Reishi Mushrooms and Allergies: Cause or Cure?

Fact checked by Victor Cheung

According to the NHS  “An allergy is where your body reacts to something that’s normally harmless like pollen, dust, or animal fur. The symptoms can be mild, but for some people, they can be very serious.”1 Generally, the typical treatment for allergies includes avoiding exposure to allergens, antihistamines medications, and steroid tablets. Nevertheless, it differs from person to person according to the severity of the case and response to treatment, thus, it’s better to follow up with your doctor about your treatment options.

Fortunately, a new and natural contender rises —from previous scientific research— as an option for managing allergies and their symptoms. But the question remains whether it can treat allergy safely and effectively or be the cause of it. In this article, we’re going to answer this question and tell you more about the role of the reishi mushroom in inflammation and allergy.

Reishi is a mushroom that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It’s a popular herbal supplement that may improve your health in several ways and has been shown to reduce inflammation, and histamine production and improve immune system function, which could help prevent or lessen allergy symptoms.2

By reducing inflammation, reishi may manage some of the conditions that lead to allergy symptoms, these can include the following:1

  • Runny nose 
  • Sneezing
  • Pain or tenderness around your cheeks, eyes, or forehead.
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Breathlessness.
  • Itchy skin
  • Rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Feeling sick
  • Swollen eyes, lips, mouth, or throat

Reishi Mushrooms and Allergy

The reishi mushroom is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to manage the following conditions among others:3–5

Reducing Pro-inflammatory Chemicals and Proteins

It’s important to know that reishi mushrooms do not cure allergies, but they can help prevent them from getting worse. Reishi mushrooms can also reduce inflammation and regulate T cells (a type of immune cell) in the body, which is one of the main causes of an allergic reaction.

Regulating Immune Cells in the Body.

Reishi can improve immune system function and help prevent allergies by regulating the following immune cells in the body:

  • T cells that cause allergic reactions, such as hay fever, asthma attacks, eczema, and autoimmune disorders.
  • Reduced the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers) that cause inflammation
  • Decrease IgE (immunoglobulin E) levels (IgE is an antibody associated with allergies).

Antihistamine Activity

Histamines are proteins found in the body (inside a type of immune cell called mast cells) and they’re increasingly produced in allergies causing their symptoms to appear.10–12 Reishi mushrooms have a rich profile of lanostan (a type of triterpenoid compound) which have anti-inflammatory and antihistaminic functions which help in regulating mast cells and inhibiting histamine production.

Additionally, they also play a role in modulating immune system response and reducing inflammation in the body making reishi mushroom a sort of a cure where it treats the root source of the allergy rather than medicating it temporarily.

Reduce airway inflammation in Patients with Allergy

Some studies have shown that the reishi mushroom can reduce airway inflammation in those with allergies. In fact, it may also help to reduce inflammation in general, which is a good thing because many people who suffer from allergies also have asthma.6

So, if you’re looking for an anti-allergy remedy, look no further than this powerful fungus!

Managing Leaky Gut Syndrome

If you are suffering from an allergy, asthma, or other autoimmune disorder, your body is likely experiencing a leaky gut.

Leaky gut has become more prevalent in the general population due to the increased use of antibiotics and other medications. Antibiotics kill bad bacteria, but they also kill good bacteria which play a big part in regulating our immune systems. The result of this can be inflammation throughout your body causing a whole host of problems including a leaky gut.

Reishi mushroom has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent for centuries because it contains triterpenes which help reduce inflammation by inhibiting COX2 enzymes (which cause inflammation). It also helps promote healthy blood vessels by increasing nitric oxide production and reducing LDL cholesterol levels, which makes it great for cardiovascular health too!

Anti-Itch Properties of Reishi Mushroom — Journal of Pharmacological Sciences

This study was published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences in 2010 and provides evidence that reishi mushroom extracts offer relief from itching brought about by mosquito bites in laboratory mice.13

The authors of this study say “These results suggest that G. lucidum extract relieves allergic itch through a peripheral action. The results support the idea that mast cells and H₁ histamine receptors are not the primary sites of the antipruritic action of G. lucidum extract.”

Treating Allergic Asthma — Journal of BMC Immunology

According to this study which was published in the Journal of BMC Immunology in 2011, revealed that polysaccharide content that was derived from reishi mushrooms proved very useful in treating children with allergic asthma by producing anti-inflammatory proteins including IL-12 p70, IL-12 p40, IL-6, IL-23, and IL-10.

Moreover, they highlighted the beneficial effects of reishi mushrooms in modulating immune function activity and promoting Th1 cell (a type of immune cell) that helps in suppressing allergic asthma.14

Effect of Reishi Mushroom on Crohn’s Disease — Journal of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease (meaning that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself) characterized by chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract causing serious side effects. A study published in the Journal of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in 2015, found that Triterpene ganoderic acid C1 (GAC1) extracted from reishi mushrooms inhibited the production of inflammatory proteins (TNF-α among other proteins) and may help in treating Crohn’s disease.15–18

The authors of this study recommend further clinical investigations into the potential use of reishi mushroom’s GAC1 in treating Crohn’s disease.

Can Reishi Mushroom Cause Allergy?

So far, we’ve determined the beneficial role of the reishi mushroom in treating allergies and inflammation. However, there have been some concerns about the safety of this medicinal mushroom and whether it can be a cure for some but a culprit in causing allergies in others.

A Cause or a Cure? Well, That’s the Question!

And the answer would be that reishi maybe both. While it has been primarily reported to have anti-inflammatory and antiallergic properties, some people may experience allergy symptoms after consuming reishi mushrooms, these include the following side effects:19

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry throat
  • Nasal passage dryness
  • Dizziness
  • Itchiness
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Upset stomach
  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Bloody stool

However, these were presumably reported after taking reishi mushrooms for a prolonged period (over 6 months). Therefore, it’s strongly recommended to consult a healthcare professional before initiating treatment with reishi mushrooms especially if you have other medical conditions or taking other medications to avoid any unwanted complications.

