Medicinal Mushrooms (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version

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Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

General Information

Ganoderma is a genus of woody polypore fungi which grow on live trees. In the Chinese Pharmacopeia, the official species are Ganoderma lucidum (Leyss. ex Fr.) P. Karst and Ganoderma sinense Zhao, Xu et Zhang. Another commonly encountered species is Ganoderma lingzhi Wu, Cao et Dai. In traditional Chinese medicine, the fungi are collectively known as Ling Zhi; in Japan, they are known as Reishi. In China, G. lucidum is known as Chizhi and G. sinense is known as Zizhi.

Recent molecular taxonomic and chemical studies have made it clear that the originally described European species G. lucidum and the East Asian medicinal species are not identical.[1-5] The newly accepted name for the East Asian species traditionally called G. lucidum is Ganoderma sichuanense. However, most research worldwide has been published under the name G. lucidum. This includes the full genome sequence of G. lucidum.[6] There are many other species of Ganoderma, which are difficult to distinguish from the medicinal species.[5]


Ganoderma has a very long history in East Asia as a medicinal mushroom dating back to the Chinese materia medica “Shen Nung Ben Cao Jing,” written between 206 BC and 8 AD. It was considered a superior tonic for prolonging life, preventing aging, and boosting qi. It has been associated with royalty, perhaps due to its rarity in the wild. It was also revered in Japanese culture. It is used by contemporary Chinese physicians to support immune function in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer, among other uses.[7] The development of improved Ganoderma products is currently under way using biotechnological processes.[8]

Lung cancer

Mechanistic studies

There are no studies of G. lucidum with measured cancer outcomes. Building on the preclinical evidence that the polysaccharide fractions of G. lucidum enhance host immune function and have potential antitumor activity, investigators studied an over-the-counter product in patients with advanced stage lung cancer.[41] Patients received Ganopoly, an aqueous polysaccharide fraction extracted from G. lucidum fruiting bodies. In an open-label trial, 36 patients with advanced lung cancer at a hospital in China, enrolled and 30 were accessible for immune function after 12 weeks. The patients were treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and other complementary therapies. Ganopoly was administered as 1800 mg capsules 3 times daily before meals for 12 weeks. Treatment did not significantly alter the mean mitogenic reactivity to phytohemagglutinin; mean counts of lymphocyte subsets CD3, CD4, CD8, and CD56; mean plasma concentrations on interleukin-2, interleukin-6, or interferon-gamma; or natural killer cell activity (P > .05). The investigators noted that some patients did experience some significant changes in the parameters studied, but the group effect was null overall. The same group of investigators conducted a similar study of Ganopoly in 47 patients with advanced colorectal cancer and reported the exact same findings as seen in the lung cancer cohort.[42]

Another mechanistic study in China investigated whether G. lucidum polysaccharides could counteract the immune suppression mediated by the plasma of patients with lung cancer.[43] It is postulated that cancer cells release immunosuppressive mediators such as PGE2, TGF-beta, IL-10, and VEGF to inhibit the immune response and escape from immune surveillance. G. lucidum polysaccharides had been shown to counteract this immune suppression in an animal cell culture model; therefore, this experiment was undertaken to evaluate whether the effect could be duplicated in humans. Blood was obtained from 12 lung cancer patients. The G. lucidum polysaccharides were isolated from a boiling water extract of G. lucidum fruit bodies by ethanol precipitation. CD69 expression on mononuclear lymphocytes after phytohemagglutinin stimulation was inhibited markedly compared with controls (P = .05) after a 24-hour incubation with lung cancer patient plasma. G. lucidum polysaccharides at concentrations of 3.2 μg/mL and 12.8 µg/mL significantly antagonized this inhibition (P < .05 for both). Similar results were observed with additional assays leading the investigators to conclude that lung cancer patient plasma-induced suppression of lymphocyte activation by phytohemagglutinin may be fully or partially antagonized by G. lucidum polysaccharides, making them an attractive adjuvant in cancer treatment.


