Ganoderma lucidum contains about 1.8% ash, 26-28%carbohydrate, 3-5% crude fat, 59% crude fiber, and 7-8% protein.1These mushrooms also contain a wide variety of bioactive molecules includingterpenoids, steroids, phenols, nucleotides, and their derivatives glycoproteinsand polysaccharides.
1 Mushroom proteins contain all the essentialamino acids but they are especially rich in lysine and leucine.1 Thelow total fat content and high proportion of healthy polyunsaturated fattyacids relative to unhealthy fatty acids is considered a significant contributorto the health value of Ganoderma lucidum.1The polysaccharides in the fungus exhibit a broad range of bioactivitiesincluding anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, antiulcer, antitumorigenic, andimmunostimulating effects.1 In order to extract the polysaccharidesfrom the fruiting bodies, a process using hot water and precipitation withethanol or methanol is commonly used.1 Many of these extractedpolysaccharide components from Ganodermalucidum are marketed and sold as over the counter treatments for chronicdiseases including cancer and liver disease.1 Triterpenes can alsobe extracted from the fungus by using methanol, ethanol, acetone, chloroform,or ether and these give the mushroom its lipid-lowering and antioxidant effects.1 The research on the actual healthbenefits of Ganoderma lucidum havebeen pretty mixed in terms of if this mushroom can actually provide its claimedbenefits.
1 There are a vast number of published studies based onanimal and cell culture models and in vitro assessment that prove some healthbenefits.1 However, there is no cohesive body of research orobjective evaluation of the mushrooms effects on human health.1 Oneof the issues with conducting human research is that researchers don’t know ifexposing unhealthy or chronically ill patients to the mushroom’s effects willcause them any danger in terms of their health.1 A study publishedin the British Journal of Nutrition set out to determine what effects Ganoderma lucidum would have on apopulation of healthy adults in hopes that it could open doors for more intensehuman subject research.2 The study was a double-blinded,placebo-controlled, cross-over intervention study which investigated theeffects of 4 weeks of Lingzhi supplementation on biomarkers for antioxidantstatus, CHD risk, DNA damage, immune status, and inflammation.
2 Thestudy also tested for markers of liver and renal toxicity.2 Thestudy collected its data by collecting fasting blood and urine from healthy,consenting adults before and after 4 weeks supplementation with a commerciallyavailable encapsulated Lingzhi preparation or a placebo.2 The studyshowed that there were no significant changes in any of the variables, butthere was a slight trend toward lower lipids and increased antioxidantcapacity.2 The study also showed no evidence of any liver, renal, orDNA toxicity.2 Overall, this study of healthy subjects provideduseful data that supports controlled intervention trials using at risk subjectsin order to assess the therapeutic effects of Lingzhi on the human population.2It is important that we take the research on animals and cell culture modelsand apply it to the human population to determine if Ganoderma lucidum canactually provide life saving benefits to the human population. Many animal and cell culture studieshave been done on Ganoderma lucidumand its effect on cancer.
There are many chemical compounds that can beextracted from the mushroom that exhibit chemopreventive and/or tumoricidaleffects.3 Tumor implanted animal models have shown inhibitoryeffects on angiogenesis and metastasis, but the evidence from human trials isscarce.3 A study performed on the effects of Ganoderma lucidum in allogenic and syngenic tumor-bearing miceshowed inhibited tumor growth and elongated life span when Ganoderma lucidum was orally administered to the mice.3These results indicated that the anti-tumor activity may be caused by themushrooms immunostimulating action and it suggests that its ingestion can be usefulin the prevention and curing of cancer.3 Many Ganoderma lucidum products are promoted as being immunomodulatingagents and many animal and cell culture studies have been performed in order todetermine the validity of the claim.4 These studies showconsiderable evidence to support the claims via the induction of cytokines and enhancementof immunological effector.4 There are many different components of Ganoderma lucidum that proved to enhancethe proliferation and maturation of T and B lymphocytes, splenic mononuclearcells, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells in culture in vitro and inanimal studies in vivo.4 The anti-tumor effect of the mushroom wasfound to be mediated by cytokines released from activated macrophages and Tlymphocytes.4 Ganodermalucidum has also been found to have antioxidant benefits and theconsumption of these antioxidants help prevent cancer and other chronicdiseases.5 The antioxidants found in the mushroom protect cellularcomponents from oxidative damage which decreases risk of mutations andcarcinogenesis and it also protects immune cells from damage.5 Inone study, the effects of antioxidant ethanolic extract of Ganoderma lucidum were tested in vivo and in vitro in rats inducedwith mammary cancers.5 The findings of the study suggest that theextracts from the mushroom could be considered as a potential source of naturalantioxidants and can be used as an effective chemopreventitive agent againstmammary cancer.5 Research on the effects of Ganoderma lucidum on viral and bacterialinfections has also shown positive results in culture and animal studies.6The goal of research in the treatment of viral and bacterial infections is todiscover new agents that specifically inhibit viral and bacterialmultiplication without affecting normal cells.6 The many sideeffects of antibiotics and antivirals and the appearance of resistant andmutant strains have made the development of new agents a growing field.6Many studies have been done on Ganodermalucidum including a study on mice infected with hepatitis B.6 Inthe study, mice were injected with Ganoderic acid and it was found that itinhibited replication of hepatitis B virus and it significantly protected themice from liver damage.6 It has been also been shown that themushroom has inhibitory effects on herpes simplex viruses, vesicularstomatitis, and against HIV protease activity.6 Ganodermalucidum has also been proven to have a hypoglycemic effect in animals.7One study looked at the use of Ganoderan B, a glycan of Ganoderma lucidum fruiting bodies and its effect on hypoglycemicactivity.7 It was found that Ganoderan B increased the plasmainsulin level in normal and glucose-loaded mice but elicited no effect oninsulin binding to isolated adipocytes.7 Overall it reduced theglycogen content in the liver but had no influence on total cholesterol andtriglyceride levels in the plasma and liver.7 This study and manylike it were performed in animals so much more support from human clinicalstudies is needed to prove the effects.7 The final effects of Ganoderma lucidum is on liver andgastric injury.8 The hot water and water-ether extracts of thefruiting body were found to have a potent hepatoprotective effect on liverinjury induced by carbon tetrachloride given orally to rats.8Another study found that high doses of freeze-dried Ganoderma lucidum mycelia induced significant prolonged totalintervals and a reduction in the number of ulcers and ulcer areas.8The study indicates that the treatment was effective in preventing reoccurring ulcers.8