Nonetheless, this shouldn’t dissuade you from the supervised take of this medicinal mushroom —known as the mushroom of immortality— because aside from managing allergies it has a lot of other health benefits that make it worthwhile. Following the words of Paul Stamets, a medical researcher, and mycologist:

“Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health.”

The Bottom Line

Reishi mushroom is a powerful supplement that can help with many ailments. It’s sometimes called the “king of mushrooms” because it’s one of the most potent medicinal plants in nature. While reishi mushroom isn’t a cure-all (nothing is), it has been shown to have numerous health benefits and may be able to prevent or at least lessen allergy symptoms.

While you may not have an allergy to reishi mushrooms but consuming them can lead to an allergic reaction. Moreover, the Reishi mushroom’s effects on inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels could help reduce your risk of developing certain conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Finally, if you are concerned about the safety of reishi mushrooms or other medicinal mushrooms, consult your doctor before taking them as part of your diet or treatment plan.

References

1.        Allergies – NHS [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 19]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/

2.        Powell M. The Use of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in the Management of Histamine-Mediated Allergic Responses. [cited 2022 Aug 19]; Available from: http://www.mblab.gla.ac.uk/~julian/dict2.cgi?1090

3.        Sanodiya B, Thakur G, Baghel R, Prasad G, Bisen P. Ganoderma lucidum: A Potent Pharmacological Macrofungus. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. 2009 Nov 29;10(8):717–42.

4.        Liu C, Dunkin D, Lai J, Song Y, Ceballos C, Benkov K, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of Ganoderma lucidum triterpenoid in human Crohn’s disease associated with downregulation of NF-κB signaling. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. 2015 Apr 29;21(8):1918–25.

5.        Bhardwaj N, Katyal P, Sharma A. Suppression of inflammatory and allergic responses by pharmacologically potent fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Discov [Internet]. 2014 Nov 26 [cited 2022 Aug 19];8(2):104–17. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24948193/

6.        Liu C, Yang N, Song Y, Wang L, Zi J, Zhang S, et al. Ganoderic acid C1 isolated from the anti-asthma formula, ASHMITM suppresses TNF-α production by mouse macrophages and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from asthma patients. International Immunopharmacology. 2015 Jul 18;27(2):224–31.

7.        Salameh F, Perla D, Solomon M, Gamus D, Barzilai A, Greenberger S, et al. The effectiveness of combined Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008 Oct 1;14(8):1043–8.

8.        Jung DL, Lee SD, Choi IH, Na HS, Hong SU. Effects of electroacupuncture on capsaicin-induced model of atopic dermatitis in rats. Journal of Dermatological Science. 2014;74(1):23–30.

9.        Li C, Kim JH, Ji BU, Lee JE, Kim Y, Yoon HM, et al. Inhibitory effects of Ganoderma lucidum pharmacopuncture on atopic dermatitis induced by capsaicin in rats. J Dermatol Sci [Internet]. 2015 Dec 1 [cited 2022 Aug 19];80(3):212–4. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26472201/

10.      Krystel-Whittemore M, Dileepan KN, Wood JG. Mast cell: A multi-functional master cell. Frontiers in Immunology. 2016;6(JAN).

11.      Thangam EB, Jemima EA, Singh H, Baig MS, Khan M, Mathias CB, et al. The role of histamine and histamine receptors in mast cell-mediated allergy and inflammation: The hunt for new therapeutic targets. Frontiers in Immunology. 2018 Aug 13;9(AUG):1873.

12.      Patel RH, Mohiuddin SS. Biochemistry, Histamine. StatPearls [Internet]. 2022 May 8 [cited 2022 Aug 19]; Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557790/

13.      Andoh T, Zhang Q, Yamamoto T, Tayama M, Hattori M, Tanaka K, et al. Inhibitory effects of the methanol extract of Ganoderma lucidum on mosquito allergy-induced itch-associated responses in mice. J Pharmacol Sci [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2022 Aug 19];114(3):292–7. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20948166/

14.      Jan RH, Lin TY, Hsu YC, Lee SS, Lo SY, Chang M, et al. Immuno-modulatory activity of Ganoderma lucidum-derived polysacharide on human monocytoid dendritic cells pulsed with Der p 1 allergen. BMC Immunol [Internet]. 2011 May 25 [cited 2022 Aug 19];12. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21612588/

15.      Schmitt H, Neurath MF, Atreya R. Role of the IL23/IL17 Pathway in Crohn’s Disease. Frontiers in Immunology. 2021 Mar 30;12.

16.      Dudhgaonkar S, Thyagarajan A, Sliva D. Suppression of the inflammatory response by triterpenes isolated from the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum. International Immunopharmacology. 2009 Oct;9(11):1272–80.

17.      Szatkowski P, Krzysciak W, Mach T, Owczarek D, Brzozowski B, Szczeklik K. Nuclear factor-kb-importance, induction of inflammation, and effects of pharmacological modulators in crohn’s disease. Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2020 Aug 1;71(4):1–13.

18.      Liu C, Dunkin D, Lai J, Song Y, Ceballos C, Benkov K, et al. Anti-inflammatory Effects of Ganoderma lucidum Triterpenoid in Human Crohn’s Disease Associated with Downregulation of NF-κB Signaling. Inflamm Bowel Dis [Internet]. 2015 Apr 29 [cited 2022 Aug 19];21(8):1918–25. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25993687/

19.      Reishi Mushroom: Uses and Risks [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 19]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/reishi-mushroom-uses-and-risks

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