Ganoderma lucidum

(from Medicinal Mushrooms – A Clinical Guide by Martin Powell)

Japanese name – Reishi or Mannetake (10,000 year mushroom / mushroom of immortality)
Chinese name – Ling Zhi (spirit mushroom – mushroom of spritual potency)

The most famous of all the medicinal mushrooms, with annual sales of over US$2billion, G. lucidum’s wide ranging health benefits are due to its combination of high polysaccharide content (Stamets reports the fruiting body to contain 41% beta glucan) and wide range of triterpenoid compounds1-4. Over 130 of these have been identified, belonging to two families: ganoderic and lucidenic acids with functions including:

  • Inhibiting Histamine Release
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Anti-hypertensive (ACE inhibiting)
  • Inhibiting cholesterol synthesis
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Inducing apoptosis
  • Inhibiting viral induction
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-tumour
  • CNS sedation
  • Anti-microbial
  • Immune modulation
There has recently been interest in the lipid rich spores as an anti-cancer agent with tumour inhibition shown in different in vitro studies5-7. However, a recent comparative study of the immunomodulatory and antitumour activity of the sporoderm-broken spores and whole fruiting body extract showed them to be comparable with no superiority of efficacy for the sporoderm-broken spores8.

G. lucidum shows exceptionally high tyrosinase inhibition with the highest activity in the aqueous extract. This has led to its inclusion in many commercial skin whitening products and also has medical implications, especially in relation to Parkinson’s Disease (see discussion under Parkinson’s Disease) 9-11.

Cancer G. lucidum has a long history of traditional use in the treatment of cancer and is credited with many cases of spontaneous remission12,13.

As well as the immune modulating effect of its high polysaccharide content, its triterpenes show significant cytotoxic activity against different cancer cell lines, as well as inhibitory effects against Epstein-Barr virus, known to be associated with some cancers 14-21. In addition triterpenes from G. lucidum show inhibition of the nuclear transcription factor, NF-kappaB (NF-κB), which is overexpressed in various cancer cell lines, and also the AP-1 signalling pathway22.

Inhibition of NF-κB is of particular importance in the activity of G. lucidum against breast and prostate cancers as it is considered to play an essential role in the hormone independent growth and spread of these cancers23,24.

Studies with G. lucidum polysaccharide extract confirms its ability to enhance immune status in cancer patients with increases in NK cell activity and Th1 cytokine levels and decrease in Th2 cytokine levels in advanced lung cancer patients25,26.

Allergies – As well as immuno-modulatory activity, G. lucidum demonstrates strong anti-inflammatory activity with suppression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-6 (IL-6), the inflammatory mediator nitric oxide (NO) and prostaglandin E(2), mediated through inhibition of the NF-κB and AP-1 signaling pathways. This combination of immuno-modulatory and anti-inflammatory action activity makes it ideally suited to the treatment of allergies and other inflammatory conditions27-30.

G. lucidum is a also a component of FAHF-2, a Chinese herbal formula that completely blocked anaphylactic reactions in a mouse model of peanut allergy31.

Liver Disease – The fruiting body of G. lucidum has long been a popular traditional treatment for liver diseases and demonstrates wide hepatoprotective properties32-36. It appears that at least part of its action in this regard may be through the ability of G. lucidum triterpenes to block platelet-derived growth factor beta receptor (PDGFbetaR), thus inhibiting the activation and proliferation of hepatic stellate cells, a key event in hepatic fibrosis37.

G. lucidum is also traditionally used in the treatment of hepatitis and in a clinical study of 355 cases of hepatitis B treated with Wulingdan Pill, of which G. lucidum is the major component, 92.4% of patients were reported to have positive results38. Again, it appears that the triterpenes are the key components39,40.

