In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ganoderma Lucidum (lingzhi) is purported to improve and regulate five internal organs i.e., the heart, spleen, lungs, liver, and kidneys. Lingzhi has a long history of being used as herbal remedy for liver diseases1. Supplementing its use in alternative medicine, Western research shows Ganoderma Lucidum (lingzhi) has potent hepatoprotective effects on liver injury2–4. How does Ganoderma Lucidum protect the liver? Read on to learn how lingzhi supports liver health!
#1: Enhances Endogenous Antioxidants
Most, if not all, chronic liver disorders involve oxidative stress5,6. Alcohol- and hepatotoxin-induced liver injury are also associated with increased oxidative stress and free radicals. This highlights the importance of managing oxidative stress and maintaining robust antioxidative activities within our bodies.
A key hepatoprotective effect of Ganoderma Lucidum is attributed to its free radical scavenging properties.Ganoderma Lucidum triterpenoids help counterbalance oxidative stress by enhancing the body’s endogenous antioxidative capacity – increasing antioxidative molecules such as glutathione (GSH), superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione-S-transferase (GST), and glutathione peroxidase (GPx)4,7,8. We revealed the importance of managing oxidative stress for optimal liver health in another article – read it here.
#2: Alleviates Liver Injury
Several mice studies also found that Ganoderma Lucidum had potent hepatoprotective effects on liver injury. Bioactive compounds, i.e. Ganodermanontriol and Ganoderma triterpenoids, are shown to alleviate inflammation associated with liver injury. Ganoderma Lucidum also helps maintain normal levels of liver injury markers including aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP)4,7,8,10,11.
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) = serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT);
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) = serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT).
AST, ALT and ALP are enzymes within liver cells as well as other bodily tissues. When one of these tissues are damaged, e.g. in the case of liver injury, these enzymes are release into the serum12,13.
#3: Protects Against Alcohol-induced Liver Injury
Studies suggest Ganoderma Lucidum polysaccharides reduces lipid accumulation and inflammation within the liver and helps lower liver injury markers (AST, ALT and ALP)14.
Ganoderma Lucidum triterpenoids protects against alcohol-induced liver injury and oxidative stress by:
- Increasing levels of endogenous antioxidative enzymes;
- Reducing lipid peroxidation (oxidative damage of lipids caused by reactive oxygen species);
- Accelerating alcohol metabolism by enhancing expression of CYP2E1 (an important enzyme involved in alcohol metabolism)15,16.
#4: Mitigates Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver
|Image Source: American Liver Foundation|
Ganoderma Lucidum mitigates non-alcoholic fatty liver or liver steatosis. Studies show that the therapeutic effects of Ganoderma Lucidum on non-alcoholic-liver steatosis involve:
- Upregulating energy-metabolising enzymes17;
- Reducing lipid accumulation, triglycerides, and total cholesterol within liver cells;
- Alleviating liver dysfunction and liver injury markers (ALT and AST)18.
#5: Inhibits Liver Fibrosis Mechanisms
Liver fibrosis is a consequence of most chronic liver diseases. Early to moderate liver fibrosis may be successfully treated or reversed; albeit advanced liver fibrosis is often irreversible19. Fibrosis occurs with repetitive liver injury and/or inflammation which triggers excessive amounts of scar tissue to accumulate within the liver – this ultimately hinders overall liver function along with hepatic self-repairing/regeneration.
Ganoderma Lucidum triterpenoids may prevent liver fibrosis via various mechanisms:
- Inhibiting proliferation of liver cells (hepatic stellate cells) responsible for liver fibrogenesis20;
- Neutralising reactive oxygen species (ROS) via their free radical scavenging ability21 – ROS may exacerbate liver fibrosis22;
- Upregulating collagenase to enhance removal of excessive liver collagen deposits23.
How does Ganoderma Lucidum Protect the Liver?
Supporting its use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ganoderma Lucidum (lingzhi) may confer hepatoprotective effects by:
- Enhancing Antioxidative Capacity
- Alleviating Liver Injury
- Protecting Against Alcohol-induced Liver Injury
- Mitigating Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver
- Inhibiting Liver Fibrosis Mechanisms
- Yang M, Tao S, Guan S, Wu X, Xu P, Guo D. Chinese Traditional Medicine. In: Comprehensive Natural Products II. Elsevier; 2010:383-477. doi:10.1016/B978-008045382-8.00654-7
- Lin Z, Deng A. Antioxidative and Free Radical Scavenging Activity of Ganoderma (Lingzhi). In: Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd; 2019:271-297. doi:10.1007/978-981-32-9421-9_12
- Qiu Z, Zhong D, Yang B. Preventive and Therapeutic Effect of Ganoderma (Lingzhi) on Liver Injury. In: Lin Z, Yang B, eds. Ganoderma and Health. Singapore: Springer; 2019:217-242. doi:10.1007/978-981-32-9421-9_9
- Wachtel-Galor S, Yuen J, Buswell JA, Benzie IFF. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, eds. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.
