Reishi Mushroom Benefits, History, and Ways to Use Our Favorite Fungi

Reishi Mushroom Harvest for immune system balance

Reishi is a beautiful mushroom and a multifaceted herb. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reishi is regarded as a primary ‘superior herb’, an “herb for the immortals” (and emperors), and is used to nourish the shen - a person’s mind / consciousness and emotional balance. The fungus is regarded as an immune modulator in Western Herbalism, with a special affinity for the lungs, found to both strengthen the immune system and also balance it if it is overactive. 

In the eastern US, we have a native species of Reishi that grows specifically on the trunk of dying Eastern Hemlocks. Hemlock is a majestic coniferous tree that has been a keystone species in the ecology of Eastern forests. Tragically, Hemlock forests have been in rapid decline the last couple decades because of an accidentally introduced beetle that kills the trees. As it happens, because so many hemlock trees are dying, we find ourselves in a window of time when Reishi is abundant - it is, quite literally, of this time.

Reishi's versatility is a testament of mycelial behavior that supports a multitude of systems and networks - its uses range from immune-boosting and protection to supporting the body's ability to deal with stress and fatigue. Herbalists also use reishi for sleep support, emotional balance, and other symptoms we relate to nervous system disruption and the stress response. 

Classified as an adaptogen, this herb supports both the parasympathetic nervous system and the adrenal cortex in creating better balance between reaction and relaxation in the body. This is particularly relevant to the events we are living through because when the body is in excess reactivity - constantly stressed out - our immune capacity is diminished and dysregulated, which can lead to more complex immune & autoimmune issues down the line. Reishi has been found to work on balancing the immune system and supporting a healthy inflammatory response.

Taken as a tonic, Reishi is best dosed daily and over time - similar to other adaptogens like ashwagandha, or tonic nervines such as milky oats. It can start to have an impact within a few days, but the immune system is like a reservoir - so it can take several weeks or even a couple months to recover and replenish.  

This medicinal mushroom can be enjoyed in a broth, as a decoction (a simmered tea), or as reishi tincture - or ideally a combination of reishi tea and tincture, which is what we do to make our Reishi Double Extraction. A double extraction captures the full spectrum of both water and alcohol soluble compounds, and ours is blended with the littlest bit of ginger and honey, to enhance digestibility and flavor.

Reishi extract is easy to take by itself, directly on the tongue, or added to hot chocolate, coffee, or other food and beverages. For more ideas of fun, alternative ways to take reishi, take a look at our guide to making the Easiest Chocolate Treat or our recipe for Herbal Gummies!

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