One of the most amazing herbs for promoting health and well being is not an herb at all. It is a mushroom. The reishi mushroom is known as one of the best adaptogens known to man. An adaptogen is a natural substance that is non-toxic, helps a person to adapt to stress more easily and can help bring balance to the immune and endocrine systems.
Ganoderma lucidum has been known to have a profound tonic effect for over two thousand years. Known in China as Ling zhi, meaning herb of spiritual power, this mushroom has been used to help strengthen the immune system, promote better sleep, reduce arthritis, improve energy and vitality, reduce allergies, calm the nervous system, heal the liver, strengthen the heart and has also been shown to be effective in treating cancer.
For Emotional Wellbeing
The “Medicine of Kings” is one of the most scientifically studied supplements and evidence points to its efficacy in treating a myriad of ailments. As a mental health therapist, I am often interested in herbs that are both nourishing and help calm the nervous system. Many of the clients I work with have experienced trauma, and this trauma often translates into an underlying feeling of deficiency, depression and anxiety, as well as stress related physical health problems such as autoimmune disorders. In traditional Chinese medicine, Reishi is known to “calm the Shen”. The Shen is the energy stored in the heart, and in a balanced state, it helps people to feel calm and happy.
When someone experiences trauma, whether from a breakup, a loss of a parent or a car accident, that trauma can “disturb the Shen”, leading to a feeling of overall anxiety and depression. For severe trauma, Shen disturbance manifests as panic attacks, insomnia and even psychosis. In my mind Shen disturbance sounds an awful lot like the diagnosis post traumatic stress disorder. However, Shen disturbance adds a somatic and energetic element, placing the suffering in the heart area.
Reishi is profoundly helpful for people who are experiencing “Shen disturbance” and over time it gently nourishes the body and restores balance, reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. In essence it’s a heart protector. Interestingly, scientific studies have shown it to have cardio protective properties as well.
Reishi is also known as a three treasure tonic. The three treasures are jing, qi and Shen. Jing refers to the underlying essential constitution of a person, their basic vitality that is partly hereditary and partly due to how one lives. If someone parties too hard, never sleeps and eats cheetohs and drinks coke all day, they will use up their “jing” pretty quickly and start to appear tired, old, pale and will be prone to sickness. Qi refers to the energy that circulates throughout the body. When qi is flowing smoothly, the body feels relaxed, flexible, pain free, and the mind feels clear and refreshed. When qi is stagnant or blocked, you can develop pain, discomfort, and illness patterns. Much of the practice of acupuncture and tai qi is about helping the energy in the body to flow more smoothly.
Reishi strengthens all three “treasures” and helps restore natural vitality and a sense of peaceful contentment when taken over time. You can take Reishi as a daily tonic and generally people have only positive benefits but occasionally people experience side effects of dizziness and upset stomach. If you take blood thinners or are about to have surgery you should also be careful with taking this supplement as it can encourage declotting blood.
There are a variety of types of Reishi, and for a more in depth exploration of those types read here. If you are looking on line you may also notice you can take reishi in capsule form, in powders, as an alcoholic extract and in tea form. Like other mushrooms, most of Reishi’s active medicinal constituents such as the polysaccharides are best extracted with hot water. There are some active ingredients in alcohol form such as the triterpinoids that have an effect as well and you may want to experiment with taking a combined alcohol and water based supplement (double extraction).
Making Reishi Tea
In this post I want to take you through making a simple Reishi mushroom decoction. A decoction simply means simmering an herb in hot water for a period of time in order to extract much of the active constituents. The standard dosage of Reishi is 3-15 grams a day. 15 grams is just over half an ounce. To make a daily dose, take a half ounce of Reishi mushroom and put it in a stainless steel pot.
Add a pint and a half of water and then bring the mixture to a boil. Then put on simmer for about 45 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let it sit for about a half hour.
You can then pour off the decoction and discard the Reishi. Put the tea back in the pot and simmer it until you reduce it down to a pint of liquid. Then divide this into two cups and drink one in the morning and one in the evening.
Making a Month’s Worth at a Time
I personally prefer making a large batch of Reishi tea that will last me about a month. To do this requires a little more initial effort and some math skills but is well worth the effort if you want to make this a daily habit.
Start by gathering a scale, a crock pot, an empty ice cube tray, a big pot and your Reishi. Then pencil out how many grams of Reishi you want to drink every day for the next two weeks. If you decide to drink 10 grams a day, multiply that by 32 (two ice cube trays with 16 places for cubes). That’s 320 grams of Reishi that you will need or about 11 ounces. By the way you can buy a pound of organic Red Reishi from Mt. Rose Herbs for 20 bucks, so a month of Reishi tea will only cost you 15 bucks and well worth the health benefit.
Okay, so take your 320 grams of sliced Reishi and put it in the crock pot and then fill up the rest of the pot with distiller water. That should be about 5 quarts of water.
Then let the Reishi simmer in the crock pot for about 24 hours. That amount of time really helps extract the most amount of active constituents. Once you are done, then decant the reishi tea into a big pot for the stove and then reduce the liquid down to a little over a quart. This is a deeply potent concentrated extraction of Reishi. Then pour this into a quart measuring glass and then pour this into the ice cube trays. Each cube is about an ounce so 32 cubes equals a quart or Reishi. This will make 32 individual doses of 10 grams of Reishi. You can now freeze them and then you can take out a cube at a time every day for your daily dose of Reishi.
Reishi has a very strong flavor and taste. It is somewhat bitter and skunky in smell and flavor. Someone said it smells like a gerbil cage. Others say old tomatoes. All I can say is that none of us liked the taste of coffee when we first tried it. Reishi becomes an acquired taste. And the health benefits are pretty immediate so I got over the funky taste pretty quickly. Good luck with your preparations and enjoy this amazing mushroom for better mental, emotional and physical health!