I've heard that red reishi is commonly used in herbal medicine to support the immune system. How does it work?

By Dr. Brad Matthews

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), red reishi (ganoderma lucidum) is classified as an herb that strengthens your Qi, or vital energy. For thousands of years, it has been prized for its ability to balance energy levels, reduce the negative effects of stress, and support the immune system. But how does it work?

The "immune system" is a western medicine term, and is not expressly identified in classic TCM. However, we do know that the functions attributed to the western concept of the immune system are in TCM mainly related to the functions of the wei qi (Defensive Qi), which is a product of the healthy functioning of the lungs, kidney, and spleen. Red reishi has a very strong ability to optimize the functioning of the heart, lungs, liver, kidney, and pancreas, and it is precisely for this reason that it helps to support and optimize the immune system.

Modern day research has suggested the ancient Chinese were right about the immune support functions of red reishi. Studies have shown that the potent polysaccharides contained in the fruiting body of the mushroom actually raise the amount of macrophages and T-cells in the blood. Macrophages and T-cells are critical players in the immune system, as their role is essentially to ingest foreign pathogens that invade the body. So regardless of whether we are talking about the qi of the lungs, kidney, and spleen, or the stimulation of macrophage and T-cell production, red reishi has a potent ability to support immune function.


Dr. Brad Matthews is a Registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine working out of the North Shore Wellness Centre in North Vancouver, BC. He is also trained in acupuncture injection therapies, trigger point therapies, biopuncture and mesotherapy.

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