Lingzhi mushroom

Lingzhi mushroom
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Polyporales
Family: Ganodermataceae
Genus: Ganoderma
Species: G. lucidum
Binomial name
Ganoderma lucidum
(Curtis) P. Karst (1881)
Lingzhi mushroom
Mycological characteristics
pores on hymenium

cap is offset

or indistinct
hymenium attachment is irregular or not applicable

stipe is bare

or lacks a stipe
spore print is brown

ecology is saprotrophic

or parasitic
edibility: edible
Regional names
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 靈芝
Simplified Chinese 灵芝
Literal meaning spirit mushroom
Hanyu Pinyin língzhī
Wade–Giles ling2-chih1
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese linh chi
Literal meaning spirit mushroom
Korean name
Hangul 영지
Hanja 靈芝
Literal meaning spirit mushroom
Revised Romanization yeongji
McCune–Reischauer yŏngji
Japanese name
Kanji 霊芝
Kana れいし
Revised Hepburn reishi

The lingzhi mushroom is a species complex that encompasses several fungal species of the genus Ganoderma. The most common and closely related species are the Ganoderma lucidum, Ganoderma tsugae, and Ganoderma lingzhi. For centuries, Ganoderma lingzhi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine.[1][2]


Lingzhi is a polypore mushroom. Its red-varnished, kidney-shaped cap gives it a distinct appearance. When fresh, the lingzhi is soft, cork-like, and flat. The lingzhi lacks gills on its underside, and instead releases its spores via fine pores. Depending on the age of the mushroom, the pores on its underside may be white or brown.[3]


With the advent of genome sequencing, the genus Ganoderma has undergone taxonomic reclassification. Prior to genetic analyses of fungi, classification was done according to morphological characteristics such as size and color. The internal transcribed spacer region of the Ganoderma genome is considered to be a standard barcode marker.[4]

It was once thought that Ganoderma lucidum generally occurs in two growth forms: a large, sessile, specimen with a small or nonexistent stalk found in North America and a smaller specimen with a long, narrow stalk found mainly in the tropics. However, recent molecular evidence has identified the first stalk-less form to be a distinct species called G. sessile, a name given to North American specimens by William Alfonso Murrill in 1902.[5][6]

Environmental conditions play a substantial role in the lingzhi's manifest morphological characteristics. For example, elevated carbon dioxide levels result in stem elongation in lingzhi. Other formations include antlers without a cap which may be a result of carbon dioxide levels. The three main factors that influence fruit body development morphology are light, temperature, and humidity. While water and air quality play a role in fruit body development morphology, they do so to a lesser degree.[7]


Ganoderma lucidum produces a group of triterpenes called ganoderic acids, which have a molecular structure similar to that of steroid hormones.[8] It also contains other compounds often found in fungal materials, including polysaccharides (such as beta-glucan), coumarin,[9] mannitol, and alkaloids.[8] Sterols isolated from the mushroom include ganoderol, ganoderenic acid, ganoderiol, ganodermanontriol, lucidadiol, and ganodermadiol.[8]


Ganoderma lucidum and its close relative, Ganoderma tsugae, grow in the northern Eastern Hemlock forests. These two species of bracket fungus have a worldwide distribution in both tropical and temperate geographical regions, growing as a parasite or saprotroph on a wide variety of trees.[3] Similar species of Ganoderma have been found growing in the Amazon.[10] In nature, lingzhi grows at the base and stumps of deciduous trees, especially that of the maple.[11] Only two or three out of 10,000 such aged trees will have lingzhi growth, and therefore its wild form is extremely rare. Today, lingzhi is effectively cultivated on hardwood logs or sawdust/woodchips.[12]


The word lingzhi 靈芝 was first recorded in a fu 賦 "rhapsody; prose-poem" by the Han dynasty polymath Zhang Heng (CE 78–139). His Xijing fu 西京賦 "Western Metropolis Rhapsody" description of Emperor Wu of Han's (104 BCE) Jianzhang Palace parallels lingzhi with shijun 石菌 "rock mushroom": "Raising huge breakers, lifting waves, That drenched the stone mushrooms on the high bank, And soaked the magic fungus on vermeil boughs."[13] The commentary by Xue Zong (d. 237) notes these fungi were eaten as drugs of immortality.