Ganoderma lucidum has a broad range of action on cardiovascular health. Polysaccharides and triterpenes isolated from Ganoderma lucidum have shown hypolipidemic, hypotensive, and antithrombotic effects while a polysaccharide preparation (Ganopoly) led to improved ECG and lowered chest pain, palpitation and shortness of breath in a double-blind, randomized, multicentered study41. Mild ACE-inhibitory activity has also been demonstrated for some of Reishi’s triterpenoid compounds42.

Insomnia/anxiety – The traditional name ‘spirit mushroom’ points to the sedative action of its triterpenoid components on the CNS and many herbalists value its benefits in cases of insomnia43-45. Christopher Hobbs recommends G. lucidum for deficiency insomnia while Mizuno also recommends it for ‘mental stabilisation’.

Rheumatoid ArthritisG. lucidum‘s combination of immuno-modulatory and anti-inflammatory action suggests potential application in the treatment of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. A proteoglycan fraction from G. lucidum has been shown to inhibit production of rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts in-vitro, in part through inhibition of NF-κB transcription pathway46.

Anti-aging – Traditionally considered to promote longevity, G. lucidum extract has been shown to inhibit beta-amyloid synaptic toxicity with potential benefits in Alzheimers Disease47. In addition, G. lucidum‘s broad sprectrum cardiovascular, neurological and immune benefits, in addition to beneficial effects on blood sugar and cholesterol control48-51, make it an excellent general health supplement.

CLINICAL SUMMARY Main Therapeutic Applications – Allergies, Liver Support, Cancer (especially breast and prostate), High Blood Pressure, Anxiety/Insomnia. Together with Cordyceps sinensis, G. lucidum has the most extensive range of indications and combines well with it in treatment of lung and liver conditions, as well as to provide all-round adaptogenic support.
Key Components – Triterpenes and polysaccharides
Dose – Chang reports the daily dose in folk use for cancer as 25-300g/day fruiting body as decoction (aqueous extract)52, and cases of spontaneous remission have been reported using similar doses. Concentration ratios of extracts vary with most in the range of 12-18:1. Taking an average concentration ratio of 15:1, this equates to 2-20g/day of extract, with most practitioners using the lower end of the range, in the region of 3-6g/day. For other conditions lower doses in the range of 1-3g /day are usual.
Levels of both polysaccharides and triterpenes are highest in the fruiting body and are traditionally extracted by hot water extraction (i.e. boiling to make a tea). However, while aqueous extraction is ideal for the polysaccharides, which are highly water soluble, the triterpenes are poorly water-soluble but highly alcohol-soluble. As the polysaccharides are precipitated out of solution by alcohol some manufacturers have taken the step of supplementing polysaccharide-rich aqueous extracts with triterpenes obtained through alcohol extraction in order to combine the benefits of G. lucidum‘s polysaccharides and triterpenes.
Caution – Patients on anti-hypertensive and sedative medication. G. lucidum‘s anti-coagulant properties mean that caution is also required when using it alongside anticoagulant drugs53.

