December was very rainy here, and so far January has been pretty wet, too. And just as all that cold dampness makes us think of boosting our immunity, it also fills nature with some of the best immune boosters out there: medicinal mushrooms!
Shiitake is probably the best known medicinal mushroom we work with, since it is also a popular edible mushroom. In fact, our dinner plans for tonight include udon soup with shiitakes from our local Japanese place, and we are looking forward to it! Shiitake’s edibility point to its uses as a balanced tonic and nutritive herb, easy and safe to use on a regular basis.
On the more medicinal side, Shiitake is the only natural substance ever proven to reverse HIV infection, and has also shown promise in treating herpes, hepatitis, and the common colds and flus. It’s also antioxidant and detoxifying to many body systems, and our Shiitake Essence is a tasty expression of all this mushroom’s qualities.
Another edible and medicinal mushroom Spagyric is our Maitake Essence, from a mushroom which grows in temperate forests around the world. In Japan and China, Maitake has been used to boost the immune system and regulate metabolism. Modern studies indicate that this mushroom supports healthy blood sugar balance, maintains healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and support weight loss. Maitake has also shown anti-cancer properties, especially against breast cancer.
Lion’s Mane is a beautiful mushroom that grows in our area, including in the little kit I got for my birthday this year (thanks, Dad!) The mushrooms fruiting out of it are still in a tight, cauliflower-like formation, but soon, they will trail out into long icicle-like shapes and I will harvest some to stir fry. Lion’s Mane has a delicious lobster or shrimp-like taste and texture, and I am looking forward to this lovely treat that I haven’t had since we moved away from a patch of them in Eugene.
Medicinally, Lion’s Mane is a superior tonic to the nerves and brain tissue, acting as a regenerative to their structure and functions. Used to both support healthy cognitive function, and to heal the damage from injury and illness, Lion’s Mane has become more famous lately because of its use in the “Stamets Stack” nootropic combination of psilocybin, Lion’s Mane and Niacin.
Our Lion’s Mane Spiritualized Essence is a really interesting brain tonic, having a very intelligent and balanced action. It can be enlivening and stimulating to the mind, but can also act to calm nerves and quiet thought, depending on the direction needed.
Agaricus blazei is a mushroom on the more medicinal side of the food-medicine continuum, but if you do find fresh ones, they are delicious. They’re large and meaty like a portobello, but with an interesting toasted almond taste. That nutty note, along with the usual deep forest funk that most mushrooms have, is there in our Agaricus blazei Spiritualized Essence.
Agaricus b. has the widest array of immune-boosting constituents of any mushroom, and outperformed all other tested mushrooms in treating a variety of cancers. Our Spiritualized Essence of it is an uplifting energy tonic, boosting vitality and strengthening the Wei Qi.
Turkey Tail is another mushroom that is plentiful in our area, colourfully colonizing any cut piece of wood it finds, as I wrote in this article. Its elegant fans with stripes of tan, beige, and brown really do look like the tail of a proud Tom turkey, fanning out from the wood they eat and digest into rich forest soil.
As they break down the lignins in the wood, they transform them into polysaccharides, a sugar-based family of molecules that carry the healing properties of most tonic herbs and fungi. These constituents are balanced in their action, acting as adaptogens to nudge the body back to center and a healthy state, and our Turkey Tail Spiritualized Essence has been a good ally for many in need of this healing.
As with most medicinal mushrooms, Turkey Tail has also been used to treat cancer, both to fight it directly and to ameliorate the side effects of conventional treatments. For this and other long-term healing work, it combines well with Astragalus root.
Antler Reishi is a strikingly beautiful form of the revered Reishi mushroom of Asia, beloved as a tonic and symbol of wisdom and longevity.
As I wrote in this post, Reishi can grow in two main forms- one is a dark brown scalloped shelf, typical of the polypore group they belong to. Another form, the Antler, takes shape when CO2 levels are high in the mushroom’s habitat.
Historically, this happened naturally near waterfalls and caves, and these also being the locations of hermits gave Antler Reishi its honoured status as the more spiritual version of the mushroom.
In modern cultivation, Antler Reishi is deliberately created by manipulating the CO2 levels of the grow room, but this does not change the spiritual and emotional healing properties that it carries, expressed beautifully in our Antler Reishi Spiritualized Essence. This Spagyric is a tonic to the peaceful Shen that resides in the Heart, refilling its well of calm strength and helping you see a higher perspective and wisdom in all situations.
Spirit Poria is another medicinal mushroom with effects on the spirit and mind as well as the body. Poria is a subterranean fungus, growing around the roots of trees, especially pine. It is called Spirit Poria because it is said to contain the spirit of the tree whose roots it surrounds, protecting them like the Heart energy protects the Shen in our bodies.
Our Spirit Poria Spiritualized Essence is a calming tonic to serenity and a steady mind, not sedative, but acting as a true Shen tonic to calm anxiety, anger and worry, and the physical imbalances they bring, such as palpitations.
Our final three Fungal Friends are less well-known, and often used in formulas, but we enjoy making Spagyrics of single herbs to let each one express itself as an individual, and to allow you to create your own regimens.
Mesima is another shelf fungus, native to Japan, Korea and China, where it grows on mulberry trees. Traditionally used for swelling and infections, especially on the skin, recent research has shown it to be very effective against melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer. It is not directly toxic to the cancer cells, but works by boosting the immune system’s own defenders, and so is considered safe and non-toxic to use in conjunction with conventional treatments.
Our Mesima Spiritualized Essence also has a good anti-inflammatory effect, and we have heard reports of it helping with allergies and especially immune reactions that erupt at the skin, such as psoriasis and eczema. We also find that it is energizing and protective at a deep, core level.
Chaga is a crusty black fungus that forms on birch trees, widely consumed in Northern Europe and Russia, and associated with lower instances of cancer in societies where it is used. It is an ancient ally to human health, known since at least the time of the frozen Neolithic man known as the “ice man”, who carried it in his kit.
Chaga has also shown strong cancer preventative and treatment effects, along with anti-infective properties. Chaga is especially tonic to the liver, and we find our Chaga Spiritualized Essence to be an energy and mood lifter, as well.
Finally, Birch Polypore is one of humankind’s oldest fungal allies, also found in the kit of the ice man. It is thought he carried it as a remedy for the intestinal parasites he had, which is interesting given that Birch Polypore is itself a parasite of the Birch tree that supports it.
Like Mesima, Birch Polypore is anti-inflammatory, and especially to the skin, repairing damage to the tissues and preventing further damage through antioxidant properties. In many studies, extracts of Birch Polypore have been shown to be antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and protective to neural tissue. We find our Birch Polypore Spiritualized Essence to be uplifting and mentally energizing, and for specifically boosting mental and neural health, it combines well with Lion’s Mane.