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Reishi Cultivation

Posted April 10th, 2015

A great health food supplement is only as good as the source material in which the ingredients come from and our story begins first with a little reishi history.

For thousands of years, the rare and revered "mushroom of immortality" could only be found in dense forests on remote mountains. Reishi cap growing on soilThe reishi mushroom's growing habitat required a delicate balance of humidity, temperature, and nutrients provided by the soil and the wood-logs on which it grew on. As reishi prefers to grow in hot and humid conditions, good quality reishi is mostly found in Asia. Not only was it rare, the quality of wild reishi was inconsistent due to environmental factors such as disease and insect infestations which may have prevented it from growing to full maturity.

Mayuzumi and natural wood-log reishi cultivation To add to the difficulty of finding good quality reishi, there are also many varieties of reishi. While classical herbal medicine texts state of six kinds of reishi (red, black, blue, white, purple, and yellow), there are actually 53 confirmed varieties. Of all the reishi strains, red reishi is considered the most health beneficial and the safest to consume. It was for these reasons and its rarity that red reishi was worth more than gold and reserved only for use by royalty.

Mayuzumi doing research on reishi It was not until the 1970's when a group of Japanese researchers including Fumimaru Mayuzumi, the founder of Nikkei Co. and astute mycologist from the Tokyo Agricultural University, embarked on a mission to develop the best reishi mushroom cultivation method. Their goal? To grow high grade red reishi of consistent quality and in a natural environment. It was during this intensive research that the Mayuzumi family, the producers of Mikei, discovered their own Japanese red reishi strain and a technique for its cultivation on aged wood-logs in greenhouses, now known world-wide as natural wood-log cultivation. Because of the Mayuzumi family's efforts, Japanese red reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is now commercially available.

 

Natural Wood-log Reishi Cultivation

The entire process of the natural wood-log cultivation method takes nearly a year. Nikkei Co. farm
(Pictures were taken at the Nikkei Co. farm in Isesaki-shi, Gunma-ken, Japan in 2014.
To enlarge, click on the photos below.)

  1. Natural-wood log cultivation of red reishi is first accomplished by grafting superior quality reishi fungi (Mayuzumi strain) onto aged oak wood-logs. The wood-logs are then placed in a heating chamber for a period of time to inoculate.
    Reishi cultivation process step 1

  2. The inoculated wood-logs are then placed in greenhouses in a rigorously controlled environment.
    Reishi cultivation process step 2 Reishi cultivation process step 2

  3. The wood-logs are covered with nutrient-rich topsoil. The quality of soil and wood-log is crucial for the reishi to draw nutrients upon and grow into large, high quality reishi.
    Reishi cultivation process step 3 Reishi cultivation process step 3

  4. Inside the greenhouse, a sanitized irrigation system must be used. Temperature, light intensity, and humidity are constantly monitored. The room must also be well-ventilated and blocked from direct sunlight.
    Reishi cultivation process step 4 Reishi cultivation process step 4 Reishi cultivation process step 4

  5. Red reishi begins to flush and grows gradually. Weeds may sprout and insects may appear, but no agricultural chemicals or pesticides are used.
    Reishi cultivation process step 5 Reishi cultivation process step 5 Reishi cultivation process step 5

  6. In the last stage of growth, spores break out from the underside of the reishi cap of the fruiting body and into the atmosphere. The reishi spores eventually settles and covers the soil with a reddish-brown color.
    Reishi cultivation process step 6 Reishi cultivation process step 6 Reishi cultivation process step 6

  7. The best harvest time is right after the sporing period. Each fully mature reishi mushroom is carefully cut by hand, collected, and then dried. The entire process repeats again for the next year's harvest. Periodically the greenhouse soil must be left fallow to allow the nutrients to be replenished before the same greenhouse is used again.
    Reishi cultivation process step 7 Reishi cultivation process step 7
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Why is the Cultivation Method Important?

Different cultivation methods will yield different quality products with widely varying amounts (or complete lack) of the health beneficial components of the red reishi mushroom. As the natural wood-log cultivation method takes almost a full year and is the most labour and resource intensive, there are now other methods to commercially produce “reishi” products, which are briefly described below.

  • Wood Pulp Cultivation
    Wood pulp cultivated reishi A wood pulp substrate(mushroom growing medium) is placed in a glass bottle or plastic bag in which the reishi fungi are added. The bottles/bags are then stacked on shelves in an enclosed warehouse. After three months, this growing method will usually yield small mushrooms that are thin and frail.

  • Wooden Box Cultivation
    This method is similar to natural wood-log cultivation in which it involves grafting reishi fungi into a wood-log. However the wood-logs are simply placed in a box and not buried in soil. While this is better than wood pulp cultivation, only reishi of medium-size and moderate quality are generally produced since it grows without absorbing the nutrients from soil.

  • Lab-grown Reishi (or also known as mycelium/mycelia-based products)
    As the red reishi's preferred growing environment is in the hot and humid climates of Asia, many North American producers use this "indoor" method as a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to mass produce a “reishi” product. Lab-grown products mix mycelium with a substrate such as rice or wheat in an enclosed container and are allowed to grow for a very short period. Unfortunately, the resulting mycelium-based product is different from a properly grown reishi mushroom fruiting body in terms of its composition and appearance. In addition, these products may lack of bioavailability (Upton 2006). Mycelium-based products also do not contain ganoderic acid A, an intensively studied and important health beneficial active component of reishi, which gives red reishi its unique bitter taste. For more information, read Mushroom Dynamics.

Mayuzumi's natural wood-log cultivation method is the only reishi cultivation technique that can naturally produce high quality red reishi that can attest to all of the health benefits of which this miraculous mushroom has been used for thousands of years.

The Mikei Difference

Mikei uses only high quality, natural wood-log cultivated red reishi fruiting bodies grown to full maturity and rich in all of the active components of which make the revered mushroom effective as a health food supplement.

References

  • Mayuzumi, Fumimaru, Hidehumi Okamoto, and Takashi Mizuno. “IV. Cultivation of reishi (Ganoderma lucidum).” Food Reviews International 13.3 (1997): 365-382.
  • Wong, Shu Sing. Red Reishi - How an Ancient Herbal Treasure Can Benefit Your Health Today. Vancouver (BC): World Health Publishing Inc., 2003.
  • Upton, Roy. American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic Compendium: Reishi Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum: Standards of Analysis, Quality Control, and Therapeutics. Scotts Valley (CA): American Herbal Pharmacopoeia; 2006.

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