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Medicinal Mushrooms

5 MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS YOU MUSH-HAVE 😉

You may have heard about Medicinal Mushrooms.  There seems to be a trend happening with them and for good reason.  Medicinal Mushrooms have some amazing properties and should be one of your ‘go to’ items when your health is needing some support.  The Chinese have been using them for centuries as herbal medicine and now they are really taking off in the Western world.

 

All mushrooms are classed as Fungi, however not all Fungi are mushrooms.  The mushroom is the fruiting body of what is called mycelium.  Mycelium can be likened to the roots of a tree and the mushroom the tree.  It forms a network underground that connects everything. When we see a ring of mushrooms, commonly known as fairy rings, we know that underneath the ground lies a disk of mycelium. Mycelium can stretch for miles and the largest one known to date, measures close to 2,400 acres.  It is a vast underground network that directs nutrients to where they are needed most, it helps trees to communicate to one another and it reminds us that we are all connected.

 

Fungi is responsible for over 90% of decomposition around the world. Its function is to break down and redistribute the nutrients from what it is decomposing.  They usually have relationships with specific trees and this makes it easier for us to find them

 

Fungi may be close to 2 billion years old and was here before plants and animals. They are incredibly complex and more closely resemble animals than plants. Fungi actually share close to 50% of our DNA and 85% of our RNA, which explains why they have such an effect on the human body. Many are mostly unknown to us. Out of literally millions of fungi, we have only classified around 2 – 10% of them and out of that small percentage, we use around 10 mushrooms medicinally.  

 

Many medicinal mushrooms are now cultivated on a wide scale due to their increasing popularity and this has created a more sustainable practice than wildcrafting.

 

Once you delve into the world of mushrooms, you will be blown away by what they have to offer!

 

Here are some well-known ones to get you started:

Reishi is one of the most well-known mushrooms for its medicinal qualities and has been used extensively in Chinese Medicine for at least two thousand years and is known as the Queen of Mushrooms.  It is also known as the mushroom of longevity and vitality.  It is a powerful immune modulator, promotes good sleep, reduces stress and helps with allergies.

In Chinese it is known as Ling Zhi, which translates to ‘Spirit Herb’ and known as the bridge between heaven and earth.  There are many types of Reishi and all have similar qualities.  Ganoderma lucidum in Chinese Medicine terms, calms the spirit and nourishes the heart.  The theory in Chinese Medicine is that your ‘Shen’ or spirit resides in your heart and when your heart qi is weak, it cannot restrain your spirit from travelling up to your head, which in turn causes insomnia and restlessness.  By nourishing the heart, you therefore calm the shen and it returns to the heart, where it can rest.  Reishi is not only good for heart conditions, it also tones the Lung Qi, which aids in respiratory conditions.  It is a powerful adaptogen (helps your body adapt to stress and calms it), making it the perfect mushroom to help you meditate.

Reishi helps to nourish your mind, body and spirit (heart).  It allows your body to rest and recover, whilst offering it the nourishment and support that it needs.  This is a great lesson to learn for those that are overworking, stressed, not sleeping and continuing to push themselves.  It is important to rest. It is important to bring meditation into your spiritual practices.  Are you making time for your spiritual practices?  How are you nourishing yourself?  How are you nourishing your spirit? Being able to nourish your Shen or spirit is something that is not often seen from the herbal world, making Reishi an exceptional medicine. 

The Diamond of the Forest as it is sometimes called, grows on tree trunks, mainly Birch trees and absorbs the nutrients from the tree.  It is known for its incredible immune-modulating function.  It is known to have the highest source of antioxidants found in nature.

Chaga doesn’t look like your average mushroom.  It grows as a mass or conk on the tree, looking very similar to a cancer, which is also a sign of its Doctrine of Signatures.  In fact, the name for Chaga in Norway translates to cancer fungus and this is another reason why some choose this mushroom.  It is abundant in a triterpene called Betulin, which has anti-tumour and anti-cancer properties.  It is also well known for its skin nourishing, maintaining healthy eyes and stronger hair. 

Cordyceps is a very unique mushroom, because it generally needs an insect as a host to fruit.  They attack the host, then replace the tissue and sprout from inside it’s body.  The insect is sometimes referred to as a zombie host.  The insect as well as the fungi have been used in Chinese Medicine for centuries. 

There are many types of Cordyceps, but the two main ones used for medicine are Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps millitaris. Cordyceps sinensis comes from the high altitude of Tibet and has been extensively harvested, which has given rise to the question of its sustainability.  Cordyceps millitaris is used as a replacement and after extensive research is now able to be cultivated, without the use of insects, in a sustainable way.

Cordyceps in Chinese Medicine gently tones the Kidney Yang, builds the essence, tonifies the lungs and settles coughs.  It is classed as sweet and warm, and because it tones both Yin and Yang, it is seen as a harmonious tonic.  It is very gentle in its actions and therefore can be used long-term.

From a Western perspective, Cordyceps is widely known to help people perform better athletically.  It is known to increase energy and help with lung conditions like asthma. For this reason, it is becoming increasingly popular now in the west.

Yes! One we all know and can easily find to cook up a beautiful meal with.  Shiitake is native to Japan and China.  Extensively used as a medicine and used daily in Asian countries for its health benefits.  Generally used as a Qi (chi) tonic, the shiitake mushroom was traditionally used to prevent upper respiratory diseases, increase energy and circulation.

Also known as a superfood, Shiitake is known to help with skin issues, (due to its actions on the liver), immune-modulating effects and its cholesterol lowering ability, which helps the cardiovascular system.  It is also an excellent source of Vitamin D.

Lion’s Mane is not only beautiful to look at, it also has a delicious taste.  It can be cooked as a meat substitute or used in desserts!

As well as having the immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory qualities like the other mushrooms we have looked at, it is widely known for its benefits on the nervous system, the brain and cognitive function.  Incredibly, it can support brain health and may improve mood and focus.

Its Doctrine of Signatures highly resembles the nervous system and it come as no surprise that it is said to help with neurological conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons etc. This may be due to its ability to stimulate nerve growth factor, which stimulates nerve growth.

Whichever way you choose to incorporate Lion’s Mane into your diet, you’ll understand why it is a favourite of most people!

I hope this starts your journey into these amazing mushrooms and what they have to offer. If you are wanting to explore mushrooms further, you might like to start with our Mushroom Products that can be added to nearly everything, including your daily cuppa.  They can be found here:

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