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.

DSC03452DSC03456DSC03449DSC03451DSC03445scopan

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

DSC01661 DSC01710

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

cashew quinoa energy bars

Several moons ago, I began dabbling in the art of the Wayfaring Chocolate ‘raw balls‘ recipes. Never before had I harbored any sort of interest in raw food, let alone things labeled near-vegan or no-bake. But I found myself hooked by these simple recipes, and the endless possibilities out there for combining nuts, dates, and other such tasties.

More recently, I’ve been fascinated by the nutritional research and dietary changes made by my blog pal Sarah and her family. The idea that overconsumption of grains is unhealthy had never occurred to me, perhaps because I love to eat gigantic bowls of pasta every chance I get. But now (although I still eat plenty of grains), I’m trying to work more grain alternatives into my diet, such as quinoa and chia seeds. Thank you, Sarah, for changing my outlook on nutrition.

Most recently, I went for another hike in Baxter State Park. I didn’t bring my camera with me this time, but I brought an idea. The night before hiking, I woke from a dream in which I combined cashews and quinoa into some sort of delicious ‘raw ball’ treat. The idea stuck with me, and I made sure to stock up on dates and cashews so that I could experiment.

These are not raw. I ended up baking them because I wanted to go with a looser ‘dough,’ if you will, one that would benefit from a crisp-up in the oven. That way, they’re kind of like a grainless granola bar. They are crunchy, nutty, and make for a wonderful midday snack. I recommend keeping them in the fridge for extra crispness.

 

So, last weekend’s hike. It was a hot and sunny day, and the bugs were much less bothersome than last time around. Our hike du jour was a 7.3 mile jaunt along the Fowler Brook and Middle Fowler Pond Trails, plus a quick .6 up and down Barrel Ridge, and also a roughly 2-mile triangulated bushwhack up and down the trail-less Bald Mountain, making for a total of nearly ten miles.

It was a 6.5 hour endeavor, and due to the bushwhacking I accumulated 49 scrapes on my arms and legs, and one puncture wound from a perilously large branch. It was all in good fun, although, yes, we ran out of water again. This cycle of abuse needs to stop.

Here are a few photos from last year [although the computer claims they were taken on May 28th, 1956, at 1:36am] on the nearby Traveler loop. The Traveler is much higher in elevation than we were this past weekend, but it is adjacent to where we were hiking – to give you an idea of the scenic beauty near Baxter’s South Branch Pond campground.

On to that energy bar recipe – perfect to bring along on hikes, if you remember to wrap the semi-sticky bars in wax paper beforehand. Also perfect to eat mid-afternoon, after a day spent lazing about in the yard, getting sunburnt.

Cashew Quinoa Energy Bars

A recipe created by my brain during REM sleep

++Ingredients:++

1/2 c. cashews, soaked in water 1 hour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c. quinoa, cooked and cooled
1/2 c. cashews
1/2 c. almonds
1 2/3 c. dates
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla

++Directions:++

Preheat over to 350 F. In a food processor, pulse the softened cashews and salt. Add quinoa, additional cashews, almonds,  dates, honey and vanilla, and pulse until combined.

Butter or spray a loaf pan (I used a 9 x 5″ pan), and press mixture into pan. Bake for 15-22 minutes, until edges are crispy and center of pan appears to be somewhat thickened. Remove from oven. Score lines into the pan; I created 14 rectangles that were each roughly 1 x 2″. Cool, remove from pan, and store covered in the refrigerator.

Variations: Next time I will try not soaking the cashews, and will see if there is enough liquid without doing so to bind with the quinoa and make no-bake balls. I also may add a small amount of almond extract, in place of, or in addition to, the vanilla.