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Why your 'Immunity' Genes Love Reishi

Key mechanisms affecting Immune System

The human immune system is a complex system of proteins, cells, tissues, and organs that act together to protect us from infection and illness. They detect and destroy foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses, and clear old or faulty cells to prevent the progression of disease.

Various genetic and environmental factors influence the function of the immune system1. These include diet (a supply of nutrients), stress (cortisol levels), the gut microbiome2, and genetic variation in genes coding for pro- or anti- inflammatory cytokines (signalling molecules in the immune system that promote or impair inflammation in the body)3

The ‘Medicinal Mushroom’ and Immunity

The mushroom Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), also called Lingzhi, has been used across China and Japan for centuries for its immunity properties.

Modern scientific studies suggest the phytochemicals present in Reishi possess immunomodulatory - i.e. regulating the immune system - antioxidant and anti-microbial properties5.

Reishi's nutrigenomic role

Reishi, or its extracted components, can increase the proliferation, maturation, or activities of immune cells such as T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, mononuclear cells, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells in lab-grown cells and animal models5.

On a molecular level, Reishi or its components increase the expression of cytokines IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12, IFN-γ, and TNF-α. These signalling molecules drive the immune system’s inflammatory response5.

Reishi polysaccharide extracts increase the expression of Blimp-1 (also called Prdm1), a critical regulatory protein involved in the development of immune cells – B and T cells - and the production of antibodies6.

The immune system is quite amazing - but also very complex. As such, it’s very challenging to detangle whether a remedy might be having a direct, indirect, or non-specific effect on immunity. However Reishi interacts with the cells of our immune system, they certainly seem to be partial to this prized fungus.

A ‘magical’ mushroom

  • Reishi has been a mainstay of eastern traditional healing for more than two thousand years
  • Lingzhi, its name in China, means "spiritual potency"
  • Reishi flourishes in dense woodland with high humidity and grows on the trunks of aged trees
  • Reishi is so rare that out of 10,000 or so aged trees only two or three will feature reishi growth
  • Because of its rarity, reishi used to be reserved for the likes of emperors and noblemen

Further reading

  1. Horst, R. ter et al. Host and Environmental Factors Influencing Individual Human Cytokine Responses. Cell 167, 1111-1124.e13 (2016).
  2. Schirmer, M. et al. Linking the Human Gut Microbiome to Inflammatory Cytokine Production Capacity. Cell 167, 1125-1136.e8 (2016).
  3. Li, Y. et al. A Functional Genomics Approach to Understand Variation in Cytokine Production in Humans. Cell 167, 1099-1110.e14 (2016).
  4. Cassa Macedo, A., Oliveira Vilela de Faria, A. & Ghezzi, P. Boosting the Immune System, From Science to Myth: Analysis the Infosphere With Google. Front. Med. 6, 165 (2019).
  5. Wachtel-Galor, S., Yuen, J., Buswell, J. A. & Benzie, I. F. F. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi). Herb. Med. Biomol. Clin. Asp. Second Ed. 175–199 (2011).
  6. Lin, K.-I. et al. Reishi Polysaccharides Induce Immunoglobulin Production through the TLR4/TLR2-mediated Induction of Transcription Factor Blimp-1 *. J. Biol. Chem. 281, 24111–24123 (2006).
 

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