Reishi mushrooms (in Japanese) or Ling Zhi (in Chinese) have been used in eastern medicine for more than 2,000 years. The Red Reishi Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum, is an ancient remedy used in traditional Chinese medicine, primarily as a tonic to support the immune system and general well-being.
“Reishi is not an edible gourmet mushroom you would prepare in a meal, but is used for its therapeutic effects to support the immune system and immune system function,” shared Cascadia Mushrooms owner Alex Winstead. Cascadia Mushrooms grows and dries antler-like Reishi mushrooms that are a result of their unique growing conditions.
“Our Reishi antlers look different from most forms people are familiar with, but they are actually the same mushrooms as the conch or fan-shaped Reishi mushrooms,” shared Winstead. Those fan-shaped Reishi mushrooms can be found in the wild, growing like shelves on the side of some trees, but the cultivated mushrooms look a bit different. “Cultivated growing leads to a finger-like antler form that looks like staghorn coral. It’s a beautiful mushroom.”
What really makes Cascadia Mushrooms’ Reishi special is that they are 100% Certified Organic, and grown locally on their farm in Bellingham. According to Winstead, most Reishi on the market are imported from growers with unknown practices, potentially using chemicals or growing mushrooms in contaminated environments.
“We believe that the best medicinal mushrooms come from clean, natural settings,” shared Winstead. Cascadia Mushrooms never uses chemicals, making their mushrooms the next best thing to finding Reishi growing in the wild.
Supporting a Healthy Immune System
Adaptogenic plants like ginseng tulsi (holy basil) have been used for hundreds of years in herbal medicine to help the body and mind adapt to stress through possible stimulation of pituitary and adrenal activity. “In herbal medicine adaptogens are considered to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes,” shared Winstead. Reishi mushrooms are valued by many herbalists for these same effects.
“In traditional Chinese medicine, Reishi are used as a tonic for general wellbeing,” shared Winstead. “Combining Reishi with meditation is believed to help quiet the mind and body, and help raise chi levels.” Reishi is commonly used to support the body when treating allergies, autoimmune disorders or hyperactive immune system.
Reishi mushrooms are woody and leathery when dried. According to Winstead, their toughness is due in part to the medicinal properties the plant carries. The herbalist concept of the Doctrine of Signatures asserts that botanicals that looked like a part of the body could cure diseases of that body part, or that a plant’s natural qualities could indicate its benefit to the user.
“These mushrooms grow and persist for an entire season without rotting away,” shared Winstead. “Because Reishi are strong and able to withstand stresses in the environment, it is believed they can help humans withstand stresses in their environment as well.”
How to Use Reishi
If you’re interested in incorporating Reishi into your lifestyle, Cascadia Mushrooms’ Organic Dried Reishi Mushrooms are easy to use to make a tea at home. Their 1 oz. bags can make one to two large batches of tea. Simply chop the dried mushrooms up, add to a pot of water, simmer and strain. The prepared tea can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Winstead makes a batch of tea during allergy season or when he’s fighting off a cold to support his immune system. “The tea gives me a bit of an energy buzz from mushrooms and spices, leaving me feeling fortified and generally good,” he said.
The key to making Reishi tea is time. Allowing the mushrooms to steep or simmer in water helps release their therapeutic properties. “When I make a batch of Reishi tea, I like to let it simmer for an hour or two to release the water soluble components,” shared Winstead. The amber colored tea is a bit bitter in flavor, but it makes a great addition to chai or other tea. Winstead recommends adding a bit of fresh ginger and honey to ease the flavor of the mushroom.
Want to feel even more at ease? Winstead suggests starting with Reishi and ginger tea and adding a squeeze of lemon, a touch of honey and a bit of your favorite whiskey. It’s a sure-fire way to beat the cold weather blues.
Find Cascadia Mushrooms’ Organic Dried Reishi Mushrooms online, at the Bellingham and Everett farmers markets, at Community Food Co-op in Bellingham and Skagit Valley Food Co-op in Mount Vernon. You can also find their fresh, organic, gourmet mushrooms and mushroom kits at more than two dozen local restaurants, select natural and organic food grocers, local farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) shares and gardening centers, as well as directly from the Cascadia Mushrooms website.