For centuries, Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) have been used in traditional Chinese medicine because of their beneficial compounds. 50 years ago, in 1973, it was developed into a drug for easier consumption in China. These fungi contain triterpenes and polysaccharides, one being glucan. This compound contains a large amount of NGF (nerve growth factor), a hormone that has been investigated for its ability to regenerate nerves, mitigate inflammation, and shield nerve cells from harm. Reishi mushrooms are thought to possess neuroprotective qualities which could prove helpful in the treatment of several neurological issues.

Twice as strong

Reishi and Lion’s Mane both contain Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which is a protein that helps to regulate the growth, maintenance, and survival of certain nerve cells. However, the amount of NGF in each mushroom varies. Reishi has been found to contain higher levels of NGF than Lion’s Mane, with levels ranging from 0.3 to 1.3 µg/g of dry weight. Lion’s Mane, on the other hand, has been found to contain levels ranging from 0.2 to 0.6 µg/g of dry weight.

One example of research mentioning NGF in Reishi is “Neurotrophic Effect of Reishi Polysaccharides on PC12 Cells: Possible Role of Nerve Growth Factor” by C.Y. Lee et. al. The study looked at the effects of Reishi polysaccharides on the PC12 cell line, which is an in vitro model used to study neuronal growth. The researchers found that Reishi polysaccharides could induce cell growth and increase the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in PC12 cells. This suggests that Reishi polysaccharides may have a neurotrophic effect and could potentially be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

Why is Lion’s Mane better known for containing NGF?

Lion’s Mane is considered the mushroom for the brain because it has been clinically studied for its potential to improve cognitive performance, memory, and mood. It is also believed to have neuroprotective effects, meaning that it may help to protect the brain from degenerative diseases. Reishi has also been studied for its potential to improve cognitive performance, but the evidence is not as strong as that of Lion’s Mane. Therefore, it is justified to consider Lion’s Mane the mushroom for the brain.

Traditional use for cognition

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Reishi mushroom is known to be a tonic herb with a broad range of therapeutic properties, including benefiting cognitive health. It is referenced in the ancient Chinese texts, such as Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (《神农本草经》) and Bencao Shiyi (《本草拾遗》) which document the use of Reishi for its potential health benefits. 
Mushrooms, in fact all herbs are divided into three classes, superior class, middle class and inferior class. The first 6 herbs mentioned in the superior class section are Ling Zhi (Ganoderma), or as we call it here Reishi Mushroom. These six varieties of Reishi are related to the 5 elements. Green, Red, Yellow, White, Black, and are related to Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, while the 6th Reishi, Purple, zi zhi, is not explained accurately. The division is based on the five different Ganoderma colours.

Reishi is described in the Ben Cao in this way: “Protracted taking may make the body light, prevent senility, and prolong life so as to make one an immortal.”


1. Potentiation of neuritogenic activity of medicinal mushrooms in rat pheochromocytoma cells
2. Interesting comparison of various functional mushrooms and their effect on neurite outgrowth
3. Nerve Growth Factor and Brain derived Neurotrophic Factor in Ganoderma

Thanks for reading,

Bee Ebene


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