottle carefully if you’re using a reishi product.

Side Effects of Reishi Mushroom

The safety of reishi mushrooms has been under investigation for quite some time now and although it’s considered generally safe when taken on a short-term basis, they have been shown to produce the following side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry throat
  • Itchiness
  • Headaches
  • Rash
  • Stomach problems
  • Blood in stool
  • Nosebleeds
  • Liver injury

Unfortunately, they’ve shown more fatal side effects by causing liver toxicity in two patients, where one of them died.19 Furthermore, since there haven’t been many studies on reishi mushrooms and pregnancy — pregnant and breastfeeding women should refrain from taking reishi mushrooms to avoid any unwanted side effects from happening.

However, several factors may have contributed to the above findings.

Reishi mushroom selection – There are more than a thousand types of reishi mushrooms, and only a few are beneficial to our health. For instance, reishi mushrooms grown on lacquer trees, maple trees, and willow trees are known to be toxic. Also, reishi grown in toxic environments are known to be poisonous because it absorbs from its surrounding environment. Further, reishi mushrooms that are not properly stored can become toxic because of mold or other fungus growing on or inside of it.

Reishi mushroom processing – How reishi mushrooms are processed can also affect its toxicity. For instance, it is known that different levels of heat treatment for reishi produce different amounts of sugar and probiotic L. casei. If reishi is not processed or extracted properly (or whether any chemical compound was used), toxicity can be the result.  

Thus, it is likely that the side effects of reishi from these scientific studies are a cause of improper reishi mushroom selection or processing.

Drug Interactions

It’s important to note that reishi mushrooms can interact with other medications, these include the following drugs:

Antihypertensive medication. Since there have been several studies saying that reishi mushrooms decrease high blood pressure, it’s not a good idea to combine it with other antihypertensive medications as this can cause your blood pressure to decrease below the normal levels causing hypotension. Examples of these drugs include losartan, captopril, diltiazem, hydrochlorothiazide, and others.

Antidiabetic medication. Like blood pressure, the reishi mushroom has shown to be effective in reducing blood sugar levels in several studies. So, it’s not wise to combine it with other antidiabetic medications as they can cause your blood glucose levels to drop significantly leading to hypoglycemia. Examples of antidiabetic medications include insulin, glyburide, and others.

Anticlotting medications. Reishi mushrooms can slow the rate of clotting and blood coagulation, so they shouldn’t be taken with anticlotting medication as they can cause adverse effects including bruising and bleeding. Examples of these drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen, heparin, warfarin, and others.

Therefore, you should never start taking reishi mushrooms without consulting your doctor first as they can consider these and prescribe the treatment plan that’s most suitable for you.

The Bottom Line

Even though there have been multiple research studies revealing the beneficial effects of reishi mushrooms in managing several conditions like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and others —depending on the type and color of the mushrooms— It’s still not without its risks.

Since no global consensus to this day validates the free use of reishi mushrooms in medicine, we strongly recommend that you consult your doctor first before deciding to use it in combination with your other medications or alone as a monotherapy. Moreover, research in this field is still in its prime and needs more investigations on a larger scale to conclusively say that it can be used as an alternative to blood pressure medication.

References

1.        Wachtel-Galor S, Yuen J, Buswell JA, Benzie IFF. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi). Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects: Second Edition [Internet]. 2011 Mar 28 [cited 2022 Jul 9];175–99. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/

2.        Batra P, Sharma AK, Khajuria R. Probing Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (higher Basidiomycetes): a bitter mushroom with amazing health benefits. Int J Med Mushrooms [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2022 Jul 9];15(2):127–43. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23557365/

3.        Pan H, Wang Y, Na K, Wang Y, Wang L, Li Z, et al. Autophagic flux disruption contributes to Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide-induced apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells via MAPK/ERK activation. Cell Death and Disease. 2019 Jun 1;10(6).

