Reishi mushrooms are a fungus that has been used in traditional and alternative Asian medicine for thousands of years. In ancient scripts, Reishi is mentioned as a plant that can cure many diseases and contribute to a longer life. For many cultures, this mushroom has a spiritual component as well – it is believed by many that it carries divine power. The name Reishi is of Japanese origin, but you will also find it under its Latin name Ganoderma lucidum or Chinese name lingzhi. This mushroom is safe for both humans and animals and can be purchased in several different forms (capsules, powders, tea). It is often sold as a blend with other medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake and turkey tail.
What Makes Reishi Special?
Reishi's reputation for having numerous health benefits thankfully goes beyond just anecdotal evidence and is supported by scientific research. By 2018, almost 200 scientific papers were written on Reishi. Research has shown that Reishi can help with cancer, diabetes, gastric conditions, liver issues, and more. It's antibacterial and antiviral, it prevents ulcers and tumors, supports the immune system, and overall regulates imbalances in the body. Of the countless studies done on Reishi, most of them were done on rodents (mice and rats).
Reishi for Dogs With Cancer and Tumors
Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs. Every year, six million dogs get diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Numerous scientific studies confirm Reishi has antitumor effects, mainly because of the two important components in the mushroom: triterpenes and polysaccharides. The triterpenes have been studied thoroughly and proven to be effective against various cancer forms in animals, most notably prostate cancer and skin cancer, one of the most common cancers in dogs. Polysaccharides, the second notable component of Reishi, have also been proven to work against tumors. Knowing this, it is easy to understand why Reishi was found to be the most effective in eliminating cancer cells when compared to 57 other mushrooms.
The very first studies on rodents that explored the possible antitumor effects of Reishi took place in the early 1980s. The results were incredible. Overall, the studies have concluded that Reishi can inhibit tumor growth by 88% or more, depending on the case. In some animals involved in the study, the tumor disappeared completely. Later studies aligned with these results and found that, even when Reishi does not completely eliminate tumors, it still prevents them from growing.
In addition to being used as medicine for cancerous tumors, Reishi can also offer immune system support to many dogs receiving chemotherapy and radiation. It decreases the toxicity in their body and strengthens the weakened immune system, therefore speeding up the recovery process in sick dogs. The immune system has a critical role in cancer treatment. Dogs receiving chemotherapy experience troublesome side effects, such as nausea and vomiting. Reishi can be supplemented daily to help with these side effects.
Reishi as Support for the Dog's Immune System
A significant number of studies have proven that Reishi regulates the immune system. It either strengthens a weak immune system or regulates excessive immune system function (which happens with autoimmune diseases). Many researchers believe that to be the reason why Reishi is so efficient in battling tumors and cancer. How can a simple mushroom affect the immune system so much? It turns out Reishi has potent antioxidant activity, and antioxidants protect immune cells in the body. This is also why Reishi contributes to a longer lifespan – the antioxidants prevent many age-related diseases. This information is good news for all dog owners with elderly dogs, wishing to improve their furry companion's quality of life in the final years, and hopefully even prolonging the shared time together.
Another thing strongly connected to a weakened immune system are allergies. Reishi has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Since this mushroom's effects can be observed very quickly after taking it (thanks to the quick absorption of the antioxidants into the system), dog owners with reservations about putting their dogs on anti-allergic medication finally have another option. Traditional medication for allergies has several serious side effects that compromise the dog's health long-term, especially when taken consistently. Reishi is a safer, natural alternative for managing allergic flare-ups.
The list of Reishi's benefits goes on. Studies have shown Reishi prevents liver damage and can work both as preventative and medicinal aid in gastric injury. It also showed incredible results in diabetes treatment, as it lowered glucose levels in diabetic mice within a week.
Choosing High-Quality Reishi
When adding supplements to our dog's diet, the most important thing is safety, especially when we're aiming to increase their health and quality of life. You have to be aware that not every reishi product on the market is of high quality. In the United States, dietary supplements are not checked by the FDA, which means new products get easily added to the market without passing any kinds of safety tests. They can include ingredients that are not listed on the label, therefore doing more harm than good.
