How the “Mushroom of Immortality” Can Benefit Your Dog

With its treasure trove of health benefits, Reishi is an important medicinal mushroom that can help with your dog’s allergies, arthritis, and more.

Selecting the right medicinal mushroom for your dog can be quite a daunting task, since there are so many to choose from. In this article, we’ll focus on a well-known mushroom with a long and revered history. Reishi (Ganoderma lingzhi, formerly known as Ganoderma lucidum), offers a range of amazing properties that can help with allergies, arthritis and other health issues in dogs.

Facts about Reishi

Known as the “mushroom of immortality”, Reishi has been used medicinally for at least 4,000 years in China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is considered warming, astringent, nourishing, detoxifying and tonifying.

Reishi has been used traditionally for a variety of human ailments, including liver, lung and kidney problems. It is also helpful for insomnia thanks to its calming effects. Like all mushrooms, Reishi is considered an adaptogen — it helps the body manage stress, aids in balancing the endocrine system, and regulates hormone levels.1

Mushrooms are considered “superfoods” that work well when administered daily as a general health supplement. All mushrooms contain similar biologically-active molecules such as beta glucans and terpenes — to name just two of the most widely studied constituents. For this reason, all mushrooms share some of the same beneficial properties. But some mushrooms have special properties not shared with others. Reishi is an example of a special mushroom with special qualities that can help your dog stay healthy.

Did you know? When added to an integrative wellness program, Reishi can help support a healthy response to seasonal allergies. It can even improve mobility when given regularly as part of a multi-modal program of supplements and other integrative treatments.

Talking about terpenes

Mushrooms contain large terpene molecules, termed triterpenes, as well as slightly smaller molecules called diterpenes and sesterpenes. Smaller terpenes are commonly found in fruit and vegetables, and give them their aroma and flavor.

Did you know? Terpenes cross the blood-brain barrier, which is why aromatherapy works so well and so quickly — it gets right into the nervous system. Essential oils are basically made up of multiple terpenes. The terpenes in Reishi (as well as in Lion’s Mane) also cross the blood-brain barrier and produce their calming effects by binding with serotonin receptors in the brain.

Reishi contains many triterpenes, and they are some of the most powerful found in any mushroom. They can make Reishi taste quite bitter. Triterpenes have been studied as extensively as beta glucans, and their properties are even more diverse. Research has shown that Reishi triterpenes have anti-tumor, antimicrobial, and anti-parasitic effects, and can protect your dog’s liver from toxins, as well as help normalize blood pressure if it’s too high.

Triterpenes are also responsible for the famous anti-anxiety and calming effects of Reishi, as well as its known benefits to the cardiovascular system. Triterpenes have quite a potent anti-inflammatory effect, which when combined with the anti-inflammatory properties of Reishi’s beta glucans, can be quite effective at lowering the general level of inflammation in the body.3

How Reishi helps with arthritis and allergies

Arthritis in dogs, whether osteoarthritis or rheumatoid, is always associated with increased inflammation, which is a major cause of the pain. When used on a daily basis, Reishi can lower the overall level of inflammation in the dog’s body, which will help reduce the level of inflammation in an arthritic joint, rendering it less painful.

A multi-pronged approach to treating arthritis in dogs, including acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy (rehabilitation), cold laser, joint “lubricants” like glucosamine, and anti-inflammatory agents such as MSM, Reishi, Boswellia and others, is considered the most effective approach to this often disabling problem.4

Did you know? When a dog has allergies, it is a sign their immune system is out of balance. It reacts to harmless stimuli like pollen as though it is something dangerous. The ability of Reishi’s beta glucans to help normalize this immune system hyperreactivity works in combination with the mast cell-stabilizing effects of its triterpenes to help the allergic patient.

Allergies are another very common problem in dogs. Triterpenes have an antihistaminic effect by stabilizing the mast cell membranes so they do not release their histamine, which is commonly what drives the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Mast cells are most active when an animal has allergies; when these cells are stimulated by an allergic reaction, they release histamine to cause red skin and intense itching.5

The strong anti-inflammatory, anti-histaminic and anti-anxiety effects of Reishi’s triterpenes are why I recommend this mushroom more than any other. And when I think a combination of several mushrooms might be more effective for addressing more complex issues, I always include Reishi in my blends.

Whatever your dog’s problems, think of Reishi as a partner in your journey to maintain or restore the health of your special friend.


Dr. Robert J. Silver is a 1982 graduate of Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He has pioneered the use of diet, herbs and nutraceuticals in his small animal integrative practice in Boulder, Colorado for the past 25 years. He writes and speaks both domestically and internationally to veterinary audiences on the value of blending holistic modalities with conventional medicine, and is a consultant to the pet food industry. He is also the Chief Medical Officer of Real Mushrooms for Pets.

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