Reishi goes by a lot of names: Mushroom of Immortality, Supernatural Mushroom, Shining Skin, Auspicious Herb, and the Herb of Longevity. So — you get it? — it’s an amazing offering to us from the largely unseen world of mycelium (a network of fine, white filaments in the soil or wood of a decaying tree, etc, that make up the vegetative structure of mushrooms).
This fungus is classified as an adaptogen which means it is one of a group of medicines that helps us cope with life’s stresses with more physiological balance. Although, “adaptogen” is a new term (coined by herbalist David Winston within the last decade), the herbs he refers to have been used for centuries as tonics and restoratives to the foundational aspects of one’s health.
Reishi will gently raise the bar of your adaptive immune system, thus it is also classified as an immunomodulator (and safe for those with auto-immune disorders). Herbalists find it especially useful for seasonal allergies, pet allergies, and hayfever. There also is a decent amount of research happening on its use as an adjunct therapy for diabetics (blood sugar balancing). Reishi is also protective to the cells and are a safe treatment to use during chemotherapy (to protect cells from radiation, discourage further growth of the cancerous tumor, and to shrink the cancerous growth).
Medicinal mushrooms, in general, share many of the attributes I shared above. However, each has an affinity for a particular organ system. Reishi’s affinity, is for the liver, heart, and lungs.
I’ll have to say that no other plant has entered my dreams as much as this one. What I have gathered from my dreams is that this mushroom works on our DNA structure; it addresses and positively alters family lineage health and spiritual issues that have been passed down for generations. (Side note: If you need scientific backing for what I experienced in my dreams, read the section of Guido Mase’s book entitled “Tonics” or check out this article on miRNA’s).
In terms of preparation of this mushroom, you can do a double extraction (tincture), simmer it for 2 hours to make a nourishing tea, or toss it into your kettle when making a bone broth to use as a base for soups. Please note that reishi is bitter and earthy tasting. Of all the common medicinal mushrooms it is the *most* bitter…
My favorite thing to do with dried reishi is make Reishi Chai:
– put about 1/2 cup of pieces of reishi in about 1 1/2 quart water
– simmer the reishi for 1 hr 40 min (with lid on)
– add spices (ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, etc) and simmer for about 20 more minutes
– strain and sweeten with honey
There are a handful of species of this mushroom. The one pictured above is G. tsugae because it is red/crimson and was found on decomposing hemlocks (tsugae in latin refers to hemlocks). The other species is called G. lucidum and is more of a brown color and mostly found on oaks (but can be found on other hardwoods as well). Mostly, I’ve found G. lucidum growing out of dead roots of trees (sweet gum is one of the most common), so they rise up out of the ground in these beautiful fans.
And, just so you know, I have also found the red reishi on oak. For more on identification, check this link out.
I actually went out looking for my Reishi friends about a month ago. I didn’t find a thing. I thought — maybe I missed the flush? Maybe I’m not looking in the right place? Or, maybe I need to simply enjoy the sound of the river and watch a bird feather fall as I startle a bird back into the sky?
Well, that’s what I did that day. Sometimes the universe works that way. I go looking for something and the universe thinks I need to experience or find something else. However, days… weeks… months… years can go by… And, the universe never forgets.
That was my experience when I wrote this blog piece. I went to run an errand and lo and behold…on the decomposing matter of a giant, old hemlock stump — shiny, crimson Reishi mushrooms. In gratitude — I stopped the car, jumped out, noticed the full flush of mushrooms and gently took some. I offered some strands of hair to the stump in an act of giving back some nourishment to the soil.
Over the years I have noticed with Reishi is that Reishi finds you. You don’t find Reishi. More than other plants and mushrooms that I seek, this one really must want you to find it…or maybe it has to *really* want to see you. And, if it has appeared in your life, I strongly suggest that you partake of it. Reishi is not called the Mushroom of Immortality for nothing.
Here is a great method of preparation of Reishi suggested by Guido Mase in his book “The Wild Medicine Solution” (which I highly recommend)!. This is a double extraction done in such a way to also get the water-soluble constituents from the mushroom as well. Polypore mushrooms (in which reishi is) have the most medicinal potency in their water-soluble constituents.
What you will need:
100-150 proof alcohol
glycerin (made from vegetable fat)
– Divide your mushroom into two equal parts
– Tincture the first part by covering the mushroom in solvent that is 75% alcohol (150 proof), 15% glycerin, and 10% water; let sit for 4-6 weeks, shaking occasionally
– Strain the tincture, take the 2nd part of the mushroom and simmer them for two hours in twice the volume of the total solvent you used to tincture; keep adding water if needed
– Strain out the mushroom and simmer the liquid down to be equal portion to the solvent; take off heat and allow to cool completely
– Make sure to add the tincture to the tea/broth and not the other way around; this will result in a 35% alcohol tincture
– dosage is a dropper full 2-3 times a day
You can read my other article on medicinal mushrooms here.