I have always felt a deep connection to the magic that medicinal mushrooms brought into my life. From the moment we met, years ago, I have been in awe of their gentle yet powerful ability to improve my health, both physically and spiritually.
Come with me on an afternoon walk through the woods, to meet one of my favorite companions. The air is cool and damp at mid-day. The sunlight is a dappled green and gold as it filters down through the canopy of branches high above our heads. This woodland is home to many old growth maples. Their majestic presence holds us in silent reverence, the only sound, the rustle of leaf litter beneath our feet. As we approach a cluster of very large trees, there is a stillness that surrounds us....and then, she comes in to view. Growing along the sides of a large fallen maple tree, the beautiful russet brown and gold Reishi mushroom glows in the sunlight. Kidney-shaped and rimmed in white, she adorns the trunk like a many-layered scarf. Approaching with reverence, we get a closer look at this beauty that the Japanese call Reishi ("divine" or "spiritual mushroom") and the Chinese ling zhi ("tree of life mushroom"). With a slightly woody, yet spongy texture, the surface appears shiny. These mushrooms are considered so beautiful that many are harvested, lacquered and displayed as pieces of art.
A mushroom goes through many stages during it's life cycle, but it's this mature fruiting body that we are most familiar with. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reishi is known as the divine mushroom because of it's strong ability to protect and heal the spirit as well as the body. The name "spirit mushroom" points to the sedative action of some of it's terpene components, and why it is valued by many herbalists for its uses in cases of insomnia and anxiety. Reishi has definitely been the "queen of my nights", bringing me deep, restful sleep; and my calm advisor on stressful days.
The list of health benefits for Reishi mushroom are too numerous to list. The active components are polysaccharides (long sugar molecules) and triterpenoids (steroid-like compounds). To date, more than 100 different polysaccharides and 119 triterpenoids have been found in this mushroom. The polysaccharides, especially beta-glucans, are valuable immune system boosters. The triterpenes help improve circulation and respiration.
Reishi is one of the master adaptogens. Like ginseng, it has the ability to support our health from the long term effects of stress. Acting like a tonic for our stressed out and weakened system. She has helped me work through fatigue, anxiety, and tension headaches.
I could go on and on about the benefits of bringing Reishi into your life, but instead, I'll just close with a quote from one of my favorite mushroom gurus:
"An intelligent being, Reishi is one of nature's greatest displays of grace and beauty. It invites quiet contemplation and earns my deep respect." -Paul Stamets