In the Creston Valley we are blessed with an abundance of healing plants and are extremely fortunate that many healing mushrooms make their home in the area as well. Over the last few years we have been working towards using more and more indigenous plants in our herbal products and have started incorporating in our formulations many of the amazing mushrooms that grow in this region. This month we thought we would introduce you to some of these mushrooms and share with you how we are using them.

We now have a product called “Indigenous Medicinal Mushroom Tincture” which is designed to support immune function and balance stress in the body. It contains Chaga, Birch Polypore, Red Belted Conk, Artist Conk and Turkey Tail mushrooms. Research suggests the compounds in medicinal mushrooms most responsible for up-regulating the immune system are a diverse collection of polysaccharides, particularly beta-glucans, and to a lesser extent, alpha-glucans. All of these mushrooms are rich in this immune supporting compound.

 

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)

Many of you may have heard of this unusual looking fungi (looks like a charred lump on the side of Birch trees). It has garnered a great deal of attention in natural health circles and even in mainstream media. It has been touted as a cure all for just about everything, and while it is a good plant it isn’t “a miracle cure” for every illness. Where its excellence is, is in helping to strengthen the body’s response to stress and in balancing blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Chaga is currently being widely researched as a possible treatment for a wide variety of diseases and health problems, including chronic fatigue syndrome, influenza, stomach problems, HIV and certain types of cancer. Recent studies in the U.S., Russia, and other countries have shown Chaga to have anti-tumor benefits related to the breast and ovarian cancer; studies in Finland have demonstrated that inotodial, one of the most active ingredients in Chaga, was effective against influenza and various cancer cells; and Japanese research not only found similar antiviral activity, but also discovered that Chaga shows activity against HIV (protease inhibition). Chaga has even been classified as a medicinal mushroom under World Trade Organization (WTO) codes.

 

Birch Polypore (Pitptoporus betulinus)

Another one of our amazing medicinal mushrooms that likes to grow on birch trees. This plant has been used for thousands of years (a lump was found in a medicine pouch when they discovered the almost 6000 year old body of the Ice Man a few years ago!) It is said to act as an immune tonic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-parasitic, laxative, anti-septic, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial. Studies have indicated that the Birch polypore has acts as an aromatase inhibitor, meaning it helps to prevent the conversion of androgen hormones into estrogen. This is important in both men and women as high estrogen levels are linked to many hormonal imbalances and cancers.

 

Red Belted Conk (Fomitopsis pinicola)

Red belted conk also known as Tiaga is one of the most common polypores in the world and grows abundantly in our area. The name pinicola means “inhabiting pine,” its most common home. However, it does grow on lots of other deciduous tree as well. Considered a digestive tonic, this mushroom is thought to relieve inflammation of gastrointestinal tissues.  Red belted polypore is also indicated for immune system stimulation and antihistamine qualities. Some studies have also indicated that this polypore may have some anti-cancer potential.

 

Artist Conk (Ganoderma applanatum)

Why is it called the artist’s conk? It has been given this name because when you scratch the white pores of the fruiting body, the white rubs away and exposes the brown hyphae underneath. This can then be used to draw on and create beautiful pictures that when dried will last indefinitely. Artist Conk is one of our indigenous Reishi group of mushrooms.  They are perhaps the premier mushrooms for improving health and wellbeing and can be found in the deep forests, often living on rotted hemlocks and fallen trees. Artist Conk is anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, hypocholesterolemic, liver tonic, immune supportive, antihistamine, and has adaptogenic properties (which means it may be able to help to reduce fatigue, calm the nervous system, reduce anxiety, improve sleep and have an overall strengthening effect on the entire body). As with most mushrooms Artist Conk is being researched for its ability to support the body when faced with immune disorders and cancer.

 

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

Turkey Tail grows in clusters or tiers on fallen hardwood trees and branches, frequently in large colonies. As its name implies, it is often multi-colored, with contrasting concentric bands, variously appearing in shades of white, gray, brown, black, blue or even red. It is probably the best documented medicinal mushroom in terms of research and its application to health issues. In the cardiovascular system it has been shown to lower cholesterol and hypertension. It enhances immune function by increasing interferon production and has demonstrated anti-viral activity. Turkey Tail has been shown to be effective against several cancers, including cervical cancer, in combination with other therapeutic agents; it appears to enhance the effect of radiation therapy; and significantly lessens the side effects of conventional medical protocols used in the treatment of cancers of the esophagus, stomach and lungs. It also has been shown to significantly increase the rate of remission in esophageal cancers.

We have also developed a great product called “Memories” tincture which is designed to help support healthy neurological function. This tincture contains the herbs Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Brahmi (Baiciopa monnardi) and the mushroom Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus).

 

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

This spectacular looking mushroom is not as common in our area but can certainly be found by determined mushroom foragers. Lion’s Mane is a snow-white, globe-shaped fungus composed of downward cascading, icicle-shaped spines. Its striking appearance gives rise to its various common names, Lion’s Mane, Monkey’s Head and Hedgehog Fungus. It can grow up to 40 cm in diameter and is generally found on dead or dying broadleaf trees. In research, Lion’s Mane has been found to contain substances that help balance blood sugar and regulating lipid levels in blood.  Scientists are also trying to ascertain the impact this mushroom has on dementia and on Parkinson’s disease. There has been evidence of nerve cells stimulation and enhancement of cognitive abilities. Growth of nerves and nerve myelination was also seen to be enhanced. Additional studies have shown this mushroom to have a role in treating inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers of the stomach and esophagus, pancreatitis, and osteoporosis. Research is now being conducted on the possible use of this mushroom in cancers including esophageal, intestinal, pancreatic and stomach cancers.

Reference:

Rogers, Robert – The Fungal Pharmacy: Medicinal Mushrooms of Western Canada
Mushroom Essences: Vibrational Healing from the Kingdom Fungi
Stamets, Paul : Fungi Perfecti
http://www.fungi.com/
Ginns, J. – Polypores of British Columbia (Fungi: Basidiomycota) BC Government – Published 2017.
Stamets, P., 2008. “Antiviral and Antibacterial Activity from Medicinal Mushrooms.” Filed September 24, 2008.
Won, D.P., Lee, J.S., Kwon, D.S., Lee, K.E., Shin, W.C., Hong, E.K. 2011. “Immunostimulating activity by polysaccharides isolated from fruiting body of Inonotus obliquus.” Mol Cells 31(2):165-73. E-pub 22 Dec. 2010.
Lemieszek et al – Anticancer Effect of Fraction Isolated from Medicinal Birch Polypore Mushroom, Piptoporus betulinus – Int. Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 2009; 11(4): pages 351-364.
Cyranka M et al – Investigation of antiproliferative effect of ether and ethanol extracts of birch polypore medicinal mushroom, Piptoporus betulinus Int. Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 2011;13(6): pages 525-33.