The mushroom of immortality. That gets your attention! You want your dog to live forever, don’t you? Well … you might be able to extend your dog’s life by giving her this mushroom.
What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
The mushroom of immortality is one of the names for reishi. It’s a powerful medicinal mushroom. It’s been popular for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. You’ll also see reishi called by their botanical name Ganoderma lucidum or the Chinese name Ling zhi.
Here’s what research tells us about reishi’s health benefits.
What Reishi Mushrooms Do
Unlike many other medicinal plants, there’s a lot of research on reishi mushrooms. A 2012 paper by researchers Priya Batra et al, at India’s Maharishi Markandeshwar University, called reishi “a bitter mushroom with amazing health benefits” (1) … and summarized their many medicinal properties, including:
- Immune system support
- Protect the liver
- Support kidney health
- Relieve allergies
- Control blood sugar
- Regulate blood pressure
The benefits of reishi mushrooms make them a potent supplement to support your dog’s health in many ways.
RELATED: The health benefits of mushrooms for dogs
6 Reasons To Give Your Dog Reishi Mushrooms
So … here’ are the top 6 reasons research shows you should give reishi mushrooms to your dog.
#1 Fight Cancer
Reishi mushrooms have long been used to treat cancer in China and Japan. Their constituents include triterpenes, compounds that have many medicinal benefits.
Studies at Peking University and University of Macao have shown their anti-cancer properties. Reishi mushrooms also contain beta glucans. These are complex sugars known to modulate the immune system. This means they boost the immune system but don’t over-stimulate it.
The researchers showed reishi mushrooms can support the immune system to fight cancer … and prevent it! Reishi may stop cancer growth and even shrink tumors in some cases. They can also help prevent secondary cancers.
Researchers at University of Chicago also showed reishi mushrooms reduced the side effects of nausea and vomiting in rats undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
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#2 Protect The Liver
Your dog can’t live without a healthy liver. Giving foods or supplements that help the liver do its job is a really good idea.
Reishi mushrooms have antioxidant properties that help nourish, detoxify and protect the liver. These antioxidant properties reduce the effects of free radicals that can slow down liver function. Reishi can help renew liver cells, strengthen the liver and improve the detox process.
In a study on rats at Taiwan’s China Medical University, reishi reversed liver fibrosis. This is the final stage of fatty liver disease and is usually not treatable. Reishi has also been used to treat hepatitis B and liver cirrhosis in humans. While these aren’t dog diseases, this fact demonstrates the healing power of reishi.
Caution: if your dog already has severe liver disease, talk to your holistic vet before giving reishi.
#3 Manage Diabetes
Research shows reishi mushrooms can help manage diabetes. They can lower blood sugar and help regulate glucose level, according to a study at two Taiwanese universities.
Another study at Peking University Health Science Center showed reishi prevent or slow kidney issues that can develop in diabetics (8). Another side effect of diabetes is that wounds can be slow to heal. Polysachharides in reishi can also speed wound healing for diabetic patients.
If your dog’s on meds for diabetes, talk to your holistic vet about how reishi might help.
#4 Support Heart Health
While there’s a lack of conclusive clinical trials, reishi has a long history of improving cardiac risk factors in Asian medicine. In Japan, reishi mushrooms are a traditional treatment for circulatory problems. In traditional Chinese medicine, reishi is a general tonic for the cardiovascular system.
A study of angina patients in Indonesia concluded that polysaccharide peptide (PsP) antioxidants in reishi mushrooms “…is a potent antioxidant against pathogenesis of atherosclerosis in stable angina and high risk patients”.
Reishi act as vasodilators, improving blood supply and oxygen delivery to the heart. Vasodilators open blood vessels so that blood flows more easily and the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard. Reishi may have a blood thinning effect … so don’t give reishi in conjunction with blood thinning drugs like warfarin. Reishi can also reduce blood pressure and can help relieve heart arrhythmia.
#5 Control Allergies
Reishi contain ganoderic acid. Ganoderic acid is a triterpene that inhibits the release of histamines. Histamines cause allergic reactions. Research also shows that oleic acid in reishi mushrooms inhibit histamine release to help control allergies.
Allergic reactions are an improper immune response, so reishi’s immune modulating powers can help. Reishi also have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. These can reduce allergy symptoms like itching and difficulty breathing.
#6 Slow Aging
Reishi can delay the aging process and reduce aging symptoms. In fact, reishi’s anti-aging properties are the reason for the mushroom of immortality name! Research into these properties at several Chinese universities concluded the mushrooms “exert their anti-aging effects mainly through anti-oxidation, immunomodulation and anti-neurodegeneration.”
Reishi can fight immunosenescence. That’s the gradual decline of the immune system brought on by the aging process over time. Reishi’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can help prevent and even reverse cognitive decline. They can also help manage aging joint issues like arthritis.
Reishi mushrooms have very few reported side effects. In humans, nausea and insomnia have been reported in a few cases. For dogs, it’s best to start slow to avoid any digestive upset.
Reishi mushrooms have anti-clotting effects. They shouldn’t be combined with blood thinning drugs. Avoid giving reishi to pregnant or lactating females. Studies haven’t covered this group of patients.
There are two cases reported of liver problems in patients who’d been taking reishi for some time but switched to a powdered product. So it’s not known whether the mushroom itself was what caused liver damage, or if there were problems with the powdered extract.
How To Give Reishi Mushrooms To Your Dog
Reishi mushrooms taste quite bitter. So, the best way to give them to your dog is usually in a tincture or powder/capsule formula.
Note: If you do want to give your dog whole reishi mushrooms, be sure to cook them thoroughly. Raw mushrooms are very indigestible and may be toxic to dogs. Making a tea or soup is a good way to feed fresh or dried mushrooms.
There’s a wide variety of quality in mushroom supplements. It’s important to do your research before buying and find an organic product if you can. You also want to ask the company how their mushrooms are grown. Many mushroom supplements are grown on grain and are mycelium. This is not a true mushroom but a partially grown fungus. These mycelium products are high in starch, and they’re missing full levels of beta glucan. Again, that’s the really important medicinal ingredient that can help fight cancer and boost your dog’s immunity.
Reishi can also be used in conjunction with other mushrooms. You’ll often see supplements that combine reishi mushrooms with maitake, shiitake, cordyceps or turkey tail.
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- Batra P, Sharma AK, Khajuria R. Probing Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (higher Basidiomycetes): a bitter mushroom with amazing health benefits. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(2):127-43.
- Lin ZB, Zhang HN. Anti-tumor and immunoregulatory activities of Ganoderma lucidum and its possible mechanisms. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2004 Nov;25(11):1387-95.
- Xu Z, Chen X, Zhong Z, Chen L, Wang Y. Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides: immunomodulation and potential anti-tumor activities. Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(1):15-27.