Dangers of Ganoderma

Overview

Ganoderma lucidum is a long-used Asian mushroom that has recently grown in popularity around the world as a natural medication for conditions ranging from insomnia to cancer. It comes in a number of forms, with capsules and a coffee substitute as two of the most popular. Scientific data on its efficacy is sketchy. So far ganoderma has shown no serious side effects, but doctors warn that people with some conditions should use caution.

History

The mushroom ganoderma has been valued for up to 4,000 years by Asian herbalists and natural healers. The mushroom is known as lingzhi in China, reishi in Japan and yeongji or ling chih in Korea. It grows on tree stumps and logs. It was originally used by royalty with the hope of achieving immortality, as well as calmness of thought. More recently, Asian healers have used ganoderma for fatigue, asthma, insomnia and cough, as well as for more serious conditions such as liver disorders, high blood pressure and arthritis. Proponents contend that some tests show ganoderma may have positive effects on conditions ranging from cancer and HIV to cholesterol.

Effects

Scientific studies of ganoderma are limited. Most of the drug's positive effects are attributed to immunomodulating properties--repairing the immune system--and its improvement in liver functioning and the respiratory system. Some studies have shown ganoderma can act as a natural steroid in helping victims of certain kidney disorders, but all evidence so far is preliminary.

Side-Effect Risk

One of ganoderma's most attractive qualities is its apparent lack of serious side effects and health risks. Studies have shown the substance is well tolerated when taken up to 16 months.

Serious Side Effects

Doctors warn that people with certain conditions should use caution when considering taking the ganoderma. Ganoderma may lower blood sugar, so people suffering from hypoglycemia should avoid the drug. One of the positive effects of ganoderma is that it allegedly lowers blood pressure, but that can be dangerous in patients who already have low blood pressure. Ganoderma may also have a blood-thinning effect, and caution is advised for anyone taking anticoagulants, or suffering from ulcers or blood-clotting disorders such as hemophilia.

Rare Side Effects

Some patients have had allergic reactions to ganoderma, including skin rashes, dizziness and headaches. The blood-thinning effect can also cause mild gastrointestinal disturbances, nausea, diarrhea and bloody stool.

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About this Author

Richard Cole has worked as a journalist for 35 years. He has written for or appeared in media ranging from local weeklies to the Internet and national television, including 18 years with The Associated Press. He attended Lafayette College and the University of California at Berkeley.

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