The (ca. 1st–2nd century CE) Shennong bencao jing "Divine Farmer's Classic of Pharmaceutics" classifies zhi into six color categories, each of which is believed to benefit the qi "Life Force" in a different part of the body: qingzhi 青芝 "Green Mushroom" for Liver, chizhi 赤芝 "Red Mushroom" for heart, huangzhi 黃芝 "Yellow Mushroom" for spleen, baizhi 白芝 "White Mushroom" for Lung, heizhi "Black Mushroom" 黑芝 for kidney, and zizhi 紫芝 "Purple Mushroom" for Essence. Commentators identify this red chizhi (or danzhi 丹芝 "cinnabar mushroom") as the lingzhi.

Chi Zhi (Ganoderma rubra) is bitter and balanced. It mainly treats binding in the chest, boosts the heart qi, supplements the center, sharpens the wits, and [causes people] not to forget [i.e., improves the memory]. Protracted taking may make the body light, prevent senility, and prolong life so as to make one an immortal. Its other name is Dan Zhi (Cinnabar Ganoderma). It grows in mountains and valleys.[14][15]

While Chinese texts have recorded medicinal uses of lingzhi for more than 2,000 years, a few sources erroneously claim it can be traced to more than 4,000 years ago.[16] Modern scholarship accepts neither the historicity of Shennong "Divine Farmer" (legendary inventor of agriculture, traditionally r. 2737–2697 BCE) nor that he wrote the Shennong bencao jing.

The (1596) Bencao Gangmu ("Compendium of Materia Medica") has a zhi 芝 category that includes six types of Zhi (calling the green, red, yellow, white, black, and purple ones from the Shennong bencao jing the liuzhi 六芝 "six mushrooms") and sixteen other fungi, mushrooms, and lichens (e.g., mu'er 木耳 "wood ear" "Cloud ear fungus; Auricularia auricula-judae"). The author Li Shizhen classified these six differently colored Zhi as Xiancao 仙草 "immortality herbs", and described the effects of Chizhi "red mushroom":

It positively affects the life-energy, or Qi of the heart, repairing the chest area and benefiting those with a knotted and tight chest. Taken over a long period of time, the agility of the body will not cease, and the years are lengthened to those of the Immortal Fairies.[17][18]

Stuart and Smith's classical study of Chinese herbology describes the zhi.

芝 (Chih) is defined in the classics as the plant of immortality, and it is therefore always considered to be a felicitous one. It is said to absorb the earthy vapors and to leave a heavenly atmosphere. For this reason, it is called 靈芝 (Ling-chih.) It is large and of a branched form, and probably represents Clavaria or Sparassis. Its form is likened to that of coral.[19]

The Bencao Gangmu does not list lingzhi as a variety of zhi, but as an alternate name for the shi'er 石耳 "stone ear" "Umbilicaria esculenta" lichen. According to Stuart and Smith,

[The 石耳 Shih-erh is] edible, and has all of the good qualities of the 芝 (Chih), it is also being used in the treatment of gravel, and said to benefit virility. It is specially used in hemorrhage from the bowels and prolapse of the rectum. While the name of this would indicate that it was one of the Auriculariales, the fact that the name 靈芝 (Ling-chih) is also given to it might place it among the Clavariaceae.[20]

In Chinese art, the lingzhi symbolizes great health and longevity, as depicted in the imperial Forbidden City and Summer Palace.[21] It was a talisman for luck in the traditional culture of China, and the goddess of healing Guanyin is sometimes depicted holding a reishi mushroom.[22]


Because of its bitter taste, lingzhi is traditionally prepared as a hot water extract product.[23] Thinly sliced or pulverized lingzhi (either fresh or dried) is added to boiling water. The is reduced to a simmer, covered, and left for 2 hours.[24] The resulting liquid is dark and fairly bitter in taste. The red lingzhi is often more bitter than the black. The process is sometimes repeated to increase the concentration. Alternatively, it can be used as an ingredient in a formula decoction, or used to make an extract (in liquid, capsule, or powder form). The more active red forms of lingzhi are far too bitter to be consumed in a soup.

