Artists Conk (Ganoderma applanatum). You may have heard of this bracket fungus and know that you can write and draw on the underneath side- thus the name. I have even heard that people will mail Artist’s Conk with adesign on the underside and enough postage stamps and it will be delivered. Like other bracket fungi in my neck of the woods (Portland, Oregon area) Artist’s conk is an important medicinal mushroom that can be used for a wide variety of complaints. But because this is a perennial bracket fungus that is not extremely common, it should be harvested rarely and other medicinal mushrooms should be picked first. One can easily purchase farmed shiitakes, maitakes, turkey tails and reishi with a good medicinal profile without depleting our forests of important perennial fungi that are key to the ecological balance of our environment.
That being said, if one chooses to gather rarely and in an ecologically sustainable manner, artist’s conk is quite a powerhouse of medicinal constituents. The first thing to think about all bracket fungi is that they are experts at turning death to life- truly nature’s alchemists. They survive on dead or dying Hemlock (Tsuga heterpophylla), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menzeisii) and a host of deciduous trees throughout much of the world.
Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum) is a close cousin to the most famous mushroom in the world AsianReishi (Ganoderma lucidum), the eastern Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) and our local Northwest Reishi (Ganoderma oregonense). For thousands of years Asians have been working with the Ganoderma genus for their myriad health benefits. Medicinal mushrooms are increasingly a booming business in the West with companies like Nammex and Paul Stamets’ Host Defense selling millions of dollars of mushroom supplements yearly.
To start, please don’t gather this mushroom if you are just looking for a trophy to place on a shelf. They are too valuable to the forest ecology to be gathered in that way. Please be respectful and only gather if you know how to make medicine from it and even then, gather from downed trees and only gather one from a larger colony. Dead trees have been inoculated with the mycelium throughout the tree and new Artist’s conks will emerge from new spots on the tree in time. But because it is a slow growing perennial, it will take quite a bit of time to grow to any large size.
If you look at the Artist’s conk you will notice it is grayish brown with a ring of new white fleshy growth around
the edge. It is a bracket fungus that grows normally to about a foot in diameter but at times it will grow upwards of 2-3 feet. It has innumerable tubules on the bottom that emit the spore that are released to the win each early Fall. These spore then look for appropriate spots to attach and begin hosting a new tree. They also act as food for insects which are food for larger creatures. This makes them a valuable aspect of the delicate ecological balance of a forest. They also make indentations and landing spots for woodland creatures and birds.
Gathering a conk is as simple as rocking it back forth from its perch until it detaches from the tree. Juvenile Artist’s conks are quite fleshy and wet while older ones become more dry and can be almost rock hard.
Processing Artist’s conks can present quite a challenge and should be done right away.
First weigh the whole mushroom so you will know your ultimate dosage. Larger conks can weigh up to 1-2 pounds.
If they are soft enough you can use a very sharp carving knife to slice the mushroom into long 1/2 inch bacon slices that can then be cut up further to maximize surface area. You can also use very sharp heavy shears to cut the mushroom into small pieces. If it is quite fleshy and fresh then it can be cut up further by a strong blender such as a vitamin – with some alcohol to moisten.
The first step will be to place the entire cut up mushroom in a giant mason jar and add 60 percent alcohol to cover. I don’t worry about weight to volume measurements at this time. Let the mushroom steep in the alcohol for 24 hours. This is a way to capture the important terpenes that would be volatilized and lost if the mushroom was decocted (simmered in hot water) right away. There is some controversy here with some mycophiles preferring to decoct the mushroom initially and then infusing in alcohol later. The theory is that the alcohol might denature or reduce the medicinal potency of the important beta gluons polysacarides. My good friend expert mushroom specialist Anna Sitkoff disagrees with this assessment and prefers to capture the important terpenes with alcohol first. She has suggested that this reasoning is strange because immunomodulatory polysacarirdes are often precipitated out with alcohol and used in test research for their immunomodulatory effects.
In any event, after infusing the cut up mushroom in 60 percent neutral alcohol for 24 hours, remove the marc (the mushroom) and place in a pan on the stove with enough water to cover. Store the alcohol for later use. Decoct (simmer) the mushroom for 24 hours str a low heat (no more than 80 degrees celsius) and then strain out the liquid to measure the volume. The amount of decocted “tea” of the mushroom should be about the same as the alcohol. If its too little, top it up with filtered water and if its too much, reduce it on the stove by evaporating off some of the liquid.
Okay you are now ready to add everything together. Take the alcohol and add it to the decoction and add back in the mushroom. Cap tight and label and then shake every day for a few weeks. Then strain out and discard the mushroom and save the dual alcohol and water extract. The alcohol percentage should be about 25-30 percent, enough to preserve it at room temperature but I like to refrigerate the extracts to extend their life. I also will often add honey for taste- about a 1/2 cup to a quart of extract.
Lets show this again in easy steps:
1- Weigh your mushroom after gathering.
2- Cut up mushroom into smallest amounts possible.
3- Place in mason jar with 60 % alcohol to cover. Allow 24 hours of initial alcohol maceration.
4- Strain out infused alcohol, store for later use.
5- Take mushroom and place in pan with enough water to cover. Simmer at low heat for 24 hours.
6- Strain out decocted water extract. Place mushrooms aside on a clean plate. Compare to alcohol extraction. Make sure they are the same volume. Add filtered water if needed or reduce by evaporating off liquid if needed.
7-Add alcohol and water extraction together in a large mason jar.
8- Add in the mushroom, cap tight and label.
9- Shake daily for 3 weeks. Strain out mushroom.
10- Add honey to taste. Measure final volume compared to initial weight of mushroom to determine dose per ml.
