Wild and Edible

True cure comes from Nature

Medicinal Mushrooms:

Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus Obliquus)

Chaga (Inonotus Obliquus) is the latest super food that everyone is talking about and the great news is, it grows in Ontario.   It can be found on birch trees as well as alder, and once you learn how to identify it, you can never make a mistake.  It's rather odd and unique looking mushroom, with a black, deeply scarred outer surface (resembling charcoal), and a brown-reddish inner layer.   The Chaga conk grows with the birch tree for 20 years or longer during which time it absorbs nutrients and phytochemicals from the wood.  Chaga can be harvested throughout the year, preferably after full moon.  After harvesting, Chaga can regrow to harvestable size again in three to 10 years, and can be repeatedly harvested until the tree dies.

The whole mushroom has medicinal properties and contains over two hundred constituents including inotodiol; inonoblins A-C; phelligridins D, E and G; trametenolic acid; obliquol; lanosterol; betulin; various triterpenes; betulin and lanostanes.   The charred outer part contains mostly betulin, while the inner part is richer in lanostanes.    But most importantly, in 1 gr of Chaga there is 35,000IU of antioxidants!  That is one of the highest sources of antioxidants. 

  Medicinal properties of Chaga:

  • Antioxidant: Polyphenols and triterpenoids from Chaga have been shown in laboratory studies to be effective antioxidants. They are able to scavenge free radicals (which are unstable) and reactive compounds that damage cellular structures such as DNA and RNA.
  • Hypoglycemic: Chaga mushroom may help lower blood sugar levels.  Research shows that the terpenoid and sterol compounds in the Chaga mushroom exhibit a hypoglycemic effect.
  • Antimutagenic: Researchers concluded that 3beta-hydroxy-lanosta-8, 24-dien-21-al and inotodiol components of Chaga showed antimutagenic and antioxidative activities. Antimutagenic compounds inhibit mutations, which are changes in DNA and RNA sequences. Mutations can be beneficial but, most of the time, dangerous as they can cause genetic disorders, as well as cancer and degenerative diseases.
  • Antitumor: Medical databases like Pubmed.com show that most of the research done so far on the Chaga is about its anticancer and antitumor properties. The results of this research are promising. It has been shown that Chaga extract (mother tincture) was able to inhibit tumour growth, initiate apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells, and stimulate the immune system to fight cancer.
  • Immune System Stimulation: Chaga extract has been found in several studies to stimulate the immune system to fight infection, cancer, and immune diseases.

Chaga can be made into a tea, latte or mother tincture.  It is surprisingly tasty, resembling vanilla flavour.   

 

Chaga can be found in forests north of Barry or at most farmers’ markets where it is sold ground or in small chunks.  The less processed the better.  If you decide to buy some, make sure that it was collected at least 2-3 hours north from the city as mushrooms absorb nutrients from the surrounding environment and they may be harmful if collected in a polluted area. 

Here is how I make my own tea:    

 

Take 3-4 pieces of Chaga and add it to 3-4 cups of cold water.  Add a cinnamon stick or some cardamom. Let it boil on low heat for a couple of hours.  When water becomes dark brown, it is ready to drink.  Add some raw honey or stevia.  Enjoy.   

 

The chaga chunks can be then reused by storing them in the fridge until you like to make another tea.  All you need to do is add more water and boil it on a low heat.  Once the water stays pale, it is time to use a fresh chunk of chaga and put the used pieces into your compost.  

 

References:

Cui, Y. et al. 2005.  Antioxidant effect of Inonotus obliqus. Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Ham, S.S. Et al. 2009. Antimutagenic effects of subfractions of Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) extract. Mutation Research.

Hobbs, C. 1995. "Medicinal Mushrooms". An exploration of Tradition, Healing, and Culture.

Lincoff, G. 2012. "The complete Mushroom Hunter". An illustrated guide to finding, harvesting, and enjoying wild mushrooms.

Lu, X. et al 2010. Phytochemical characteristics and hypoglycaemic activity of fraction from mushroom Inonotus obliquus.

Marley, G. 2009. "Mushrooms for Health".

Moore- Landecker, E. 1990. "Fundamentals of the Fungi".

Park, Y.K. Et al. 2004. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay. Biofactors.

Rogers, R. 2011. "The Fungal Pharmacy" - The complete guide to medicinal mushrooms and lichens of North America.  

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Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae)

Over the past several decades, scientific research has intensified and focused on analyzing the hundreds of unique bio-active compounds found in the medicinal Reishi Mushroom. Just this year alone, three new compounds were discovered. With each new finding, intriguing medical applications for Reishi have emerged.

