Fall is a time to traditionally hunt and harvest mushrooms, and an appropriate time to learn more about a specific group - the medicinal mushrooms. Specifically, let's take a closer look at Reishi and Chaga.
Known as the King of all medicinal mushrooms, Reishi is well known for its immune-enhancing properties. An herbal adaptogen, Reishi's goal is to restore the body to homeostasis. Safe to take daily over a long period of time, Reishi is one of the most revered herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, earning it the nickname The Mushroom of Immortality. Known to help balance the endocrine system, Reishi helps with thyroid disorders. A powerful Shen tonic, Reishi has a profound affect on the nervous system, calming the spirit and helping the mind to focus. Reishi grows on decaying trees, preferring maple. Not recommended for use in conjunction with chemotherapy or other treatments designed to reduce the immune system, Reishi is particularly suited to helping re-build the body, mind and spirit post-treatment.
Chaga grows on birch trees and can be found in cold climates over most of the world. Long known as a folk remedy to the people of Siberia, Chaga is quite unique in its appearance, looking more like a chunk of tree bark than what one would normally think of as a mushroom. It is brown with blackened outer surface, much like charcoal or like it has been exposed to flames, but not completely burned. In other countries and cultures, Chaga is known as a powerful anti-tumor and anti-carcinogenic remedy, as well as a longevity tonic. Like Reishi, it is adaptogenic. Chaga is also a powerful anti-oxidant. In the human body there is a group of enzymes responsible for protection against free radicals and random oxidation called SuperOxide Dismutases, or SOD. As we age, our levels of SOD decrease. Chaga tea is known to stimulate our body's own production of SOD. Chaga and Turkey Tails in combination often offer relief to those undergoing cancer treatments.
I was first introduced to the benefits of chaga when my mother was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. After vetting the herbs with the doctors at Dana Farber's Zakim Center, she began a daily habit of drinking three to four cups of chaga and turkey tails tea. Her doctors were amazed by how well she responded to treatment. Her tumor continued to progressively reduce until it disappeared. She did have a recurrence after stopping the tea for several months. However, she resumed her chaga regimen, in conjunction with acupuncture and has been cancer free for over 15 months. Recently my father, who has had pre-cancerous prostate issues for several years, went for a check up. He has also been enjoying the tea along with my mother. His physician was amazed that his PSA levels were normal for the first time in years. Is it the chaga? I don't know. I do know that my dad will be 90 in a few weeks and still has a spring in his step.
Chaga normalizes blood pressure and cholesterol levels, optimizes the immune system, is both anit-inflammatory and anti-viral. A wonderful source of further information about this powerful medicinal mushroom can be found here. As always, consult your physician before taking any supplements.
If you're interested in learning more about Reishi, Chaga and other medicinal mushrooms, I recommend reading anything written by the amazing Paul Stamets.
Patrice Green is an Herbal Educator, Certified Aromatherapist, Energy Medicine and Reiki Practitioner and founder of Green Aromatics. She received her herbal training at the Boston School of Herbal Studies, where she now teaches, and shamanic training from Isa Gucciardi, Ph. D. at the Sacred Stream in Berkley, CA. Inspired by time spent among the coastal Redwoods of Muir Woods and its beach, Green Aromatics strives to imbue its products and services with the same resilience, joy and equanimity of these majestic beings. Patrice may be reached through the Green Aromatics website.