reishi mushroom tincture: immortality in a jar

reishi

And so another temp job of mine has bit the dust. Recent weeks have flown by as I helped put together a holiday light parade in my town, in between making the time to freak out over all the steps I still need to accomplish in order to get Antler Chocolate off the ground and running.

In times of stress, I may tend to become a bit unhealthy… eating out at Chinese buffets, chain cookie snacking, forgetting how much I benefit from a strenuous workout. But there is always a yang to my unhealthy yin, be it doing a few sets of pushups each day, dancing frenetically in my living room to a Journey cassette, treating myself to a new pair of shoes (which has worked wonders), or indulging in a tincture of immortality.

Wait. Immortaliwhat?

Reishi (or lingzhi) are polypore mushrooms that have long been recognized in eastern medicine as possessing immense health value. Referred to as the mushroom of immortality, the elixir of life, ‘divine mushroom,’ or – my favorite – ‘marvelous fungus,’ reishi has been found to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. It may inhibit cancerous growth. It is reported to be anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral.

reishireishi

There are a few ways to reap the benefits of reishi mushrooms. Cut or ground, they can be simmered in water for several hours, and drunk as a bitter tea. Looking for a more long-term gain, I chose to make a tincture, by letting mushroom slices steep in a jar of cheap vodka for several months in a dark cabinet. Two months should be sufficient, although mine steeped for nearly five, with a gentle shake every few days.

Once the tincture has been strained from the jar of mushroom carcasses, the remnants can be used to create a potent double extract.

And presto health benefits fantastico. It’s always nice to fuel up on a little life elixir, so that your holiday season is peaceful, calming, and filled with fun. The following photos come from a nearby lake, which was abundant with peculiar ice crystals over the weekend – I couldn’t wait to share these wild images with you.

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Have you ever seen ice feathers before? I hadn’t. They melted away without a sound when touched, and seemed reminiscent of fragile silk. It was incredible.

On to preparing some of that elixir of life……

First Step: Identifying Reishi Mushrooms

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Reishi refers to two related species of polypore mushrooms. Ganoderma tsugae (shown above) is found on conifers, most notably eastern hemlocks in North America – hence its common name of hemlock varnish shelf. Ganoderma lucidum grows on hardwood trees, common in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Both species look remarkably similar. Like the related artist’s fungus (Ganoderma applanatum), the pore surface bruises brown, allowing permanent markings to be etched into the underside of the mushroom.

Find Ganoderma tsugae on eastern hemlocks in the northeast US from May through July or August. The fungus is finger-like at first, with whitish tan to orange tones that become a deeper red as the mushroom balloons out into a fan or kidney shape. The edge of the fungus may be yellow, tan or whitish. Older mushrooms that have not been harvested will turn a deep varnished red color  and will lose the yellow-white color ringing the fungus – do not use these.

Second Step: Preparing the Reishi Tincture

Slice 3 to 5 reishi mushrooms as thinly as possible (or pulverize in a meat grinder). The fresher the mushrooms, the more easily they will slice; as they dry, reishi become tough, and quite difficult to cut through. A very sharp knife will help. Smaller pieces are ideal, as there will be more exposed reishi surface overall.

In a clean quart-sized mason jar, thoroughly stuff reishi pieces. Cover with vodka until submerged. Don’t waste quality vodka – use the cheapest 80 – 100 proof that you can find. Cap with a lid, and let sit in a dark cupboard. Every few days, give the jar a few turns or gentle shakes. In time, you may need to add a bit more vodka if you have over-packed the jar with mushroom slices.

After two or more months, strain the tinctured liquid into a clean jar, using cheesecloth, coffee filters, or a simple strainer if you are lazy like me.

To make a double extract (optional), empty the used mushroom slices into a saucepan and cover with water until submerged. Boil for up to two hours until the liquid is reduced by more than half. Strain the reishi-infused water into a clean jar, and add an equal volume of the separate reishi tincture. This will give you a 25% alcohol extract.

Third Step: Using the Reishi Tincture

I am by no means an herbalist or expert in eastern medicine. Therefore, I anything but qualified to tell you how much of this tincture to use (disclaimer!). However, it can be stated that if you begin eating reishi or taking it in a tincture, try a small amount first, to see if your body reacts poorly to it.

