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Reishi: The Mushroom of Immortality

This month’s plant ally is reishi. One of my herb teachers is always saying that if everyone started their day with a cup of Reishi water, the world would be a different place, and my experience with this mysterious mushroom led me to the same conclusion. Reishi, known to the Chinese as the mushroom of immortality, has been revered for thousands of years in Chinese traditional medicine. Its Latin name is Ganoderma and there are many species like G. lucidum and G. Sichuanense. G. tsugae, G. curtisii, and G. oreganese which are native to North America are a bit easier to forage. Another name you’ll often see it listed as is lingzhi, the pinyin of it’s Chinese name– ancient Chinese herbalists called reishi Lingzhi (灵芝) because it means “herb of spiritual potency.”

Many Chinese folk tales, myths, and poems as far back as 2400 years feature this powerful mushroom. One example of this, the myth of Magu, tells of a beautiful folk woman who lived on Guyu Mountain and practiced Taoism. Magu used the water from the 13 springs on the mountain to brew reishi wine. After 13 years, the wine matured and Magu became immortal. Magu is mentioned in both Chinese and Korean literature, meaning Reishi is not only prized by the Chinese, but also Korean culture, Indian culture and many others. Magu is typically portrayed as having healing powers and as having gifted the world with the healing herbs of cannabis and reishi. 

What makes Reishi so incredible? Well for starters, it helps to calm the mind and balance our Qi, our lifeforce energy. Chinese medicine denotes it as a powerful ally for the heart, lungs, liver and kidney channels. This fungi is a powerful adaptogen– this means its medicine helps us to adjust our internal environment to the stressors of the external worlds we live in.

There are many studies being done on Reishi due to its extensive historical uses in medicine. Some of the studies have revealed taking reishi daily can allow for a more peaceful sleep, by decreasing our sleep latency and increasing our overall sleep time. Reishi has also shown promising results for improving overall lung health and airway inflammation– supporting its use for bronchitis and asthma in Chinese medicine. Taking Reishi daily has also shown to help balance overall blood sugar levels, helping manage normal glucose levels in the body. Perhaps where Reishi shines the most in terms of physical health benefits, is the modulation of our immune system. Studies have proven that Reishi stimulates host immunity, by modulating and enhancing immune cells like natural killer cells in those with a chronic disease.

In one cell study, reishi was shown to work synergistically with cisplatin (a chemotherapy drug) by having anti-tumor effects on ovarian cancer cells and by enhancing the sensitivity of cancer cells to cisplatin.

Now, shifting over to the spiritual effects of using Reishi. Reishi is excellent at warding off evil and protecting those with good intentions. This mushroom helps us to cultivate an inner sense of peace and love within ourselves, that we can then share with the world. It allows us to boost our own spirit and improve our relationship with ourselves. After all, how can we show up for others if we can’t show up for ourselves? We must first love ourselves fully and deeply before we can give our love to others. 

Reishi’s ability to help the body create homeostasis– meaning it keeps the body in balance, allows us to roll with the punches in a way that doesn’t feel so stressful. This is where reishi shines. Reishi is one of the best adaptogens nature has gifted us and is truly a gift to be able to connect with daily. 

I recommend starting with 1 tsp of Reishi powder dissolved in a cup of warm water. If you happen to forage for Reishi in the forest and find some, you would have to perform a decoction– which is a fancy word that means you are cooking the mushroom on low heat for several hours to extract all of its medicine. For more information on decocting reishi mushrooms, click here

As we start to turn towards the Spring, cultivating a relationship with Reishi is a wonderful way to navigate change. There is medicine in all aspects of change, even the parts we don’t like. 

Here are some questions to journal that pair well with the process of working with Reishi as we enter the springtime:

How are we showing up for ourselves? 

How are we showing up for others? 

How are we reacting to situations that are out of our control? 

What are we clinging so tightly to - why do we think this may be? 

What changes are we most afraid of? 

Why are we most afraid of these changes? 

Is there anywhere that we can soften or surrender into the process of change?  Feel free to report back with your experience with this plant ally if you learn something new and insightful!

Signing Off, Krysten

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