An allergic reaction is when your body overreacts to something that is otherwise harmless. While the intention is to protect you, it can be at times annoying (sniffles) or even fatal (Anaphylactic shock).
Hay Fever, the Spring Allergy
One of the most common allergies is allergic rhinitis, or more commonly referred to as hay fever.
Unlike colds where you get them from viruses, hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. Due to the nature of the allergy, people find out they’re allergic often during spring or when the flowers bloom and spread pollen into the air.
According to the NHS, symptoms of hay fever include:
- Coughing and/or sneezing that doesn’t stop
- A runny nose
- Red or water eyes
- Itchy throat, mouth, ears, and nose
- Headache, earache
- Shortness of breath (especially if you have asthma)
Fortunately, most allergies are mild or can be treated with medication. However, emerging studies are also looking at mushrooms to treat allergies in a natural and holistic way, and one of the most prominent ones is Reishi.
What is the Reishi Mushroom?
Reishi, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is a mushroom that grows in various humid parts of Asia. It’s a long-standing part of traditional Eastern medicine, thanks to its immunity benefits.
The mushroom has been cited to have potential benefits for overall immunity, cancer prevention, and fatigue & depression. Reishi has also been investigated for its positive effects on allergies, specifically hay fever.
How does Reishi work for allergies
The fungus contains several active compounds credited for its healing properties, including triterpenoids, peptidoglycans, and Beta D Glucans. These compounds possess anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties, the two ways common allergy drugs work.
In a 2012 study involving “hay fever” guinea pigs, scientists discovered that reishi treatment reduced symptoms of pollen-induced nasal blockage. Moreover, nasal hyper-responsiveness, or when you sneeze too frequently or when your runny nose isn’t letting up, was greatly reduced after using Reishi. 
In a review published in the journal of Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery, scientists were quoted saying Reishi’s “unique array of compounds could play a major role in the treatment of histamine-mediated allergic responses.” 
They also mentioned how Reishi is a safer approach for allergic treatment, especially when traditional treatments also come with side effects.
The Problem with Traditional Allergy Treatments
Reishi is being considered a potentially safer alternative for allergy treatments, but what exactly can make conventional treatments unsafe?
Scientists reviewing Reishi’s safety profile concluded that the mushroom exhibits similar anti-allergic properties to common allergy medications, without the risks of short and long-term side effects.
In a 2014 review, researchers were quoted saying:
“Topical and systemic anti-inflammatory drugs have serious drawbacks such as they can suppress pituitary-adrenal function, dangerously unbalance fluids/electrolytes and cause undesirable changes in skin texture and the salicylic acid-derived prostaglandin inhibitors can result in severe gastric irritation.”
Common allergy medications and side effects
Allergy medications, also known as anti-histamines, are prescribed to patients who need immediate relief from allergy symptoms. They’re divided into two groups:
- Chlorphenamine (Piriton)
Due to their synthetic and concentrated nature, antihistamines provide immediate relief but can also lead to side effects such as:
- Reduced coordination or reaction time
- Dry mouth
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty urinating
- Gastric problems
More than the side effects, traditional allergy treatments focus too heavily on treating the symptoms, but not the root cause of the allergic reaction. The modern approach to allergy drugs does not consider the body’s natural defences nor the causative factors involved in an allergic reaction.
The result? You end up needing to take antihistamines for the rest of your life, with the risk of building tolerance leading to an increase in your effective dosage.
Reishi could be Better in the Long-Term
The unique spores found in reishi possess anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties, which address the processes that lead to allergies, such as those that release histamine. The mushroom also contains Beta D Glucans, which can balance and reduce immune overreaction and lower histamine levels and overall inflammation.
What should I look out for in a Reishi supplement?
Below are examples of what you should look out for when choosing a Reishi supplements:
Triterpenes are chemical compounds produced by animals, plants, and fungi. Studies have shown triterpenes can help relieve allergy symptoms.  They also possess potent antioxidant properties that benefit insulin sensitivity, which then helps with blood sugar management.
Reishi is the only source of triterpenes called ganoderic acid, which have a molecular structure similar to steroid hormones. Because anti-histamines are mostly steroid-like in structure, this explains how ganoderic acid can help relieve allergy symptoms.
Beta D Glucans
Beta D Glucans are soluble fibres found mostly in the cell walls of bacteria, yeasts, some plants, and mushrooms. They have been shown to have potential benefits for cardiovascular disease and cholesterol absorption. Their biggest benefit, however, is how they can stimulate the immune system to react to infections faster.
Tests for Purity & Safety Profile
You want a reishi supplement that’s potent and free from pesticides. High purity extracts mean more of the active compounds you want, especially if you’re after the possible allergy benefits.Always ensure that you are able to review the lab tests to confirm the mushrooms extraction method, active ingredients and purity. See our Reishi product page for the lab test.
The active compounds are both alcohol-soluble and water-soluble. To get full-spectrum support, a dual extract is best.
Here is a comprehensive checklist for choosing a quality mushroom supplement.
How do I use Reishi?
The recommended dose is 3-5g daily or 6-10 capsules (each capsule containing 500mg). You can take the dose in one go or split it in two.
Side Effects and Safety
If you have a mushroom allergy, you should not use these mushroom extracts. Caution is advised if using mushrooms along with blood thinning medication.
1. Ryu SY, Oak MH, Yoon SK, Cho DI, Yoo GS, Kim TS, Kim KM. Anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory triterpenes from the herb of Prunella vulgaris. Planta Med. 2000 May;66(4):358-60. doi: 10.1055/s-2000-8531. PMID: 10865455.
2. Bhardwaj N, Katyal P, Sharma AK. Suppression of inflammatory and allergic responses by pharmacologically potent fungus Ganoderma lucidum. Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Discov. 2014;8(2):104-17. doi: 10.2174/1872213x08666140619110657. PMID: 24948193.
3. Mizutani N, Nabe T, Shimazu M, Yoshino S, Kohno S. Effect of Ganoderma lucidum on pollen-induced biphasic nasal blockage in a guinea pig model of allergic rhinitis. Phytother Res. 2012 Mar;26(3):325-32. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3557. Epub 2011 Jun 23. PMID: 21698671.