The Snow is getting deeper here in the Mountains of the North East!
But... That is not enough to stop the Wild Forage and Medicine Craft! In fact, it becomes all the more fun! I am so enamored by these snow white crystals of solid state water that adorn the ground here. The purity of the winter air, the stillness and quietude of the Northern forests in January, this is why I inhabit this latitude of the Earth!
The Quest for Mushroom of Immortality has been one of those most Healing and Transformative paths of my Journey. It has lead me into the Wilds, and into relationship with a unique Kingdom of Life... the Fungi.
These, the Medicinal Mushrooms, which are actually a distinct class of species known as the "Polypores" contain structural components that are often called "polysaccharides". This term means "many sugars", and refers to a long-chain sugar that they use to construct their "Fruit Bodies", which is the term for the mushroom itself.
To put this into perspective, keep in mind that wood is made from cellulose, which is also a long-chain sugar, one that we humans lack an enzyme to digest. It is likely that the building you are reading this in is made of sugar. The whole of the forest is made of sugar! Interesting, right?
Mushrooms, unlike plants, form their cell wall out of Chitin, another long chain sugar. This sugar is the building material not only for fungal cell walls, but for the exoskeletons of insects, shrimp, lobsters, crabs, and even the beaks of squid!
It, just like cellulose, is also indigestible to humans and this is why we are unable to digest raw mushrooms. This is not to say that they can not be eaten, but rather that we have no means of breaking through their cell wall to liberate the nutrients from within.
They sort of just pass right through... Now, what does this have to do with Medicine, and what makes these mushrooms so "Medicinal"?
Inside the chitinous cell wall are another class of polysaccharides known as "Beta-Glucans". These long-chain, complex sugar molecules are "Biological Response Modifiers". They have the ability to alter function in the body in way that is referred to as "Adaptogenic".
Essentially, Beta-Glucans modulate the immune system, by lowering the overactive (auto-immune) Immune System, and stimulating the under-active (immuno-deficient) Immune System.
In otherwords they assist the body in adapting to its own unique circumstances. This is very different from pharmaceuticals or even herbal immuno-stimulants which simply excited the nervous system. Mushrooms lead to adaptation... and adaptation is evolution... Mushrooms 'evolve' your Immune System. And this is becoming increasingly critical in this Brave New World we are living in!
Over time, experimentation, and intimate experience with these Organsims, I have come to see the Medicinal Mushrooms as Immune System "Re-Educators". The complex Sugar Molecules they contain re-train our Immune Systems to better clean away the viral, fungal, and bacterial load the our bodies have been dealing with.
Beyond this they work to 'Tonify' the Liver, Scavenge and Destroy Cancer and Tumor Cells, speed Wound Healing, reduce the likelihood of Infection, and so much more.
Of course you are thinking, 'how do I get these sugars into my body?' Well remember, first we have to get them out of the cell.
There are many products on the market that are made from "crushed" or "tinctured" (extracted in Ethanol) mushrooms. Most are not the Fruit Body at all, but rather, they are made form the Mycelia.
The "Fruit Body" is the portion of the Fungus we think of when we picture a Mushroom. This is in fact the fruit, much like the apple on the tree. The 'Tree' itself, or in this case the Fungal body is called the Mycelia, and it is a delicate filament system that is embedded in the 'Substrate" that it is growing in. In the case of Medicinal Mushrooms this is usually, in Nature at least, Trees.
Today, because of recent advances in Fungal Farming, these Mushrooms can now be grown indoors. All to often they are being grown on substrates like commercially grown rice, which may produce mushrooms that look healthy but do not constitute the natural food for these organisms. Many of the products that people have been buying do not contain the fruit body at all, but rather the mycelium biomass, and this is often simply crushed or alcohol extracted. Unfortunately neither process liberates the Beta-Glucans from the Chitinous Cell Wall, and so, from the perspective of Immuno-Modualtion, these products are all but useless.
The obvious question is this... "How do we best access these Beta-Glucans for use?" Its one our ancestors asked as well... And here is what they discovered.
Mushrooms are best extracted in Hot Water. In fact there is 5000 years of Chinese medical history in which they have been used this way! They are, and were, boiled in Water, and the resulting 'tea' (called a decoction) is drunk as medicine. This has been shown to be 50-80X more potent than Mycelium Bio-mass or tinctures.
