How to Harvest and Dry Reishi Mushrooms

Learning how to harvest and dry Reishi Mushrooms shouldn't be that hard if you follow our easy to read guide. 

Reishi mushrooms are one of the latest “super foods” that is taking the West by storm thanks to their antioxidant properties and immunity boosting benefits. The benefits of the Reishi mushroom have long been understood and incorporated into Eastern medicine.  With the growing understanding of the power of this fungus, we can learn how to harvest and dry Reishi mushrooms at home.  This allows you to take full advantage of their health benefits, as they will maintain properties that are lost through processing and shipping.

What are Reishi Mushrooms?

Reishi mushrooms come from the fungus family, with high medicinal qualities. In fact, they are sometimes referred to as the king of the medicinal mushroom. They are bitter to the taste and are described as tough or woody.  They take on a number of different colors, with red or orange being the most common.  Unlike other popular mushrooms such as Cordyceps, the Reishi mushroom releases spores through a system of spores rather than gills. It is a mushroom with many names.  Common names for this mushroom include:

  • The spirit plant
  • The Reishi mushroom of spiritual potency
  • The Reishi mushroom of immortality
  • Lingzhi mushroom
  • Ling Chih mushroom

Meanwhile, the scientific names of the Reishi mushroom are:

  • Ganoderma lucidum
  • Basidiomycetes Reishi mushroom
  • Champignon Basidiomycète

Reishi Mushroom Uses

Pretty much all parts of the Reishi mushroom are used as medicine including both the part of the stem closest to ground (the stipe) and the cap.  Most experts agree the Reishi mushroom helps boost the immune system.  However, a thorough understanding of how is still being researched.  The tough texture of the Reishi mushroom disqualifies it from using in cooking, but it makes excellent teas and elixirs, both of which can be used to get the full medicinal benefits of the fungus.

Origins of the Reishi Mushroom

Different species of Reishi mushrooms can be found throughout the world. They are typically found in warmer climates.  Species of Reishi mushrooms have been found across Asia, Australia, Southern Europe, the Southeastern United States, and throughout South America.  However, there are also species of Reishi mushrooms that have been found in the Northeastern United States as well.

Where Do Reishi Mushrooms Grow?

Understanding how to harvest and dry Reishi mushrooms requires understanding where they grow.  Wild Reishi mushrooms grow on dead hardwood trees and acquire a form similar to what it feeds on.  While you could find them in the wild, they are relatively easy to cultivate in your home.  When growing in your home, they do best on Agar, Rye, and other grains.

Buying Reishi Mushrooms

Harvesting and drying Reishi mushrooms requires you to first purchase spores or growing kits.  These kits can be found online (via Amazon or other agricultural specialists).  Always make sure to check reviews before purchasing online. Locally, you may want to check with agriculture supply stores or your neighborhood greenhouses.

Processed Reishi mushrooms can often be found in dried, powdered, and capsule form from online markets or at your local health food store.

Benefits of the Reishi Mushroom

Reishi mushrooms boost the immune system.  Test tube studies have shown the effects Reishi mushrooms have on the inflammation pathways in white blood cells (the key players in your immune system).  Studies on the effects of Reishi mushrooms in humans have also found this immune boost can treat conditions such as nephritis, hypertension, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even cancer.  The focus on cancer is of particular interest .

Studies show the Reishi mushroom increases the activity in a specific type of white blood cell in advanced stage cancer patients, called the natural killer cell . It is this type of white blood cell that plays a primary role in fighting cancer (as well as other infections).  Other studies, focused on patients with colorectal cancer, show the Reishi mushroom increases the number of lymphocytes, yet another variety of white blood cells.  These same results are supported with another study focused on athletes under stress.  It is easy to see some call it the Reishi mushroom of immortality!

However, not all studies support this evidence.  A study conducted on healthy patients found no meaningful improvement in immune function.  With this study the test patients consumed the Reishi mushroom extract for 4 weeks .  This just shows how much more there is to learn about the Reishi mushroom and its impact on our immune systems.

With evidence leaning towards improved immune systems in sick patients, numerous studies have examined the effects on different health issues including cancer, depression and lethargy, heart health, and sugar and antioxidant status.

Reishi Mushroom and Cancer

Studies confirming Reishi mushrooms leading to the death of cancer cells, spurred growth in its consumption.  In a study of 4,000 breast cancer survivors, 3 out of 5 were consuming Reishi mushrooms.

Studies also show the Reishi mushroom has an effect on testosterone, naturally fighting against prostate cancer.  In fact, one case study demonstrated how molecules within the Reishi mushroom reversed prostate cancer. However, follow-up studies fail to support these findings.  Still, other studies are finding positive results, stating the Reishi mushroom helped reduce the number and the volume of tumors within the large intestine, speculating to the use of Reishi mushrooms to help patients suffering with colorectal cancer.

These astounding results have prompted discussion and debate in the scientific community, giving the conflicting conclusions of the various studies.  What everyone does agree upon is that the studies carried out so far, particularly for cancer, weren’t very high quality.  Therefore, everyone agrees that more quality work is required, but the possibilities are intriguing.

