06.17.2016 •

Can Red Reishi help with Depression?

Depression is a complex disease that accounts for nearly 40% of all psychiatric illness. Characterized primarily by a change in mood, consisting typically as feelings of sadness, anxiety/agitation, loss of interest, insomnia, loss of appetite, body pain, and in it’s extreme, thoughts of death and self-harm; depression for some, is more than just a ‘bad day’.

Because depression can vary in it’s cause and severity, how it presents often differs by individual. Post-partum, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), bi-polar disorder, and major/clinical depression are all examples of depression and it’s spectrum.

Despite the numerous physiological and psychological factors that can contribute to the manifestation of depression, acute and/or chronic stress is reported to be the number one contributing factor in the exacerbation, or worsening of depressive symptoms.

The Stress Connection

Long-term or chronic stress leads to elevated levels of the primary stress hormone cortisol, as well as decreased levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin and dopamine, which have been linked to depression.  Changes in these chemical systems affects the functioning of ‘normal’ biological processes related to sleep, appetite, energy, and sex drive, as well as the expression of mood and emotion.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, mental, physical and/or emotional stress effectively weakens (consumes), scatters or stagnates the Qi (chi) in various organ systems of the body, resulting in both mental/emotional problems (called “shen” disorders) and physiological disease.

How Red Reishi Can Help

Reishi (called Ling Zhi in Traditional Chinese herbal medicine) has been used to treat disorders of the mind or “shen” for thousands of years. To blend the concepts of Eastern and Western medicine, western science has proven that through specific immune regulating and anti-inflammatory agents (ganoderic acid A), the fruiting body of the Japanese Red Reishi acts as a powerful adaptogen, allowing the body to more easily cope with stress. Through this, a positive effect occurs on the bodily systems most affected by it (stress). A less ‘stressed out’ body translates to a less ‘stressed out’ nervous system, thereby assisting to improve a person’s overall physical and mental health. Additionally, western science has shown Reishi to have positive effects on the hepatic (liver) and cardiovascular (heart) systems, whose functions according to TCM theory, are strongly linked to depression.

The TCM view of mental illnesses such as depression is a holistic one. With a strong focus on prevention and lifestyle change, TCM practitioners take into account many different aspects of a person’s functioning when developing treatment plans. When applied this way, the addition of a high quality supplement like Japanese Red Reishi may be of great benefit for both prevention and treatment of depressive symptoms due to a diminished resistance stress.

Keep in mind, not all supplements are created equal. Natural, wood-log cultivation using hot water extraction (without the use of ethanol) is the best and most desirable.


Dr. Kim Schneberk (Graham) has dedicated the majority of her practice to the treatment of addiction and mental Illness, developing and implementing TCM-based programs for various public and private agencies in B.C. Passionate about TCM, Dr. Schneberk has been active in many areas of her profession involving education, public speaking, regulation (CTCMA) and as an appointed Professional Member to the Healthcare Practitioners Special Committee for Audit with the Ministry of Health, B.C.