In this article, you’re going to learn about reishi mushroom and how it can grow your hair. You’ll learn of the latest scientific research surrounding this ancient herb, and how you can get started reaping its benefits today.
First, I’ll introduce you to this 2000-year-old herb and its uses in Ancient China.
Second, I’ll dissect recent scientific studies surrounding reishi mushroom and its various properties to determine whether it’s an effective treatment pattern baldness.
Third, I’ll share with you three ways of supplementing with reishi, two of which are my very own hair growth recipes which I’ve personally used with great results.
What is Reishi Mushroom?
Regarded in Asia as the “herb of spiritual potency,” reishi mushroom has been in use for thousands of years alongside other herbs, like Fo Ti. It goes by many names, including lingzhi and G. Lucidum, and grows at the base of deciduous trees (1).
While wild varieties of this mushroom are rare, lingzhi is cultivated today on hardwood logs and woodchips.
The mushroom itself has a corky texture and is flat-topped. It typically has a red varnish and a kidney-shaped cap. While other colors do occur, red reishi is the most well-known and studied.
With a variety of therapeutic uses, including immunomodulation and as an antioxidant, it is no wonder researchers have focused on this versatile mushroom and studied it extensively (2).
But, the question this article will aim to answer is, “can reishi be used to treat alopecia?”
1. Reishi As An Inhibitor of DHT
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a sex hormone converted from testosterone by the enzyme 5α-reductase.
This is a natural process, one which is not harmful to the majority of individuals (3). Men with a genetic predisposition to male-pattern baldness, however, are sensitive to DHT in the scalp. This is the leading cause of Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) (4).
Fortunately for sufferers of AGA, DHT inhibition is possible. With proper inhibition, hair loss may be reversible. hair growth can then occur in a natural, undisturbed manner.
One such manner is with reishi mushroom supplementation.
First, researchers prepared ethanol extracts of each of the 19 mushroom species included in the experiment.
In the first part of this study, scientists added the ethanol extracts to a suspension containing rat liver and prostate tissue. The purpose of this experiment was to determine each mushroom species’s percentage of 5α-reductase inhibition.
Reishi showed the most percentage of 5α-reductase inhibition, falling between 70 and 80%. For reference, the next most-effective mushroom species, pleurotus osteratus, showed an inhibitory percentage of around 60%.
Next, researchers looked at the growth rate of prostates in castrated rats. As the prostate’s size is directly proportional to testosterone levels, this experiment aimed to determine whether G. lucidum (reishi mushroom) could inhibit testosterone’s effects.
The rats were split into three groups. The first group was the control group, receiving only testosterone. The second group received both testosterone and G. lucidum (1.5 mg/kg), and the third group received both testosterone and a 15 mg/kg concentration of G. lucidum.
The results showed that both concentrations of reishi reduced prostate weight below that shown in the testosterone control group. Interestingly, the lower concentration was more effective.
For those with hair loss, what should be the main takeaway from this study?
Chiefly, reishi mushroom is an effective inhibitor of 5α-reductase, thereby reducing the amount of DHT produced within the body. For those with AGA, this is a critical find. It means that reishi mushroom supplementation can significantly reduce DHT levels, protecting the DHT-sensitive hair follicles from miniaturization.
2. Reishi As An Antimicrobial
In a study by Quereshi et al., reishi mushroom was collected, dried, crushed, and then extracted through one of three methods (methanol, ethanol, and acetone). In addition, a negative control (distilled water) and positive control (the antibiotic Gentamycin sulphate) were also used (7).
Each of the five solutions was added to the plates of six different bacterial pathogens, and each plate was incubated for 24 hours. Each of the tests was repeated three times. These were the results:
While none of the reishi extracts exceeded the positive control results of the antibiotic, some of them did come quite close. Namely, the acetone extract against both B. subtilis and K. Pneumoniae. Additionally, all extracts did show a zone of microbial inhibition over the negative control.
You may be wondering, “what good is an antimicrobial against hair loss?”
Consider that not all forms of alopecia are due to DHT sensitivity. Other forms of hair loss exist, caused by such things as fungal infections and bacterial overgrowth.
With the addition of an antimicrobial agent like reishi mushroom to your hair care routine, not only can you ensure that your scalp stays healthy, but you can also keep your hair follicles from becoming blocked or clogged. This will ensure that your hair strands have the best environment in which to develop and grow.