Anna Sienicka with Reishi Mushroom

There is now a wealth of impressive data that demonstrates Reishi’s life extending properties but also its significant ability to stimulate brain neurons, search and destroy cancer cells and prevent the development of new fat cells in obese individuals. As an example of growing science supporting Reishi, researchers using laboratory mice have detailed life span extension of 9% to more than 20% —the equivalent of 7 to nearly 16 years in human terms.

 As if these targeted benefits were not sufficient, Reishi’s numerous compounds show a therapeutic effect on asthma, allergies, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, diabetes, liver disease, and more.

Reishi can be consumed as a tea, grounded into a powder and added to various dishes as well as in a tincture (more potent version).

 

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Turkey Tail (Tramates Versicolor)

I really love hikes, knowing at some point during the hike, I will find Tramates Versicolor. This mushroom is also known as Turkey Tail Mushroom because its coloring resembles the plumage of a wild turkey tail, and “Butterfly fungus” because of the way its tones and hue resemble a butterfly’s wings.

These are the most common mushroom in forests of the U.S.A. and Canada, and make the perfect trail mix as you hike! I love that feeling, knowing my body and health are enhanced as I walk and chew. As if beautifying our forests wasn’t enough, the Tramates Versicolor are one of the most immune enhancing mushrooms in the world. It is also one of the best-documented mushrooms in medical research.

This mushroom likes to grow on the dead hardwood, rarely on conifers.  Because of its woody texture it is very chewy and chewable. It’s especially delicious as a tea, added to soups and sauces and of course, can be made into a Mother Tincture.  

It is best to harvest it far away from any city or polluted area. Let’s not forget that mushrooms are like sponges, they absorb toxins from its closest environment.  Also, even though this is the most common and abundant mushroom, remember to harvest it in a sustainable way, only collecting 1/3 of a fruiting mushroom.

The Turkey Tail season is pretty much all year round. I started seeing them when snow started to melt and I could still find them in the late months of November.

Turkey Tail as a Medicine

Research shows that Turkey Tail has many active and medicinal constituents, including B-glucans, PSK, PSP and Ergosterol.

Beta glucan is a scientifically proven biological defense modifier (BDM) that nutritionally potentiates and modulates the immune response.

PSK (Polysaccharide-K) helps restore and enhance cellular immune function in patients with depressed immunity commonly found when undergoing treatment for cancer.

PSP (PolySaccharidePeptides) provides nutrition at the cellular level, which enhances the function of the immune system, triggering the body’s natural powers to regenerate and heal.

Ergosterol (provitamin D2) is a good source of vitamin D which in itself is an Immune System builder.

The effectiveness of Turkey Tail in helping restore the immunity allows applications to vary from bacterial and viral infection to inhabiting cancer. It is mostly used in conditions that have left the immune system deeply compensated, i.e. HIV, AIDS, after chemotherapy, after long term stress, after exams and after traumatic events. 

Since most diseases stem from depressed immunity, Tramates Versicolor has been found very effective in treating: Diabetes, Overgrowth of Candida, Liver dysfunction, Hepatitis (chronic, acute, A, B and hepatitis C), Hypertension, Coronary heart disease, Myocardial infarction, Tinnitus, Chronic fatigue, Migraine, Skin diseases including warts.

 

This fungus is also effective for all kinds of inflammations and infections besides anticancer effect. The clinical study confirmed that Tramates Versicolor could improve cell resistance by means of increasing leucocyte, lymphocyte, monocyte, macrophage, marrow cells, NK cells.  Tramates Versicolor has the effect to destroy bacteria and fungi for viruses such as El Brucella bacteria, Staphylococcus, Strep, Candida mycoderma, Klebsiella, Listeriosis and Toxoplasma.  Another point to emphasize is its effectiveness to viruses: Aids virus, Hepatitis virus and Cytomegalovirus.

 

Beside enhancing the immune system, Japan Health Association formally approved in 1977 that PSK was the first kind of cancer medication extracted from fungi, for Tramates Versicolor could inhabit cancer growth and tumor for the treatment of lung cancer, prostate cancer, gastric cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, bladder cancer, oesophagus cancer, leucocythemia, lymphoma, encephaloma, leukemia and tumor metastasis for a long time.

In all studies, two kinds of polysaccharides relating to protein were separated from this fungus: PSP and PSK, proved that they could enhance immune system and inhabit tumor.

It is one of those living miracles to have this amazing mushroom grow in abundance in our forests. Let’s be honest most of us live in cities filled with pollution, chemicals in the air, glues, varnishes, paint, detergents, fabric softeners, colour dies, and getting stressed out about work, finance, relationship, the fact is, we can all use some of Nature’s immune enhancers like the Tramates Versicolor.