Lingzhi – wonder mushroom

IN traditional Chinese medicine, an odd looking woody mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) has a reputation as a panacea matched only by ginseng. This mushroom has been linked with life-giving and prolonging properties. It is praised as the “Grass from Heaven” and has been proven clinically to prevent and cure diseases, and possibly, even help extend life.  

It is also called “Celestial Herb” and “Fungus of the Universe”. It fact, it is said to be the content of the bowl held by Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. The Chinese name lingzhi translates as the “herb of spiritual potency” and the mushroom was highly prized as an elixir of immortality. It was once given as gifts to emperors. Indeed, many Chinese emperors had their own personal lingzhi cultivators.  

In both the popular ancient Chinese medical publications, Shen Nong Ben Zao Jing and Ben Zao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica) written respectively in the Han and Ming Dynasty, there were detailed descriptions of the effects of lingzhi. New studies are repeatedly validating the power of lingzhi.  

The fruiting body of the mushroom is employed medicinally. Lingzhi grows in six different colours. The red variety is most commonly used and commercially cultivated in North America, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and here in Malaysia. Indeed, Malaysia has recently emerged as a new exciting player in the world lingzhi scene largely through the efforts of Dr Teow Sun Soo who has been working on this mushroom for almost 20 years. 

The red variety of lingzhi is most commonly used and commercially cultivated in North America, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.

Lingzhi has been formally recognised as a medicine listed in the China State Medicine Book. It has also gained official recognition as a new food resource that has proven to be safe, and without any toxicity.  

Another important event was the incorporation of the Ganoderma International Research Institute in New York in 1993. The purpose was to foster international scientific and medical research on Ganoderma and set standards of quality for related products and to promote popular awareness and appropriate use. 

Lingzhi is packed with powerful ingredients that give it its many unique and restorative powers. They can be divided into 10 categories, including: polysaccharides, polypeptides, 16 types of amino acids (seven of which are indispensable to humans), protein, steroids, triterpene, mannitol, coumarin, alkaloids, organic acids (mainly fumarate),and microelements such as germanium and zinc. 

Lingzhi helps maintain balance within the body. It cures sickness related to cardiac and brain vessels, the digestive system, neural system, endocrine system, respiratory system and locomotor system.  

Its effect is particularly prominent against tumours, hepatic diseases, and in preventing ageing.  


Key effect 


Lingzhi has a wide scope of effects. Under the concept of Chinese medicine, lingzhi penetrates into and works on the five key human organs, and can be used to mitigate impairment of the major organs – heart, lung, liver, pancreas, and kidney.  

Lingzhi is suitable for medicating illnesses related to various human systems including respiratory, circulatory, digestive, neural, endocrine and locomotor. It helps illnesses of various aspects including medical, surgical, gynaecological, paediatric and ENT. The reason why lingzhi is good for various ailments is because its fundamental effect is enhancement of internal balance and function of the immune system.  

It is different from other medicines that cure specific diseases, or supplementary nutrients that only address particular body requirements. Lingzhi helps regulate entire body mechanisms and metabolism to ensure that all organs function properly.  

Some specific effects of lingzhi include:  

·Effects on tumours – The main cause of the development of tumours is an under-performing immune system. Lingzhi enhances the body’s immune function and increases self defence capabilities against tumours. It also seems to enhance the function of white blood cells, and boosts blood synthesis capacity, particularly white blood cells levels.  

This combined with the mushroom’s inhibitory effect on cancer cells provided by certain ingredients within it means that lingzhi can offer a unique approach to treating cancer, especially in the very early stages.  

In 1994, Chang at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York reported that applications of Ganoderma should be studied and considered for prevention of cancer in individuals at high risk for developing cancer, adjuvant use in the prevention of metastasis or recurrence of cancer, palliation of cancer-related cachexia (rapid loss of weight) and pain and adjunctive use with chemotherapy to reduce side-effects, maintain leukocyte counts and allow a more optimal dosing of chemo or radio therapeutics.  


·Liver protection and detoxification – Lingzhi also protects the liver from damage by various physiological and biological factors. It speeds up metabolism of both medicine and toxic substances in the liver, leading to relief of liver inflammation due to toxic build up. Lingzhi is also suitable for treating chronic hepatitis. 

·Effect on the blood circulation – Clinical studies and experiments with animals confirm that lingzhi can effectively dilate coronary arteries, increase coronary vessel blood flow and improve circulation in cardiac muscle capillaries, thus increasing supply of oxygen and energy to cardiac muscle.  

Lingzhi prevents the formation of arterial plaque. If plaque has already formed, it can locally improve blood circulation and prevent aggregation of blood platelets that leads to clotting. All these effects can contribute to preventing various kinds of stroke. 

·Ageing – The polysaccharides and polypeptides found in lingzhi effectively delay the ageing process by enhancing and regulating the immune system. Research has shown that lingzhi enhances synthesis of nucleic acids and proteins in blood plasma, liver and bone marrow, hence effectively slowing down ageing. It is observed that using lingzhi to prevent ageing benefits not only the elderly, but also people at a younger age, since growth and development processes will ultimately lead to ageing.  

·Effect on nerves – In Chinese medicine, lingzhi is being used to treat neurasthenia and insomnia since it works on the central nervous system. In ancient Chinese medical publications, it was recorded that lingzhi helped “stabilise emotion”, “increase wisdom” and “enhance memory power”. 

Recently, there have been reports that lingzhi has prominent effects on insomnia caused by neurasthenia. The effectiveness is 87.14% to 100%. In general, effects become obvious after a period of 10 to 15 days, with sleep improvement, increased appetite and weight gain. 

Today, the effects of lingzhi on neurasthenia and insomnia has been clearly described and stated in the China State Medicine Book. 

·Diabetes – The constituents of lingzhi that reduce blood glucose are Ganoderma B and C. The principle of action is by enhancing utilisation of blood glucose by body tissues. 

·Effect on chronic bronchitis and bronchitis asthma – Lingzhi stops coughing, helps clear sputum, and suppresses asthma. It also relieves symptoms of related illness. Using lingzhi to treat patients categorised as “cold and wet” by Chinese medicine is particularly suitable. 

·Free radicals – One cause of ageing is the reduction of anti-oxidising agents or anti-oxidised-like chemicals (such as SOD) in the body. These anti-oxidising agents are essential for countering damage to the body by free radicals. Lingzhi polysaccharides possess properties very similar to SOD, which can remove free radicals and prevent related body damage by stopping hyper oxidation of lipids. Such action protects the cells and delay ageing of the cells.  


Reaction to lingzhi 


Administering lingzhi could initailly cause some symtpoms, and effect described in Chinese medicine roughly as: “No dizziness, no recovery”. When some people start taking lingzhi, they feel dizzy, itch, are thirsty, or even experience an increase in the frequency of defaecation and urination.  

However, these reactions demonstrate the effectiveness of lingzhi in the body, as toxins are being dissolved, mobilised, and excreted. Therefore, these reactions should be regarded as normal in the initial period and should not be a reason to stop taking lingzhi. 


Next: The low carbohydrate diet and vegetarians 


  • Rajen. M is a pharmacist with a doctorate in Holistic Medicine. You can write to him at starhealth@thestar. The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. 

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