1. Reishi mushroom: herb of spiritual potency and medical wonder. Willard T. 1990. Pub. Sylvan Press
2. Global marketing of medicinal ling zhi mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (W.Curt.:Fr.) Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Products and Safety Concerns. Lai T, Gao Y, Zhou S. Int J Med Mushr. 2004;6(2):100.
3. Ganoderma lucidum and its pharmaceutically active compounds. Boh B, Berovic M, Zhang J, Zhi-Bin L. Biotechnol Annu Rev. 2007;13:265-301.
4. Ganoderma – a therapeutic fungal biofactory. Paterson R.R. Phytochemistry. 2006;67(18):1985-2001.
5. Antitumor activity of the sporoderm-broken germinating spores of Ganoderma lucidum. Liu X, Yuan J.P, Chung C.K, Chen X.J. Cancer Lett. 2002;182(2):155-61.
6. Sterols and triterpenoids from the spores of Ganoderma lucidum. Zhang C.R, Yang S.P, Yue J.M. Nat Prod Res. 2008;22(13):1137-42.
7. Chemical constituents of the spores of Ganoderma lucidum. Zhang X.Q, Pang G.L, Cheng Y, Wang Y, Ye W.C. Zhong Yao Cai. 2008;31(1):41-4.
8. Comparative studies on the immunomodulatory and antitumor activities of the different parts of fruiting body of Ganoderma lucidum and Ganoderma spores. Yue G.G, Fung K.P, Leung P.C, Lau C.B. Phytother Res. 2008;22(10):1282-91.
9. Inhibition of tyrosinase from Ganoderma lucidum. Chu H.L, Wu H.C , Yen-Chin Chen Y.C, Kuo J.M. 12th World Food Congress. 2003;166(2):117-20.
10. Effects on tyrosinase activity by the extracts of Ganoderma lucidum and related mushrooms. Chien C.C, Tsai M.L, Chen C.C, Chang S.J, Tseng C.H. Mycopathologia. 2008;166(2):117-20.
11. Dopamine- or L-DOPA-induced neurotoxicity: the role of dopamine quinone formation and tyrosinase in a model of Parkinson’s disease. Asanuma M, Miyazaki I, Ogawa N. Neurotox Res. 2003;5(3):165-76.
12. Anticancer effects of Ganoderma lucidum: a review of scientific evidence. Yuen J.W, Gohel M.D. Nutr Cancer. 2005;53(1):11-7.
13. Regression of gastric large B-Cell lymphoma accompanied by a florid lymphoma-like T-cell reaction: immunomodulatory effect of Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi)? Cheuk W, Chan J.K, Nuovo G, Chan M.K, Fok M. Int J Surg Pathol. 2007;15(2):180-6.
14. Potential of a novel polysaccharide preparation (GLPP) from Anhui-grown Ganoderma lucidum in tumor treatment and immunostimulation. Pang X, Chen Z, Gao X, Liu W, Slavin M, Yao W, Yu L.L. J Food Sci. 2007;72(6):S435-42.
15. Cytotoxic triterpenoids from Ganoderma lucidum. Cheng C.R, Yue Q.X, Wu Z.Y, Song X.Y, Tao S.J, Wu X.H, Xu P.P, Liu X, Guan S.H, Guo D.A. Phytochemistry. 2010;71(13):1579-1585.
16. Triterpenes from Ganoderma lucidum induce autophagy in colon cancer through the inhibition of p38 mitogen-activated kinase (p38 MAPK). Thyagarajan A, Jedinak A, Nguyen H, Terry C, Baldridge L.A, Jiang J, Sliva D. Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(5):630-40.
17. Ganoderic acid T inhibits tumor invasion in vitro and in vivo through inhibition of MMP expression. Chen N.H, Liu J.W, Zhong J.J. Pharmacol Rep. 2010;62(1):150-63.
18. Inhibitory effects of ganoderma lucidum on tumorigenesis and metastasis of human hepatoma cells in cells and animal models. Weng C.J, Chau C.F, Yen G.C, Liao J.W, Chen D.H, Chen K.D. J Agric Food Chem. 2009;57(11):5049-57.
19. Cytotoxic lanostanoid triterpenes from Ganoderma lucidum. Guan S.H, Xia J.M, Yang M, Wang X.M, Liu X, Guo D.A. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2008;10(7-8):705-10.
20. The anti-invasive effect of lucidenic acids isolated from a new Ganoderma lucidum strain. Weng C.J, Chau C.F, Chen K.D, Chen D.H, Yen G.C. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007;51(12):1472-7.
