- Paul Tappenden
Using Mushrooms for Healing
Mushrooms have been broadly recognized for their medicinal properties by many cultures throughout history. Modern Western Medicine, however has tended to undervalue their powers, and only recently have they began using mushroom therapies alongside standard medicines in treating cancers and other ailments.
However, in alternative practices they are well established for their healing properties, and you will now find them in many forms and extracts sold in health food stores.
The best part about using mushrooms for their many amazing powers is that with a little study one can learn to recognize a few of the more potent examples and source them from the local woods - a boon for those with a limited pocket book.
To begin with, the majority of medicinal fungi grow on dead or dying trees. Although it is wise to learn to recognize specific species, as a rule of thumb, any polypores (mushrooms with pores on the undersides instead of gills) that grow on trees are safe to consume. However, since there are a number of species that will make you sick or even kill you, I highly recommend learning to positively identify any fungus that you consume. Fortunately, all of these fungi are also available at apothecaries, health food stores and on line.
Some of the more familiar medicinal species include:
Reishi, which, apart from building the immune system, and giving us energy, has been shown to inhibit the production of leukemia cells and helps prevent and treat liver cancer. It is also used for treating anxiety and depression.
Turkey Tails build immunity, are anti-viral, help the body heal from cancer treatments. Their list of benefits that would fill the rest of this page.
Chaga, the black, lumpy growths found on Birch trees, are very fortifying to the body and the immune system and are anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-fungal and work wonders for your skin, including the treatment of melanomas.
Maitaki (Hen of the Woods), is not just a tasty mushroom, it an adaptogen and antioxidant. It is useful in treating colds and flus and balancing blood pressure, as well as helping support the immune system.
Lions’s Mane is high in antioxidants and helps build the immune system. However it is best known for fostering brain health and helping with clarity and concentration.
Oyster mushrooms, as well as sharing many of the same properties as the others, help to lower blood pressure and blood sugar.
The majority of these fungi can be consumed in the form of teas. However, it may take several hours of simmering to extract the active components. Tinctures can also be made from them, but they take several weeks to make.
Almost any edible mushroom has beneficial properties, so it is smart to eat them regularly, or to drink teas made from those that are too tough to eat. I will often incorporate them into my antiviral teas.