- Cichoż-Lach H. Oxidative stress as a crucial factor in liver diseases. World J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(25):8082. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i25.8082
- Li S, Tan H-Y, Wang N, et al. The Role of Oxidative Stress and Antioxidants in Liver Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2015;16(11):26087-26124. doi:10.3390/ijms161125942
- Yang X-J. In vitro and in vivo protective effects of proteoglycan isolated from mycelia of Ganoderma lucidum on carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury. World J Gastroenterol. 2006;12(9):1379. doi:10.3748/wjg.v12.i9.1379
- Lakshmi B, Ajith TA, Jose N, Janardhanan KK. Antimutagenic activity of methanolic extract of Ganoderma lucidum and its effect on hepatic damage caused by benzo[a]pyrene. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;107(2):297-303. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2006.03.027
- Wu J-G, Kan Y-J, Wu Y-B, Yi J, Chen T-Q, Wu J-Z. Hepatoprotective effect of ganoderma triterpenoids against oxidative damage induced by tert -butyl hydroperoxide in human hepatic HepG2 cells. Pharm Biol. 2016;54(5):919-929. doi:10.3109/13880209.2015.1091481
- Ma J-Q, Liu C-M, Qin Z-H, Jiang J-H, Sun Y-Z. Ganoderma applanatum terpenes protect mouse liver against benzo(α)pyren-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2011;31(3):460-468. doi:10.1016/j.etap.2011.02.007
- Sudheesh NP, Ajith TA, Mathew J, Nima N, Janardhanan KK. Ganoderma lucidum protects liver mitochondrial oxidative stress and improves the activity of electron transport chain in carbon tetrachloride intoxicated rats. Hepatol Res. 2012;42(2):181-191. doi:10.1111/j.1872-034X.2011.00906.x
- Davis CP. Liver Function Tests (Normal, Low, and High Ranges & Results). https://www.medicinenet.com/liver_blood_tests/article.htm#what_are_the_aminotransferase_enzymes_alt_ast. Published 2021.
- Wee E. Understanding the liver function test – a simplified explanation. https://www.healthwaymedical.com/liver-function-test/. Published 2019.
- Chung D-J, Yang M-Y, Li Y-R, Chen W-J, Hung C-Y, Wang C-J. Ganoderma lucidum repress injury of ethanol-induced steatohepatitis via anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation and reducing hepatic lipid in C57BL/6J mice. J Funct Foods. 2017;33:314-322. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2017.03.059
- Zhao C, Fan J, Liu Y, et al. Hepatoprotective activity of Ganoderma lucidum triterpenoids in alcohol-induced liver injury in mice, an iTRAQ-based proteomic analysis. Food Chem. 2019;271:148-156. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.07.115
- Jang S-H, Cho S, Yoon H-M, Jang K-J, Song C-H, Kim C-H. Hepatoprotective Evaluation of Ganoderma lucidum Pharmacopuncture: In vivo Studies of Ethanol-induced Acute Liver Injury. J Pharmacopuncture. 2014;17(3):16-24. doi:10.3831/KPI.2014.17.022
- Seto SW, Lam TY, Tam HL, et al. Novel hypoglycemic effects of Ganoderma lucidum water-extract in obese/diabetic (+db/+db) mice. Phytomedicine. 2009;16(5):426-436. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2008.10.004
- Zhong D, Xie Z, Huang B, et al. Ganoderma Lucidum Polysaccharide Peptide Alleviates Hepatoteatosis via Modulating Bile Acid Metabolism Dependent on FXR-SHP/FGF. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2018;49(3):1204-1220. doi:10.1159/000493297
- Huizen J. What is liver fibrosis? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325073. Published 2019
- Wang G-J, Huang Y-J, Chen D-H, Lin Y-L. Ganoderma lucidum extract attenuates the proliferation of hepatic stellate cells by blocking the PDGF receptor. Phyther Res. 2009;23(6):833-839. doi:10.1002/ptr.2687
- Kwon S-C, Kim Y-B. Antifibrotic activity a fermentation filtrate of Ganoderma lucidum. Lab Anim Res. 2011;27(4):369. doi:10.5625/lar.2011.27.4.369
- Li S, Hong M, Tan H-Y, Wang N, Feng Y. Insights into the Role and Interdependence of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Liver Diseases. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:1-21. doi:10.1155/2016/4234061
- Wu Y-W, Fang H-L, Lin W-C. Post-treatment of Ganoderma lucidum reduced liver fibrosis induced by thioacetamide in mice. Phyther Res. 2010;24(4):494-499. doi:10.1002/ptr.2949
Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational enlightenment and is not designed to diagnose, treat, or cure. Every individual is unique – if you have any health concerns, do discuss them with a medical or health professional.
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