If I find it hard to speak of the medicinal properties of ‘herbs’ to a certain type of person, without getting a conspiratorial wink and them saying “Yeah, I know of one herb with medicinal properties, huh huh huh huh huh (laughter)”, imagine the delicacy with which I must proceed in announcing that I also sell mushrooms- MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS. I’m not going to lie, mushrooms are special, weird, and some are psychedelic. But there are a few species in particular that must be taken seriously. Therefore, in the following article, if you detect an air of cool factuality when discussing said mushrooms, it is so that we may examine them in the rational light of day rather than under a trippy black light. You feel me?
So, lets explore some of the non-consciousness-shifting properties of the world of fungi. I’d like to begin with one of my personal favorites for enjoying ordinary reality, The Royal Reishi.
Reishi mushroom is a polypore. This type of mushroom is dense and hard, usually found growing on trees, and not at all lending itself to be sauteed in butter and eaten on a steak. According to Chinese medicine, where the virtues of Reishi have been extolled for over 4000 years, there are at least 6 varieties of Reishi mushroom, classified according to color, and possessed of different medicinal properties. We will be focusing on the use of the Red Reishi, Ganoderma lucidum, which grows around the world, even in the US, but sadly, not my corner of it. It is frequently cultivated, however, and much easier to find in commerce than the other varieties. We do have two species to be found in the NW, Ganoderma tsugae and G. oregonense, both of which grow on conifers- and so rare I have yet to see one in the wild (but, to be fair, I am mostly looking at green things, which makes me a terrible mushroomer).
Here is why you should be taking Reishi mushroom (the short list):
Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms have a remarkable trait in common. Due to the presence of certain chemical constituents, mainly polysaccharides and triterpenes, Reishi mushrooms are immunomodulators. This means that they exhibit the unique ability to stimulate a depressed or weakened immune system, or dampen and calm excessive immune function, as in the case of auto-immune conditions. This makes them appropriate for nearly any immune dysfunction, and one of the only herbal treatments for auto-immune conditions. In this same vein, Reishi can sedate the hyperactive immune cells that create allergies and arthritis, thereby acting as an anti-inflammatory when your immune system is causing a ruckus.
Medicinal mushrooms have gotten a lot of well deserved attention for their anti-oxidant and anti-cancer benefits. Reishi is a potent anti-oxidant that helps protect healthy cells from free radicals and inhibits the growth of certain cancer cells. Its chemical arsenal targets and kills cancer cells through activation of the immune system. I use Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms as long term immune tonics with cancer patients and survivors with good effects.
Reishi is also a tonic to the heart, helping lower both blood pressure and cholesterol, a rather useful trait. It’s also protective of the liver and lungs. It is especially useful for chronic bronchitis, allergic asthma and altitude sickness, as it improves oxygenation of the blood.
Here’s where we get a bit metaphysical- Reishi is known as Ling zhi or ‘Spirit plant’, in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has also been referred to as the “herb of spiritual potency”. It is used for disturbances in the spirit, heart and mind, known collectively as ‘shen’ in TCM. In clinical practice, this means Reishi is used for anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, and hyper-emotionalism. I think of Reishi for people that suffer from excessive mental activity, but who’s energies are so scattered that they rarely accomplish anything. This mushroom is clarifying and grounding for those prone to confusion and unsteadiness, with mental agitation and an underlying state of exhaustion and depletion. It is not difficult to find people in need of Reishi.
Wild Reishi has always been in rather short supply. In ancient China, it was often reserved for the emperor or other important people in the high court. Ancient Chinese medical texts refer to Reishi as ‘the plant of immortality’ and it’s reported to make you live forever. Don’t let the obvious holes in this argument throw you off, like the fact that everyone who wrote this stuff has been dead for centuries. It’s reputation for extending and improving life may not be that far off the mark, considering how it protects the body from inflammation, oxidation, heart disease and cancer in one fell swoop.
To prepare Reishi extract, I make a double extraction out of the dried mushrooms- a two part process that involves extracting first the water soluble chemicals, then the alcohol soluble ones, and combining the two. The capsules are also valuable medicinally. Traditionally the tea was taken daily, but I find that the bitter, sour, flavor makes it impossible for me to do so. The dose varies based on the condition, but a good tonic dose, to be taken over a period of months or years is as follows:
Tea (good luck with this one) <gag> 1-3 C per day
Tincture- 60-90 drops 2-4X per day
Capsules- Three 500-1000mg capsules 1-3X per day
Contraindications: Don’t use mushrooms if you have a mushroom allergy (obviously).
And be cautious using Reishi with blood thinning medication, as it may potentiate this effect.
You will find Radicle Reishi offered singularly or in the following formulas:
Mighty Mushrooms: A blend of Reishi, Maitake, Chaga, Turkey tail, and Shitake Mushrooms, for the long term tonic effects of medicinal mushrooms. This blend enhances Reishi’s broad spectrum immune-regulating, anti-cancer actions and further supports liver, lung, and heart health. I could write volumes about all the other fungal heroes in here, but that’s for another day.
Dose: 60-90 drops 2-3X per day
Pollen Proof: For allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma. Decongests respiratory passages and regulates excessive immune response to seasonal and environmental allergens. Contains: Reishi mushroom, Fresh Turmeric rhizome, Fresh Nettle leaf, Yerba Mansa root, Yerba Santa leaves in a base of grain alcohol, water and Glycerin. This can be taken daily before allergy season begins and acutely as needed. (It’s really best to preempt the pollen season.)
Dose: Maintenance 30-90 drops 2X per day
Acute: 30-90 drops 1-5X/day
That should keep you off the ‘hard stuff’.