reishi mushroom placed next to a brown wooden bowl of dried reishi mushroom powder

Reishi Mushroom for Stress

reishi mushroom placed next to a brown wooden bowl of dried reishi mushroom powder

Reishi mushroom for stress

Stress. A feeling that everyone can relate to, particularly in our modern world. And we’re often exposed to more stressors than we may realise. Disagreements with loved ones, financial pressures, heavy workloads and tight deadlines are unavoidable stressors that we come face-to-face with every single day.

While encountering stress may be unavoidable, it doesn’t need to come with prolonged feelings of discomfort, unhappiness or anxiety. And that’s where our friend reishi comes in. 

Reishi mushroom for stress — say what now?

Glossy, dark and handsome, reishi is known amongst mushroom lovers as the “supreme protector” thanks to its abundance of health-promoting properties. In Asian herbalism, it was celebrated as a cornerstone tonic herb and top adaptogen — its powers so admired that the mushroom was reserved only for emperors, royalty and the rich.

Luckily for us, the adaptogen has now become widely available so common folk can experience reishi’s extraordinary benefits. And of course, some of reishi’s most well-known benefits are its calming and stress-reducing qualities.

Wanna know how it works? Read on.

But first, what exactly is stress?

We’re all familiar with stress and the feelings it can invoke.

Every single day we’re presented with unavoidable tasks or responsibilities that may trigger these feelings, whether it be paying a bill, preparing for a job interview or even planning a trip or holiday.

And while feelings of stress and anxiety may begin with a single thought, symptoms can turn into physical manifestations like rapid breathing, fast heart rate, dizziness, light headedness, abdominal pain, fatigue and headaches.

But here’s the thing: your body releases these stress hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol) on purpose to alert you to a possible threat, allowing you to assess the risks and know what to do in a dangerous situation. The reaction, known as ‘fight or flight’ is crucial for survival as it helps us to respond to threatening situations quickly. Without it, our ancestors would have struggled to survive while running away from a hungry bear.

While it’s safe to say that the majority of us live a far less threatening lifestyle than our ancestors, the stress response continues to play an important role in our decision-making process (even in non-life-threatening scenarios). And while most of us don’t live in fear of being eaten by a bear, we still experience stressful situations that see our body go through a series of physiological changes known as GAS.

An infographic demonstrating the process of the stress response in the body

The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)

To explain the physiological change process that occurs within the body during stress, medical doctor and researcher Hans Selye came up with a three-stage process called GAS. The three stages that were identified as the typical response to stress were Alarm, Resistance and Exhaustion.

  1. Alarm stage
    This is the initial symptoms the body experiences when under stress. Your heart rate increases, the adrenal gland releases cortisol (a stress hormone), and you receive a boost of adrenaline. This is where you decided to fight or flee.

  2. Resistance stage

    Once you’ve experienced the initial fight-or-flight response, your body begins to calm itself. It releases a lower amount of cortisol and your heart and blood pressure begin to normalise. Even though your body is starting to recover, it still stays on high alert for a while. If you overcome the stressor for good, your body continues to repair itself until your hormone levels, heart rate and blood pressure return to a pre-stress state.

    However, some stressful situations tend to linger, which causes the body to remain on high alert for extended periods of time. If the stress isn’t resolved, the body adapts and learns to live with a higher stress level. The stress hormone continues to be released and blood pressure remains elevated. If the resistance stage continues for too long, it can lead to exhaustion.

  3. Exhaustion stage
    In a situation of prolonged or chronic stress, the body’s physical, emotional and mental energy reserves may become completely depleted. Signs of exhaustion can include fatigue, burnout, anxiety and depression. The physical effects of this stage can even weaken the immune system and put the body at risk for stress-related illnesses like chronic fatigue. 

Reishi for stress — how does it work?

While there are many mushrooms that can help with mental health (check out our blog post here), there’s only one mushroom that is crowned “king of all mushrooms.”

So, what are the anti-anxiety powers of reishi?

Firstly, it’s an adaptogen — a type of herb or fungi that can help kick anxiety’s butt. In a nutshell, adaptogens work to help the body stay within the ‘resistance phase’ for longer during times of stress. Instead of crashing headfirst into the ‘exhaustion phase’, adaptogens help you find balance, regulate emotions, clear your thinking, and improve overall health.

Reishi is also chock full of antioxidants and compounds that help to alleviate high cortisol levels, as well as polypeptides that help to manage stress responses. These polypeptides kinda act like cheerleaders for endorphins and other neurotransmitters inside your brain, which help to balance out the stress hormones present.

The best part about this? The effects of reishi can be long-lasting and improve overall mood. A 2005 study found that reishi mushrooms improved the quality of life in certain chronic conditions and helped to rid the body of aches, pains and dizziness. The study suggested that taking reishi regularly can help to reduce anxiety, find more stable and long-lasting focus, and restore balance and tranquility within the mind.

Researchers also found a strong connection between reishi mushrooms and sleep quality. A 2021 study found that individuals who took reishi powder for 4 weeks experienced less daily fatigue than those who didn’t. The sleep-promoting powers of reishi are mostly due to the mushroom’s calming effects on the central nervous system (CNS) where it loosens the muscles, improves digestion, and calms the mind. 

A wooden spoon containing a pile of reishi mushroom powder, capsules containing reishi mushroom powder are visible in the foreground and two reishi mushrooms are in the background

What else can reishi do?

Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. In addition to reducing cortisol levels, improving mood, relieving aches and supporting sleep, reishi mushrooms may improve overall health by…

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Reducing inflammation (which can be linked to the development of disease)
  • Supporting heart health and reducing cholesterol 
  • Controlling blood sugar

Interested in adding reishi to your diet?

At Natura Mushrooms, we make it easy to add reishi to almost anything. Coffee, tea, smoothies, cereal… the possibilities are endless. We have reishi available in both powder and extract form. If you’d like to try for yourself, check out our Reishi Mushroom Powder, Reishi Extract or Reishi and Hemp Extract.