Medicinal Mushrooms #1 – Reishi – amazing hayfever cure


Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum, lingzhi)


Updated 27 May 2014:  Now Chaga, not Reishi:  For some reason, Reishi didn’t work for my hayfever this year.  Maybe I should have increased the dose, I don’t know.  I decided to stop taking Reishi after I read that it had estrogenic properties and people with estrogen-positive breast cancer should not take Reishi.  I was disappointed because it had worked so well last year.  Quite by chance, I was taking another mushroom, Chaga, from Oriveda.  I had to up the dose because I caught a cold.  I was taking 9 capsules, 3 times a day.  Result:  still had cold.  But no hayfever.  I’ll keep you posted whether it’s a real “cure” or not.  You can buy the same very high-potency Chaga extract from

Updated 20 March 2014 – unfortunately, the Reishi hasn’t worked so far this year. I started taking it at the first signs of the Spring hayfever season, and I’m still getting hayfever.  I’m going to ramp up the dose and see what happens.  It could be that last year I was having acupuncture weekly, then every fortnightly.  And also taking TCM herbs.  It was also after the mastectomy so perhaps less tumour burden meant the body wasn’t in such an inflammatory state and the Th1/Th2 balance was … in balance.  Stay tuned.

This week, for the first time in 20 years, I slept with the windows wide open, in the middle of a blazing hot summer.

(So what’s so unusual about that?)

Well, in previous years, sleeping with the windows open would have meant breathing in lungfuls of pollen-laden air, triggered by traffic fumes, and suffering from hayfever.

For those of you fortunate enough not to suffer from hayfever, I envy you.  My symptoms are extreme:  I don’t just experience sneezing and itchy eyes, I feel like I’m on the verge of getting a bad cold/flu, I feel run down and perpetually tired and sleepy, my throat is raw and sore, and this lasts for most of Spring and Summer.  Most people love Summer, but for me it’s a form of torture-by-nature.

I’d tried everything, from acupuncture, to traditional chinese medicine, personalised homeopathy, every Western natural supplement (pycnogenol, butterbur, pollen honey, nettles etc), I bought a state-of-the-art HEPA air purifier, a red light allergy reliever, nose masks.  I was on double-dose industrial-strength antihistamines and even then I still felt terrible.  I could not go out into the garden to enjoy the sunshine.  A session of gardening would mean I had to have a lie down after to recover.

This year’s combination of a wet Spring and blazing hot summer have meant that the pollen count is at an all-time high.

Earlier this week my acupuncturist suggested I try Reishi, a type of mushroom, in powder form.  Not another supplement, I groaned.  [But I felt awful, and so desperate that if cat litter had been a 100% cure, well, I would have bought a bag.]

So I took the Reishi with no expectations at all.

Reader, it’s now Day 3.  I am sitting here typing this with the window wide open, I’ve spent part of the day out breathing in traffic fumes and London air, and pollen.  And I’m feeling … fine.

I hate to use the word “cure” as I feel responsible for the information I put onto this blog, but this is the closest I’ve come to a cure so far for my hayfever.

This post is the equivalent of a dance around the fire, whooping with glee.  If it’s true, that the Reishi mushroom has worked, then it’s a bloody miracle, and I want everyone to know about it.

Reishi is also known as Ganoderma Lucidum or lingzhi (in Chinese).

It has been used for many centuries in China and Japan to boost the immune system, and as an adaptogenic [i.e. to increase the body’s ability to resist stress or restore normal physiological functions].

The active ingredients are polysaccaharides  that have anti-tumour, immune modulating and blood pressure lowering effects.  Reishi also contains ganoderic acids (a type of tipertene) which gives Reishi anti-inflammatory properties.

Red and Black reishi have been proven the most health-enhacing, with red reishi the most effective in enhancing the immune system

How Reishi works for hayfeer

Hayfever is caused by the body’s release of antibodies (proteins that are used by the immune system) to recognise and neutralise what it perceives as an invader:  in this case, pollen.  The antibodies drive reactions that lead eventually to a process called mast cell degranulation which releases chemicals such as histamines.  Histamines cause the inflammatory symptoms experienced by hayfever sufferers.

The antibody-driven immune reaction is called a humoral (i.e. found in humours or bodily fluids) response (Th2 response) and tends to be pro-inflammatory.  The opposite to this is a cellular (found in cells) reaction (Th1 response).

