The lingzhi mushroom or reishi mushroom (traditional Chinese: 靈芝; pinyin: língzhī; Japanese: reishi; Vietnamese: linh chi; literally: “supernatural mushroom”) encompasses several fungal species of the genus Ganoderma, and most commonly refers to the closely related species, Ganoderma lucidum and Ganoderma tsugae. G. lucidum enjoys special veneration in East Asia, where it has been used as amedicinal mushroom in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years, making it one of the oldest mushrooms known to have been used medicinally. Because of lingzhi’s presumed health value and apparent absence of side-effects, it has attained a reputation in the East as the ultimate herbal substance. Lingzhi is listed in the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic Compendium.
The lingzhi’s botanical nameshave Greek and Latin roots. Thegeneric name Ganoderma derives from the Greek ganos γανος “brightness; sheen”, hence “shining” and derma δερμα “skin”. The specific epithet Lucidum is Latin for “shining” and tsugae for “hemlock” (from Japanese tsuga 栂).
There are multiple species of Lingzhi, scientifically known to be within theGanoderma lucidum species complex and mycologists are still researching the differences among species within this complex
Lingzhi 靈芝has several synonyms. Ruicao 瑞草 “auspicious plant” (with rui 瑞“auspicious; felicitous omen” and the suffix cao “plant; herb”) is the oldest; the (ca. 3rd century BCE) Erya dictionary defines qiu 苬 (interpreted as a miscopy of jun 菌 “mushroom”) as zhi 芝 “mushroom” and the commentary of Guo Pu(276–324) says, “The [zhi] flowers three times in one year. It is a [ruicao] felicitous plant.” Other Chinese names for Ganoderma include ruizhi 瑞芝 “auspicious mushroom”, shenzhi 神芝 “divine mushroom” (with shen “spirit; god’ supernatural; divine”), mulingzhi 木靈芝 (with “tree; wood”), xiancao 仙草 “immortality plant” (with xian “(Daoism) transcendent; immortal; wizard”), andlingzhicao 靈芝草 or zhicao 芝草 “mushroom plant”.
Since both Chinese Ling and Zhi have multiple meanings, Lingzhi has diverse English translations. Renditions include “[zhi] possessed of soul power”,“Herb of Spiritual Potency” or “Mushroom of Immortality”, “Numinous Mushroom”, “divine mushroom”, “divine fungus”, “Magic Fungus”,and “Marvelous Fungus”
Reishi synonyms divide between Sino-Japanese borrowings and native Japanese coinages. Sinitic loanwords include literary terms such as zuisō 瑞草 (from ruicao) “Auspicious Plant” and sensō 仙草 (from xiaocao) “Immortality Plant”. A common native Japanese name is mannentake 万年茸 “10,000 year mushroom”. The Japanese writing system uses shi or shiba 芝 for “grass; lawn; turf” and take or kinoko 茸 for “mushroom” (e.g., shiitake). Other Japanese terms for Reishi include kadodetake 門出茸 “Departure Mushroom”,hijiridake 聖茸 “Sage Mushroom”, and magoshakushi 孫杓子 “grandchild ladle”.