Reishi, the “Mushroom of Immortality”, dubbed the “Soul Mushroom” or the “King of Mushrooms.” Its medicinal effects were first documented in "Herbal Pharmacopoeia", complied by the founding father of Chinese medicine, Shen Nong, (Han Dynasty, 206 BC-8 AD). Art images of G. lucidum began in 1400 AD associated with Taoism. Traditionally, it was used in China by Taoist monks to promote a centered calmness, improve meditative practices, and attain a long and healthy life.
However, the reishi mushroom was often not included in many of the common medicas throughout Chinese history, possibly due to its relative rarity or perhaps due to it being reserved only for use by royalty. Reishi mushrooms have been rare and expensive for most of their history because they are difficult to cultivate and find in the wild.
In the 1980s, a Japanese man named Shigeaki Mori developed an intricate and effective method of cultivating them, which has made them widely available and affordable. The Ganoderma species continues to be a popular traditional medicine in Asia and their use is growing throughout the world.
"Pengzu was well known in the Chinese culture as a symbol for long life, nutrition treatment and sex therapeutic treatment. He maintained his health so well that he married more than 100 wives along the way and fathered hundred of children, as late as in his 800s. The way he kept himself in good health was by taking reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) and drinking the chute, living in seclusion and good health" (Wassar, 2005).
"Images extended beyond religion, and appeared in paintings, carvings, furniture, and even women’s accessories" (Wassar, 2005).
Recognized by its shiny reddish to brownish-orange varnished cap and stem, reishi has a bright, white, outer growth margin. Reishi is a polypore mushroom that when fresh is soft, corky, and flat. It features a conspicuous kidney-shaped cap, measuring 2 to 11 inches.
Typically, late summer into the autumn, reishi grows on dead or dying eastern hemlock, or other conifers beginning in late May or early June. It can continue to grow well into early autumn when they reach full maturation. It will also grow on the same tree for several years.
Reishi favor warmer regions and is found in many parts of Asia, Australia, South America, Southern Europe, and the Southeastern United States, and occasionally reported from the Southwest U.S.
This is not a fungi that can be eaten unless it is broken down into a powdered form.