I'm a little bit scared of mushrooms. There's something very old, and very intimidating about them, as if you have to hush and bow before their feet in reverent awe of these wild wise forest men. There's things they seem to know, so burrowed into the trees and the damp Autumnal soils are they. Other plants are more definitely showy, bursting forth in radiant brilliance, huge swathes of leaves and colour. They are what they are. Mushrooms, however, are hidden things, shy things, to me, old and sagacious druids. Hence, when someone gave me a pack of reishi mushroom powder, I thought I'd better do some burrowing myself, to see what exactly this ancient funghi was all about, as if I need to know the background gossip before I even broached conversation with it.
However, after having a cuppa and doing the research, I got in the kitchen for my afternoon tea as I was enjoying a blissful afternoon off work and doing not much at all - so rare!
For centuries, Reishi mushroom or ganoderma lingzhi has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2000 years, and some say even 4000. It's known as an immortality elixir:
It positively affects the life-energy, or Qi of the heart, repairing the chest area and benefiting those with a knotted and tight chest. Taken over a long period of time, the agility of the body will not cease, and the years are lengthened to those of the Immortal Fairies.
Given what it is purported to do, it's little wonder it's known for having life extending properties, and I've noticed many plants that are known for anti inflammatory, anti-oxidant and adaptogencic qualities are given this moniker - astralagus, for example, holy basil and sage. Adaptogens stabilize physiological processes and help us deal with stress - less stress, longer life is a kinda no-brainer. Because they enable us to live healthier lives, they can perhaps extend our lives too. And as I sit here on this warmish Spring day, with a beautiful rainstorm outside and the sunlight catching the blossoms of the fruit trees while the thunder grumbles in the west, I'm feeling like living longer might be quite a lovely thing.
Traditionally attributed with tonifying effects, enhancing vital energy, strengthening the heart and increasing memory as well as anti-aging effects, replenish chi, ease the mind, relieve coughs and asthma, be good for dizziness and insomnia and shortness of breath, it does seem to a miracle 'shroom. There has been quite a bit of modern research done on this mushroom too that backs up much of what Chinese medicine seems to have known for some time. Remember just because there's no research doesn't mean it's not legit - thousands of years of anecdotal research and consideration does not mean it lacks efficacy! Sometimes, the studies have been limited due to time, financial reasons, lack of support, the size of the study and a host of other reasons.
However, I did try to look at the claims that were backed by research (as I'm reluctant to explore, say, sites that tell me it's an extraterrestial life form, but please feel free to tell me about it in the comments), here's what I found.
- it's active ingredients can change bacteria in your stomach for the better, which may affect those who suffer from obesity;
- may increase the chance of better response to cancer treatment and the body's immune response
- may reduce immune system activity when the system is overstimulated, and bolster the immune system when it is weakened;
- has an anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic effect, making it possiblity useful in treating asthma, Croehns disease, rheutmatism and so on
- can assist with migraine headaches;
- has been successful in reducing blood sugar level and the amounts of insulin required for diabetic patients
- helps with viral infections such as avian flu
- helps with lung conditions such as asthma and bronchitis
- can help with kidney and liver disease
- has use in treating HIV/aids
- help with altitude sickness, stomach ulcers, poisoning and herpes pain.
Like any natural medicine, I highly recommend you do your own research and also consider any side effects or contraindications. I was interested in reishi as it's a known adaptogen and I'm interested in supporting my system when I need it.
The original textbook of Oriental medical science, “Herbal Pharmacopoeia”, was compiled by the founding father of Chinese medicine, Shen Nong (Han Dynasty, 206 BC ~ 8 AD). In it, the legendary herbalist-emperor documented 365 species of plants and classified them into three categories: superior, average and fair. These classifications were based on two main criteria: its benefits, based on consumption on a continual basis, and side effects. For those plants graded as “superior”, the power to harmonize the functions of the body, mind and spirit and the range of ailments they could treat were greater and broader than those of weaker specimens. In addition, they had to have little or no long term side effects. Among the specimens in this class, Reishi was ranked the highest in this classic medical text, even superior to the well known ginseng.
Since I've given up coffee, I'm pretty keen on cacao with a bit of honey to sweeten it. Sometimes I skip the sweetener, but reishi is bitter too so I feel you need the sweet taste to mellow it out a bit.
1 tbsp cacao
1 tsp of reishi powder
1 tsp of cinnamon
optional dash of vanilla and a pinch of salt
Gently heat your milk of choice in a saucepan (I use coconut milk) and then stir through the powder until dissolved. You can whiz with a stick blender if that's your jam, or a froth stick thingie that I wish I had, but I don't bother. To be honest, I mostly drink this not as a latte but just like a hot chocolate made with water and topped up with a dash of milk.
I love bliss balls, as we call them here in Australia. I make them all the time with ingredients on hand, and I'm afraid to say that I don't measure my ingredients, going instead by feel and consistancy. What can I say - I'm an intuitive cook! As reishi and cacao are a perfect marriage to me, this recipe makes perfect sense. However, just for you I'm going to give approximate measurements!
1 cup cashews or almonds
1 cup pitted dates, soaked til soft
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted at room temp
1 tablespoon reishi powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp chia seeds
Mix in a blender. If it's too dry, add some more coconut oil - if too wet, add some coconut flour or more chia seeds. Chia seeds absorb 12 times their size in liquid, so note that if you leave it for a while, it will become less wet.
Roll into balls and then roll in the topping of your choice - goji berries, frozen raspberries, and coconut are nice. Pop in the fridge or freezer to set.
You can also add reishi to bone broth, stews, pasta sauces, smoothies and all sorts of foods - there's some pretty exciting recipes out there and I'm definitely going to research a little more about them.
A couple of side notes - you've got to be careful about what brand you are using. Some of them use grain filler - read more here. There's also different types of reishi, which is beyond the scope of this steempost, as is finding them in Australia - it's illegal to grow them, I read on one forum, but I'd also have to do more research about that too. Comments welcomed!