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  • Hartley


Updated: May 5

reishi mushrooms with a starry background and the words "reishi for sleep?"
via Moon Juice

On my quest to wean myself off sleeping pills, I’m dabbling in just about everything–and I’ve long wondered if ancient medicine can do anything for my insomnia.

Mushrooms are having a big moment. The health store aisles keep shouting at me to buy mushroom-laced coffee, teas and powders. I admit, I’m intrigued…a certain mushroom with purported “sleep-enhancing properties” has caught my attention: reishi, a medicinal fungus with a rich history in Chinese medicine (2,000 years!).

Known as the “King of all Herbs”, Reishi grows on trees and logs across South America and Asia–with a distinct reddish-brown cap and glossy surface.

Reishi was once so rare that it was reserved for royal use only. Good enough for royalty, good enough for me. In the cart it goes.

How does taking reishi help you sleep?

Reishi is a potent “adaptogen”—adaptogens are active ingredients in certain plants and mushrooms that may impact how your body deals with stress, anxiety and fatigue. They are thought to bring your body back to a steady balance by managing both physical and mental stressors.

What’s the evidence that reishi helps with sleep?

Scientific research on Reishi mushrooms and sleep is still limited but there are some promising studies emerging. One study found that Reishi increased total sleep time and non-REM time in rats. Another study found that people taking Reishi reported a reduction in anxiety.

This is because Reishi mushrooms contain two bioactive compounds— triterpenes and polysaccharides–that are believed to play a role in promoting better sleep by calming the body’s inflammatory response and modulating stress.

Stress reduction and improved sleep quality? Sign me up.

How much reishi should you take for sleep?

The dosage of reishi mushroom for sleep can vary but recommendations often suggest 1 to 1.5 grams.

When should you take reishi for sleep?

Reishi should be taken an hour before bedtime for sleep benefits.

Does reishi have any negative side effects?

Possible side effects of reishi mushrooms include dry mouth, rashes, upset stomach, diarrhea, headache, nosebleed, and dizziness.

My experience using reishi mushrooms for insomnia

In the name of research, I decided to prepare reishi the ancient way—no fancy powders or fillers that might muddle my very scientific results.

Taking three thick slices of dried Reishi that resembled bark, I brought it to a boil over high heat and simmered. When the water took on a caramel colour I poured it into a cup and had a first taste.

Let me assure you, it did not taste like caramel. It was very bitter, umami even.

I added some date paste and when that couldn’t cut it, I used some simple syrup reserved for holiday cocktails. The cinnamon and cloves did take some of the edge off. It was fine but not something you exactly drink for the taste.

Did I drift blissfully off into a dreamstate? Not exactly...

The verdict

Maybe I’m asking too much from a mushroom. Reishi had no impact on getting me to sleep faster, however, I clocked seven hours uninterrupted and woke up feeling rested.

So it may help those who struggle with staying asleep, and make a worthwhile addition to your nighttime toolkit if that’s your achilles’ heel.

Pro -tip: my word to the wise: buy it in tincture or capsule form.

So have you tried adaptogens? Which ones? And do you find them effective in leveling your mood and sleep?

Drop a comment.


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