The Chinese and all those who followed used exclusively the Wild Fruit Bodies of these highly biologically active species. Many of us follow suit today. I have been Wild-Crafting these species for years, and have led walks and retreats around North America so that others can learn too.
This is a highly rewarding pursuit, and in my mind, one of the parts of the healing that can occur from working with Mushrooms. I always recommend that people use medicines that are growing wild in the eco-range that they are a part of. These organisms are producing medicine in response to their own needs within their eco-system, as well as to meet the needs of the ecosystem itself. Since your immune system needs are, in part, a reflection of the demands of your eco-system, the wild species from your area obviously represent the best medicines possible for you.
Still, there are many people who desperately need medicines of this caliber. There are Mushroom Formulas on the market that are made properly, and work so well that I would stake my reputation on them.
First let me just say, no matter where you get them, here are a few basic requirements for any Medicinal Mushroom formula that you purchase.
~They must be made from Fruit Bodies. The scientificaly validated research on Mushrooms is largely based on Fruit Bodies extractions, not bulk Mycelia. Mycelia products are often mixed with their substrates. You end up buying the corn or rice they were grown on. There is literally thousands of years of history using Fruit Bodies, there is virtually no history using Mycelia.
~They must be Hot Water Extracted. The Beta Glucans are held within a rigidly locked structure of Chitin. It is like the sheets particle board that is used to build a house. If you wanted to remove the particles from the board you would have to dissolve the glue that is binding them together. This glue (chitin) is hot water soluble, but will not dissolve into alcohol. This is why tinctures of medicinal don't work.
The research on Medicinal Mushrooms has been largely (if not completely) done using Hot Water Extracts (tea) and this is critical for the extraction of the Beta Glucan Fraction of the fruit-body.
~A combination Hot Water and Ethanol extraction is even better when working with single formula mushrooms like Reishi and Chaga, and this is because of the Alcohol Soluble Fraction found within them. This is largely the "Triterpine" complex, and these molecules are responsible for many of the Adaptogenic properties of these species.
When I produce medicine at home with my Wild Harvested Specimens, I do both Hot Water and Ethanol extracts andthen combine them. This makes for the most complete formula, and is the full compliment of medicines. Remember, if you can only get one extraction you definitely want the Hot Water Extract, not tinctures or mycelium biomass.
My company, SurThrival has created just such a line of Mushrooms, we call it Immortality Quest! In fact we feel it is the best available anywhere on this scale. Our single species formulas are from Wild (Chaga) or Log Grown (Reishi) Fruit Bodies which have been both Hot Water and Ethanol extracted, and then spray dried. The resulting powder is in capsules, and there are a full 150 caps to a bottle (this is a double sized container).
Our "Synergy" Formula consists of 5 Wood Grown species and is designed for those who are looking for the synergistic effects of a mushroom combination. This is in response to much of the cancer research that has shown that a broad spectrum of Beta Glucans is most beneficial.
I personally use all 3 formulas, in addition to using the mushrooms I Wild Craft and Prepare. They have become a powerful ally in my Immuno-Strategy, and have provided me with an Adaptability that has left me fearless of the colds and flu's that circulate throughout the population.
I also feel that relationship with these species will become even more critical as we face the many impending consequences of the industrial pollution, emerging disease, and powerful biome/climate shifts that are underway.
Adaptability is the name of the Game for those who want to Thrive in the Coming Age.
That is why I have called my company "SurThrival". It is about more than Surviving... It is about Thriving. Thriving no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the mass population is facing.
There are medicines that occur here on Earth, naturally that can assist us through whatever transitions the world is facing. I believe Mushrooms are principle amongst these!
So, now you know why I am trekking through the snow to gather Wild Mushrooms, and why I have created a company to meet the Immuno-Needs of my Community!
To Your Invincible Health!
P.S. Last year Sarah Maria and I led a Wild Mushroom Foraging Retreat in the Kootenay Mountains outside of Nelson BC. We studied Mushrooms, Harvested them, made medicine out of them, and more... If you are interested in doing something like this, post a comment below to let us know!