Lingzhi is now commercially manufactured and sold. Since the early 1970s, the majority of lingzhi come from artificial cultivation. Lingzhi can grow on substrates such as sawdust, grain, and wood logs. After formation of the fruiting body, lingzhi is most commonly harvested, dried, ground, and processed into tablets or capsules to be directly ingested or turned into tea or soup. Other products of lingzhi include processed fungal mycelia or spores.[24]


A 2015 Cochrane database review found insufficient evidence to justify the use of G. lucidum as a first-line cancer treatment. It suggests that G. lucidum may have "benefit as an alternative adjunct to conventional treatment in consideration of its potential of enhancing tumour response and stimulating host immunity."[25] Existing studies do not support the use of G. lucidum for treatment of risk factors of cardiovascular disease in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus.[26]

Taxonomy and Naming

The name of the lingzhi fungus has a two thousand-year-old history. The Chinese term lingzhi (靈芝) was first recorded during the Han dynasty (206 BC – 9 AD). Petter Adolf Karsten named the genus Ganoderma in 1881.[27]

Botanical names

English botanist William Curtis gave the fungus its first binomial name, Boletus lucidus, in 1781.[28]

The lingzhi's botanical names have Greek and Latin roots. Ganoderma derives from the Greek: ganos (γανος), meaning brightness while derma (δερμα) means skin, together, shining skin.[29]

The specific epithet, lucidum, is Latin for "shining." Tsugae is derived from the Japanese word for hemlock (tsuga ).

There are multiple species of lingzhi encompassed within the Ganoderma lucidum species complex and mycologists continue researching the differences among species within this complex.[30]

Chinese names

In the Chinese language, lingzhi is made up of the compounds ling "spirit, spiritual; soul; miraculous; sacred; divine; mysterious; efficacious; effective" (cf. Lingyan Temple) and zhi "(traditional) plant of longevity; fungus; seed; branch; mushroom; excrescence". Fabrizio Pregadio notes, "The term zhi, which has no equivalent in Western languages, refers to a variety of supermundane substances often described as plants, fungi, or 'excrescences'."[31] Zhi occurs in other Chinese plant names such as zhima 芝麻 "sesame" or "seed", and was anciently used a phonetic loan character for zhi "Angelica iris". Chinese differentiates Ganoderma species between chizhi 赤芝 "red mushroom" G. lucidum and zizhi 紫芝 "purple mushroom" G. japonicum.

Lingzhi has several synonyms. Ruicao 瑞草 meaning "auspicious plant" (with rui "auspicious; felicitous omen" and the suffix cao "plant; herb") is the oldest; the (c. 3rd century BCE) Erya dictionary defines qiu (interpreted as a miscopy of jun "mushroom") as zhi 芝 "mushroom" and the commentary of Guo Pu (276–324) says, "The [zhi] flowers three times in one year. It is a [ruicao] felicitous plant."[32] Other Chinese names for Ganoderma include ruizhi 瑞芝 "auspicious mushroom", shenzhi 神芝 "divine mushroom" (with shen "spirit; god' supernatural; divine"), mulingzhi 木灵芝 (with "tree; wood"), xiancao 仙草 "immortality plant" (with xian "(Daoism) transcendent; immortal; wizard"), and lingzhicao 灵芝草 or zhicao 芝草 "mushroom plant".

Since both Chinese ling and zhi have multiple meanings, lingzhi has diverse English translations. Renditions include "[zhi] possessed of soul power",[33] "Herb of Spiritual Potency" or "Mushroom of Immortality",[3] "Numinous Mushroom",[34] "divine mushroom",[35] "divine fungus",[36] "Magic Fungus",[37] and "Marvelous Fungus".[38]

Japanese names

Japanese language Reishi 霊芝 is a Sino-Japanese loan word from lingzhi. This modern Japanese kanji 霊 is the shinjitai "new character form" for the kyūjitai "old character form" 靈.

