The Reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum or Lingzhi, is an ancient herb referred to in Asia as the "herb of spiritual potency." For over 2000 years, this edible fungus has been used alongside other medicinal herbs, like fo-ti, to treat and prevent several conditions and illnesses. There is a long list of health benefits associated with this medicinal mushroom, such as lowered blood pressure, controlled cholesterol levels, decreased risk of heart disease, reduced anxiety, and even death of harmful cancer cells. Additionally, the Reishi mushroom has been particularly prevalent in dermatology-related conditions because of its rejuvenating qualities and astonishing benefits for the hair and skin.
How do Reishi mushrooms support overall hair health?
This medicinal fungus has a wide variety of therapeutic uses, and the benefits of Reishi mushrooms have been studied extensively by researchers. There are two major beneficial components found in Reishi mushrooms: beta-glucans and triterpenes.
Reishi mushrooms protect against toxins and boost immune function.
Jam-packed with antioxidants, Reishi mushrooms can protect the body from environmental toxins and free radical damage. They have also been shown to work as an immunomodulator, meaning they can activate a positive immune response through chemical manipulation. This could be especially important for those living with alopecia areata, a condition in which the body attacks the hair follicles, causing hair fall and thinning. It leads to patchy bald spots and, over time, complete hair loss. Reishi mushrooms also have various compounds that increase antitumor, antimicrobial, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity. Many of these compounds belong to the triterpenoids and polysaccharides classes, along with proteins, lipids, and phenols.
Reishi mushrooms reduce inflammation.
In addition to being a powerhouse of antioxidants, this mushroom is a wonderful anti-inflammatory ingredient. Together, these properties enable stronger hair follicles and help stimulate hair follicles to grow thicker, longer hair. Reishi also encourages blood circulation, which means more oxygen and hair-loving nutrients can travel to the scalp to promote healthy hair growth while reducing the likelihood of scalp conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff.
How do Reishi mushrooms help prevent and reverse hair loss?
Evidence suggests that Reishi mushrooms can act as an inhibitor of DHT. DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) is a sex hormone that is a byproduct of testosterone when converted by the enzyme called 5a-Reductase. This is a naturally occurring process that has little to no effect on most individuals. However, those more sensitive to DHT are more likely to face male and female pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia. This occurs because DHT binds to receptors in the hair follicles, causing them to shrink, weaken, and eventually die. This ultimately leads to a complete stop to the hair growth cycle in DHT-affected follicles.
Thankfully, those with androgenetic alopecia can combat side effects such as hair loss and encourage new hair growth by blocking DHT production. Reishi mushrooms are highly effective in inhibiting 5a-Reductase, reducing the amount of DHT being produced within the body, and protecting hair follicles from miniaturization. One study found that reishi mushrooms could decrease enzyme production activity by 70 - 80%!
How to use Reishi mushrooms for hair health?
The good news is, incorporating Reishi mushrooms into your daily routine to benefit the hair doesn't have to be complicated! There are ways to reap the benefits of the beloved fungi topically and orally.
Ways to consume Reishi mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms are quite bitter in their raw state, so they are often made into a hot extract such as teas or soups. Some enjoy them grilled and added to side dishes or salads for a unique twist.
- Reishi mushroom tea: You can find dried Reishi mushrooms at almost any natural food store. Use them to make a delicious morning tea! All you need is 4 - 6 slices of Reishi mushrooms, 8 cups of water, and four tablespoons of loose leaf chai tea (optional). Bring 4 cups of water and the dried mushrooms to a boil and simmer for 1 - 2 hours. Strain the mushrooms from the liquid. Using a tea infuser or tea net, submerge the chai tea into the mushroom-infused water, pour an additional 2 - 4 cups of boiling water over the chai, and let steep for up to 10 minutes.
- Reishi mushroom supplements: If you aren't a mushroom person, there are options for you too! Reishi mushrooms can be found as a dietary supplement in capsules, pills, tonics, and powders. When looking for a supplement, always check the ingredient list to ensure that Reishi mushrooms are at the top of the active ingredients. Whenever possible, purchase products that are holistic and organic. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a new supplement regime.
How to use Reishi mushrooms topically.
- DIY Reishi shampoo: Homemade shampoos are not as hard to make as you may think! First, make some Reishi mushroom tea (minus the chai) and set aside 1 cup of the mushroom liquid. In a bowl, combine the liquid with ½ cup liquid castile soap, ½ cup of steeped green tea, 10 - 12 drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender, tea tree, or peppermint work great), ¼ cup aloe vera gel, and one tablespoon of organic vegetable glycerine. Store in a glass jar for up to 6 months.
- Reishi hair mask: You can add Reishi mushroom extract water into any of your favorite hair masks and treatments to add an extra boost of nutrition and antioxidant goodness.