Reishi Mushroom: Fruiting body vs Mycelium

by Dr. Melissa Carr, Dr. TCM

Oct 3, 2016

Awareness of medicinal mushrooms that boost health is on the rise, and for good reason. Research has shown that these formidable fungi contain a host of active compounds that can fight infections, improve immune function, and even help to prevent cancer. However, not all mushrooms—or mushroom parts—are created equally.

No doubt, as the most researched of all medicinal mushrooms, the red reishi has a long history of use, stretching back at least as far as 2400 years ago. Aptly named the “Mushroom of Immortality,” reishi is the most celebrated herb in all of Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. So how can you get the most out of this miracle mushroom that has stood the test of time? To properly understand this question, it is a good idea to explore some basics about reishi mushroom anatomy. What part of the mushroom should we be consuming, the fruiting body or mycelium.

What is the fruiting body?

Reishi Mushroom Fruiting Body ExplainedThe fruiting body of fungi is the part that normally grows above ground. It’s the part you probably think of when you think of a mushroom. A fruiting body consists of a stem, a cap, and a spore-bearing surface, such as gills, pores, ridges, or teeth.

What is mycelium?

The mycelium is a cobweb-like mat that grows underground. It functions like a complex network, covering vast areas, and communicating with the surrounding environment. Think of it like Mother Nature’s answer to the internet. Mycelium acts like roots of the mushroom, absorbing and transferring nutrients to the fruiting body.

So what does all this mean?

Looking to get the full benefits of these magnificent mushrooms? Fruiting bodies are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. While both the mycelium and fruiting body contains beneficial polysaccharides that support a healthy immune system, only the fruiting body contains the potent phytonutrient ganoderic acid.

Ganoderic acids are extremely bitter compounds, so you’ll definitely want your reishi mushroom in an encapsulated form. This not-so-tasty compound has cardiovascular health benefits—including lowering elevated blood pressure—that the polysaccharides do not. Ganoderic acid has also been studied for its potential to treat and prevent various forms of cancer.

For centuries, the Japanese and Chinese have revered the medicinal powers of the fruiting body of the reishi mushroom. If you have opted for a reishi mycelium product, you are simply not going to see the same results as you would from using whole fruiting bodies. Fruiting bodies provides you with the most potent and effective medically active ingredients that can only be found in this part of the mushroom.

Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others.


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