rē-thinking the Deeper Spiritual Meaning of Reishi Mushrooms
How to incorporate plant magic into your daily life.
When we turn to the earth as part of a holistic approach to health, so many doors can open. There is simply something to be said for harnessing the nutritional wonders available in our very own ecosystems. Recently pop culture has caught onto some of the most beneficial plant medicines that can be found in fungi, like the unique and nutritious benefits of adaptogenic reishi mushrooms.
Reishi is one-such fungi that can thrive in strange conditions. Oftentimes these wild mushrooms can be found growing from completely dead trees — adding to the magic of the surrounding ecosystem. But they also defy one basic fear about most polypore mushrooms or mushrooms that have porous bases, in that they are completely edible.
You have most likely already heard about the potential benefits of adaptogens and medicinal mushrooms. Here is some more information to help you rē-spin the way you think about reishi.
Reishi mushrooms are anti-inflammatory
Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium, which helps to balance out the effects of sodium in your body. Every type of mushroom is known to increase magnesium levels, a nutrient that an estimated 75% of the population is deficient in. Magnesium has been shown to help with everything from a more restful sleep, to improved regularity. Certified Holistic Nutritionist, yoga teacher, and health coach Whitney Miner adds, “They pack a powerful punch of anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties.” Its role as an anti-inflammatory means that enjoying reishi regularly can help relieve your body from everyday aches and pains and decrease your risk for inflammation-modulated disease.
Mushrooms support immunity.
Just like they can help defend your body against long-term disease risk, mushrooms can help keep your body in check against short-term sickness by supporting the immune system. “Mushrooms are some of the best foods for immune support,” says Miner, who notes the benefits of reishi on white blood cells, specifically. Polypore mushrooms contain Beta 1-3-6 glucans, highly effective polysaccharides that enact enzymes called cytokines in the body which encase and re-invigorate white blood cells. Because polypore mushrooms are largely inedible, reishi is one of the most effective and efficient ways to absorb these polysaccharides.
This type of mushroom also optimizes gut health, where the bulk of the immune system resides. It further protects the human body against disease-producing pathogens. Even if reishi is not necessarily your thing on any given day, it is the perfect plant to have in your arsenal during the winter months, wherever you call home.
Reishi mushrooms are spiritually revered
Because we subscribe to a multidimensional model of health — mind, body, spirit, and beyond — the spiritual associations of reishi should also be noted. You can find reishi throughout the history of Asian herbalism, labeled “reishi” in Japan, “linh chi” in Vietnam, and “lingzhi” in China. But all of these terms translate loosely in English to “supernatural mushroom.”
Asian literature and art have long indicated Reishi’s powerful influence on spirituality. Popular Chinese folklore claims that ingesting reishi mushrooms can help the receiver attain immortality. While the plant is not psychotropic, its aforementioned properties do support mental clarity. Some cultures claim there are small, euphoric effects attributed to the plant, although these claims have not (yet) been substantiated fully by modern science. Even so, meditative communities around the world ingest reishi regularly to feel a deep connection to Mother Earth and everything she provides.
rē•spin how you consume reishi
Reishi mushrooms can be easily incorporated into your diet. While reishi is regularly very bitter to consume on its own, it is a mushroom after all, so it takes on many of the flavors it is surrounded by. Soups, extracts, meat platters, and smoothies all benefit from fresh or dried reishi. Even those who are not keen on the consistency or taste have begun to turn to reishi mushrooms in their beverages. In fact, Miner’s favorite way to consume the plant is to substitute it in a latte instead of creating jitters, inconsistency, and fatigue with sources of caffeine like soda and coffee.
Another preferred method for consumption worldwide is tea, a form of reishi that can be traced back to its importance in Asian culture. Adding it to an existing caffeinated beverage or substituting it for coffee can be an integral and charming start to your day.
Considering they are even being studied in connection to their mental health, who knows? A therapeutic dose of reishi mushroom could help to calm your central nervous system and support a more manageable baseline level of anxiety. The bottom line is that reishi is an adaptogenic herb that can be used to honor symbiosis within our natural ecosystem.