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From Nature - Ganoderma lucidum

Ganoderma lucidum (GL) is a medicinal polypore mushroom that grows on decaying wood or tree stumps, preferring the Japanese plum tree, but also found on oak. GL is native to China, Japan, and North America, but is now extensively cultivated throughout other Asian countries. GL has been used in Asia for over 4000 years, where it is commonly known as “Ling Zhi” in China and “Reishi” in Japan. The health benefits of GL are described in the ancient texts Shen Nong's Herbal Classic and Pen T'sao Kang Mu ("Great Pharmacopoeia"). This mushroom is a symbol for health, and is depicted in the Emperor's residences in the Forbidden City as well as the Summer Palace. More than 200 species have been identified within the family Ganodermataceae, of which GL is the primary species used medicinally. GL grows in 6 colors, each traditionally thought to have different medicinal properties. It has been shown that the content of polysaccharide, and terpenoids in GL with dissimilar origins are remarkably different, which may be caused by the conditions of cultivation and geographic environment.1 In China, the red and the black varieties are most popular, particularly the red. GL, considered rare and hard to find in nature in China and Japan, is now commonly cultured on farms.

Ganoderma lucidum contains bioactive polysaccharides including beta-d-glucan, with at least 36 different compounds identified. It also produces unique immunological lanostanoids and terpenes (triterpenes), such as lucidenic acid and ganoderic acids A, B, C, and D; ganoderol A and B; lucidenic acid B, and ganodermanontriol. Terpenes are a class of naturally occurring compounds found to have anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, and hypolipidemic activity. Examples of terpenes are menthol and β-carotene. These compounds are widely distributed throughout the plant world and are abundant in certain mushroom species. Terpenes and in Ginkgo biloba, rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis), and ginseng (Panax ginseng) are reported to contribute to the health-promoting effects of these herbs. The first terpenes or triterpenes isolated from GL are the ganoderic acids. Now more than 100 triterpenes with known chemical compositions and molecular configurations have been reported to occur in GL. It is this class of compounds that gives the mushroom its bitter taste and, it is believed, confers on it various health benefits, such as lipid-lowering, antitumorous and antioxidant effects.

Ganoderma lucidum contains a group of antioxidant triterpenes called ganoderic acids. Ganoderic acid is known to improve the functions of the liver, increase oxygen utilization, and also acts as a natural antihistamine, helpful for those with autoimmune disorders or allergies.

Ganoderma lucidum is probably one of the most extensively researched medicinal mushrooms. It has been shown to exhibit unique, non-toxic, anticancer, immune system enhancing, and antioxidant properties.2, 3, 4, 5 Research demonstrates GL an effective supplement during chemotherapy or radiotherapy to reduce side-effects such as fatigue, loss of appetite, hair loss, bone marrow suppression and risk of infection. In vitro and animal studies indicate that it possesses chemopreventive effects6, alleviates chemotherapy-induced nausea7, enhances the efficacy of radiotherapy8, and prevents cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity.9 Studies show that this mushroom modulates many components of the immune system such as the antigen-presenting cells, NK cells, and T and B lymphocytes.10, 11 The alcohol extract, or the triterpene fraction, of GL exhibits anti-tumor effects, which seemed to be related its cytotoxic activity against tumor cells directly.12, 13, 14, 15 In short, its anticancer effects are primarily due to its immune enhancement; however, several studies indicate that GL also exhibits an anti-angiogenic effect, preventing tumors from developing a vascular system.16, 17, 18

The antitumor effects of polysaccharides isolated from GL were originally observed in sarcoma 180 bearing mice19 and have been further shown to cause apoptosis, or cell death in tumors.20, 21, 22, 23. In 2013, Ganoderma lucidum was tested in inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) using in vivo and in vitro IBC models. The results provided evidence that it suppresses protein synthesis and tumor growth by affecting survival and proliferative signaling pathways that act on translation, suggesting that GL is a potential natural therapeutic for breast and other cancers.24 Several in vitro studies demonstrate that GL inhibits growth of breast cancer cells.25, 26, 27 A 2015 study with mice showed that the combination of the chemotherapy drug erlotinib plus GL displayed significantly reduced tumor weight when compared with their respective controls of erlotinib alone.28

