REISHI MUSHROOM ELIXIR
"Reishi lightens the body and promotes longevity. Taken long term, it will make you feel like you are flying, so you are able to ascend to heaven. This ascension occurs on the level of the mind… there will be an arousal of sensuality, an orgasm of the brain." - Jeffrey Yuen, 88th generation Taoist priest
Foraging in Upstate NY
Last week my friends and I packed up our gear and provisions and headed up to the lush Hudson Valley for the day. I could drive for hours looking at the canopies of mixed oaks, mist coming off the Hudson River and the spruce and birch trees. This time of year is perfect, with the dampness from the rain, the late spring water run-off and the warm sunny 75 degree days. There are so many watering holes and summer hideouts up here it's silly. We headed to one of my favorite spots up there - Kaaterskill Falls. On the short hike in I spotted some young reishi mushrooms growing in clusters up the side of a dead Hemlock tree just off the trail path. Once I spotted one, more and more of the red/orange lacquered beauties popped into view. It was mesmerizing. The damp growing conditions seem perfect right now. They grow on dead trees and drop their spores below, that's why you often see them in clusters. I took as much with me as I could carry.
It's fair to say the world of mushrooms and mycology have quickly become an obsession of mine. If you follow my instagram stories lately, you know. Until pretty recently, preventative self care has been a very passionate subject of mine. The more I discover about the benefits of edible mushrooms like shiitake and maitake and medicinal mushrooms like chaga, lions mane, maitake, cordyceps, and reishi, the more fixated I get with preventative care and self healing. There is something empowering about finding medicine in the woods. I truly believe we all have that evolutionary acquired mind for that forager mentality rooted in our brains that even the mention of hunting for food or medicine on the forest floor and high above our heads can spark curiosity.
2 years ago my oldest brother Patrick's doctor gave him a life threatening warning. Patrick learned he had stage 3 colorectal cancer and 1 year later, after a mix of chemo and working with a good nutritionist there was no sign of cancer inside his body. It was amazing news and a sigh of relief for all of us close to him. As a way to contribute to my brother's cause, feeling restless and helpless, I started researching preventative and integrative medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. As if the mushroom obsession hadn't climaxed, this put me over the edge. This is when I really got into Reishi.
Besides my own nerdy research, I am NOT qualified in this field. Nor am I an herbalist, naturalist, mycologist, registered dietician, or professional expert in preventative or eastern medicine. The claims I give come from extensive studies dealing with health as it relates to different areas of the body. If mycology interests you, do your research. There's so much information out there and lots of sources to sift through, it's hard to go into everything without writing a book. Ingesting reishi is a practice that is centuries old and when taken orally it can have a powerful powerful impact.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF REISHI
Are you ready? I'm about to serve up some knowledge dropping herbal popping realness called Reishi. Reishi, known scientifically as Ganoderma Lucidum or 'Ling Zhi' in Chinese is arguably the most important and widely used herbs used in Asia to promote good health and longevity. Something this old has to be kicking around for good reason. Its laundry list of benefits includes cancer and tumor prevention, liver and brain booster, heart circulation, cognitive functions, heart and cardiovascular functions, and more. Here's a small list of what ingesting reishi does for the body...
Reishi contains some of the highest doses of both polysaccharides and beta glucans of any known fungi or herb. Polysaccharides boost the immune system and prevent abnormal blood vessel formations which neutralize free radicals and reduces/prevents premature aging, protecting you from a wide range of preventable diseases.
Reishi contains a huge amount of triterpenoids which have the ability to reduce the matastasis in cancerous cells and prevent tumor growth and actively seek out and neutralize cancerous cells within the body.
One of our body's main goals is to keep our liver healthy, one of our most delicate and essential organs. Reishi promotes faster regeneration of healthy liver cells and the release of free radicals that have built up in liver.