Th1 and Th2 responses cannot co-exist.  You might be thinking: aha, why bother with Th2 responses at all, if it leads to extreme reactions like hayfever?  Well, we need both as they allow the body to protect itself using different tools (for e.g. the high temperature of a fever when you have a cold helps the body to fight bacteria or viruses).

Reishi mushrooms contain polysaccharides (long carbohydrate molecules) that trick the immune system into shifting from too much of Th2 (pro-inflammatory) state to Th1 state.  A better balance is achieved.

It’s made me wonder whether the breast cancer was in part caused by too much of a Th2 response in my body.

I wondered why there would be a shift from Th1 to Th2 responses, and I believe it’s to do with ageing [need to verify this].

As an added bonus, Reishi has also been shown in studies to support cancer treatment by boosting the body’s immune system, increasing the production of Natural Killer (NK) cells, and macrophages.

Side effects

If you are allergic to mushrooms then it goes without saying that you shouldn’t take Reishi or any other mushroom.

Ironically, some individuals may develop allergies to Reishi/Lingzhi.  Their hypersensitive reactions include: itchy skin, a rash, a dry mouth and throat, blood thinning, bloody stools, diarrhoea, nausea and acne.

Note:  Reishi mushroom extracts have been shown to have anti-cancer activities against ER+ and PR+ breast cancer cells; however, they have also been shown to have estrogenic properties.

As with all supplements, if side effects develop, please stop taking the supplement and consult a medical practitioner.


Where to buy it

Updated 28 Sept 2013

The brand that I now use is from Oriveda.  That’s because Oriveda can supply a Certificate of Analysis confirming the levels of active ingredients (the polysaccharides and beta glucans) in their product, whereas MRL can’t.  Also, MRL is grown in a substrate, and it is difficult to separate the mycellium from the substrate, so the ensuing product may be more substrate than mushroom.

Here is the link to purchase some of the finest mushroom extracts on this planet:

Other reputable brands are Mushroom Science and Host Defense:

[When I wrote the original post, I used reshi from Mycology Research Laboratories (MRL): and it seemed to work.

In the UK, the cheapest source (I’ve found so far) of MRL Reishi is from the Breakspear clinic at £43 for 250g:]

Side effects of Reishi

Side effects from reishi can include dizziness, dry mouth and throat, nosebleeds, and abdominal upset. These effects are rare  and may only develop after continuous use over three to six months.

More information on Reishi

The web teems with articles on Reishi.

Sarah Charles’ excellent website:  Food for Breast Cancer:

The mushroom Ganoderma lucidum suppresses breast-to-lung cancer metastasis through the inhibition of pro-invasive genes” (International Journal of Oncology, June 2014, Volume 44 Issue 6, Print ISSN: 1019-6439, DOI: 10.3892/ijo.2014.2375, )

Anti-Tumor Effects of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in Inflammatory Breast Cancer in In Vivo and In Vitro Models” (PLoS One, February 28, 2013,  DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057431)


My Reishi calendar

21 July 2013 – OK, woke up with itchy eyes and slightly-itchy nose.  But tolerable.  Used eye drops, but didn’t have to resort to anti-histamines.

22 July 2013 – spoke too soon.  Sneezing a lot today, but no tiredness.  So maybe Reishi is effective, but only slightly.

23 July 2013 – pollen count moderate – I added 1000mg of Kyolic garlic and a propolis capsule to the mix.  Started day with mushrooms.  Still a bit sneezy today, but better than yesterday.

5 August 2013 – I’ve stopped taking the Kyolic garlic and the propolis.  Had a few days with itchy eyes, but no huge flare up of hayfever.  I take 2 scoops of Reishi and Coriolus Versicolor.  Amazing.

13 August 2013 – Still no heavy hayfever symptoms.  A few days of slightly-itchy eyes and a few sneezes, but nothing major.  I’ve even been into the garden!  Pollen count has been moderate.  I have not had to take any antihistamines or use a nasal spray or eye drops.

1 Sept 2013 – I went camping last weekend.  It rained so the pollen count wasn’t heavy, but still … a year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of going camping.  I’ve been doing QiGong in the garden in the morning and evening when pollen counts are supposed to be at their. highest.  A little scratchy throat now-and-then, but nothing to write home about.  It’s been the best summer so far …