3. Reishi As An Immunomodulator
One particular form of alopecia – alopecia areata – is an autoimmune form of baldness (8). The immune system works to keep the body safe against foreign attacks. These attacks include viruses and bacteria.
For those with alopecia areata, the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hairs to fall out and follicle damage. This leads to patchy hair loss throughout the scalp. If left untreated, this can lead to permanent hair loss over time.
There are a number of treatments individuals with this type of alopecia undergo. And, while some may treat the hair issues at the time, it is important for the root cause of the hair loss to be treated in order for a permanent solution to be found.
Reishi mushroom has proven to work as an immunomodulator (9). Essentially, this means that reishi can activate the immune system through chemical manipulation (in this case, cytokine production).
While no studies on reishi’s effect on alopecia areata currently exist, it is not a far jump to say that reishi may be beneficial in such treatment. After all, a proper immune response would lessen the attack on hair follicles and encourage the growth of healthy hair.
How to Use Reishi Mushroom
If you are ready to experiment with reishi mushrooms, you will be glad to know that there are a variety of methods you can try.
Make Your Own Reishi Shampoo
Store-bought shampoos are full of chemicals and hard on your scalp. Combat this by making your own homemade shampoos.
- Liquid castile soap (½ cup)
- Aloe vera gel (⅓ cup)
- Green tea (½ cup)
- Vanilla essential oil (10 drops)
- Reishi extract (1 cup)
Bring a pot of water to boil, removing from heat and adding in the reishi mushroom to steep. Allow to cool to room temperature, and then discard of reishi solids.
Combine the reishi tea with the rest of the ingredients, being sure to stir thoroughly.
Apply the shampoo to wet hair, taking two to three minutes to massage into the scalp. The shampoo can sit for up to five minutes and then rinse completely in lukewarm water.
This potent combination has a variety of nourishing elements, while also stimulating hair growth and promoting a clean scalp.
The aloe vera gel is the main soother in this recipe, protecting the scalp from irritation and itchiness.
The reishi (which inhibits 5α-reductase) and the vanilla oil extract (which stimulates hair growth) work together to contribute to a healthy environment in which hair can grow.
Last, the various compounds found within green tea promote further hair growth and provide a powerful punch of antioxidants (10).
Add It To a Hair Growth Mask
While homemade shampoos are a great start, you can always go the extra mile and create your own scalp scrubs, moisturizers, and even hair growth masks.
What You’ll Need:
- Avocado (1 half)
- Vanilla Essential Oil (10 drops)
- Cherries (6, peeled and pitted)
- Water (1/2 cup)
- Herbs (nettle, chamomile, reishi)
Bring a pot (or kettle) of water to boil. Remove from heat, and add in the nettle, chamomile, and reishi. Allow to steep until the water reaches room temperature, then remove herbs.
Combine the herb and mushroom tea, with the avocado, cherries, and vanilla essential oil. Add to a blender and blend the mixture at high speed until smooth.
Apply the mask to wet hair and scalp. Massage the mask into your scalp for two to three minutes, and then allow to sit on scalp for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse the mask with lukewarm water, and then towel dry.
This nourishing and moisturizing hair mask will benefit your scalp in a number of ways.
Of course, the reishi acts as an inhibitor of 5α-reductase. The avocado provides a variety of nutrients, while simultaneously protecting the scalp from dryness. The cherries add in a boost of antioxidants, while the vanilla essential oil works to stimulate new hair growth.
Add It To Your Diet
If you would rather not play chemist, then you can forego making your own shampoos and hair masks. Instead, you can opt for the easy method of supplementation by adding it to your diet.
Of course, reishi makes an excellent tea while providing all of the many benefits mentioned above. You can also add it to soups, salads, and even grill it for an appetizing and nourishing side dish.
Note: Prior to consuming, soak mushrooms overnight. This will soften the husk which surrounds the mushroom, without removing any of its nutrients.
Another option is to take it as a supplement. You can find it sold in various forms, including powder and capsules.
While there have yet to be any human studies done to determine reishi mushroom’s direct effects on hair growth, the current research does show promising results for those looking to treat their genetic baldness naturally.