An Introduction to Reishi: The Mushroom Miracle-Worker
They say variety is the spice of life, but lately one particular food has taken over my diet: reishi mushrooms. Mushrooms of all types are incredibly powerful—they boost our bodies’ natural immunity, and they’re a potent source of antioxidants. Cooking mushrooms used to intimidate me, but now that I’ve mastered it I’m obsessed. As a vegetarian, they’re a hearty meat substitute and have so much rich flavor. I sauté them with olive oil, salt and pepper or roast them. I also end every night with chaga mushroom tea.
Elissa Goodman, my trusted raw food guru, is an expert in the many medicinal uses of mushrooms. Her Inner Peace Tonic that I’ll share later this week features reishi, known as the “mushroom of immortality.” It supports healthy neurological function and can help prevent cancer, among other wonderful benefits. For more compelling reasons to incorporate some form of fungus in your day to day, I asked Elissa to share her knowledge on the subject. If you’re anything like me, you’ll soon be running to stock up. XXJKE
EG: Forget about buttons, shiitakes, and chanterelles, the mushrooms of the moment are of a medicinal modality. Medicinal mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years and are becoming widely available and increasingly popular, for good reason. The reishi mushroom is the oldest mushroom known to be used medicinally, and is a symbol of longevity and wellbeing in Asian cultures.
Referred to as “the mushroom of immortality,” the idea of eating this woody and odd-looking fungus is understandably off-putting, which is why you’re more likely to find it in a tincture or powder. In that form, reishi is versatile and blends seamlessly in smoothies, hot teas and tonics.
Some of the most notable benefits of reishi mushroom:
- Hormone Balancing – Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in reishi change the way nerves transmit messages, improving endocrine function, fertility and reproductive health, and naturally balancing hormones.
- Neuroprotective – Reishi has therapeutic affects on neurodegenerative disease like Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s because it supports the productions of nerve growth factor, a protein that is essential for proper neurological function.
- Reduces risks of infection and illness – Reishi is naturally antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. Because they improve circulation and are anti-inflammatories, they help you heal quicker, reduce pain and fight fatigue. Reishi has been used to treat sinus infections, bronchitis, urinary tract infections, hepatitis and even HIV.
- Aids in detoxification and liver function – Adaptogen herbs like reishi help to maintain balance in the body because they strengthen digestive function and improve liver function, allowing the body to release waste and toxins more efficiently. In turn, this boosts immunity and further promotes liver health.
- Promotes cardiovascular health – Reishi contains tripterpene compounds that have the ability to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. They lower inflammation in vessels and arteries, improving circulation and helping to prevent clogged arteries.
- Cancer Preventative – An anti-inflammatory food, reishi contains several anti-cancer nutrients including compounds that inhibit tumor invasion and metastases. For patients who are recovering from cancer or undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, reishi has protective effects that can make the medication more effective.
I find my favorite source of reishi in powder form from Sun Potion. This organic reishi powder is a potent blend of black, red, purple and white reishi.
If you’re looking for a simple way to unwind at the end of the day, you can also add a tablespoon of reishi powder to a cup of warm water or warm brewed Gynostemma tea. The mushroom has a very calming effect and lends itself to restful sleep.
Photo: Sarah Elliott
*Mushrooms featured are not Reishi