21. Lucidenic acids P and Q, methyl lucidenate P, and other triterpenoids from the fungus Ganoderma lucidum and their inhibitory effects on Epstein-Barr virus activation. Iwatsuki K, Akihisa T, Tokuda H, Ukiya M, Oshikubo M, Kimura Y, Asano T, Nomura A, Nishino H.J Nat Prod. 2003 Dec;66(12):1582-5.
22. Suppression of the inflammatory response by triterpenes isolated from the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum. Dudhgaonkar S, Thyagarajan A, Sliva D.Int Immunopharmacol. 2009;9(11):1272-80.
23. Ganoderma lucidum suppresses motility of highly invasive breast and prostate cancer cells. Sliva D, Labarrere C, Slivova V, Sedlak M, Lloyd F.P Jr, Ho N.W. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002;298(4):603-12.
24. Ganoderma lucidum suppresses growth of breast cancer cells through the inhibition of Akt/NF-kappaB signaling. Jiang J, Slivova V, Harvey K, Valachovicova T, Sliva D. Nutr Cancer. 2004;49(2):209-16.
25. Effects of ganopoly (a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract) on the immune functions in advanced-stage cancer patients. Gao Y, Zhou S, Jiang W, Huang M, Dai X. Immunol Invest. 2003;32(3):201-15.
26. Effects of water-soluble Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on the immune functions of patients with advanced lung cancer. Gao Y, Tang W, Dai X, Gao H, Chen G, Ye J, Chan E, Koh H.L, Li X, Zhou S. J Med Food. 2005;8(2):159-68.
27.Anti-allergic constituents in the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum. (I). Inhibitory effect of oleic acid on histamine release. Tasaka K, Akagi M, Miyoshi K, Mio M, Makino T. Inflammation Research. 1988;23(3-4):153-6
28. Anti-allergic constituents in the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum. (II). The inhibitory effect of cyclooctasulfur on histamine release. Tasaka K, Mio M, Izushi K, Akagi M, Makino T. Inflammation Research. 1988;23(3-4):157-60.
29. Effectiveness of Dp2 nasal therapy for Dp2- induced airway inflammation in mice: using oral Ganoderma lucidum as an immunomodulator. Liu Y.H, Tsai C.F, Kao M.C, Lai Y.L, Tsai J.J. J Microbiol Immunol Infect. 2003;36(4):236-428.
30. The use of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in the management of Histamine-mediated allergic responses. Powell M. Nutritional Practitioner Magazine. October 2004
31. The Chinese herbal medicine formula FAHF-2 completely blocks anaphylactic reactions in murine model of peanut allergy. Srivastava K.D, Kattan J.D, Zou Z.M, Li J.H, Zhang L, Wallenstein S, Goldfarb J, Sampson H.A, Li X.M. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005;115(1):171-8.
32 Antimutagenic activity of methanolic extract of Ganoderma lucidum and its effect on hepatic damage caused by benzo[a]pyrene. Lakshmi B, Ajith T.A, Jose N, Janardhanan K.K. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;107(2):297-303.
33. Effects of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide on CYP2E1, CYP1A2 and CYP3A activities in BCG-immune hepatic injury in rats. Wang X, Zhao X, Li D, Lou Y.Q, Lin Z.B, Zhang G.L. Biol Pharm Bull. 2007;30(9):1702-6.
34. Post-treatment of Ganoderma lucidum reduced liver fibrosis induced by thioacetamide in mice. Wu Y.W, Fang H.L, Lin W.C. Phytother Res. 2010;24(4):494-9.
35. In vitro and in vivo protective effects of proteoglycan isolated from mycelia of Ganoderma lucidum on carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury. Yang X.J, Liu J, Ye L.B, Yang F, Ye L, Gao J.R, Wu Z.H. World J Gastroenterol. 2006;12(9):1379-85.
36. Antifibrotic effects of a polysaccharide extracted from Ganoderma lucidum, glycyrrhizin, and pentoxifylline in rats with cirrhosis induced by biliary obstruction. Park E.J, Ko G, Kim J, Sohn D.H. Biol Pharm Bull. 1997;20(4):417-20.
