Mariaines' background is natural sciences, and she is currently studying psychology. She enjoys poetry, history, drawing, and writing.
The Mushroom of Immortality
Due to its healing properties, Ganoderma lucidum has been a sought-after commodity in China since ancient times. In the book Mushroom, authors Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler tell an interesting story about this fungus:
The Emperor Shih Huang Ti (259-210 BC) went to extravagant lengths to search for this wondrous mushroom, despatching an entire fleet to search for it in the islands of the East but without success. A century later, the Emperor Wu repeated his attempt and repeated his failure. Then, incredibly, in 109 BC, the fungus started sprouting spontaneously in the grounds of his palace. The imperial records for that year describe the springing up the nine-stalked 'fungus of immortality.'
The same authors remark that today, in modern China, the mushroom is used to treat a wide range of health problems, from anorexia to heart complaints.
Mushrooms have always had something magical about them, from the seemingly miraculous ways in which they grow through their medicinal properties to their sometimes transcendentally exquisite taste.
— Acton & Sandler
Ganoderma lucidum is a flat, varnished-looking mushroom that belongs to the group of polypores, also called bracket Fungi. The Polypores usually present a fruit body with pores or tubes on the underside. They live in forests, in wooden trees and logs, as they consume the wood as their food (Wikipedia, 2017).
Powell (2014), indicates that mushrooms are part of the fungus kingdom. They are not plants nor animals, but they present characteristics of both. Their metabolic function is similar to that of animals, but structurally they are similar to plants. In other words, regarding metabolism, "both fungi and animals derive carbon and energy from the enzymatic breakdown of organic matter" and regarding structure, like plants "they possess a rigid cell wall formed largely of long sugar molecule chains (polysaccharides)."
On the other hand, they reproduce like plants as "in the same way that some plants produce flowers as a means of reproduction, these fungi produce mushrooms as a means of disseminating their spores and colonizing new areas."
Ganoderma Lucidum and Health Conditions
Powell (2014) indicates that most of the medicinal properties of mushrooms are related to their polysaccharides and triterpenes, which help to modulate and increase the efficiency and efficacy of our immune system. Ganoderma Lucidum has a high content of polysaccharides and more than 130 triterpenes; the latter are highly concentrated in the spores.
The same author presents a summary of the research findings regarding the use and dosage of this mushroom for improving several ailments:
- Allergic Rhinitis (Hayfever) - extract (triterpene-rich) - 1-3g/day
- Alzheimer’s Disease - extract - 1-3g/day
- Anti-ageing - spores - 1-3g/day
- Asthma - extract (triterpene-rich) - 1-3g/day
- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) - extract (triterpene-rich) - 1-3g/day
- Cancer: All medicinal mushrooms show anti-cancer properties with large-scale clinical trials of Trametes Versicolor and Lentinula edodes, and on a smaller scale, Grifola frondosa, Ganoderma lucidum and Agaricus subrufescens. All clinical trials have used polysaccharide extracts. There is some evidence that combinations of mushrooms may have higher activity.
- Cardiovascular Health - extract - 1-3g/day
- Epilepsy - shell-broken spore powder - 3-5g/day
- Hypertension - triterpene- rich extract - 2-3g/day
- Insomnia/Anxiety - triterpene rich extracts - 1-3g/day
- Nerve Damage - sporoderm- broken spores - 1-3g/day
- Parkinson’s Disease - triterpene-rich extract - 3g/day
- Rheumatoid Arthritis - triterpene-rich extracts - 1-3g/day
Ganoderma lucidum grows naturally in subtropical zones with temperate weather. It became popular first in China, where it was appreciated for its medicinal properties. However, they grow naturally in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. This mushroom is not abundant in nature, and in China, it was reserved for the elites that could afford it.
Today, this mushroom is cultivated, and its popularity has reached most parts of the world. Wachtel-Galor et al. (2004) note that the current "consumption is now estimated at several thousand tonnes worldwide, and the market is growing rapidly." The popularity of this mushroom is related to its promising health benefits, which have captured the attention of scientists in China, Japan, Europe, and America.