A study of 19 reishi products found out that only 5 of those products contained ingredients corresponding to the label. 11 of the products did not contain the appropriate triterpenes, and 13 of the products included starch-like polysaccharides, which don't come from the mushroom but are added as fillers. These are very concerning results, and they are a wake-up call to the fact that it's up to us as dog owners to seek out quality products for our pets, rather than just blindly trusting a label.
The first thing you need to know is that high-quality reishi products are made from the fruiting body, not the mycelia. The mycelia are “the root” of the mushroom, and they lack the crucial triterpenes and polysaccharides that we know are the reason for Reishi's healing properties. Look for products that make it clear they are made from the fruiting body (cap) and that do not contain added starch-like polysaccharides. The presence of triterpenes is what gives Reishi a bitter taste, so if the reishi product you bought is not bitter, that's a warning sign that the most healing property of the mushroom is not included in your product.
It's important to research the reishi product manufacturer to get a clear picture and even read the reviews of other users if you are buying online. Remember, you are investing in your dog's health, and even though additional research may seem inconvenient or time-consuming at first, it's the best investment you can make long-term.
As holistic veterinary medicine grows in power and resources, dog owners are learning they have more control over their dog's treatment plan for long-term diseases. There is an incredible amount of research confirming Reishi as a valuable asset in treating and managing several different diseases and conditions, especially those directly tied to the immune system. It is now easy to understand why this medicinal mushroom has been praised for its health benefits for thousands of years. Traditional veterinary medicine still has its place, but it's usually very expensive and comes with strong side effects.
Not only is Reishi a safer and natural alternative (or companion) to traditional treatment, it is also a much more affordable option. The prices for reishi products vary across the market, but most of them have a very reasonable monthly cost. This could benefit dog owners with chronically ill canine companions, who are used to receiving hefty veterinary bills. We can easily conclude that Reishi is definitely worth the hype, especially when considering how it impacts the aging process. The thought of improving our dog's later years and possibly increasing their lifespan is enough to get any dog owner excited, and so reishi mushrooms deserve the seal of approval.
Wachtel-Galor, Sissi. Yuen, John. Buswell, John. Benzie, Iris. “Ganoderma Lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom.” NCBI, 2011.
LIN, Zhi-bin. ZHANG, Hui-na. “Anti-tumor and Immunoregulatory Activities of Ganoderma Lucidum and its Possible Mechanisms.” Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, 11/2004.
Patlolla, Jagan. Rao, Chinthalapally. “Triterpenoids for Cancer Prevention and Treatment: Current Status and Future Prospects.” Bentham Science, 2012.
“FAQs.” Animal Cancer Foundation.
Cör, Darija. Knez, Željko. Knez Hrnčič, Maša. “Antitumour, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant and Antiacetylcholinesterase Effect of Ganoderma Lucidum Terpenoids and Polysaccharides: A Review.” PMC, 03/2018.
Wang, Chong-Zhi. Basila, Daniel. Aung, Han. Mehendale, Sangeeta. Chang, Wei-Tien. McEntee, Eryn. Guan, Xiongfei. Yuan, Chun-Su. “Effects of Ganoderma Lucidum Extract on Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting in a Rat Model.” 2005.
Powell, Martin. “The Use of Ganoderma Lucidum (Reishi) in the Management of Histamine-Mediated Allergic Responses.” Mycology Research.
Wu, Ding-Tao. Deng, Yong. Chen, Ling-Xiao. Zhao, Jing. Bzhelyansky, Anton. Li, Shao-Ping. “Evaluation On Quality Consistency of Ganoderma Lucidum Dietary Supplements Collected in the United States.” Scientific Reports, 10/08/2017.
Chilton, Skye. “74% of Reishi Products Are Not Authentic.” Real Mushrooms.
Luna’s passion for learning about canine psychology and behavior began when she adopted a severely reactive puppy from a local shelter. She is now a big advocate for positive reinforcement and compassionate training. As a writer, she strives to spotlight the topics that fly under the radar and be the voice for all who cannot speak for themselves.