  1. Raja HA, Baker TR, Little JG, et al.: DNA barcoding for identification of consumer-relevant mushrooms: A partial solution for product certification? Food Chem 214: 383-92, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Hennicke F, Cheikh-Ali Z, Liebisch T, et al.: Distinguishing commercially grown Ganoderma lucidum from Ganoderma lingzhi from Europe and East Asia on the basis of morphology, molecular phylogeny, and triterpenic acid profiles. Phytochemistry 127: 29-37, 2016. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Zhang X, Xu Z, Pei H, et al.: Intraspecific Variation and Phylogenetic Relationships Are Revealed by ITS1 Secondary Structure Analysis and Single-Nucleotide Polymorphism in Ganoderma lucidum. PLoS One 12 (1): e0169042, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Liao B, Chen X, Han J, et al.: Identification of commercial Ganoderma (Lingzhi) species by ITS2 sequences. Chin Med 10: 22, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Hong SG, Jung HS: Phylogenetic analysis of Ganoderma based on nearly complete mitochondrial small-subunit ribosomal DNA sequences. Mycologia 96 (4): 742-55, 2004 Jul-Aug. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Chen S, Xu J, Liu C, et al.: Genome sequence of the model medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum. Nat Commun 3: 913, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Upton R, ed.: Reishi Mushroom: Ganoderma Lucidum: Standards of Analysis, Quality Control, and Therapeutics. Santa Cruz, Calif: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 2000.
  8. Boh B: Ganoderma lucidum: a potential for biotechnological production of anti-cancer and immunomodulatory drugs. Recent Pat Anticancer Drug Discov 8 (3): 255-87, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Ferreira IC, Heleno SA, Reis FS, et al.: Chemical features of Ganoderma polysaccharides with antioxidant, antitumor and antimicrobial activities. Phytochemistry 114: 38-55, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Baby S, Johnson AJ, Govindan B: Secondary metabolites from Ganoderma. Phytochemistry 114: 66-101, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Xia Q, Zhang H, Sun X, et al.: A comprehensive review of the structure elucidation and biological activity of triterpenoids from Ganoderma spp. Molecules 19 (11): 17478-535, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Yan J, Vetvicka V, Xia Y, et al.: Beta-glucan, a "specific" biologic response modifier that uses antibodies to target tumors for cytotoxic recognition by leukocyte complement receptor type 3 (CD11b/CD18). J Immunol 163 (6): 3045-52, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Chilton J: A new analytical fingerprinting system for quality control of medicinal 267 mushroom products. In: Baars JJP, Sonnenberg ASM, eds.: Science and Cultivation of Edible and Medicinal Fungi: Mushroom Science XIX. Proceedings of the 19th Congress of the International Society for Mushroom Science. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: International Society for Mushroom Science, 2016, pp 267-71. Also available onlineExit Disclaimer. Last accessed April 24, 2017.
  14. Cheng CR, Yue QX, Wu ZY, et al.: Cytotoxic triterpenoids from Ganoderma lucidum. Phytochemistry 71 (13): 1579-85, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  15. Wu GS, Guo JJ, Bao JL, et al.: Anti-cancer properties of triterpenoids isolated from Ganoderma lucidum - a review. Expert Opin Investig Drugs 22 (8): 981-92, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  16. Chen S, Li X, Yong T, et al.: Cytotoxic lanostane-type triterpenoids from the fruiting bodies of Ganoderma lucidum and their structure-activity relationships. Oncotarget 8 (6): 10071-10084, 2017. [PUBMED Abstract]
  17. Da J, Cheng CR, Yao S, et al.: A reproducible analytical system based on the multi-component analysis of triterpene acids in Ganoderma lucidum. Phytochemistry 114: 146-54, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  18. Qi Y, Zhao L, Sun HH: Development of a rapid and confirmatory method to identify ganoderic acids in ganoderma mushrooms. Front Pharmacol 3: 85, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  19. Cheng CR, Yang M, Yu K, et al.: Metabolite identification of crude extract from Ganoderma lucidum in rats using ultra-performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci 941: 90-9, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  20. Shang D, Li Y, Wang C, et al.: A novel polysaccharide from Se-enriched Ganoderma lucidum induces apoptosis of human breast cancer cells. Oncol Rep 25 (1): 267-72, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  21. Jiang J, Grieb B, Thyagarajan A, et al.: Ganoderic acids suppress growth and invasive behavior of breast cancer cells by modulating AP-1 and NF-kappaB signaling. Int J Mol Med 21 (5): 577-84, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  22. Liu RM, Zhong JJ: Ganoderic acid Mf and S induce mitochondria mediated apoptosis in human cervical carcinoma HeLa cells. Phytomedicine 18 (5): 349-55, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  23. Liang ZE, Yi YJ, Guo YT, et al.: Inhibition of migration and induction of apoptosis in LoVo human colon cancer cells by polysaccharides from Ganoderma lucidum. Mol Med Rep 12 (5): 