With such extravagant nicknames as “divine mushroom”, “king of mushrooms”, and “soul mushroom”, the reishi is certainly one intriguing fungus. Read on to learn more about the medical and culinary uses of this magical mushroom.
History of Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushroom has long been a staple of Eastern medicine, particularly in China. Its Chinese name, lingzhi, translates directly to “mushroom of immortality”. Herbal healers believed the fungus could slow aging, improve health, and treat a myriad of medical conditions. Modern scientific studies have proven many of these claims, and the mushroom is steadily gaining mainstream popularity in both the East and the West.
Flavor of Reishi Mushrooms
Whole reishi mushroom has a deeply earthy flavor with bitter overtones. Most of the fungus’ bitterness is concentrated in the tough dark flesh closer to the center. The younger, white outer ring of the mushroom, meanwhile, is meaty and tender with a slight buttery undertone.
Hot to Use Reishi Mushrooms
The most popular way to prepare reishi mushrooms is dried and made into tea. The sharp woody flavor of the drink can be mellowed with honey and fresh or ground ginger. When used in savory dishes, reishi mushrooms are usually added in small quantities so are unlikely to influence the overall flavor beyond a mild, often complementary, earthiness. The mushrooms are typically slow-cooked in a savory broth or stew as longer cooking times help break down their tough texture.
Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
In cooking, reishi mushrooms are primarily used for added medicinal purposes rather than for their flavor. Here are a few of their widely sought-after health benefits:
1) Immune System Support
Reishi mushrooms are natural immune system boosters. They help increase the activity of white blood cells produced and improve the body’s lymphocyte function, equipping it to better fight off infections.
2) Cancer-Fighting Properties
The immune system support provided by reishi mushrooms can also help prevent some forms of cancer and has even been shown to cause cancer cell deaths in test-tube environments.
3) Less Anxiety, Fatigue, and Depression
Besides improving the immune system, regular consumption of reishi mushrooms can decrease fatigue in some individuals, in conjunction with decreased levels of anxiety and depression.