Ganoderma lucidum is one of the eight components of an herbal mixture known as PC-SPES, which has been used as an herbal remedy in the treatment of prostate cancer.29 Unfortunately, human trials of GL in cancer have been few. Two notable randomized, controlled trials were conducted using GL (a patented over-the-counter product called Ganopoly). In 2002, Gao, Zhou et al. recruited 134 patients with advanced cancers of different sites and supplemented them with GL capsules at a dosage of 1800 mg/ day for 12 weeks. Cellular immunity in 80% of these patients was significantly enhanced in terms of elevated plasma interleukin (IL)-2, IL-6, and interferon γ (IFN-γ) levels and natural killer (NK) cell activity.30 In another study31, the same protocol was followed with 68 lung cancer patients in whom immune parameters including total T cells, NK cells, and CD4/CD8 ratio were significantly enhanced in the GL-treated group. In addition, quality of life in terms of Karnofsky score was improved in about 65% of these patients. Ganopoly was also demonstrated to enhance mitogenic activity and NK cells in patients with advanced cancer in a before-and-after comparison study.32 These results provide evidence that the antitumor effects of GL are in part mediated through effects on the immune system.

Because of GL’s effects at soothing the nervous system, consistent use of the tea, extract or spore concentrates is one of the top Chinese remedies for those who suffer from insomnia. GL helps one achieve restful sleep yet sustain high levels of energy throughout the day.

Common forms of Ganoderma lucidum:

  • Whole dried mushrooms, slices, pieces or powders - This is the dried mushroom fruiting body that should be simmered in hot water for 20 minutes or longer, strained and consumed as a tea.

  • Powdered hot water extracts - These are concentrated liquid tea solutions. These extracts come in different strengths.

  • Ganoderma lucidum spore oil - This is a golden oil extracted directly from the cracked-cell spores (seeds) of the mushroom. The best quality is pure spore oil with no fillers or other additives. Comes in liquid or capsule form.

  • Ganoderma lucidum spore powder - This powder is created by cracking the cells of the mushroom spores to make them digestible.

  • Ganoderma lucidum triterpene crystals - These are the pure triterpene crystals concentrated via high-tech spore extraction methods.

  • Ganoderma lucidum mycelium biomass - This is a condensed powder produced from the white mycelium biomass before it forms the fruiting body. This is mostly a Western technique not commonly employed in Asian countries.

Ganoderma lucidum Dosage and Availability

Ganoderma lucidum may be taken in a variety of forms – in syrups, soups, teas, injections, tablets, and tinctures, or as a bolus containing powdered extract and honey. Hence, it is sold in various forms. Medicinal mushrooms need to be heated in water to break down the outer chitin shell. This releases the polysaccharides that are not otherwise bio-available to our digestive system in their fresh or dried state. Alcohol solutions are also used which work to specifically extract the triterpenes. For these reasons double extraction methods, using both hot water and alcohol, are commonly employed.

The powdered extract may be combined with green tea to produce a beneficial combination.33 This combination is also available as a tea bag and has a truly smooth, unique and original taste. Spore powders, GL spore oil and triterpene crystals can likewise be integrated into drinks or mixed with water. However, for strong immune enhancement the extract in capsules or spore oil or powder is usually recommended. Dosage, like other mushroom extracts, should be individually tailored. Generally, small doses taken throughout the day for the long term is better than high doses taken only for short periods of time. The dose in tincture form (20%) is 10 ml 3X/day for general immune enhancement. The Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China recommends as much as 6 to 12 grams of GL extract daily.34


1.. Juan Lu, Jia-Zhang Qin, Ping Chen, Xi Chen, Ying-Zhi Zhang, and Si-Jia Zhao.

Quality Difference Study of Six Varieties of Ganoderma lucidum with Different Origins. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2012; 3: 57.

2. Yuen, John; Gohel, Mayur Danny (2005). "Anticancer Effects of Ganoderma lucidum:

A Review of Scientific Evidence". Nutrition and Cancer 53 (1): 11–7.

