Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms like Reishi, Cordyceps and Poria have long been used in Chinese herbal medicine as tonics for the body. Modern research has shown that these and other varieties of mushrooms have immune building, cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory capabilities. It’s important to try to include some in your diet–no need to try to over do it, just to have them be a regular part of your weekly or monthly diet.

Here’s a post from Dr. Andrew Weil about some mushrooms to try to incorporate into your life. Cordyceps is a great mushroom, but I haven’t had much luck finding it outside of my Chinese herb suppliers. When you can find it, it’s incredibly expensive (too expensive for me to stock it in my pharmacy). Reishi is pretty easy to find and much more affordable, so I would choose that over cordyceps. Shiitake and Maitake (also called Hen of the Woods) are expensive to buy fresh, but relatively inexpensive to buy dried. I add some dried shiitake and maitake to any soup stock I make (or, if I’m in a hurry, I boil them along with some whole garlic cloves in some Imagine Foods No Chicken stock for a quick almost-home-made tasting stock). I get my dried mushrooms from MountainRoseHerbs.com.

Here’s Dr. Weil’s post, and you can go the original here:

Mushrooms are a big favorite of mine because they’re delicious and often have medicinal properties. If you’re not allergic and don’t find them hard to digest, try these:

1. Cordyceps: A Chinese mushroom used traditionally as a tonic and restorative. You can add whole, dried cordyceps to soups and stews, or drink tea made from powdered cordyceps.
2. Maitake: This delicious mushroom provides anti-cancer, anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties, and may also reduce blood pressure and help regulate blood sugar. Find it dried or fresh in Japanese markets, gourmet stores or upscale supermarkets.
3. Reishi: Too woody and bitter to eat, reishi mushrooms are available in tea bags, capsules and liquid extracts. Animal studies have shown that reishi improves immune function and inhibits the growth of some malignant tumors. It also acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent.
4. Shiitake: The shiitake has been found to have immune modulating, anti-viral and cholesterol-reducing properties. Certain extracts of shiitake mushrooms are used in Japan as adjunctive therapy to strengthen the immunity of cancer patients during chemotherapy and radiation. Find it – fresh or dried – in grocery stores and Asian markets.

Note: I advise against the regular consumption of cultivated white or “button” mushrooms because they contain natural toxins that may act as carcinogens.