Reishi: Herb of the Week

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is actually a mushroom and not a plant – but hey, the way we define “herb”*, it definitely counts.

Acclimate to Altitude

It took me a long time to figure out reishi, partly because when you research it, it seems like there’s nothing reishi can’t do – so where do you even start? Well, for me, the start came around altitude sickness.

We live in Boston, and given that there are a couple of steps up to our front door (and that we live on the second floor), our life is about 15 feet above sea level. In fact, I hadn’t ever really been much above four thousand feet (when hiking in the White Mountains). So the first time I went out west for an herb conference, I discovered altitude sickness.

But the great thing about getting sick when you’re an herbalist is the excitement about getting to experiment with new things, and this was my chance to start working with reishi! The next times I went to high elevation, I took reishi for about a month before going, and I did WAY better. Once I only took it for 10 days before going, and that was better than nothing, but not as good as a month.

Reishi helped me breathe easier, avoid headaches, and be able to move around without huffing and puffing and feeling like I was going to fall over – and without nausea, either. I even went on a backpacking trip in the Gila wilderness. Thanks, reishi!

Clarity and Balance

Reishi is the perfect way to start your day! I love to simmer reishi mushroom strips with a few tablespoons of decaf coffee for a delicious, caffeine-free morning ritual. I make a few quarts at a time and – because mushrooms extract best when they’re cooked in water for a long time – I’m getting the most out of the reishi by making a big batch and re-simmering it a couple times a day. You can also add in water a few times, which makes it more economical.

One of the things I like best about reishi in the morning is the clarity and balance I feel between my rational mind and my emotional mind – I feel calm and steady to get my day going right. How does reishi do this? We aren’t certain yet, but we do know that reishi has a strongly beneficial effect on the endocrine system, and there are theories about reishi’s possible actions on the vagus nerve, too. Those two factors alone are geared towards keeping you calm and centered – exactly the way I want to start my day!

Immune Modulation

Reishi is also great for your immune system. It’s one of our favorites for immune health because it doesn’t cause problems for those with autoimmunity – sometimes, outright stimulants like Echinacea can cause flare-ups of autoimmune conditions, but this doesn’t happen with reishi.

Its immunomodulatory action (and that of other medicinal mushrooms like turkey tail, shiitake, and maitake) will quell inflammatory overactivity in such cases, whereas in cases of deficient immune defense it will boost surveillance and responsiveness. Perfect!

* The best single-line definition of “herb” we’ve come up with so far is: any natural organism whose nutritive, medicinal, or energetic qualities can help restore balance and improve health in the body, mind, and spirit. Got a better one? Let us know!

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PS: We have a full video + text herbal monograph on reishi (and 86 other herbs) in our Materia Medica course, which you can take stand-alone or as a component of our Herbalism 101 program.

Herbalism 101 Online Video Program

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