Ganoderma lucidum generally occurs in two growth forms, one, found in North America, is sessile and rather large with only a small or no stalk, while the other is smaller and has a long, narrow stalk, and is found mainly in the tropics. However, many growth forms exist that are intermediate to the two types, or even exhibit very unusual morphologies, raising the possibility that they are separate species. Environmental conditions also play a substantial role in the different morphological characteristics ganoderma Lucidum can exhibit. For example, elevated carbon dioxide levels result in stem elongation in lingzhi. Other forms show "antlers', without a cap and these may be affected by carbon dioxide levels as well.
According to The Chinese Herbal Materia Medica (本草綱目), Ganoderma lucidum may be classified into six categories according to their shapes and colors, each of which is believed to nourish a different part of the body.
Red - heart
Purple - joints
Green - liver
White - lungs and skin
Yellow - spleen
Black - kidneys and brain
Ganoderma lucidum is the only known source of a group of triterpenes, known as ganoderic acids, which have a molecular structure similar to steroid hormones. It is a source of biologically active polysaccharides with presumed medicinal properties, and it also contains:
unsaturated fatty acids
vitamins and minerals.
Unlike many other mushrooms, which have up to 90% water content, fresh Lingzhi only contains about 75% water.
In nature, Lingzhi grows at the base and stumps of deciduous trees, especially maple. Only two or three out of 10,000 such aged trees will have Lingzhi growth, and therefore its wild form is generally rare. Today, Lingzhi is effectively cultivated both indoors under sterile conditions and outdoors on either logs or woodchip beds.
The Shen Nong's Herbal Classic, a 2000-year old medicinal Chinese book considered today as the oldest book on oriental herbal medicine, classifies 365 species of roots, grass, woods, furs, animals and stones into three categories of herbal medicine:
The first category, called "superior", includes herbs effective for multiple diseases and are mostly responsible for maintaining and restoring the body balance. They have almost no unfavorable side-effects.
The third category must be taken, usually in small doses, and for the treatment of specific ailments only.
Ganoderma Lucidum Lingzhi ranked number one of the superior medicines, and was therefore the most exalted medicine in ancient times.
Lingzhi can be found in many Asian markets as well as Western health shops. Extracts of Ganoderma lucidum,' which may also be called 'reishi' are also available. In general, a hot water extract is best at concentrating the polysaccharides in lingzhi and alcohol extracts are best at concentrating the triterpenoids in lingzhi, but an extract can also be made with a blend of both extracts.
Ganoderma lucidum may possess some anti-tumor, immunomodulatory and immunotherapeutic activities, supported by some studies on polysaccharides, terpenes, and other bioactive compounds isolated from fruiting bodies and mycelia of this fungus (reviewed by R. R. Paterson
A number of laboratory studies have shown anti-neoplastic effect of fungal extracts or isolated compounds against some types of cancer
The mechanisms by which Ganoderma lucidum may affect cancer are unknown and may target different areas of cancer development: inhibition of angiogenesis (formation of arterial vessels within the tumour) mediated by cytokines, cytoxicity, inhibiting migration of the cancer cells and metastasis, and inducing and enhancing apoptosis of tumor cells
Variation between preparations and potential negative side effects cannot be ruled out. Ganoderma lucidum extracts may be adaptogenic, anti-allergenic and anti-hypertensive due to the presence of triterpenes. Apart from these properties, lingzhi has been found to be anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, antidiabetic, anti-hypotensive, and protective of the liver. It has also been found to inhibit platelet aggregation, and to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Ganoderma Lucidum may act as a blood pressure stabilizer, antioxidant, analgesic, a kidney and nerve tonic. It has been used in bronchitis prevention and in cardiovascular treatment, and in the treatment of high triglycerides, high blood pressure, hepatitis, allergies, chemotherapy support, HIV support, and fatigue and altitude sickness