3. Sliva, Daniel (2003). "Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi) in Cancer Treatment".

Integrative Cancer Therapies 2 (4): 358–64.

4. Lin, Zhi-bin; Zhang, Hui-na (2004). "Anti-tumor and immunoregulatory activities of

Ganoderma lucidum and its possible mechanisms". Acta Pharmacologica Sinica 25

(11): 1387–95.

5. Kuo, Mei-Chun; Weng, Ching-Yi; Ha, Choi-Lan; Wu, Ming-Jiuan (2006).

"Ganoderma lucidum mycelia enhance innate immunity by activating NF-κB". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 103 (2): 217–22.

6. Weng CJ, Yen GC. The in vitro and in vivo experimental evidences disclose the

chemopreventive effects of Ganoderma lucidum on cancer invasion and metastasis.

Clin Exp Metastasis. 2010 May;27(5):361-9.

7. Wang CZ, Basila D, Aung HH, et al. Effects of ganoderma lucidum extract on

chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in a rat model. Am J Chin Med.


8. Kim KC, Jun HJ, Kim JS, Kim IG. Enhancement of radiation response with

combined Ganoderma lucidum and Duchesne chrysantha extracts in human leukemia

HL-60 cells. Int J Mol Med. 2008 Apr;21(4):489-98.

9. Pillai TG, John M, Sara Thomas G. Prevention of cisplatin induced nephrotoxicity

by terpenes isolated from Ganoderma lucidum occurring in Southern Parts of India.

Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2011 Jan;63(1-2):157-60.

10. Wang, S.Y., M.L. Hsu, H.C. Hsu, C.H. Tzeng, S.S. Le, M.S. Shiao and C.K. Ho,

1997. "The anti-tumor effect of Ganoderma lucidum is mediated by cytokines released

from activated macrophages and T lymphocytes." International Journal of Cancer

70(6): 669-705.

11. Chen, W.C., D.M. Hau, C.C. Wang, I.H. Lin and S.S. Lee, 1995. "Effects of

Ganoderma lucidum and krestin on subset T-cell in gamma-irradiated mice." American

Journal of Chinese Medicine 23(3-4): 289-98.

12. Min, B.S., J.J. Gao, N. Nakamura and M. Hattori, 2000. "Triterpenes from the

spores of Ganoderma lucidum and their cytotoxicity against Meth-A and LLC tumor

cells." Chemical Pharmacology Bulletin Jul;48(7):1026-33.

13. Kim, H.W. and B.K. Kim, 1999. "Biomedical triterpenoids of Ganoderma lucidum

(Curt.:Fr.) P. Karst. (Aphyllophoromycetideae). International Journal of Medicinal

Mushrooms, 1: 121-38.

14. Gao. J.J., B.S. Min, E.M. Ahn, N. Nakamura, H.K. Lee and M. Hattori, 2002. "New

triterpenes aldehydes, lucialadehydes A-C, from Ganoderma lucidum and their

cytotoxicity against murine and human tumor cell lines." Chemical and

Pharmacological Bulletin Jun; 50(6): 837-40.

15. Zhu, M., Q. Chang, L.K. Wond, F.S. Chong and R.C. Li, 1999. "Triterpene

antioxidants from Ganoderma lucidum." Phytotherapy Research 13, 529-531.

16. Lin Z (2005) Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immuno-modulation

by Ganoderma lucidum. J Pharmacol Sci 99(2):144.

17. Stanley G, Harvey K, Slivova V, Jiang V and Sliva D. Ganoderma lucidum supresess

angiogenesis through the inhibition of secretion of VEGF and TGF-beta from

prostate cancer cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2005; 330:46-52.

18. Cao QZ and Lin ZB. Antitumor and anti-angiogenic activity of Ganoderma lucidum

polysaccharides peptide. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2004; 25: 833-8.

