We've dabbled in Ayurveda detox and explored the benefits of certain Ayurveda principles on skincare. Now, we're taking another hint from this ancient practice and it involves mushrooms—reishi mushrooms, to be exact. Lauded as an Ayurveda favorite, reishi mushrooms have proven themselves to be more than just a culinary wonder. They've been used both cosmetically and medicinally as powerful anti-agers and immune-boosters. For one, they're chock-full of beta-glucans, which means they can fend off environmental stressors and offer up some serious anti-inflammatory properties. They've also been found to improve good cholesterol (more on that later) and help with low energy levels.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling to learn everything you need to know about reishi mushrooms.
Type of ingredient: Hydrator, antioxidant
Main benefits: Restores moisture loss, fights fine lines and wrinkles, reduces stress, improves sleep, boosts immune system
Who should use it: In general, all skin types and those who have low energy or heart conditions can benefit from reishi mushrooms. Those with low blood pressure or bleeding disorders should avoid it.
How often can you use it: Reishi mushrooms can be consumed whole or in extract or powdered form. For skincare, formulas with reishi mushrooms can be used twice a day in the morning and evening.
Works well with: Other mushrooms, particularly shiitake and maitake, as well as anti-inflammatory, soothing botanicals
Don’t use with: Generally, reishi mushrooms are safe to use with most, if not all, ingredients
What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
Known as the "mushroom of immortality," reishi mushrooms have been used for centuries in Asia to cure infection and fight cancer (when used with standard cancer treatments). They are deeply hydrating, antioxidant-rich adaptogens (substances that help the body to adapt to stress and fatigue), and contain immune-boosting properties that pose both internal and external benefits. Health-wise, they can be consumed whole or in extract or powdered form; skincare-wise, they can be found in several product types including serums, moisturizers, and masks.
Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms for Skin
Reishi mushrooms are brimming with skincare benefits, from reducing redness to fending off fine lines and wrinkles.
- Fights free radicals: "Reishi mushrooms sustain levels of two of the most powerful antioxidants in the skin, namely ergothioneine and reduced glutathione," says Graf. "These prevent premature aging and free radical formation, and also enhance sun protection."
- Alleviates redness and irritation: Graf notes that inflammation is the first step in skin aging, and that "the immune boosting adaptogenic properties of reishi mushrooms result in soothed, calmed skin as well as reduced redness."
- Deeply hydrates: "The polysaccharides in the reishi mushroom provide humectant and deeply hydrating benefits," says Graf. This means that they may also decrease fine lines and wrinkles, as well as repair and reinforce moisture barrier.
- Fades acne scars: Graf explains that when used in extract form, "reishi mushrooms inhibit the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase, and are helpful in reducing skin pigmentation and discoloration."
Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms for Health
From boosting the immune system to fighting fatigue, reishi mushrooms have been found to have a number of health benefits.
- Increases energy levels: "Reishi mushrooms may fight depression and fatigue," says Kimszal. A 2005 study found that, after eight weeks of supplementation with reishi mushroom compounds, fatigue diminished in individuals with neurasthenia, a nervous system condition. "Aches, pains, and irritability were also found to diminish when taking reishi mushroom supplements," according to Kimszal.
- Improves good cholesterol: According to Kimszal, reishi mushrooms may help improve HDL cholesterol among people with diabetes.
- Boosts immune system: "Reishi mushrooms have been found to increase white blood cell production and possibly reduce inflammation," says Kimszal. "They've also been shown to down-regulate TH2 cytokines, suggesting they could be a benefit in treating cancer." She also notes that they're high in beta-glucans, which have been found to boost the immune system by activating macrophages and natural killer cells. "Beta-glucans have also been found to slow the growth of tumors and stop them from metastasizing," she says.
Side Effects of Reishi Mushrooms
Those with sensitive skin will be happy to know that reishi mushrooms work well with any and all skin types (that is, unless you have sensitivity to reishi or any of its constituents). Also, according to Graf, the immune-modulatory effects of reishi have the effect of diminishing allergic reactions.
If you're looking to incorporate reishi mushrooms into your diet, Kimszal notes that those who are pregnant or breast-feeding may want to avoid them, since there's not enough research on potential side effects. Also, reishi mushrooms have been found to lower blood pressure, and that could be cause for concern if blood pressure reaches low levels.
Finally, "high doses of reishi mushrooms could increase the risk of bleeding so those with any clotting or bleeding disorders may want to avoid these mushrooms," says Kimszal. "Make sure to get a quality mushroom and check with your healthcare provider before starting any new diet regimens if you are on medications or have any existing health conditions."
How to Use It
Graf says that reishi is "safe and very beneficial for the skin—a twice daily application is helpful." If using it in cream form, it should be applied after serum. If used in serum form, it should be applied immediately after cleansing and before face cream.
When consuming, Kimszal recommends looking for 100% real mushrooms and choosing your form (whole, extract, or powder) according to your desired level of dosage. She also recommends going organic, as consuming organic mushrooms better prevents ingestion of any pesticides or herbicides that may impact health. When it comes to dosing, it varies by the form of mushroom you choose. "Unlike eating raw foods, the dose of the mushroom varies by product so it is important to pay attention to the serving size," she says. "Eating the raw mushroom gives a larger dose than when compared to eating the extract." While there are no specific guidelines to dosing, sticking with dried extract is ideal if you're aiming for a lower dose.
The Best Products With Reishi Mushrooms
Below, find expert-approved reishi mushroom picks.
Made of 100 percent organic reishi mushrooms, Kimszal says that this powder can be added to soups, broths, teas, and coffee.
Graf recommends this reishi-infused lotion for its ability to instantly soothe, reduce redness, and calm the skin.
"This contains the acne-fighting ingredient salicylic acid as well as mushroom extract for any post-inflammatory changes caused by acne," says Graf.
Rahman MA, Abdullah N, Aminudin N. Evaluation of the antioxidative and hypo-cholesterolemic effects of lingzhi or reishi medicinal mushroom, ganoderma lucidum (agaricomycetes), in ameliorating cardiovascular disease. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2018;20(10):961-969. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2018028370
Wang J, Cao B, Zhao H, Feng J. Emerging Roles of Ganoderma Lucidum in Anti-Aging. Aging Dis. 2017 Dec 1;8(6):691-707. doi: 10.14336/AD.2017.0410.
Patel S, Goyal A. Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review. 3 Biotech. 2012;2(1):1-15. doi:10.1007/s13205-011-0036-2
Tang W, Gao Y, Chen G, et al. A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of a ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia. J Med Food. 2005;8(1):53-58. doi:10.1089/jmf.2005.8.53
Tran HB, Yamamoto A, Matsumoto S, et al. Hypotensive effects and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitory peptides of reishi (ganoderma lingzhi) auto-digested extract. Molecules. 2014;19(9):13473-13485. doi:10.3390/molecules190913473