The Only 6 Medicinal Mushrooms You Need To Know
Mushrooms have long been used as a medicine, but their popularity dwindled over the years. Now, most people think of mushrooms as something to add to a salad or sauce, but they don’t realize the health benefits. Let’s look at the 6 medicinal mushrooms you should keep on hand for your health.
You have likely seen Chaga in a range of health food applications. This mushroom is a woody fungus that helps boost the immune system and promotes overall health. Ingesting the mushroom can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure while boosting the immune system. It’s also known for its relaxing effect on people and many have used it to treat stomach issues, like gastritis and ulcers.
The simplest method of using Chaga mushrooms is to create a tea or tincture. You can add a handful of the dried mushroom to two cups of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes, then steep for another 10. It’s also possible to grind it into a powder, which may be added to smoothies, soups, etc.
Spot the Mushroom
Chaga can be found in cold climates like the northern U.S. and Canada. They usually grow on birch trees and look like a massive, rough growth on the side of the tree. Chaga can grow up to 20 inches across or even larger in some cases, so there’s plenty to use just with one harvest.
To harvest, you’ll need a sturdy knife or hatchet, but be careful not to disturb the host tree when removing the fungi.
Popularly known as the “Mushroom of Immortality”, this adaptogenic fungus helps address issues such as increased inflammation, depleted energy levels, damaged blood vessels, allergies, cancer, infections, and various types of hormonal imbalances. Some diseases like Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Inflammatory Disorders, and other stress-related conditions are thought to be kept at bay using reishi. It is important to note that reishi mushrooms need to be double-extracted with both water and alcohol, like the one in my Apothecary, to harness the full spectrum of their medicinal properties.
Reishi tend to have shiny, irregular caps that should be bright-colored with white bellies. Over time, the underside becomes tan or brown while the top will look duller. Avoid harvesting mushrooms that look older, since they may have other types of molds on them, which could be dangerous.
To harvest, you can just pull the mushroom off the tree if it’s relatively soft. A knife or saw may be necessary with the woodier species. Check the area and avoid mushrooms that have grown near dangerous plants like poison ivy.
Dry the mushrooms immediately after harvest by slicing thinly and dehydrating. Store the dried strips in an airtight container in a dark space. The strips may be ground to use in tea. Just add a spoonful of the powder to a cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes.
Spot the Mushroom
Reishi mushrooms are the perfect choice for the new mushroom hunter. The different species are very similar, but you won’t mistake them for poisonous fungi, since they’re quite unique. It’s possible to confuse the red belted conk with reishi mushrooms, but you just need to press on the pore side to check . . . the reishi mushroom will bruise, while the red belted conk will not.
These mushrooms have several varieties, including Ganoderma lucidum, Ganoderma tsugae, and Ganoderma applanatum. Most species grow on hardwood trees or logs and can grow up to 30 inches across.
Shiitake mushrooms are some of the most common edible mushrooms today. You’ll often find them in Asian restaurants, but a number of people simply enjoy eating them daily. However, most aren’t aware that there are some serious benefits to eating shiitake mushrooms. They’ve been shown to help lower blood pressure, for one, and even affect your cholesterol positively.
Shiitakes are also being studied for their use in cancer prevention and treatment. Many people use them to help fight prostate cancer and the mushroom can also increase your immune system’s strength.
Spot the Mushroom
Shiitake mushrooms are found quite often in good supermarkets, but if you want to harvest your own, you’ll need to head over to Asia. The mushrooms have been found throughout China, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia, but don’t grow wild elsewhere.
These mushrooms are found on dead wood most often and can be simply plucked off, as they’re light and soft. Unlike other mushrooms, the edges of the shiitake cap tend to curl under. They may be white or brown on top, with cream gills.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
The Lion’s Mane is a unique-looking mushroom that is generally white and looks a lot like a bunch of pompoms growing out of the ground. Like other mushrooms, it helps boost the immune system and is full of helpful antioxidants. However, it also increases the body’s production of nerve growth factors and myelin, improving brain function. It’s been shown to help boost cognition and memory, as well as help people, concentrate better and avoid problems like Alzheimer’s.