19. Miyazaki T., Nishijima M. (1981). Studies on fungal polysaccharides. XXVII.

Structural examination of a water-soluble, antitumor polysaccharide of Ganoderma

lucidum. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 29, 3611–361610.1248/cpb.29.883

20. Sone Y., Okuda R., Wada N., Kishida E., Misaki A. (1985). Structure and antitumor

activities of polysaccharides isolated from fruiting body and the growing culture of

mycelium of Ganoderma lucidum. Agric. Biol. Chem. 49, 2641–265310.1271/


21. Hu Y. H., Lin Z. B. (1999). Effects of polysaccharides isolated from mycelia

of Ganoderma lucidum on HL-60 cell apoptosis. Acta Pharmacol. Sin. 34, 264–268

22. Hsu M. J., Lee S. S., Lee S. T., Lin W. W. (2003). Signaling mechanisms of

enhanced neutrophil phagocytosis and chemotaxis by the polysaccharide purified

from Ganoderma lucidum. Br. J. Pharmacol. 139, 289–29810.1038/sj.bjp.0705243.

23. Hsu M. J., Lee S. S., Lin W. W. (2002). Polysaccharide purified from Ganoderma

lucidum inhibits spontaneous and Fas-mediated apoptosis in human neutrophils

through activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3 kinase/Akt pathways. J. Leuokoc.

Biol. 72, 207–216.

24. Suarez-Arroyo IJ, Rosario-Acevedo R, Aguilar-Perez A, Clemente PL, Cubano LA,

Serrano J, et al. (2013) Anti-Tumor Effects of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in

Inflammatory Breast Cancer in In Vivo and In Vitro Models. PLoS ONE 8(2):

e57431. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057431.

25. Lu QY, Sartippour MR, Brooks MN et als. Ganoderma lucidum spore extract inhibit

endothelial and breast cancer cells in vitro. Oncol Rep 2004; 12:659-62.

26. Jiang J, Slivova and Sliva D. Ganoderma lucidum inhibits proliferation of human breast

cancer cells by down-regulation of estrogen receptor and Akt/NF-kappa? signaling.

Int J Oncol 2006; 29: 695-703.

27. Jiang J, Slivova V, Harvey K, Valachovivocova T and Sliva D. Ganoderma lucidum

suppresses growth of breast cancer cells trough the inhibition of Akt/NF-kappa?

signaling. Nutr cancer 2004; 49:209-16

28 Tiffany J. Rios-Fuller, Ivette J. Suarez-Arroyo, Mercedes Lacourtentura,Geronimo

Maldonado, Luis A. Cubano, and Michelle M. Martinez-Montemayor. Combination

of Ganoderma lucidum extract and erlotinib decreases IBC progression. AACR Special

Conference: Advances in Breast Cancer; October 17-20, 2015; Bellevue, WA.

29. Bonham M, et al. Molecular effects of the herbal compound PC-SPES:

identification of activity pathways in prostate carcinoma. Cancer Res 2002;62:3920-


30. Gao Y. H, Zhou S. F, Chen G. L, Dai X. H, Ye J. X. A phase I/II study of a

Ganoderma lucidum (Curr.: Fr.) P. Karst. Extract (Ganopoly) in patients with

advanced cancer. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2002;4:207–14.

31. Gao Y. H, Sai X. H, Chen G. L, Ye J. X, Zhou S. F. A randomized, placebo-

controlled, multi-center study of Ganoderma lucidum (W. Curt.: Fr.) Lloyd

(Aphyllophoromycetideae) polysaccharides (Ganopoly) in patients with advanced

lung cancer. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2003;5:368–81.

32. Gao J. J, Min B. S, Ahn E. M, Nakamura N, Lee H. K, Hattori M. New triterpene

aldehydes, lucialdehydes A-C, from Ganoderma lucidum and their cytotoxicity against

murine and human tumor cells. Chem Pharm Bull. 2002;50:837–40.

33. Zhang, M.; Huang, J.;, Xie, X.; and Holman, CDJ: Dietary intake of mushrooms

and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese

women. International Journal of Cancer (2009), 124: 1404-1408.

34. Chang, R. (1994). Effective dose of ganoderma in humans. In Proc. Contributed

Symposium 59A, B. 5th Intl. Mycol. Congr., Buchanan PK, Hseu RS and Moncalvo

JM (eds), Taipei, p. 101-13.

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