The uses of medicinal mushrooms are as wide and varied as the mushrooms themselves.
Reishi is known to increase energy, boost the immune system, improve asthma, strengthen adrenal glands, lower blood pressure and support liver function. Reishi is one of the most highly prized mushrooms.
Maitake mushrooms have been shown to have anti-tumor and immune-stimulating properties as well as the ability to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure, support the lungs and respiratory system, and reduce cholesterol.
Shiitakes, which probably everyone has eaten, are not only good for filling your plate but also for fighting cancer, lowering stress, boosting the immune system, lowering cholesterol, and a liver and kidney tonic.
Chaga, a rather unique mushroom which resembles a horn shaped piece of burnt wood, is a blood purifier, and has been shown to be effective against several types of cancer including cervical, breast, stomach, and skin cancers. It is also high in antioxidants, supports the endocrine system, and is used to treat ulcers.
How can you add them to meals?
Adding mushrooms to sauces, gravies, soups, and stir fries is a great way to enhance the quality and taste of your meals because a lot of the health benefits of mushrooms are extracted by heat, . You can add whole mushrooms such as shiitakes or add various types of mushroom powders. The mushroom powders also act as a thickening agent, much in the same way as flour, but healthier.
Some of our favorite ways to use mushroom powders is to add them to spaghetti sauce, homemade tomato soup, and stir fry dishes. Another option is to make a mushroom concentrate by boiling mushrooms in water in a 5:1 ratio (five parts water, 1 part mushroom) and reduce down to approximately one third. Let the liquid cool and pour into an ice cube tray for conveniently sized portions, ready to add to any soup, stew, or other tasty dish.
Some of my favorite mushroom recipes and resources:
Adapted from recipes by Christopher Hobbs & Nancy Scarzello
- Fill a one gallon jar with shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms cut into pieces. (Sometimes I also add some ginseng and ashwaganda.) Tip: You may want to first soak the mushrooms in a little bit of water, this will make it much easier to cut them up into little pieces; otherwise you’ll practically need an ax to chop them up as they can be very tough!
- Cover with your choice of alcohol. (I use vodka, 80-100 proof.) Be sure mushrooms are completely covered with alcohol so that they do not get moldy.
- Let sit at least 4 weeks.
- Strain the mushrooms, set the vodka tincture aside, measure the mushrooms, and put them in a cooking pot.
- Cover mushrooms with five times their volume of water and boil for one hour.
- Strain the mushrooms from the water and then continue to cook the water until it is reduced to 1/5 of its volume.
- Allow to cool and then combine the vodka tincture and the water extraction.
Take 1/2 dropper of the tincture three times daily.
Nancy Scarzello’s Chaga Chai
5 cups of water
¼ cup chopped Chaga
1 Tbs. freshly grated Ginger
1 tsp. Cardamom
8 whole Cloves
Simmer the chaga, ginger, cardamom, and cloves in water for 10 minutes over low heat and then strain. Save the grounds as they can be used a second time. Sweeten the chai, add coconut milk, and gently heat until the milk is warm.
Curried Mushroom Soup
2 Tbs Flour or Mushroom Powder
1 Tbs Curry Powder
2-3 Leeks, chopped 4 C Skim Milk
1 Chicken Bouillon Cube 2 C Portobello Mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbs Dry Sherry 4 C Shiitake Mushrooms, chopped
slice of Astragalus root
1 C dried Mushrooms (1 oz.) (oyster, morel, or porcini)
- Pour 2 cups boiling water over the dried mushrooms in a bowl and set aside.
- Sauté leeks for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until translucent.
- Add the flour or mushroom powder and curry powder. Add milk, astragalus, and bouillon cube.
- Raise the heat to high and cook just until bubbles form around the edge.
- Next, reduce heat to low, whisk until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Stir in fresh mushrooms and cook until soup is at desired thickness.
- Remove astragalus root.
- Meanwhile, remove the reconstituted mushrooms from their soaking liquid, strain, squeeze out excess moisture, and roughly chop. Add mushrooms to stockpot and cook 1 minute more.
- Remove from heat, stir in the sherry.
Mushroom Harvest is my favorite place to buy quality mushroom powders. Kate Gilday at Woodland Essence sells whole mushrooms and mushroom extracts
If you are looking to learn more about mushrooms, two great books are Medicinal Mushrooms by Christopher Hobbs and Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America by David Fischer and Alan Bessette.
Check out this short video of my teacher, Rosemary Gladstar, talking about mushrooms, as part of Mountain Rose Herbs Free Herbalism Project.
One of my favorite herbal blogs, Cauldrons and Crockpots, has a beautiful post about mushrooms (plus a recipe for Chaga Black Hot Chocolate!) here.
You can also find more soup & beverage recipes here. and ideas for herbs as food here.
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