Mushrooms for May! May's TCM Tip is a little introduction to the medicinal use of mushrooms. Mushrooms are definitely having a moment in the spotlight with increasing availability in grocery stores, everyday products such as coffee, and in supplements. Their presence is undeniable as a current "trend" in the health and wellness community. So, it seems like a great time to take a look at some of these mushrooms and their relationship to TCM.
Mushrooms have been an integral part of the extensive pharmacopeia of Chinese medicine and have had their place in the materia medica centuries. Although some medicinal mushrooms are edible, such as shiitake, maitake, and lion’s mane, some are purely medicinal. Let's take a quick look at a few of these purely medicinal mushrooms that are a regular part of my Chinese medicine prescriptions.
Reishi (Ling Zhi) - This mushroom belongs to the Ganoderma family and in TCM is classified as an herb that nourishes the heart and calms the spirit. This means that is a wonderful mushroom for heart blood and heart qi deficiency. It helps with insomnia, palpitations, nervousness, and forgetfulness. Although it would be unpleasant to eat, it can be sliced and used for tea, extracted into a tincture or processed into a powder that can be added to drinks or encapsulated. Some would classify reishi as a qi tonic and longevity substance, meaning it can be helpful to take regularly to enhance longevity and quality of life.
Cordyceps (Dong Chong Xia Cao) - Although this is actually a fungus that's related to mushrooms and not a mushroom per se....it totally belongs here due to its classification as a medicinal fungus in TCM. Cordyceps is classified as a tonic, meaning it has a strengthening action on the body, most notably on the kidneys and the lungs. It can be used for issues like asthma, wheezing, chronic lung disorders, pain in the knees, or low back as a result of deficiency or chronic disease. It has been well studied and demonstrates potential as an immunomodulatory agent, cancer support medicinal, and athletic performance booster. Due to its cost, it is really important to make sure you get this from a reputable source for Cordyceps Sinensis...as opposed to other Cordyceps variants that have different or less potent effects.