Immortalised throughout Chinese art, temples, statues, and paintings, reishi mushroom was held in the highest esteem amongst Chinese royalty and is surrounded by many legends over the past 4 millennia.
In China, reishi is known as ling zhi which means 'spirit plant' or 'tree of life mushroom.' The Chinese character for ling zhi is composed of three characters that represent a shaman praying for rain.
Kuan Yin, known as the goddess of healing, was occasionally depicted carrying a reishi mushroom. This polypore was extremely prized throughout Asia, and was often hung above doorways as a protector.
Reishi was first cited in the very famous Chinese text “The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing” in 206 BC. Its legend, rooted deep within ancient Taoist philosophy, continued throughout the ages and reishi remains highly praised for its tonifying action of the Heart, Liver, Blood and immune system. This adaptogenic mushroom has traditionally been used to treat 'ageing Blood' and 'knotted Hearts' - issues like Heart problems, high blood pressure, blocked arteries and nervous conditions.
* Image sourced from Dragon Herbs; a Chinese paradise in which a divine Reishi mushroom sits upon a pedestal in the centre.
The ancient Taoists believed in immortality and viewed the revered reishi mushroom as a critical ingredient to longevity, perhaps through its ability to tone and nourish all Three Treasures. Li Shizhen (a 16th-century physician) stated that the use of reishi would promote agility and increase longevity, and when taken over a long period of time would lengthen the years of those who consume it. Reishi was thought to sharpen the wit and help cultivate virtue.
However it is reishi's spiritual potency and ability to nourish the Shen of the Heart that is one of the most special things about this tonic herb. Shen is our spirit, or our highest consciousness; the wisdom that we want to share with the world. Read our article 'The Three Treasures - Jing, Qi and Shen' to cultivate a better understanding of this philosophy.
According to the book 'Reishi Mushroom: Herb of Spiritual Potency and Medical Wonder' by Terry Willard:
"To the ancients, red, as the colour of Blood, equated with Soul, and anything in Nature so-signatured became accordingly auspicious as an embodiment or ch'i (Qi) or Soul. Because of this, the potency of the medicine, be it herbal or mineral, was the amount of Soul it held."
Cultivating a calm mind and steady spirit, reishi nourishes the soul and allows the connection to self, to nature and to the world around us to deepen and flourish.
Learn more about the Queen of the mushrooms
Listen to our podcast episode 'Reishi, the Mushroom of Immortality with Dan Sipple' and dive deeper into the health benefits in our article 'Reishi Mushroom and Its Incredible Benefits'.