Ganoderma Coffee: From Mushroom To Medicine

Usually when people think about mushrooms in a medicinal context they’re thinking about the wrong kind of mushrooms. Most edible mushrooms are not just delicious, but also healthy. Ancient societies have been using them for thousands of years and a particular species known as the ‘ganoderma’ has recently been standing out and making headline — and it has nothing to do with intoxication.

Ganoderma is a polypore mushroom which grows on wood. It is characterized by its large basidiocarps, the perennial, woody brackets or conks that grow in fan-like shelves on the trunks of live or dead trees. We’ve all seen similar types of conks in the woods, but since they rely on moisture they grow large and are particularly common in tropical regions.

Ganoderma is actually an umbrella term for over 80 species of these mushrooms, all of which contain certain bioactive compounds and are being investigated for a variety of therapeutic uses. Those include anticancer, immunoregulatory, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects, as well as the reduction of blood cholesterol, fatigue and increasing stamina. While scientific studies are still underway, there seem to be plenty of indications that consumption of the mushrooms entail various health benefits, particularly from the genus ‘ganoderma lucidum.’

Known for its shiny cap surface, the Chinese call them ‘lingzhi’ and the Japanese ‘reishi’ and in both cultures they are seen as somewhat of a magic herb and recorded as being the oldest medicinal mushrooms known to man. In Chinese history they have always held a mythical status. In fact, in the Vietnamese language they are know as ‘linh chi,’ which roughly translates as the ‘supernatural mushroom.’ While there are many ways in preparing them, a particularly popular form is a drink called ganoderma coffee.

On its own the mushroom in liquid form is very bitter. The most common preparation was to slice or pulverize the dried mushroom and then simmer it for several hours. The resulting dark liquid was powerful but difficult to consume, due to its extremely bitter taste. Combining it with regular coffee to create the unique ‘ganoderma coffee’ changed not just the taste.

Another factor in this unique combination became the caffeine, which speeds up the body’s intake of the active enzymes and acids of the mushroom. The mushroom is therefore pulverized and mixed with roasted, ground coffee from selected coffee blends. The resulting drink tastes much like regular coffee with a distinct but not unpleasant aftertaste that seems to have bit of an extra kick.

Generations of botanists and traditional-medicine doctors have used the ganoderma to treat all kinds of illnesses as well as to prevent many others. Many ancient texts seem to refer to the ganoderma as the ‘mushroom of immortality’ and the ‘elixir of life.’ While modern scholars and doctors can’t claim that the ganoderma coffee really does prolong life and turn back time, it is interesting to note just how many health benefits this ‘magic mushroom’ really does seem to have.

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