37. Ganoderma lucidum extract attenuates the proliferation of hepatic stellate cells by blocking the PDGF receptor. Wang G.J, Huang Y.J, Chen D.H, Lin Y.L. Phytother Res. 2009;23(6):833-9.
38. Treatment of chronic hepatitis B with Wulingdan Pill. Journal of the fourth Military Medical College. 8:380-383. From Abstracts of Chinese Medicines 2:188
39. Effects of total Triterpenoids extract from Ganoderma lucidum (Curt.: Fr.) P. Karst. (Reishi Mushroom) on experimental liver injury models induced by Carbon Tetrachloride or D-Galactosamine in mice. Lin Z.B, Wang M.Y, Liu Q, Che Q.M. Int J Med Mushr. 2002;4(1):37-41
40. Anti-hepatitis B activities of ganoderic acid from Ganoderma lucidum. Li Y.Q, Wang S.F. Biotechnol Lett. 2006;28(11):837-41.
41. A phase I/II study of ling zhi mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (W.Curt.:Fr.) Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae) extract in patients with coronary heart disease. Gao Y, Chen G, Dai X, Ye J, Zhou S. Int J Med Mushr. 2004;6(4):30
42. Effect of Ganoderma lucidum on the quality and functionality of Korean traditional rice wine, yakju. Kim J.H, Lee D.H, Lee S.H, Choi S.Y, Lee J.S. J Biosci Bioeng. 2004;97(1):24-8.
43. A preliminary study on the sleep-improvement function of the effective ingredients of Ganoderma lucidum fruitbody. Jia W, Wu M, Zhang J.S, Liu Y.F. Acta Edulis Fungi. 2005;12(3):43-47
44. Sleep-promoting effects of Ganoderma extracts in rats: comparison between long-term and acute administrations. Honda K, Komoda Y, Inoué S. Tokyo Ika Shika Daigaku Iyo Kizai Kenkyusho Hokoku. 1988;22:77-82.
45. Extract of Ganoderma lucidum potentiates pentobarbital-induced sleep via a GABAergic mechanis. Chu Q.P, Wang L.E, Cui X.Y, Fu H.Z, Lin Z.B, Lin S.Q, Zhang Y.H. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 2007;86(4):693-698
46. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide peptide reduced the production of proinflammatory cytokines in activated rheumatoid synovial fibroblast. Ho Y.W, Yeung J.S, Chiu P.K, Tang W.M, Lin Z.B, Man R.Y, Lau C.S. Mol Cell Biochem. 2007;301(1-2):173-9.
47. Antagonizing beta-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity of the anti-aging fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Lai C.S, Yu M.S, Yuen W.H, So K.F, Zee S.Y, Chang R.C. Brain Res. 2008;1190:215-24.
48. Novel hypoglycemic effects of Ganoderma lucidum water-extract in obese/diabetic (+db/+db) mice. Seto S.W, Lam T.Y, Tam H.L, Au A.L, Chan S.W, Wu J.H, Yu P.H, Leung G.P, Ngai S.M, Yeung J.H, Leung P.S, Lee S.M, Kwan Y.W. Phytomedicine. 2009;16(5):426-36.
49. Cholesterol-lowering properties of Ganoderma lucidum in vitro, ex vivo, and in hamsters and minipigs. Berger A, Rein D, Kratky E, Monnard I, Hajjaj H, Meirim I, Piguet-Welsch C, Hauser J, Mace K, Niederberger P. Lipids Health Dis. 2004;3:2.
50. Ganoderic acid and its derivatives as cholesterol synthesis inhibitors. Komoda Y, Shimizu M, Sonoda Y, Sato Y. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1989;37(2):531-3.
51. Anti-atherosclerotic properties of higher mushrooms (a clinico-experimental investigation). Li K.R, Vasil’ev A.V, Orekhov A.N, Tertov V.V, Tutel’ian V.A. Vopr Pitan. 1989;(1):16-9.
52. Effective dose of ganoderma in humans. Chang. In Proceedings of the 5th Int Mycol Congr, Vanvouver. 1994;117-121
53. Experimental and clinical studies on inhibitory effect of Ganoderma lucidum on platelet aggregation. Tao J, Feng K.Y. J Tongji Med Univ. 1990;10(4):240-3.

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