Reishi synonyms divide between Sino-Japanese borrowings and native Japanese coinages. Sinitic loanwords include literary terms such as zuisō 瑞草 (from ruicao) "auspicious plant" and sensō 仙草 (from xiaocao) "immortality plant". A common native Japanese name is mannentake 万年茸 "10,000-year mushroom". The Japanese writing system uses shi or shiba 芝 for "grass; lawn; turf" and take or kinoko for "mushroom" (e.g., shiitake). Other Japanese terms for reishi include kadodetake 門出茸 "departure mushroom", hijiridake 聖茸 "sage mushroom", and magoshakushi 孫杓子 "grandchild ladle".

Korean names

In Korean, it is called yeongji (영지; 靈芝). The word is cognate with Chinese língzhī (灵芝; 靈芝) and Japanese reishi (霊芝; れいし). It can also be called yeongjibeoseot (영지버섯, "yeongji mushroom"), bullocho (불로초; 不老草, "elixir grass"), or jicho (지초; 芝草). According to color, it can be classified as jeokji (적지; 赤芝) for red, jaji (자지; 紫芝) for purple, heukji (흑지; 黑芝) for black, cheongji (청지; 靑芝) for blue or green, baekji (백지; 白芝) for white, and hwangji (황지; 黃芝) for yellow.

Vietnamese names

The Vietnamese language linh chi is a Chinese loanword used in tiếng Việt. It is often used with the Vietnamese word for mushroom nấm (nấm Linh Chi) which is the equivalent of Ganoderma lucidum or reishi mushroom.

English names

English lingzhi or ling chih (sometimes spelled "ling chi" from French EFEO Chinese transcription) is a Chinese loanword. The Oxford English Dictionary gives Chinese "líng divine + zhī fungus" as the origin of ling chih or lingzhi, and defines, "The fungus Ganoderma lucidum, believed in China to confer longevity and used as a symbol of this on Chinese ceramic ware."[39] The OED notes the earliest recorded usage of the Wade–Giles romanization ling chih in 1904,[40] and of the Pinyin lingzhi in 1980. In addition to the transliterated loanword, English names include "glossy ganoderma" and "shiny polyporus".[41]

Thai names

Thai เห็ด หลิน จือ (mushroom hlin cheu) is a Chinese loanword.