I have been adding 1 tsp to a mug of tea once per day, which seems to me a safe but useful amount. Reishi tincture is quite bitter, so any more will likely make your mouth pucker unfavorably. If need be, sweeten your tinctured tea with some honey.

Store the tincture in the same dark place that you brewed it, or in the fridge – regardless, keep it out of prolonged direct sunlight.

Lastly, before embarking on this venture, read up on reishi as much as you can, from as many sources as you can find. There are plenty out there on various mushroom websites.

Drink up – to your health!

reishi

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41 thoughts on “reishi mushroom tincture: immortality in a jar

    1. Good for your mum, wow! I probably wouldn’t do that, only because it is so bitter. Although… if I find some newly-sprouted reishi next year, I’ll try cooking those up. They’re way softer and supposedly delicious.

  1. Don’t think I didn’t notice the mention of fatties at Chinese buffets. I did. :)

    1. Ever the astute little muffin! We have this pretty horrendous Chinese buffet in our town. As in, every time we eat there, I leave feeling sort of horrendous. But that doesn’t stop me!

  2. Brr! Beautiful pictures, but I’m shivering just looking at them! Those mushrooms are beautiful, and the color of the tincture is so warm and honeyed. What a cool artisinal product you’ve made there!

    1. Yes, it was pretty chilly last weekend, although it’s rainy and warm out now. I’d prefer the snow and cold over rain that will inevitably turn to ice!

      I’ve been patiently waiting for so many months now to showcase the finished product:) Glad you like it!

  3. Emma, that is so rad that you can forage for reishis! I am a total believer in their healing powers – I’ve taken reishi on and off over the years. I love to see your adventures in a land so different from this one where I live. Those ice feathers are stunners.
    xxoo
    E

    1. Erin, I can’t take all the credit – my boyfriend brought these home for me:) He and I are definitely on the same page foraging-wise… he’s just had more opportunities this year to come across delicious bounty.

      I’m glad to hear of other reishi users out there – do you feel immortal yet? ;) Or at least radiantly healthy?

      xoxo

  4. There is this huge part of me that wants to start calling you Marvellous Fungus – because you put the fun in fungi. This post was the perfect way to finish off a long day at school…

    (Also, I kinda want to eat at a Chinese buffet tonight.)

    (Or gorge on mushrooms. Millions of mushrooms.)

    1. You are so welcome to call me Marvel(l)ous Fungus! Although that WOULD intimate that I have some sort of uninhibited growth, which is slightly off-putting.

      Didn’t you read the instructions, movita? Start small! Don’t jump ahead to the million mushroom mark – oh my gosh, you would have so much MSG in your system!

      In that regard, it’d probably be about the same as eating at a Chinese buffet.

  5. Wow, those ice feathers are absolutely gorgeous. I am now seriously conflicted about what time of the year I should be planning to visit the US … :)

    1. Wellllll, I’ve always wanted to visit the geysers in Yellowstone in the winter. And your fella does like skiing, right? But it just gets SO COLD…. I think a warmer weather visit is appropriate. It would probably be too hard to time your arrival with these transient ice feathers, anyway:)

      1. Okay, just watched a short video on Yellowstone in winter … now I want to go there too! Yep, my fella is definitely arguing for being there in winter so he can ski but the cold is such an issue for me, I just don’t know. When all’s said and done so much is likely to change between now and the trip that it’s probably silly to do much more than dream at the moment anyway.

        1. Dreaming is a fun enough hobby to last you a couple of years… just so long as high expectations of what will happen on the actual trip don’t get wrapped up into the dreams! I’ve done nothing about dream of international travel for nearly six years now. Gack!

          At least I have these ice feathers:)

  6. Those ice and frost shots, Emma. Oh Emma, they almost make me want to cheer for winter! Almost.

    Your talents and knowledge are boundless and your pluck both infinite and exquisite. I cannot wait to see where Antler Chocolates take you. I know it will be magical.

    1. They definitely make me cheer for winter! And then they make me look out my window at the rainy puddles, and frown, and emit a “harrumph” or two. Where my snow at, holiday season?!

