Although there are more than 2000 known species of reishi, only six kinds have been studied in greater detail to uncover potential health benefits – red, black, blue, white, yellow, and purple reishi.
Of these six types, black and red reishi have demonstrated the most significant health-enhancing effects, and both are therefore widely used in the global health supplement market today. However, red reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) has been proven to be the most effective in improving one’s overall health by enhancing the immune system, many bodily functions, and vital organs.
Black reishi (Ganoderma sinensis), is fairly common and can be found in most Chinese herbal shops. This species of Ganoderma tends to be unevenly shaped and can measure up to ten inches in diameter, although most mature specimens are about six inches in diameter. The majority of reishi products that claim to be using “wild” reishi generally use black reishi. While it still possesses some value as a moderate herbal tonic, black reishi is considered to be inferior to red reishi because of its lower polysaccharide content.
Wild purple reishi grows in the Chang Bai Mountains, north of North Korea in Jilin province of China. They are extremely rare and very similar to red reishi in appearance, but have a significant purple coloration in the heart of the mushroom cap. There has been limited research and testing on this type of reishi, due in large part to the scarcity of authentic purple reishi specimens.
It is the very high content of polysaccharides (complex sugars) in red reishi that makes it particularly potent. However, due to harsh environmental conditions, the instability of wild red reishi in nature, and its vulnerability to pollution, disease, and insect infestations, the number of high quality red reishi specimens that can reach full maturity in the wild is rare.
As a result, approximately 30 years ago, scientists and farmers began experimenting with different methods of domestic cultivation for mass production. Since then, Japanese producers have earned the reputation of growing the highest quality red reishi, thanks in part to strict regulations set by the Japanese government to uphold quality and trade standards. The complex cultivation process developed by Japanese scientists and farmers is detailed further in the section on red reishi quality.
Because of the extensive research conducted to investigate the health benefits of red reishi, and the proliferation of red reishi products in the marketplace, this website focuses primarily on this specific kind of reishi.