Reishi Through the Ages: The Fascinating Journey of the Mushroom of Immortality

Reishi Through the Ages: The Fascinating Journey of the Mushroom of Immortality

Reishi mushrooms, also known as Lingzhi, have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. Legend has it that Reishi mushrooms were first discovered by a man named Wu, who stumbled upon them growing on a dead log in the forest. Wu was so taken by the mushrooms' unique appearance and woody texture that he decided to try eating them. To his surprise, he found that they had a pleasant taste and provided a boost of energy.[1]

Word of the mushroom's healing properties soon spread, and it became a popular remedy in traditional Chinese medicine. It was believed to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and even increase longevity.[2] In fact, emperors of ancient China were said to have prized Reishi so highly that they would send out expeditions to search for the mushroom in the forests.

But the history of Reishi is not without its surprising moments. For example, during the Tang Dynasty, Reishi mushrooms were so prized that they were often used as a form of currency. In fact, the value of a single Reishi mushroom was said to be equal to that of a cow![3]

Interestingly, reishi mushrooms have also been used in traditional Chinese art and literature. They were often depicted in paintings and sculptures, and were even used as a symbol of longevity and good luck.[4] In one famous Chinese legend, a man named Wu Gang was cursed to chop down a tree that would never fall. He was eventually saved by the goddess of mercy, who gave him a reishi mushroom to eat. The mushroom gave Wu Gang eternal life, but he was also cursed to chop down the tree for eternity![5]

In the West, Reishi mushrooms have gained a reputation as a "superfood," with some people even referring to them as the "elixir of immortality." While these claims may be a bit exaggerated, there is some evidence to suggest that Reishi may have health benefits. For example, one study found that taking a Reishi supplement helped improve the quality of life in breast cancer survivors.[6]

In more recent times, Reishi has gained popularity in the West as a dietary supplement. It is rich in polysaccharides, triterpenes, and other bioactive compounds that are believed to have a range of health benefits, including immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory effects.[7]

Whether you believe in their magical properties or not, there's no denying that these mushrooms have played an important role in traditional Chinese medicine and continue to fascinate and intrigue people around the world.


  1. Wachtel-Galor, S., & Benzie, I. F. F. (2011). Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom. In Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects (2nd ed.). CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.
  2. Gao, Y., Zhou, S., & Jiang, W. (2003). Huangqi injection (a traditional Chinese patent medicine) for chronic heart failure: A systematic review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 9(4), 479–489.
  3. GreenMedInfo. (n.d.). Reishi Mushroom: The "Mushroom of Immortality". GreenMedInfo.
  4. Jin, X. (2017). The symbolic meaning of Lingzhi. Journal of Arts and Humanities, 6(10), 17–20.
  5. Zhu, Y. (2016). Wu Gang Chops the Tree. In Chinese Fables and Folk Stories (pp. 44–47). Shanghai Press and Publishing Development Company.
  6. Lu, X., Chen, H., Dong, P., Fu, X., Yang, Y., Liu, Q., & Wang, T. (2018). Effects of Ganoderma lucidum extract on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients: A retrospective study. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences, 5(1), 24–28.
  7. Lindequist, U., Niedermeyer, T. H. J., & Jülich, W.-D. (2005). The Pharmacological Potential of Mushrooms. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2(3), 285–299.
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