7629-36, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  24. Liang Z, Yi Y, Guo Y, et al.: Chemical characterization and antitumor activities of polysaccharide extracted from Ganoderma lucidum. Int J Mol Sci 15 (5): 9103-16, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  25. Hsieh TC, Wu JM: Regulation of cell cycle transition and induction of apoptosis in HL-60 leukemia cells by the combination of Coriolus versicolor and Ganoderma lucidum. Int J Mol Med 32 (1): 251-7, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  26. Hsu CL, Yu YS, Yen GC: Lucidenic acid B induces apoptosis in human leukemia cells via a mitochondria-mediated pathway. J Agric Food Chem 56 (11): 3973-80, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  27. Ruan W, Wei Y, Popovich DG: Distinct Responses of Cytotoxic Ganoderma lucidum Triterpenoids in Human Carcinoma Cells. Phytother Res 29 (11): 1744-52, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  28. Zaidman BZ, Wasser SP, Nevo E, et al.: Androgen receptor-dependent and -independent mechanisms mediate Ganoderma lucidum activities in LNCaP prostate cancer cells. Int J Oncol 31 (4): 959-67, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  29. Wang T, Xie ZP, Huang ZS, et al.: Total triterpenoids from Ganoderma Lucidum suppresses prostate cancer cell growth by inducing growth arrest and apoptosis. J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci 35 (5): 736-41, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  30. Wu GS, Song YL, Yin ZQ, et al.: Ganoderiol A-enriched extract suppresses migration and adhesion of MDA-MB-231 cells by inhibiting FAK-SRC-paxillin cascade pathway. PLoS One 8 (10): e76620, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  31. Weng CJ, Chau CF, Hsieh YS, et al.: Lucidenic acid inhibits PMA-induced invasion of human hepatoma cells through inactivating MAPK/ERK signal transduction pathway and reducing binding activities of NF-kappaB and AP-1. Carcinogenesis 29 (1): 147-56, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  32. Liang C, Li H, Zhou H, et al.: Recombinant Lz-8 from Ganoderma lucidum induces endoplasmic reticulum stress-mediated autophagic cell death in SGC-7901 human gastric cancer cells. Oncol Rep 27 (4): 1079-89, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  33. Wang JH, Zhou YJ, Zhang M, et al.: Active lipids of Ganoderma lucidum spores-induced apoptosis in human leukemia THP-1 cells via MAPK and PI3K pathways. J Ethnopharmacol 139 (2): 582-9, 2012. [PUBMED Abstract]
  34. Chan WK, Cheung CC, Law HK, et al.: Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides can induce human monocytic leukemia cells into dendritic cells with immuno-stimulatory function. J Hematol Oncol 1: 9, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  35. Pinweha S, Wanikiat P, Sanvarinda Y, et al.: The signaling cascades of Ganoderma lucidum extracts in stimulating non-amyloidogenic protein secretion in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cell lines. Neurosci Lett 448 (1): 62-6, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  36. Stanley G, Harvey K, Slivova V, et al.: Ganoderma lucidum suppresses angiogenesis through the inhibition of secretion of VEGF and TGF-beta1 from prostate cancer cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 330 (1): 46-52, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  37. Liu DL, Li YJ, Yang DH, et al.: Ganoderma lucidum derived ganoderenic acid B reverses ABCB1-mediated multidrug resistance in HepG2/ADM cells. Int J Oncol 46 (5): 2029-38, 2015. [PUBMED Abstract]
  38. Qu D, He J, Liu C, et al.: Triterpene-loaded microemulsion using Coix lacryma-jobi seed extract as oil phase for enhanced antitumor efficacy: preparation and in vivo evaluation. Int J Nanomedicine 9: 109-19, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  39. Li YB, Wang R, Wu HL, et al.: Serum amyloid A mediates the inhibitory effect of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on tumor cell adhesion to endothelial cells. Oncol Rep 20 (3): 549-56, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  40. Joseph S, Sabulal B, George V, et al.: Antitumor and anti-inflammatory activities of polysaccharides isolated from Ganoderma lucidum. Acta Pharm 61 (3): 335-42, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  41. Gao Y, Tang W, Dai X, et al.: Effects of water-soluble Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on the immune functions of patients with advanced lung cancer. J Med Food 8 (2): 159-68, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  42. Chen X, Hu ZP, Yang XX, et al.: Monitoring of immune responses to a herbal immuno-modulator in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Int Immunopharmacol 6 (3): 499-508, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  43. Sun LX, Li WD, Lin ZB, et al.: Protection against lung cancer patient plasma-induced lymphocyte suppression by Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides. Cell Physiol Biochem 33 (2): 289-99, 2014. [PUBMED Abstract]
  44. Oka S, Tanaka S, Yoshida S, et al.: A water-soluble extract from culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia suppresses the development of colorectal adenomas. Hiroshima J Med Sci 59 (1): 1-6, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]



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