Reishi Mushrooms, Depression, and Lethargy

Neurasthenia refers to a condition with a combination of some of the most commonly experienced symptoms!  Body aches, irritability, headaches, dizziness, and traces of depression all go into it.  An interesting study was conducted with 132 people suffering from this condition, so long as they consented to trying on the  Reishi mushroom.  It took 8 weeks of supplements, but subsequently, researchers documented reduced levels of fatigue, and an increase in well-being.  Negative cycles of anxiety and depression were also alleviated.

Reishi Mushrooms and Heart Health

One study shows how the Reishi mushroom increases good HDL cholesterol, while also decreasing triglyceride levels.  Subsequently, other studies found no real impact.  However, the Reishi mushroom did not have a bad impact.  Again, there is general agreement that more quality research needs conducted.

Reishi Mushrooms, Sugar Intake, and Antioxidants

A few different studies show that some of the molecules within the Reishi mushroom decreases sugar levels in animals.  On the other hand, different studies show that it was worse than a placebo in lowering blood sugar levels. While there is hype surrounding the antioxidant properties of Reishi mushrooms, scientific research struggles to support this benefit.

Side Effects of Reishi Mushrooms

There are documented side effects when the Reishi mushroom. Side effects may include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach/ nausea
  • Rash
  • Itchiness
  • Bloody stool
  • Nosebleeds
  • Liver conditions

Consuming Reishi mushrooms is not recommended for:

  • Pregnant women
  • Those breast-feeding
  • Patients with low blood pressure or suffering from a blood disorder
  • Those taking diabetes medications
  • Patients with immune system disorders
  • Those taking medications

If you consume Reishi mushrooms, a moderate dosage is recommended.

Harvesting and Drying
Reishi Mushrooms: A Guide

The potent molecules in Reishi mushrooms are hearty and do not deteriorate or breakdown, making harvesting and drying the Reishi mushroom a useful practice.  Harvesting Reishi mushrooms can be done in the wild or from your own efforts at home and drying them is a relatively easy process.  Here’s everything you need to know:

How to Harvest and Dry Reishi Mushrooms

The Reishi mushroom is actually one of the easiest to identify in the wild and also one of the easiest to grow at home.

Harvesting Reishi Mushrooms in the Wild

Reishi mushrooms are highly recommended for foragers starting out. They do not have any poisonous look-alikes, making the harvesting process very safe. Prior to your harvest make sure to familiarize yourself with the looks of the Reishi mushroom.

  • Finding Reishi Mushrooms: They are found growing on dead hardwood trees. Reishi mushrooms produce annually.  If you do find the Reishi mushroom growing on a particular dead tree, stump or log, mark it with some kind of symbol, such as a plastic string, that will last until next year. Such a log would continue to produce the Reishi mushroom every year till all of the substrate has been consumed.
  • Physical Appearance of Reishi Mushrooms: It is typically shaped in the form of a kidney with a contrasted reddish-orange color and a shiny lacquered finish.  There should be no gills on it because it is a polyspore. The Reishi mushroom can go from being only an inch wide to being about 10 times that size. It can also be up to 2 inches thick.  Most likely, you’ll come across ones that are as wide as the palm of your hand, and about an inch thick.

As the Reishi mushroom continues to grow, the newest edge appears in white, and the color gradually darkens to an orange-red hue.  The coloring arrives with maturity.  The older ones would be the toughest, and the brightness would have been faded on them.  The Reishi mushroom grows in a horizontal profile, with a minuscule or seemingly absent stem.  They have a strong smell – old leaves, or woodsy!

The underside of the Reishi mushroom is white or gray, and you should find tiny pinpricks dotting all over the underside.  While the shell itself would be hard, the underside would bruise very easily upon pressing.

Warning! Make sure to only choose the ones that have white undersides. Reishi mushrooms with tan or gray undersides may harbor molds, which may be dangerous.  Also avoid the ones that have been bruised.  Make sure to handle with care, and preserve quickly after the harvest because they are easily damaged.

 

  • Season for Harvesting Reishi Mushrooms in the Wild: The season to harvest is around the summer solstice, and during early summer to mid-autumn (around May to November).   It is best to check on them on a daily basis.   The Reishi mushroom can be a favorite food of the slugs, and eaten within a few days of appearing.
  • Equipment Needed to Harvest Reishi Mushrooms in the Wild: Gloves will protect your hands from any other plants or sticks around the fungus.  A knife or small saw will be required for cutting the Reishi mushrooms given its woody qualities.  A bucket or basket will also be required for collecting your harvest.

 Harvesting Reishi Mushrooms in the Wild: After making sure that the underside is white – not tan or gray, ascertaining that the Reishi mushroom is young, a gentle tug should separate it from the substrate.   Alternately, you could use a knife if the particular specimen is soft. You would have to look down because all too often they grow at the base of the log, near the ground where there is moisture.  If the Reishi mushroom was growing near a poisonous plant, for example poison ivy, it is best to avoid that harvest.

