Konnichiwaeveryone, and welcome to the Four Sigma Food blog (if you are a first timer), and thanks very much for coming back (if you have read the FSF blog before). We hope you enjoy this first part of a two-part article about the Reishi mushroom.Before discussing the history of Reishi, let’s clarify its various names.－ Scientific name (i.e., Latin name) is Ganoderma Lucidum
－ In China it is called Lingzhi and written 灵芝 (simplified is used in China) and also 靈芝 (traditional is used in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan)
－ The Japanese call it Reishi and write it 靈芝 (which is the same as traditional Chinese)
The Internet shows many different translations of Reishi/Lingzi, and all suggest a different meaning. The truth is (feel free to disagree with me) that Asian languages, especially Chinese and Japanese, are so different from Western languages that usually you can’t translate them word for word. This means that all of them or perhaps none of them might be correct.
Credit: marlith (flickr)
The most common Chinese translations found on the Internet are shown below:
– Auspicious plant
– Auspicious mushroom
– Divine mushroom
– Immortality plant
– The Elixir of ImmortalityAnd finally as exact translation of the Chinese characters as possible:
– 靈 = quick / alert / efficacious / effective / spirit / soul; spiritual world / departed soul / coffin
– 芝 = sesame; a purplish or brown mushroom thought to have miraculous powers; “a divine and felicitous plant”.Now you can understand why there are so many different translations. I also like to give my two cents in it and translate it to “Spiritual mushroom”.
I will still call it Reishi, though, as this is the most common, the shortest, and I also like it more than the others.
Some sources state that Asian cultures have used Reishi for more than 4,000 years, but I haven’t been able to verify this anywhere. The first known written records of Reishi are from the Han Dynasty (200-25 CE), meaning that it has been used for at least 2,000 years. Reishi is definitely one of the oldest and most precious herbs used by humankind anywhere on earth, and several Chinese emperors have valued it as a source of longevity and vitality. In the Western world, Petter Karsten, a fellow Finn, was the first person to officially name Reishi when he identified it as being from the genus Ganoderma in 1881. Historically, Reishi is one of the most scientifically researched medicinal plants and has a well-proven track record of its medicinal benefits.
Reishi is extremely popular in Asia, especially in Japan, where it is more common to use it than not. People in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and South Korea know it well, and many use it as a normal part of their diet. This is not an overstatement. I have lived in Shanghai and Hong Kong, traveled to more than 20 different locations in China and Taiwan, and the same pattern is repeated everywhere:
1) I can go to a traditional Chinese pharmacy and buy a whole Reishi mushroom or pieces of one, or even Reishi powder. I can take these items home and boil a bitter-tasting concoction.
2) I can also buy fairly inexpensive, poorly branded Reishi capsules from local dietary supplement shops, but I never do because I don’t trust their quality.
3) I can go to a large health/wellness chain store and buy easy-to-use Reishi capsules that come in fancy (by Chinese standards) packages, with a quality guarantee and exorbitant price tag.
Credit: Randy Pertiet
With all the empirical data of traditional Chinese medicine, as well as new scientific data of modern medicine, I hope and believe that Reishi will make a global breakthrough and become part of the daily diet of men and women everywhere. Because Reishi has so many health benefits and no side effects, I’m confident this will happen. When it does, Big Pharma will have to start searching for new sources for revenue, because people will be healthier.
Credit: Clear Wal-Mart
This opinion may appear to be quite bold and exaggerated, but in Part 2, I will explain why I think this will occur.