Ganoderma lucidum, better known as reishi, is one of the very top herbs in Chinese medicine. It has earned the reputation as the mushroom of immortality and is well known for its healthful effects across a broad spectrum of areas.
Yet, some men are steering clear of it for one reason…that it might by anti-androgenic. This is because it lowers DHT via 5-alpha reductase enzyme inhibition.
Upon hearing about this, I had to dive deeper into the research. This article gives a summation of what is out there.
Research on Reishi and 5alpha Reductase Inhibition
Reishi was measured, along with 18 other medicinal and edible mushrooms including lion’s mane, shiitake, white button, oyster, maitake and others. This was to investigate possible properties in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer.
In castrated rats it was shown to significantly inhibit the testosterone-induced growth of the ventral prostate. This was done both with methanol and ethanol extracts, which functioned virtually the same. In this study they stated:
“These results suggest that the suppression effect of prostatic growth by Ganoderma lucidum might come in part from its ability to act as an inhibitor of 5alpha-reductase.”
Much research was later done to find what constituents in reishi specifically were responsible for this action.
The components that appear to exert this action are thought to be in the triterpenoid fraction, most specifically ganoderols B and F. This is important in that this is pulled out more in alcohol (ethanol) extractions than water extractions.
While significant, it is weak 5alpha-reductase inhibitory activity and binding to androgen receptors. Ganoderol B also showed an ability to down-regulate androgen receptor activity and prostate specific antigen (PSA).
Based on this research, a human study was launched. A total of 88 men with lower urinary tract symptoms were split into a reishi extract (6 mg once per day) group and those taking a placebo for twelve weeks of treatment. In the end the reishi group was found to have improved the men’s International Prostate Symptom Score, without any significant side effects. This was done without altering testosterone levels.
Thus, if you’re a man with prostate issues, reishi may very well be something worth investigating further.
Also important is that reishi appears to down-regulate estrogen receptors as well. As discussed in our prostate article, while DHT is blamed for prostate issues, estrogen plays a big role in this as well.
What About Men Who Want More DHT?
So here’s why I’m not concerned with using reishi despite wanted to keep my DHT levels optimal.
With this research, it’s looking at the very complicated reishi through a very narrow lens. That’s how science works. And it can teach us important things, but must always be brought back into a bigger picture.
Taking reishi isn’t going to cut your DHT by 80% like it did in the rat cells above.
I am not interesting in using a single “active” constituent of reishi, instead I want the “intelligence” of the whole mushroom. And I don’t really consider reishi a “hormonal” herb. In any case its effects are far less than some of the other herbs we have in this realm.
Now, there may be a few people that are very sensitive to DHT inhibition that might want to avoid reishi for this reason. If that’s the case, according to the above chart you likely want to avoid just about all mushrooms. As always we recommend experimenting and finding what works for you personally.
Even so, you could get a purely water extracted form which isn’t going to pull these triterpenes to the same degree, thus you could get many of the immune system benefits for instance but without this. Of course, those triterpenes also have many other positive effects, such as their nootropic action.
(Currently we carry a dual-extraction reishi, both water and alcohol. Let us know in the comments if you’d like us to make available a purely water extracted reishi too.)
Lastly, if you decide reishi isn’t right for you there are plenty of other herbs that do not have this effect.
Hope that helps to shed some light on this action.