Traditional medicine has used mushrooms to aid human health for centuries. Today, modern research supports the deep wisdom of using mushrooms to support immune function, liver and heart health, circulation and energy. Mushrooms are strongly antibiotic and antiviral plus are very helpful in treating infections, tumors, arthritis and general inflammation.
One champion of the fungi kingdom is the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) which is also called the “mushroom of immortality”. In Chinese medicine, we use Reishi for restoring vital energy through tonifying qi and blood. We also use it to stop wheezing and cough and for calming the mind. I put Reishi in my bone stock and it’s also great used as a tincture. I recommend Paul Stamets line of medicinal mushroom products for this.
Finally, Chaga (Inonotous obliquus) is one of my favorite medicinal mushrooms, however it’s not actually a mushroom, a spore producing fruiting body, but a sclerotium, a vegetative fungal growth. It grows on trees and especially the birch tree. It is highly antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune supporting, anti-tumor and a fantastic overall tonic for the body. One great way to add Chaga into your life is simply as a tea. It is easy and delicious!
Reishi Chaga Cacao Tea
Break up the Chaga and Reishi into smaller chunks, roughly 1 inch in size.
In 1 quart of water, drop in a handful of chunks of each mushroom and bring to a boil. Simmer 20 minutes.
Strain the tea into a mug and add 1 tablespoon cacao powder and honey to taste.
Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are used traditionally for increasing stamina and blood circulation. They have a natural ability to discourage inflammation, tumors, harmful bacteria and viruses, and, ironically, unfriendly fungus due to the protein lentinan found in the mushroom. Shiitake mushrooms have liver protective functions, can reduce inflammation, and even have cancer-preventive properties. Here is one of my favorite recipes using these mushrooms.
Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms in Ginger Broth
25 small shiitake mushrooms
¼ cup dried tree ear mushrooms
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 clove sautéed garlic
1 organic egg
Freshly ground white pepper
9 cups bone stock
2 Tbsp. ginger root
1 cup slivered carrot
1 cup slivered parsnip
1 cup soaked arame
1 cup grated daikon
1 bunch scallions
Tamari to taste
1. Boil water; soak cloud ear mushrooms for 15 minutes until soft. Trim and mince.
2. Clean cilantro. Mince ½ of bunch and add to cloud ear mushrooms...place some whole leaves aside for garnish.
3. Grind pine nuts and in food processor until smooth and add to mushroom mixture with minced shallots, garlic, egg and pepper. Mix well.
4. Sauté minced ginger and 1/2 the scallion in sesame oil. Add 9 cups of bone stock to the ginger, simmer 15 minutes.
5. Fill each mushroom cap with the pine nut mixture and steam separately 3-4 minutes.
6. Divide among 8 bowls the carrot, parsnip, seaweed, and daikon, fill with boiling broth and gently transfer five mushrooms to each bowl. The mushrooms will float on the top.
Garnish with scallion and whole cilantro leaves.
One of the most interesting healing mushrooms is Cordyceps sinensis. It has been revered and used as a traditional medicine in both China and Tibet. It is a rare combination of a caterpillar and a fungus and is found at altitudes above 4500m in Sikkim. The mushroom has been regarded as a panacea for the healing of all diseases. We find this medicine in formulas that enhance athletic performance and for improving aerobic (lung) capacity. Cordyceps is also used to combat fatigue and muscle weakness, improve mental energy, increase sexual vigor and slow aging.