By Fiona Chapman.
It is mushroom and toadstool season, and the damp weather has really encouraged all the fungus to grow and amazing mushrooms are popping up all over the place.
I have a very healthy respect for mushrooms as they can be deadly. I will pick field mushrooms, making sure they peel, and fry those up – delicious with butter and a pinch of salt.
Any others I leave well alone and just enjoy looking at. One day, I will go on a course to learn how to identify mushrooms as they are extremely beneficial for us humans and vitally important to the environment and communication between trees and other plants.
Herbalists use lots of medicinal mushrooms as they really are very powerful, mainly because they are fantastic for our general immunity.
Many have been shown to help with all sorts of cancers either as prevention or run alongside conventional medicine to treat cancer. They can help with side-effects from chemotherapy and radiotherapy and stimulate the white blood cell count – white blood cells being our disease-fighting cells.
Just eating normal mushrooms is good for you but shitake, which you can buy in supermarkets, is great for its anti-cancer and anti-viral properties, as well as for cholesterol control.
I use gandomera lucidum or reishi quite a bit, which traditionally was known as the ‘mushroom of immortality’. Again, it is used for cancer treatment and prevention.
It is also very good for allergies as it not only tackles the underlying over-activity of the immune system to substances the body should be able to tolerate, but it has anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
These anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory substances can benefit those with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis.
Reishi is good for liver disease, cardiovascular and respiratory health, as well as insomnia and anxiety. It helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and has blood-thinning effects, so is contraindicated if on anti-coagulants.
You can buy it as a powder but it is disgusting – says me, who is quite used to eating all things bitter and unpalatable. I find the best way to take it is as tincture but you need to make sure it has been processed properly.
There are water-soluble properties in the mushrooms which are very important and then oil-soluble substances which are extracted by alcohol, so you need to make sure you buy a dual extract tincture.
nFiona Chapman is a naturopathic herbalist (Pellyfiona@gmail.com)