How to Get the Most Medicine Out of Your Reishi Mushrooms
I could write a book about the long-lauded benefits of reishi mushrooms, the king of the medicinal forest, the crowning glory of medicinal mushrooms, the mushroom of immortality, the fungus of long and vibrant life, as it is known in much of Chinese medicine. But this blog post is not that.
So, you may already be well aware of just how fabulous reishi is, but you may not know exactly how to incorporate this fungal friend into your everyday life with ease and grace and efficacy. That is what this blog post is. Here are 5 methods of using reishi that do just that.
One of our species of local Appalachian reishi, Ganoderma tsugae, grows abundantly on dead hemlock trees, eating away at the decaying logs and transforming this dead matter into new, life-giving matter. We love to harvest, slice, and dry this reishi in the summer for use all year long.
The Slow Reishi Simmer (AKA the lazy herbalist method)
Easily my favorite way to prepare reishi, especially during the cold months when soups and stews make almost everyday appearances on the dinner table and our wood stove is on already, the slow simmer is probably the simplest way to integrate reishi into daily life. In our home, every pot of broth, whether bone or veggie, every soup, even water for oatmeal, includes a little reishi. Reishi is an adaptogen and a tonic - the more we get of it on a regular basis, the better our body can use it. And always make sure you are using a high quality dried reishi mushroom that is either organically cultivated or ethically wildcrafted.
Some of the dishes I have made that I've included reishi in are: chili, broccoli and cheese soup, miso soup, roasts, chicken soup, squash bisque, tomato soup, and so many more. It's hard to see, but under the carrots around this fabulous chicken-soup-to-be are about 2 oz of reishi slices!
Don't be afraid to experiment - and don't be afraid of turning the flavor of your dish too much towards the bitter. I've yet to find that I've added so much reishi to a soup or stew that it actually influences the flavor enough to be noticeable to anyone but me. And remember that the taste that counteracts bitter is salt. If you do find yourself experiencing a bitter aftertaste when getting a little overzealous about the reishi, add more salty or savory ingredients to your dish, such as seaweed, tamari or soy sauce, or...salt!
The Potent Reishi Decoction
When a more concentrated use of reishi is desirable, such as when you're gearing up to come down with something or even in the midst of an illness, I go for a strong decoction, which I often add other medicinal mushrooms or roots to. One of my favorite potently medicinal decoctions to make is reishi, turkey tail mushroom (or really whatever other dried mushrooms I have on hand, like maitake, shiitake, or a bit of chaga), and a little ginger. I simmer it for a few hours, then sip the almost black, coffee or tea-like liquid hot with milk or cream and a little honey and sometimes even a little sprinkle of salt. It's bitter, yes, but not bad. Sometimes medicine should be bitter.
A more savory alternative to this coffee-ish reishi is to make it as above, and then instead of adding milk and honey, add a spoonful of miso when it is still hot and stir to dissolve. Then, you get the powerful probiotic qualities of the miso along with the immunomodulating effects of the reishi - it's a nutritional win-win!
The (One of a Kind!) Decoct, Dry, and Powder Method for Instant, Digestible Reishi Powder
When using dried reishi, it is still necessary to break the cell walls down in order to properly assimilate those constituents of reishi that are so beneficial (just as cooking breaks down the cell walls of raw food). Simply powdering reishi and sprinkling this powder on your food might be a 'trendy' way to use this mushroom, but it's the equivalent of eating raw button mushrooms at the salad bar - it's easy, but there's virtually no nutrition there.
One of our best wildcrafters, Michael, has been inspired (thanks to Christopher Hobbs!) to develop a unique and brilliant process of reishi preparation that gives you a super simple, convenient way of consuming a pre-cooked, digestible form of this mushroom. Here we have NC wildcrafted (native) Ganoderma curtisii (found on oak stumps and roots), but you can use any species of dried reishi mushroom that you have.
Here are the instructions for how to make your own alcohol-free instant reishi powder. Do please note that this extraction process is unique and if you are purchasing pre-prepared reishi powder from other sources and you DO NOT process it first, your body will not be able to assimilate the constituents within the mushroom.
3) Strain out the Reishi slices and compost.
6) Turn the cooker off, and add enough of your flour of choice to the liquid until it forms a ball and comes off the walls of the crockpot.
8) Once dehydrated, break your 'reishi patties' apart into small pieces to fully dry and place back in dehydrator for another hour or two until they are fully dry and crispy.
9) Place in coffee grinder or blender/Vitamix-type-contraption (Ninja showed here) and pulverize until powdered.
10) This is your super amazing, digestible, assimilate-able, nourishing and easy to use reishi powder!
Store in a cool dark place such as in Mason/Ball jar. Use in and on food, soups, drinks, in capsules, and sprinkle liberally on your favorite dishes.
(and, as you noticed, Yoda was there... may the force be with you!)
The Double Reishi Extraction
The method we use to prepare the reishi tincture for our Reishi Mushroom Extract and our Triple Mushroom Elixir is probably the most comprehensive way to pull out the constituents of reishi and make these bioavailable for the body. It takes at least six weeks to be prepared properly, though ours often macerates for even longer (and stronger).
Since reishi mushroom contains important components that are both alcohol-soluble and water-soluble, it's important to use both of these liquid mediums to tincture it in order to pull the most goodness out of your mushrooms. We like to make our reishi double extraction from the fresh mushrooms, because we believe that the chemical constituents as well as the energetics of fresh plants provide for the most vital and affecting medicine.
Our reishi extract is at least a month-and-a-half in the making, first being prepared with alcohol and then secondly with heat and water in addition to the extra dried reishi we add in to ensure a healthy polysaccharide content.
Drink Reishi Lemonade!
...and finally, the ultimate summertime drink for longevity and deliciousness entwined: Long Life Reishi Lemonade. Follow the recipe on the link for easy warm-weather sipping.
What are your experiences with preparing reishi? What methods have you found to be the most helpful? For fun and fungi!
Heather and the Red Moon Herbs Family