4.        Wang J, Cao B, Zhao H, Feng J. Emerging Roles of Ganoderma Lucidum in Anti-Aging. Aging and Disease [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Jul 9];8(6):691. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC5758346/

5.        Loyd AL, Richter BS, Jusino MA, Truong C, Smith ME, Blanchette RA, et al. Identifying the “Mushroom of immortality.” Front Microbiol. 2018 Jul 16;9(JUL).

6.        Bishop KS, Kao CHJ, Xu Y, Glucina MP, Paterson RRM, Ferguson LR. From 2000 years of Ganoderma lucidum to recent developments in nutraceuticals. Phytochemistry. 2015 May 26;114:56–65.

7.        Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi Mushroom) and cancer – PubMed [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jul 9]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27685898/

8.        Hsieh TC, Wu JM. Suppression of proliferation and oxidative stress by extracts of Ganoderma lucidum in the ovarian cancer cell line OVCAR-3. International Journal of Molecular Medicine. 2011 Dec;28(6):1065–9.

9.        Wińska K, MacZka W, Gabryelska K, Grabarczyk M. Mushrooms of the Genus Ganoderma Used to Treat Diabetes and Insulin Resistance. Molecules [Internet]. 2019 Nov 11 [cited 2022 Jul 9];24(22). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6891282/

10.      Meng J, Yang B. Protective Effect of Ganoderma (Lingzhi) on Cardiovascular System. Adv Exp Med Biol [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2022 Jul 9];1182:181–99. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31777019/

11.      Cai Z, Wong CK, Dong J, Jiao D, Chu M, Leung PC, et al. Anti-inflammatory activities of Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi) and San-Miao-San supplements in MRL/lpr mice for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus. Chinese Medicine [Internet]. 2016 Apr 29 [cited 2022 Jul 9];11(1):23. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4851790/

12.      Wachtel-Galor S, Yuen J, Buswell JA, Benzie IFF. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi). Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects: Second Edition [Internet]. 2011 Mar 28 [cited 2022 Jul 9];175–99. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/

13.      Xiong X, Yang X, Liu Y, Zhang Y, Wang P, Wang J. Chinese herbal formulas for treating hypertension in traditional Chinese medicine: perspective of modern science. Hypertension Research [Internet]. 2013 Jul [cited 2022 Jul 9];36(7):570. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC3703711/

14.      Tran HB, Yamamoto A, Matsumoto S, Ito H, Igami K, Miyazaki T, et al. Hypotensive Effects and Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitory Peptides of Reishi (Ganoderma lingzhi) Auto-Digested Extract. Molecules [Internet]. 2014 Aug 29 [cited 2022 Jul 9];19(9):13473. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6271714/

15.      Klupp NL, Chang D, Hawke F, Kiat H, Cao H, Grant SJ, et al. Ganoderma lucidum mushroom for the treatment of cardiovascular risk factors. Cochrane Database Syst Rev [Internet]. 2015 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Jul 9];2015(2). Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25686270/

16.      Shevelev OB, Seryapina AA, Zavjalov EL, Gerlinskaya LA, Goryachkovskaya TN, Slynko NM, et al. Hypotensive and neurometabolic effects of intragastric Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) administration in hypertensive ISIAH rat strain. Phytomedicine [Internet]. 2018 Mar 1 [cited 2022 Jul 9];41:1–6. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29519314/

17.      Chan SW, Tomlinson B, Chan P, Lam CWK. The beneficial effects of Ganoderma lucidum on cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk. Pharmaceutical Biology [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Jul 9];59(1):1161. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC8409941/

18.      Reishi Mushroom: Uses and Risks [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jul 9]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/reishi-mushroom-uses-and-risks

19.      Yuen MF, Ip P, Ng WK, Lai CL. Hepatotoxicity due to a formulation of Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi). J Hepatol [Internet]. 2004 Oct [cited 2022 Jul 9];41(4):686–7. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15464254/

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