11- You have an awesome Artist’s Conk Dual Extract!
Now remember when I had you measure the mushroom? Now you can know how your exact dosage. I’m going to switch to metric to make this simpler. Lets say you have a 500 gram mushroom and ended up with a liter of extract. That means every 2 ml of extract equals a gram of mushroom. I suggest 7-15 grams a day of medicinal mushrooms. That would be 15-30 ml a day. That is about 1-2 tablespoons a day of extract- far more than is often recommended when people take extracts- but much closer to the dosage Chinese medicinal practitioners suggest.
The reason that we are making both an alcohol and a water based extraction of this mushroom is because each pull out important medicinal constituents. Lets start with the water extraction.
Artist’s Conk, like many mushrooms, carries a hard thick cell wall known as chitin. This makes the mushroom inedible and none of the medicinal constituents will be absorbed because of the chitin. Hot water breaks down this cell wall and allows access to the important polysaccharides known as Beta Glucans. Beta glucan polysaccharides are powerful immunomodulators, working in a number of ways to help improve immune system function.
These beta-glucans can pass through the stomach without being broken down by stomach acids. In the mucosal layer of the GI the polysaccharides come into contact with lymphoid tissue that contains macrophages (think of these as like pac-men gobbling up foreign and destructive tissue for elimination). The macrophages have specific receptors for the beta glucans polysacharides. Once they “dock” at the macrophages, they cause them to release cytokines that then stimulate the production of cytotoxic T Cells and Natural Killer cells that are specific for attacking malignant tumors and viruses.
The heavier and harder to extract triterpenes confer a bitter quality that is helpful for a variety of health issues. Bitter substances improve digestive and hepatic function, improved digestion, assimilation of nutrients and elimination. And while the polysaccharides as useful prebiotic for important bacteria such as lactobacillus, the terpenes are hepatoprotective. The bitter quality of the terpenes is also useful for regulating blood sugar levels, for their antimicrobial and antiviral effects well as conferring anti-tumoral effects by directly attacking cancer cells.
Finally Artist’s conk increases Nitric oxide levels that directly increase blood flow to the arteries. This in turn improves cardiac, digestive, eliminative and genital blood flow. Because of the improvement in sexual organ blood flow, I have heard it anecdotally referred to as a libido enhancer.
Common Name: Artist’s Conk
Species Name: Ganoderma applanatum
Important Constituents: Beta Glucans, triterpenes, ganoderic acids, Ergosterol. Applanoxidic acids A, B, C, D
Energetics: Bitter, cooling
Properties: Digestive aid, carminative, styptic, immunomodualotry, antiinflammatory. antimiocrobial, antioxidant, anti-viral, hypoglycemic, anti-tumoral, antiallergenic
Actions: Regulates blood sugar, improves digestive function- digestion, assimilation, elimination, improves immune system response, reduces tumor growth in some studies, is good for cirrhosis, hepatitis, upper reparatory infections, tuberculosis, in Chinese medicine seen as strengthening “lung qi”, clears UTIs, improves circulatory flow, libido enhancer
Ethnobotany: Nitinaht: used for protecting from those with ill will towards one. Chinese: Fortifies the will, gives undaunted bravery, quiets the corporeal soul (Po). Dispels wind and eliminates dampness.
Traditional European: Ruled by Venus.
Contraindications: Loose stools, pregnancy
Walk with me through a deep forest of Hemlock and Cedar and you will find this rough, splotchy gnarled beast with a beautiful clean white undercoating. To me the conks are the soul of the forest. They gather the intense power of a tall tree and transform it into a small dense mushroom. They alchemize the dead tree into a live mushroom that can deliver food (spores) to the nearby insects) and help support the ecology of the forest. I see them as sentinels, guardians and watchers. Artist’s conk is one of the few perennial mushrooms that grows year after year in size, growing in wisdom and power.
Gathering Artis’s conk should be saved for when that particular medicine is really needed- there has been a deep loss of resiliency and health has faltered. There are increasing infections, inflammation, growths, poor digestion and a sense of stagnancy and depletion. Drinking in an extraction of Artist’s Conk is literally sipping the forest itself- asking for the land to bring back life, to remove the dead, dying and unwanted growths and invasions that have overtaken a depleted body and soul. Artis’s Conk is a life restorer- a precious one to be revered and honored for their deep wise power.
This article written by Jon Keyes, Licensed Professional Counselor and herbalist. For more articles like this, please go to www.Hearthsidehealing.com. You can also find me at the Facebook group Herbs for Mental Health.
Antioxidant Properties of the Artist’s Conk Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma applanatum (Agaricomycetes), upon Cultivation with para-Substituted Phenolic Compounds and Tea Leaf Extracts. Tsivileva O, Pankratov A, Misin V et al
Immunomodulation Effect of Aqueous Extract of the Artist’s Conk Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma applanatum (Agaricomycetes), on the Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Manayi A, Varian M, Zade FH and Tehranifard A
Ganoderma applanatum Anna Sitkoff
Medicinal Mushrooms A Clinician’s Overview Christopher Hobbs
Mushroom Medicine: Challenges and Potential Christopher Hobbs
Beta-Glucans and the Immune System Anna Sitkoff
Exopolysaccharide from Ganoderma applanatum as a Promising Bioactive Compound with Cytostatic and Antibacterial Properties Osinka-Jaroszuk, Jaszek, Mizerska-Dudka et al
Ganoderma applanatum: a promising mushroom for antitumor and immunomodulating activity. Jeong YT, Yang, Jeong SC et al
Exopolysaccharide from Ganoderma applanatum as a Promising Bioactive Compound with Cytostatic and Antibacterial Properties Osinka-Jaroszuk, Jaszek and Mizerska-Dudka et al
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