Mushrooms are everywhere these days: they’re in teas, they’re ground up and sold in elegant, pricey jars, and they’re even added to granola bars. I first heard about the power of mushrooms about three years ago from a friend who was harvesting chaga from the woods behind his mother’s New England house. Before this, I’d just heard vague things like, “Mushrooms are full of micronutrients!” (which is true).
This friend told me that chaga and other mushrooms are packed with amino acids, minerals and polysaccharides, including beta-glucans, which are thought to support normal cell growth and immunity response. Chaga, along with several other kinds of mushrooms, are classified as adaptogens, meaning they are believed to assist the body in responding to stress and performing normal physical functions. (Check out this very long breakdown of what we know about chaga’s nutrient makeup). Mushrooms have been used medicinally in China, Tibet, Siberia and elsewhere for centuries.
Chaga, along with several other kinds of mushrooms, are classified as adaptogens, meaning they are believed to assist the body in responding to stress and performing normal physical functions.
Chaga, a fungus that grows on birches and other trees, is optimally consumed as a tea. You chop a chunk off the tree, cut it into inch cubes, simmer them on the stove for about an hour, then strain and drink the liquid (learn the process from start to finish from this man who lives in the woods).
reishi mushrooms (image credit: creative cabin)
In the midst of drinking so much chaga that I didn’t poop for three days, I got curious about other mushrooms, most notably reishi. Reishi, like chaga, is an adaptogen that has also been shown to have antiviral and anti-cancer properties.
I bought some reishi tea from Amazon, but soon turned to the powdered form, in a capsule supplement from the brand Host Defense, because the tea seemed weak and overpriced.
After a couple of months, I abandoned the supplements too, due to the price point ($30 per month for 30 capsules), and my suspicion that the bioavailability of the mushroom was low in capsule form.
Last year, I started investing in a bag of Red Reishi Mushroom Powder 4:1 Extract, organic reishi powder from Terrasoul Superfoods. I feel a distinct difference when I drink reishi in this form, 1 teaspoon in hot water, with or without 1 teaspoon of raw cacao powder from the same brand. I feel more calm and clear-headed. I recommend it in the couple of hours before you go to bed. (In my experience, it doesn’t help me feel alert in the morning, so I don’t drink it in the morning, but everyone is different.)
I still drink chaga once or twice a week (I’ve been testing out the powdered chaga from Moon Juice), and drink reishi pretty much daily.
So if you find you’re getting sick a lot (as I was the winter I first started drinking chaga tea), you’re battling a virus or autoimmune disease, or you just want to bounce back quickly from, say, a workout or a hangover, I would think about adding reishi or chaga into your regimen. As always, consult with a doctor or other licensed healthcare practitioner before you do so.