By Amber Graziano, Herbalist & Nutritionist, General Manager
One of my favorite items to pull down from the shelves at the apothecary is the whole Reishi mushroom. Customers will “ooo and ahh” at its stunning and otherworldly appearance and then delight in conversation about all the amazing medicinal benefits it offers for mind, body, and spirit. Reishi’s Latin name, Gandoerma lucidum means ‘shining body’ and refers to the natural, lacquer-like finish on the outer part of the mushroom. It also refers to the feeling one receives from ingesting this medicine. It helps us to feel shiny and brilliant by restoring and nourishing our body and spirit. It is no wonder that this mushroom caught the attention of ancient cultures who called it the “mushroom of immortality” or “divine mushroom” and valued Reishi for its associations with health, wisdom, sexual prowess and happiness.
Modern clinical studies confirm what our ancestors identified about Reishi as an important medicine for the immune system, the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system and the liver. Today we use Reishi mushroom to improve circulation and reduce systemic inflammation. Current clinical research is being conducted that indicates great benefit for folks with diabetes and regular consumption of Reishi mushroom.
The Reishi fruiting body and mycelia are all rich in polysaccharides and triterpenoids which are reported to have anti-inflammatory properties, immunomodulatory properties and have been shown to inhibit allergenic response and histamine release. All of these amazing benefits make Reishi mushroom a wonderful adjunct therapy for autoimmune conditions, seasonal allergies and food intolerances. Recent clinical research indicates that Reishi has antibacterial and antiviral activity while also playing an important role in reducing damage from oxidative stress. In the modern state Pharmacopeia from China, Reishi is listed as a treatment for several ailments including cough, shortness of breath, and for strengthening cardiac function, memory, and our Qi (spirit). Many of these indications and traditional uses highlight Reishi mushroom as an important and potent medicine for our times.
Antioxidant Reishi Elixir Recipe
Add 1-ounce Reishi mushroom to 8 cups of water. Gently simmer on low for 4-6 hours (a crock pot is helpful). For the last 30 minutes, add the remaining ingredients (Elderberry, Rosehips or Hawthorn, Cinnamon and Licorice). Strain herbs and add honey if desired. This blend can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 days.
The combination of Reishi with antioxidant-rich berries like Rosehips, Hawthorn berries and Elderberries lends a sweet, berry flavor and also increases the healing potential. A sip of this blend gives me a feeling of strength, like a force shield of protection walking through a world of constant exposure. Our immune systems deserve attention not just when we are sick but on a continual basis. I will often enjoy the Antioxidant Reishi Elixir for one full week per month from November - March or when I am feeling particularly run down. As herbalists, we use food as medicine: tonic herbs and mushrooms feed and strengthen our immune system to give it the best fighting chance.
Other ways to take Reishi Mushroom
Whole Reishi mushroom, add 1 small mushroom (2-3 ounces) to 10 cups of water and gently simmer on low for 24 hours. Strain and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Powder Reishi*, add 1 teaspoon to a few ounces of water, juice, or tea, mix well and drink. You can also add it to smoothies, cacao powder, applesauce, and yogurt.
Reishi extract, add 1-2 dropperfuls to 2 ounce of water, 2-4 times per day. You can call the shop to order the Herb Pharm Reishi tincture or Urban Moonshine Immune Tonic tincture.
*The powdered Reishi Mushroom that we carry is a full spectrum mushroom powder which is certified organic, grown in the USA and hot water extracted. Full spectrum means that every stage of the mushroom’s life cycle is blended in the powder, including the mycelium, fruiting body, primordia, spores, and extracellular compounds.
Stamets, Paul. Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, 2005.
Stamets, Paul. MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms, 2002.