The fresh mushrooms may be roasted and eaten or chopped into any other dish you like. They’re mildly seafood-like, so make a good vegan seafood dish. You can also slice them and dry them, then crush them into a powder and use them in smoothies or hot drinks.
Spot the Mushroom
Lion’s Mane mushrooms grow high on the trunks of trees, usually dead ones. This makes it quite difficult to reach them, but as they kill off trees, you’ll frequently find downed trees, as well.
This type of mushroom tends to grow on beech, maple, and oak trees, as well as other hardwoods.
If you would like to try this mushroom in an easy-to-use formulation, have a look at my potent Lion’s Mane Double-Extracted Tincture in the Apothecary.
Cordyceps mushrooms are widely varied, with over 600 species in existence. These are different from the other mushrooms on our lists because they actually require a non-plant host. They grow out of insect larvae and look like thin stems that shoot up out of the host body. Chinese herbalists use both the insect body and the mushroom in medicine, but you can also separate them.
When taken internally, cordyceps can boost your adenosine triphosphate and increase your muscle energy, making it possible to exercise longer. The fungi also contain antioxidants to prevent aging and are often used as a natural sex drive enhancer.
Studies show that cordyceps can slow or even halt cancer cell growth, at least in test tubes. It has also been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetics. And finally, cordyceps are useful in reducing inflammation and helping maintain heart health.
It has immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties and has also been shown to be anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-protozoal, and to combat fatigue. It is also part of my Mushroom FOURtress, in my Brain Bundle, in my Heart & Blood Sugar Support Bundle, and in my Allergy & Asthma Support Bundle.
Spot the Mushroom
These unique fungi can be found throughout the world, but the vast majority are grown in Asia. The mushrooms prefer humidity and warmth, so they grow best in forests that are fairly warm. That being said, it’s often difficult to find the amount you need unless they are cultivated.
To use, add the mushroom to your diet in meals, or just dry and powder it, then sprinkle in a smoothie or make it into a tea.
Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey tail mushroom is one of my top remedies in the Apothecary—and for good reason.
If you want to boost your immune system, mushrooms are the way to go. However, there’s a distinct benefit to eating turkey tail mushrooms. They’re great at keeping your immune system high and easing the effects of viruses. Some people also use them to treat cancer. It’s proved quite effective to this degree, to the point where pharma companies are checking into the mushroom for the possibility of using it in cancer treatments.
Spot the Mushroom
Turkey tail mushrooms are pretty easy to spot, with their rounded edges and multicolored layers. They grow pretty much everywhere in the world and can be found on dead wood, usually in “stacks” with a number of mushrooms growing in one small area.
The fungi differ from other plate-like mushrooms because they are the same thickness throughout, from base to edge. They also don’t stiffen up or harden, so when you find what you believe to be a turkey tail, you can try bending it. They’ll bend very easily and be about as thick as a cereal box. Look for tiny pores on the underside (white) to further identify the correct mushroom. Harvest with a knife.
Turkey tails can be eaten as is, cooked in stews, but it’s most effective when dried and powdered, then slow-cooked in a meal. You can also make a tea from the dried mushroom, adding a handful of dried strips to three or four cups of boiling water and simmering for 30 minutes. The mushroom has polysaccharides that are water-soluble, but they take time to release, so the longer you can cook the mushroom, the more benefits you’ll release.
Mushrooms aren’t usually something we consider when we want to treat the common cold or prevent cancer, but they’re an amazing way to add some extra health-boosting goodness to your life.
The Gold Standard of Mushroom Extracts
In my Apothecary, we only use the mushroom fruiting body, in addition to the spagyric method. This creates the most potent extract available. Fruiting body extracts contain 30 to 40 percent beta-glucans, compared to mycelium extracts, which typically have only 5 to 7 percent. These compounds are known to regulate the immune system, improve glucose tolerance, support heart health, and more. In short, if you are seeking the most potent medicinal mushroom extract, tinctures that utilize the whole fruiting mushroom body are essential.
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