Harvesting Reishi Mushrooms at Home

Home cultivation is relatively easy.  In regards to the looks of the Reishi mushroom, home grown  Reishi mushrooms will look similar to those found in the wild.

  • Growing Reishi Mushrooms: To grow Reishi mushrooms start by placing spores in a large plate of agar.  As the Reishi mushroom begins to grow you will see the strands spreading from the center.  Once it has grown you will need to cut it with a scalpel.  It will be incredibly tough given the qualities of the Reishi mushroom.  It must then be transferred to a substrate.  It will not grow on straw and you will have difficulty with saw dust, so it is best to use a chunk of dead hardwood.  It is best to put this in a fruiting container, such as an autoclavable grow bag.  As the Reishi mushroom begins to grow it will take on an antler form.  You should then cut off the top of the bag.  This allows the mushroom to get more air and grow in a conk shape, which is preferred.
  • Equipment Needed to Harvest Reishi Mushrooms at Home: For home cultivation of the Reishi mushroom you will need a plate of agar for initially growth.  You will also need a scalpel to cut the mushroom once it has covered the plate.  You will need a block of substrate such as a block of decaying hardwood.  You will also need an autoclavable grow bag to place the substrate inside.  For harvest you will need a knife or small saw for cutting the mushrooms and a bucket or basket for collecting your harvest.
  • Harvesting Reishi Mushrooms at Home: You want to harvest the mushrooms before they drop spores.  You will cut the mushroom from the block the same way as you would in the wild with a knife or a small saw.  For best results, it is recommended to use a new block with each harvest when home cultivating

Drying Reishi Mushrooms

Since your Reishi mushrooms will start getting spoiled relatively quickly, promptly drying them becomes important.  If you don’t have the time, put then in a paper bag, and store them in the refrigerator, and they should be good for another 4 to 5 days.  For the best results, cut them into strips, in order to increase the surface area, and to accelerate the drying process.

Drying can be accomplished simply by hanging the mushroom on a string and positioned in the sun, ensuring there is ample ventilation.  Using a dehydrator, such as a passive solar dehydrator, is also an option.  Once dried, you don’t want them getting wet again.  So you would want to store them in an airtight container, in a cool and dark place, of away from sunlight.

Buying Reishi Mushroom Kits

As we wrote above, you can get everything you need for growing Reishi mushrooms at home online in the form of a kit or individually.  You can also get your supplies from local agriculture suppliers or even your neighborhood greenhouse.

If you’re impatient or simply aren’t ready for the task of foraging for or growing your own, there are other options available to you.  You can get dried Reishi mushrooms by the pound off of Amazon.  You may even be able to find them locally at your farmer’s market or at your health food store.  Chances are, however, that you will likely only find a processed version locally.

Dried strips of Reishi mushrooms will last you for years, if preserved and stored properly. 

Reishi Mushroom Products

Tinctures: Immediately after the harvest, the Reishi mushroom can be chopped up and converted into a Reishi mushroom tincture.  This does not require any drying.  All species of the Reishi mushrooms will contain a combination of water soluble and alcohol soluble ingredients.  Prepare a double extraction tincture if you do not want to miss out on any of the medicinal properties.

Tip: Be sure to start the process within an hour after the harvest, so the slicing process becomes easier, otherwise it will get rubbery.

Capsules: Reishi mushrooms can be found in capsule form.  Some of the most recognized brands include Nature’s Way, Organic Reishi, Reishi mushroom Defense etc.  These can be found at your health food store or online.

Powders: Reishi mushrooms can also be found in powered forms.  Popular brands of the powdered form include Organic Reishi and Om Organic.  Again, these can often be found in your local health food store or online.  Follow this link to read my review of Living Nutritionals Reishi Mushroom powder, a personal favorite. 

Note: In certain cases, severe liver damage has been reported in users consuming powdered Reishi mushroom who had been consuming other forms of the mushroom previously and had reported no problems.

Preparing Reishi Mushroom Teas and Soups

One of the best ways to maximize the health benefits you can get from Reishi mushrooms is through making a tea with them.  In order to make tea out of dried Reishi mushrooms, you want to start small.  Place the required quantity of dried Reishi mushroom in water, and simmer for about 2 to 3 hours.  You would follow a similar procedure when preparing a soup, however, you would use it sparingly.

In order to reconstitute dried Reishi mushroom, you would take the slices and place them in a bowl, covered in warm water for 30 minutes.  Subsequently, you can strain out the slices very gently, and it would be ready.

Conclusion

Reishi mushrooms can be a powerful arsenal in your fight against disease.  Even for those of you that are super health conscious, Reishi may hold a few surprises and secrets.  However, we can’t stress this enough – moderation is key!  Always gradually build up the doses you consume.

Have you started to harvest and dry your own Reishi mushrooms?  How have Reishi mushrooms helped you on your journey to health?  We’d love to hear how this magical fungus has made a difference in your life!  Please contact us and let us know how it went for you!