Medicinal Mushrooms: The Fascinating Fungi
- Thursday, 27 October 2011
Medicinal mushrooms and their healing properties have fascinated me ever since I watched Paul Stamets speak on TED Talk. His topic was “6 ways mushrooms can save the world.” His passion and excitement for these forest fungi got me excited, and I started reading, researching, taking them internally and looking for them on my herb walks. In this article I will touch upon some interesting facts about mushrooms and discuss the Reishi mushroom in detail. Over the course of the next 2 months, I will be writing 2 more articles on mushrooms, as there are so many different types, uses, and benefits, that I would like to share.
Mushrooms have been valued both as food and medicine for thousands of years in many countries. They are the part of the fungi world, however they are not the same fungi that make us think about unsalutary growths like the blue-green molds on citrus fruits or fuzzy white stuff on breads. There are over 100,000 species within the broad category of Fungi and within that there are 38,000 species of mushrooms. Mushrooms can be of many shapes, sizes and colours. In the wild, hunters may find the most delightful kinds of mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms support the immune system and promote longevity.
Fungi thrive upon decay of the forest floor through their dual power of self-protection and self-transformation. Fungi and animals are more closely related to one another than either is to plants. While plants absorb CO2 and exhale O2, mushrooms, much like animals and humans, absorb O2 and exhale CO2. However, unlike humans and animals who need light and food for survival, mushrooms feed on moist decaying organic substances in the shade.
Another interesting fact to note is that plants reuse CO2 to manufacture their food, but fungi break down complex carbohydrates and protein into simpler compounds by discharging enzymes into the matter upon which they feed. This process enriches the soil and gives plants substances that they can easily absorb.
Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum)
Reishi mushroom is also called ling zhi, which means “spirit plant.” Reishi mushroom has a legendary status in the orient because of its ability to affect many aspects of one’s life. Reishi helps cultivate spiritual energy, supports the immune system, promots longevity, sharpes memory and mental capacity, strengthens the heart and liver, as well as increases stamina and endurance. Other Chinese names for this plant include “mushroom of immortality” and “herb of fortune.”
Reishi has been the most revered herbal mushroom in Asia for over 2,000 years. The Taoists consider it an “elixir of immortality” or “elixir of life” that increases spiritual energy. In addition to having a reputation that causes radiant health and extreme longevity, it also has superior anti-aging properties.
Reishi has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti tumour properties and is also high in anti oxidants. Traditionally, it has been used for treating a large number of conditions, such as hepatitis, nephritis, arthritis, high blood pressure, asthma, bronchitis, ulcers and insomnia. It is a valuable herb for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), cancer and AIDS. It stands up against cancer by boosting the immune system, processing anti-tumour properties and encouraging cell differentiation.
It is a good herb for the heart – lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, preventing blood clots, dilating the arteries and improving blood flow to the heart. Reishi is also good for respiratory discomforts such as bronchitis, asthma and sinus problems. In addition, Reishi has been utilized for allergies and pneumonia, and is said to be effective for ulcers. It has liver protecting and detoxifying properties as well.
A clinical report from china (LUI, 1994), shows that when this mushroom was used for hepatitis patients, 90% were cured. Reishi is also considered to be kidney tonic and seems to have the remarkable ability to calm the nerves. Herbalist Christopher Hobbs says that Reishi is an effective herb for people with nervousness, anxiety, sleeplessness and adrenal fatigue. It is also an excellent herb for altitude sickness.
You can purchase Reishi in any Chinese herb store or you can buy it in pill form at a health food store. If you purchase the dried herb, you can make a decoction or a tea, which can be consume three times per day. You can take it in pill form up to three grams, three times each day.