As someone dealing with ADHD, or watching my grandparents dealing with Alzheimers or dementtia this is a biggie. Studies have shown reishi extract can stimulate cognitive activity and display certain neuroprotective, mainly in stimulating nerve growth which is key to a healthy brain.
Cardiovascular disease and heart disease are one of the number 1 causes of death here and around the globe. Reishi has been proven to improve the efficiency of blood flow to the heart and lower blood pressure. It also reduces the amount of oxygen consumed in the heart meaning there is more oxygenation for the rest of the body. It also can reduce 'bad' cholesterol in your system, preventing you from strokes and heart attacks.
MAKE YOUR OWN REISHI TINCTURE
Making a double extraction is the best way to get all the health benefits from reishi. A double extraction means doing 2 extractions: one using a high proof alcohol (feel free to use any high proof vodka, Titos or Everclear works well) and then using a hot water extract. Instructions for making the tincture are easy. It doesn't have to be a exact but a good extraction is about 60% water to 40% alcohol. The final product won't be as effective without this water to alcohol ratio. Patience and a shake of the jar everyday is the important thing here. Another important thing to remember when working with reishi is that different medicinal qualities are extracted from hot water and alcohol so that in combing both you have a superior medicine. I started making my own because buying reishi tinctures are very expensive and can cost upwards of $30 for a small 1 oz dropper. By making your own you can fill almost 20 times that amount for literally half the cost. The taste is also very bitter so I like to cut mine with earl grey tea. Lemon or ginger tea work well too. I take a few full droppers everyday and since making my first batch and I've yet to get sick. It also gives me a nice boost of brain energy and vitality for the day.
If you can't get to the woods to forage for wild reishi don't fret, dried reishi is available online. Try and buy organic if you can but it's not necessary. Or if you live in a big city with a Chinatown or a Chinese grocery or herb shop, pick up a package of reishi which resembles brown bark and already comes sliced and striped like bacon.
*glass jar or sealable container
*reishi, cut into small bits - enough to fill your jar
*bottle of vodka (80-190 proof)
*2-3 earl grey tea bags
Method: (I'll be showing pictures of both the fresh & dried reishi I have used)
STEP ONE: THE ALCOHOL EXTRACTION
1. With your hands or a serrated knife, break or slice and chop your fresh or dried reishi into small pieces. (*Chopping into small bits allow for greater surface area so that both alcohol and water extractions can penetrate easier).
2. Add the reishi pieces to a jar and fill almost to the top. Fill the jar with vodka to the top, seal, and give a good shake. Let it sit at room temperature for 6 weeks, shaking the jar once a day. It will gradually turn a deep brown.
3. Strain the alcohol liquid into a bowl. Squeeze any excess alcohol from the reishi into the bowl. They are like sponges so you want to squeeze out as much alcohol as possible. With a liquid measure, measure out how much you have.
STEP TWO: THE WATER EXTRACTION
4. Fill a saucepan with water and your reserved reishi pieces. You'll want about twice as much water as you have your brown reishi alcohol. Set water over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, it will start to pop and simmer - don't worry (for you chemistry nerds, these are the polysaccharides coming out). Bring the heat to low and simmer for an hour. Turn off heat and add 2-3 tea bags to the saucepan and let it cool down for about 10 minutes. Strain out the water and discard your reishi pieces and teabags.
5. Empty the alcohol mix into a clean sealable jar or container. Now keeping in mind the 60/40 ratio, add your water mixture to the jar. This is your finished tincture.
At this point I like to add the mixture to labeled 1 or 4 oz tincture bottles. As I like to spread the healthy knowledge to my friends and family, my favorite thing to do is give them away as gifts. I even like to include a short explanation of the benefits. Try making it yourself and tell me what you think. Taking it daily I can actually feel an immediate reaction, like a healthy pick-me-up. I hope you feel as invigorated and excited about making your own as I do, if you're not ready to make it yourself, head over to amazon and pick up a bottle to test out first. For now - Happy Foraging!