In 1970, a technician of Kyoto University Foodstuff Scientific Research Institute, Mr. Yukio Naoi, used the "Spore Separation Ganoderma Cultivation Method" to successfully cultivate this fungus under controlled conditions. This cultivation method made it possible for more people around the world to benefit from this ancient mushroom.
Mestelle Zach mentions on her website that there are three main methods to cultivate them: wood log cultivation, pot or bottle cultivation, and tank cultivation. She recommends the former method as it yields a high-quality product, while the pot or bottle cultivation produces a much faster result, but the quality is inferior.
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Boh and Berovic (2011) point out that the wood log method has been known for centuries now, but with time, researchers have introduced new methods, such as the one mentioned by Zach on her website. The same authors describe that new substrates are used to grow the mushroom in containers, trays, or even sterilised bags. Some of these lignocellulosic substrates include wood, grass, stalks, corn cobs, sugarcane residues, rice bran, potato skins, citric pulp, cotton, and paper waste.
The advantage of wood log cultivation is that the mushrooms are exposed to enough sunlight and water to produce strong and spore-rich Ganoderma lucidum. On the other hand, container cultivation does not receive enough sun and water but needs to include wooden chips and chemicals, which not only produce weak and spore-poor mushrooms but also might contain harmful elements such as mercury or lead, among others.
Boh and Berovic (2011) state that scientists are growing mycelia, instead of the fruit body, in bioreactors, both in solid state and submerged cultivation in liquid media. These techniques solve problems related to the time for obtaining high quality products for pharmaceutical purposes, but research is ongoing as there are many factors affecting the success rate of tank cultivation.
Not for Everyone
It is important to consider that the properties of Ganoderma lucidum might cause problems in people who have specific health conditions. Sarah Terry from Livestrong.com mentions that this mushroom contains adenosine, a substance that interferes with blood coagulation.
This means it is not advisable to take Ganoderma lucidum before surgery or childbirth or if you have any condition that makes you prone to bleed. Along the same lines, this fungus might interact with medications such as anticoagulants or antiplatelets. Several sources also include hepatoxicity as a side effect.
The same author finds that it might also interact with drugs for high blood pressure, enhancing its activity. She notes that caution should be taken when you are on immunosuppressants or chemotherapy.
Always consult a health practitioner before taking Ganoderma Lucidum to improve any health condition.
More About Ganoderma Lucidum
- Health Benefits of Ganoderma Lucidum
Ganoderma Lucidum is a fungus that has been used as medicine by the Chinese and Japanese since ancient times.
Acton, J., Sandler, N. (2001). Mushroom. Kyle Cathie Limited: London.
Boh, B. Berovic, M. (2011). Ganoderma Lucidum Production of Pharmaceuticals. ed. Liong, M. in Bioprocess Science and Technology. e-book. Nova Science Publishers.
Powell, M (2014). Medicinal Mushrooms. A Clinical Guide. Mycology Press: Dorset.
Powell, M (2013). Medicinal Mushrooms. An Essential Guide. Mycology Press: Dorset.
Terry, S. (2013) Dangers of Ganoderma. Livestrong.com accessed on the 11th of March 2017.
Wachtel-Galor, S. Buswell, J. Tomlinson, B. (2004). Lingzhi Polyphorus Fungus (Ganoderma Lucidum). e-book. Taylor and Francis Group Publishers.
Wikipedia Contributors. Polyporus. Wikipedia de Free Encyclopedia. Accessed on the 10 of March 2017.
http://www.ganoderma-for-health.com/ganoderma-cultivation.html. Accessed on the 22 of March 2017.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 MariaInes
MariaInes (author) from Bogota on March 11, 2017:
MsDora :-) yes, nature is amazing and usually challenges our minds, which are used to think in categories created by ourselves.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 11, 2017:
Ganoderma Lucidum with characteristics of both plant and animal may cause us to wonder about its identity; but according to your article its uses and benefits are much more important. Thank you for discussing this phenomenal object.