Thursday, April 28, 2011

"as beautiful as it is powerful"

posted by Melissa
This post is an informative piece on one of my favorite medicinal mushrooms, Reishi.  I use it for immune support and mood support, as many of my teachers and herbalist friends have described it as "grounding".   In fact, it is often used herbally as an adaptogen.  An adaptogenic plant or mushroom is one that is used as a tonic, a restorative, to bring the body back into a balanced state.

Below is a more in depth look at the mushroom, medicinally and otherwise.
All information is cited from Mycellium Running, by Paul Stamets, unless otherwise stated.

Reishi mushroom,    
Ganoderma lucidum

Other common names:   ling chi, ling zhi (Chinese for "tree of life mushroom"), the panacea polypore.

Ganoderma lucidum, from Wikipedia
Description:  It is kidney shaped and woody textured.  It grows 5-20cm in diameter and has a shiny surface that appears lacquered when moist and dulls as it dries.  The cap is dull red to reddish brown, and even black at times.  It often has a white area of new growth at the outer edge of the cap and white pores underneath.  Spores are brown.  Sometimes spores from the underside collect on the cap, giving a powdery brown look when it dries.

Natural Habitat/Distribution:  This saprophytic mushroom is found on a wide range of hardwoods.  It is found throughout the world, from the Amazon to the southern regions of the US and across most of Asia.  It is mostly found in warm subtropical regions and less in temperate climates.

Fragrance:  Musty, mealy, fungoid.  (I am guessing that means it smells like a mushroom.)

Natural Method of Cultivation:  Being a saprophytic, I know from PSMS class that it is one of the kinds of mushrooms that can be cultivated.  Indeed,  Stamets states that it grows well on logs, stumps, and buried blocks of sawdust spawn.  (The book is a great resource of you are thinking about cultivating mushrooms.)

Season and Temperature Range for Mushroom Formation:  Summer to early fall.  Temperature 60-95 degrees F.

Medicinal Properties:  Stamets cites studies showing that reishi is a direct antimicrobial, but is not anti-tumor as many other mushrooms have shown to be.  He points out that it is helpful for cancer patients by stimulating the production of macrophages, activating the host's production of natural killers cells, T cells and tumor necrosis factors. Many of the over 100 distinct polysaccharides and triterpenoids identified in the reishi mushroom demonstrate immunomodulatory properties.  

Triterpenoids are steroid like compounds that give reishi its benefit for those suffering from allergies, asthma and high cholesterol.  Specific triterpenoids have been studied and found to have anti-inflammatory properties in cases of arthritis.  In one study, reishi extracts compared favorably with prednisone (a common steroid used pharmaceutically) but had hardly any negative side effects, unlike the drug.  (Stavinoha, WB 1997, Proceedings of the 1st International Symposium on Ganoderma lucidum.)

Reishi is also a free radical scavenger.  Sounds great, huh?  But how many of us know what that really means?  When your body works (eats, breathes, lives) - it creates oxidants. These are materials that are very active and they “look for” something to react with. So, for example, when you eat there are a lot of oxidants created.  They move around in the colon and they usually react with colon cells, thus destroying them. Antioxidants, or free radical scavengers counteract these "free" roaming oxidants and stop their harmful reaction.  So, if you are going through something that is creating more oxidants, like chemotherapy or simply aging, reishi could be helpful in supporting your body through that process.

Other benefits of reishi include; showing promise in supporting those with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), enhancing endurance and stamina through increasing the oxygen capacity of the alveoli in the lungs, having the odd ability to be both an anti-inflammatory agent as well as an immunity enhancer.

If you choose to learn more, and there is so much more out there not only about reishi medicinally, but many other mushrooms as will find many claims for benefits.  Find reliable, cited, sources.  If you have questions about which ones are reliable, send me a message and I'll help you figure it out.

Dosage and Preparation:  Stamets states that his family enjoys the tea made form fresh reishi mushrooms.  Boil the broken pieces for one hour, then steep for 30 minutes, reheat, strain and drink.  Given this preparation a daily regimen is dosed at as little to 3-5g/day.

Other dosage information is in tincture form use 10 ml 3x/day.  This is from Christopher Hobbs, an herbalist.   (He doesn't specify the ratio of the tincture in the source I found.)

I often use it in capsule or powdered form, and the dosage I learned in school (Tai Sophia Institute) is from 6-12 grams/day.

Other Comments by Stamets:  "An intelligent being, reishi is one of nature's greatest displays of grace and beauty.  It invites quiet contemplation and earns my deep respect.  I feel connected to this species."  He says this mushroom is "as beautiful as it is powerful."

Additional Information:   Here are some additional links to reference articles from PubMed (The National Library of Medicine's website, which is a great resource) on Ganoderma lucidum.  If you are interested in medicine or health, I urge you to check them out.

Ganoderma lucidum: a potent pharmacological macrofungus.

Ganoderma lucidum suppresses growth of breast cancer cells through the inhibition of Akt/NF-kappaB signaling.

Preparation, characterisation and anti-tumour activity of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide nanoparticles.

And with that, I leave you for my Chemistry book.  And maybe a mushroom walk this afternoon to find a specimen for our PSMS class tonight.


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