  1. "Species clarification of the prize medicinal Ganoderma mushroom "Lingzhi"". Fungal Diversity. 56: 49–62. doi:10.1007/s13225-012-0178-5.
  2. Jones, Kenneth (1990), Reishi: Ancient Herb for Modern Times, Sylvan Press, p. 6.
  3. 1 2 3 David Arora (1986). Mushrooms demystified, 2nd edition. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 0-89815-169-4.
  4. Pawlik, A (2015). "Genetic and Metabolic Intraspecific Biodiversity of Ganoderma lucidum". BioMed Research International. 2015: 1–13. doi:10.1155/2015/726149.
  8. 1 2 3 Paterson RR (2006). "Ganoderma – a therapeutic fungal biofactory" (PDF). Phytochemistry. 67 (18): 1985–2001. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2006.07.004. PMID 16905165.
  9. Biosci.Biotechnol.Biochem.,68(4),881–887,2004
  10. Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture (Herbs and Health Series) by Christopher Hobbs (author), Harriet Beinfield
  11. (National Audubon Society; Field Guide to Mushrooms, 1993)
  12. Veena, S.S.; Pandey, M. "Paddy straw as a substrate for the cultivation of Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (W.Curt.:Fr.) P. Karst. in India". International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 13 (4): 397–400. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v13.i4.100. PMID 2164770.
  13. Tr. Knechtges (1996), 201.
  14. 神農本草經, 草上品. 赤芝。 苦, 平, 無毒。胸中結, 益心氣, 補中, 增智慧, 不忘。久食, 輕身不老, 延年神仙。一名丹芝。 延年神仙。
  15. Tr. by Yang Shouzhong (1998) The Divine Farmer's Materia Medica: A Translation of the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, Blue Poppy, pp. 17–18
  16. Reishi mushroom,
  17. 本草綱目/菜之三. 胸中結, 益心氣, 補中, 增智慧, 不忘。久食, 輕身不老, 延年神仙。
  18. Tr. by Halpern, George M. (2007), Healing Mushrooms, Square One, p. 59.
  19. Stuart, G. A. and F. Porter Smith (1911), Chinese Materia Medica, Pt. 1, Vegetable Kingdom, Presbyterian Mission Press. p. 271.
  20. Stuart and Smith (1911), p. 274.
  21. Smith JE, Rowan NJ, and Sullivan R (2001) Medicinal Mushrooms: Their Therapeutic Properties and Current Medical Usage with Special Emphasis on Cancer Treatments Archived 2009-08-31 at the Wayback Machine. Cancer Research UK, p. 28.
  22. Halpern (2007), p.59.
  23. Smith, Rowan, and Sullivan (2001), p. 31.
  24. 1 2 Wachtel-Galor, Sissi; Yuen, John; Buswell, John A.; Benzie, Iris F. F. (2011). Benzie, Iris F. F.; Wachtel-Galor, Sissi, eds. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects (2nd ed.). Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781439807132. PMID 22593926.
  25. Jin, Xingzhong; Ruiz, Beguerie Julieta; Sze, Daniel Man-yuen; Chan, Godfrey C.F. (2015). "Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 4: CD007731. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007731.pub3. PMID 27045603.
  26. Klupp, Nerida L.; Chang, Dennis; Hawke, Fiona; Kiat, Hosen; Cao, Huijuan; Grant, Suzanne J.; Bensoussan, Alan (2015). "Ganoderma lucidum mushroom for the treatment of cardiovascular risk factors". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007259.pub2. PMID 25686270.
  27. Karsten PA. (1881). "Enumeratio Boletinearum et Polyporearum Fennicarum, systemate novo dispositarum". Revue mycologique, Toulouse (in Latin). 3 (9): 16–19.
  28. Steyaert, R.L. (1961). "Note on the nomenclature of fungi and, incidentally, of Ganoderma lucidum" (PDF). Taxon. 10 (8): 251–252.
  29. Liddell, Henry George and Robert Scott (1980). A Greek-English Lexicon (Abridged Edition). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-910207-4.
  30. Zhou, Li-Wei; Cao, Yun; Wu, Sheng-Hua; Vlasák, Josef; Li, De-Wei; Li, Meng-Jie; Dai, Yu-Cheng (2015). "Global diversity of the Ganoderma lucidum complex (Ganodermataceae, Polyporales) inferred from morphology and multilocus phylogeny". Phytochemistry. 115: 7–15. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2014.09.023. PMID 25453909.
  31. Pregadio, Fabrizio (2008). "Zhi 芝 numinous mushrooms; excrescences", in The Encyclopedia of Taoism, Fabrizio Pregadio, ed., Routledge, p. 1271.
  32. Tr. by E. Bretschneider (1893), Botanicon Sinicum; Notes on Chinese Botany from Native and Western Sources, Kelly & Walsh, p. 40.
  33. Groot, Jan Jakob Maria (1892–1910), The Religious System of China: Its Ancient Forms, Evolution, History and Present Aspect, Manners, Customs and Social Institutions Connected Therewith, Brill Publishers, Vol. IV, p. 307.
  34. Pregadio (2008), p. 1271.
  35. .Hu, Shiu-ying (2006), Food plants of China, Chinese University Press.
  36. Bedini, Silvio A. (1994), The Trail of Time, Cambridge University Press, p. 113.
  37. Knechtges, David R. (1996), ' Wen Xuan or Selections of Refined Literature, Volume III, Princeton University Press, p. 211.
  38. Schipper, Kristofer M. (1993), The Taoist Body, University of California Press, p. 174.
  39. Oxford English Dictionary (2009), CD-ROM edition (v. 4.0), s.v. ling chih.
  40. Stephen Wootton Bushell (1904), Chinese Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, p. 148. This context describes the lingzhi fungus and ruyi scepter as Daoist symbols of longevity on a jade vase.
  41. Names of a Selection of Asian Fungi, multilingual multi-script plant name database.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.