Reishi, Androgens, and 5alpha-reductase
Reishi ( Ganoderma lucidum) is regarded as one of the most important tonic herbs known. Throughout history as well as today. Reishi is also one of my personal favorite herbs: everything from its lore, to its beauty, to its medicinal and tonic effects, completely and utterly captivates me. There is magic in mushrooms, and there is a lot of magic in Reishi.
Sometimes people are confused that at RAW Forest Foods we carry Reishi. This is because Reishi has been shown (Silvia, 2003)(Liu, 2007)(Liu, 2009) to have an anti-androgenic effect and RAW Forest Foods specializes in androgenic herbs. So at first glance there appears to be a discrepancy. There are truths here: Clinical analysis of Ganoderma lucidum has demonstrated time-and-time again an anti-androgenic effect and RAW Forest Foods does specialize in androgenic herbs. However, there is no actual discrepancy.
The issue is that in this case the term anti-androgenic is not very descriptive, but while the term is ambiguous, the actions of Reishi in the body are anything but. Before explanation, it is important to note that while Classical Chinese Medicine holds Reishi in high regard for its systemic tonic and adaptogenic effects, Traditional Chinese Medicine (which is only as old as the 1950’s) is more interested in the anti-cancer effects and properties of Reishi. So being, the vast majority of actual medical research into Ganoderma lucidum is in identifying both its anti-cancer effects and the method of action of those effects. Valuable information, but largely limited in scope. So to understand the anti-androgenic effects of Reishi, and what the research tells us, we have to first put on our “cancer hats” so that we can better understand and contextualize the information the research provides us with.
TCM, Reishi, and Cancer Research
Reishi does not cause or signal the body to decrease production of testosterone or other androgen hormones. Using Reishi does not cause a lowering of testosterone—free or bound testosterone. If anything, for people with low testosterone, Reishi has a greater propensity to increase levels of testosterone through its adaptogenic qualities than it does for lowering levels of testosterone. So how is Reishi anti-androgenic?
There are a class of drugs (really a type of chemical) called 5alpha-reductase. 5alpha-reductase binds to androgen receptors in the prostate and inhibits androgen-induced cell growth and regrowth. Because 5alpha-reductase (a chemical found in extracts of Reishi and in other places) binds to androgen receptors it is considered anti-androgenic. As we know, androgen-induced cell growth and regrowth is the root of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer. The anti-androgenic effects of Reishi, as limited and specific as they are, actually promote prostate health, indicating an ability to ease BPH and possibly to prevent or treat prostate cancer.
The research into Reishi as being anti-androgenic is research in the ability of Reishi to promote prostate health and either prevent, treat, or act as an adjunct therapy for prostate cancer. This is a unique and very important property of Reishi, one that should not be glossed over or over looked. More men will develop prostate cancer than women will develop breast cancer, and while Western treatment for prostate cancer is effective at eliminating the cancer, it also eliminates the prostate, sometimes taking with it sex and urinary function. As a tonic, the anti-androgenic effects of Reishi are helping to promote prostate health, not hinder healthy levels of androgens in men.
Within the modern research done on the broad anti-cancer effects of Reishi, the most important preparation is a combination of cracked Reishi spores and an extract of the Reishi fruiting body. The research into the prostate health promoting effects of Reishi used a 30% polysaccharide extract of the Reishi fruiting body, just as can be found in our Reishi Buddha Blend. The research into this combination of Ganoderma lucidum in-part inspired the formulating of Buddha Blend.
Reishi is one of those remarkable herbs which never cease to amaze, and the research into how protective Reishi is against cancer only adds to the amazement. While I tend to view Reishi more for its classical properties, I love visiting the science and learning all the ways Reishi promotes whole body health.
RAW Forest Foods does specialize in androgenic herbs but we also specialize in select tonic herbs which are proven to promote systemic, full body (and mind) health and those which have a profound impact on male health. There is no discrepancy in our love of Reishi and it being part of our offerings to you. Reishi fits in well with all the products and all the intentions we offer at RAW Forest Foods.