      Antler Chocolate will happen, it will happen, it will happen, it will work. My first machine arrives at the end of the week!

  7. Nice work with the ‘shrooms! I’m imagining some sort of meeting of mushroom and chocolate, both of which are very good for the health, don’t you agree? And those icey feathers….just beautiful.
    Hey–going to the Heartland tonight. Will be thinking of you both:-)

    1. Heartland!! We looked at the dinner menu last night, speculating over what you were going to order – – I can’t wait to hear about it!

      There are a few chocolate bars out there with reishi in them… they’ve never tasted mushroomy to me, but I realize that were I to make one, I wouldn’t try to advertise it as being mushroomy…. merely healthy! How about “Immortality in a Bar?” Ayup!

      Those ice feathers were one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. They were astonishing!

  8. Did you just expound on the health benefits of mushrooms in vodka?? You are like, my island of interesting. i’m going to start calling you Marvelous Fungus also. in a good way.
    Also, we need to talk about those ice feathers. More specifically, we need to talk about me needing that first photo in my house. no joke. That’s the coolest thing i’ve ever seen ice do, EVER.

    1. I excel at expounding on the benefits of things in vodka:) I could expound on grain alcohol too, but that would be not nearly as exciting, agreed?

      Do you want a high-res copy of the ice feather photo? It really is quite beautiful. There’s another one I didn’t include here that is eye-catching as well. Let me know if you’re serious – cause girl, Marvelous Fungus can make your dreams come true.

      1. i smile just thinking about how you could expound on grain alcohol. :) i’m just making it up in my head right now.

        i’m totally serious; i’d love a hi-res of that ice feather photo. it’s gorgeous, and my sister and i are having what we like to call “Craftsmas” this year; less about run-of-the-mill storebought gifts and more about thoughtful “found” items, things we make ourselves, etc. things along those lines. I consider this a “found item” because i found it. here. and i’m willing to pony up the money if i need to. I’d love to see the other one as well. email me, Marvelous Fungus.

        1. Check your email!

          But please don’t make me expound on grain alcohol…. I’m not actually sure what I’d say:D

  9. Gosh damn this is fascinating, Emma! I am thoroughly inspired to try and find some for myself, although it’s entirely possible they don’t even exist here in NZ.

    Those ice feathers are bewitching – speaking of things we don’t have in NZ, where there’s hardly any snow…all the more reason to travel again, I suppose!

  10. good luck with your chocolate endeavor. Here in Kalamazoo, MI, there is a wonderful chocolatier,Confections with Convictions. He employs at-risk youth. Maybe you can pick his brain. I think his name is Dale.

  11. Hi there, I just stumbled upon your site. I appreciate your love of the mushrooms and using them medicinally!! I thought I should comment, on your method of double extraction. To my knowledge, the water soluble constituents of the ganoderma are destroyed in a menstrum that is more that 24% alcohol. If you use even the lower 80 proof vodka that you recommend that would be 40% alcohol (I am assuming you are using it straight, as your instructions did not include adding water). It was recommended to me to do the water decoction first (as the heat should not destroy the alcohol soluble constituents) then add the appropriate amount of alcohol to the decoction to leave it with no more the 24% alcohol. Please share if you have any more information on the matter, I would be interested to know.
    p.s. those are amazing photos of the feather crystals!

    1. Emma…
      if you have enough mushroom great! then you could continue to do the tincture and decoction separately as you are, but you will need to use new mushroom material for the decoction. The way I previously mentioned (decoction then add the alcohol) will serve those of you have a limited supply of mushroom, as you can only reuse the mushroom if the decoction is done first.
      : )

  12. I too, have been obsessed with reishi mushrooms this year and have made some tincture in the same manner as you Emma however zi had this nagging concern that it may not be the optimal alcohol level to accurately pull the various constituents so it is with great interest that I read Ganoderma fan’s comments about using water first and a lesser amount of alcohol than 100 proof(50 percent). I am curious Ganoderma fan,where you got this information??
    I have read so much on reishi but the exact science is still eluding me so any help of stepping in that direction would be greatly appreciated.
    Wonderful site Emma. Thanks for sharing all the wonderful inspirational photos.

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