Ganoderma lucidum

Plants

Ganoderma lucidum
Reishi, Lingzhi

Botanical Description

Lingzhi, also known as reishi, is a polypore fungus (also referred to as a bracket fungus) belonging to the genus Ganoderma. Its red-varnished, kidney-shaped cap and peripherally inserted stem gives it a distinct fan-like appearance. When fresh, the lingzhi is soft, cork-like, and flat. It lacks gills on its underside and depending on its age the underside may be white or brown. It can also grow in an ‘antler’ shape in poorly ventilated settings.

Location & Cultivation

Ganoderma lucidum can be found on the hardwoods (especially oaks) of warmer regions of its native Asia, the South Pacific & the Southeastern USA. It is thought to be very difficult to find in the wild but given it’s reputation as a medicine it is widely cultivated in habitats where it is happy to grow. Cultivating it at home may require a dedicated space in which fungus of Ganoderma lucidum is mixed with wood pulp and kept in a warm and humid environment with shaded lighting. Some growers create huge walls of plastic grow bags containing Ganoderma spores, and time the tearing of the bags to expose the mushrooms to CO2 to produce the flat caps.

Harvesting

It is not to be found in Western Europe, but for those who live close to it, wild crafting requires great determination and also great care as it is so precious in the wild, so following the ‘take only what you need’ philosophy remains true. If harvesting cultivated mushrooms, one may be able to harvest 2 or 3 crops from one plant if it is well looked after. Some growers recommend finding the perfect balance of ventilation to encourage the ‘antler’ shape of growth in the mushroom, which can grow up to 3 feet in length before harvesting. Different companies sell grow kits and spores for home inoculation.
There are various ways of preparing Ganoderma, and one can find 1:3 tinctures, decocted tinctures and recently I had heard of a ‘russian extract’ which is 3:1. Double extracted methods are generally thought of as important as valuable immunomodulating polysaccharides will only be released from the durable chitin in the mushroom when it is simmered for quite a long time. The alcohol helps to extract the terpenes which are antioxidant and antiinflammatory. 

History / Folklore

The history of humans using Ganoderma lucidum is over 2000 years old. It’s local name in China is Lingzhi, translating to ‘The Plant of Immortality’. In TCM  it is closely affiliated with the heart and the brain, connecting the middle and upper cauldrons in preserving and improving memory & capacity for clear thinking, and also for treating constrictions of the heart qi. The goddess of healing Guanyin is sometimes depicted as holding a reishi mushroom, a real testament to its cultural reverence. The mushroom has long been touted as one that relaxes the heart and calms the nerves while encouraging a sustainable regeneration of qi.

Taste / Energetics

Salty, meaty, bitter, slightly drying, slightly warming 

Constituents

Polysaccharides, glucans, adenosine, triterpenes, protein, phytosterols, lipids, ganasterone, vitamines C, B2

Actions

Tonic, immune-stimulant, hypoglycaemic, anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, expectorant, adrenal stimulant, radiation protective, cardiotonic

Traditional & Current Uses

Circulatory System

• Cardio-tonic, so enhances normal heart function, improves coronary artery circulation and protects against heart attacks.
• Can relieve palpitations & arrhythmias, prevent clots, lower cholesterol, normalises blood pressure and prevents atherosclerosis. 
• Ganoderic acid is known to thin blood and reduce inflammation, thereby lowering the tendency to clotting.
• Increases the level of O2 in the blood and has been used in treating altitude sickness.

Immunity

• As an immunomodulant, Ganoderma lucidum and it’s polysaccharides enhance immunity with T-Cell activity, leukocytes and macrophage activity.
• It has been well studied as a treatment for cancer and is widely used as a complement to chemo and radio therapies. It inhibits metastasis by inhibiting platelet aggregation.
• Antibacterial to Staphylococci and Streptococci bacteria and antifungal so useful for treating candida. 
• Balances and builds the ‘pro-inflammatory’ side of the adrenal cortex – that is, the ‘mineralocorticoid’ side that supports the inflammatory side of the immune response. It does not act on the ‘anti-inflammatory’ or glucocorticoid side, which suppresses the immune response. Thus it reduces autoimmune excess and is helpful in autoimmune diseases of many kinds including myasthenia gravis and Sjogren’s syndrome.
• Helpful for allergies as it’s sulphur compounds inhibit histamine release from mast cells, and also as it helps modulate overactive immune response, and is also a nervine (a state of calmness is less likely to provoke an autoimmune flare).
• It has a steroidal compound called gandosterone that is hepatoprotective and is beneficial in hepatitis and in cirrhosis. 
• Can be used for HIV, Herpes, hepatitis B and C, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, acute myeloid leukemia and nasopharyngeal carcinomas. 

Nervous System
• Ganoderma lucidum is adaptogenic, is neuro-protective and increases resilience to stress. It improves adrenal function, sleep quality and appetite so can be a wonderful ally for burnout or when one knows there is a particularly busy time on the horizon.
• It has been known to reduce anxiety and protects against neurological problems. 

Digestion
• As an antimicrobial, Ganoderma is also a nourishing tonic to the gut.

Cautions
Avoid use  with anyone who has a mushroom allergy. Note that some with very weak digestive function may have trouble digesting the B-Glucans in which case build the digestive fire and perhaps try again. In large doses it has been observed to cause diarrhea. 

Preparation & Dosage
A decoction can also be used. Myconutri and other suppliers provide powders and capsules which may also be of benefit.
• Can be useful to prescribe as part of an evening blend. In a powder mix, it could be blended with other powders such as Withania and gently warmed in oat milk to make a nourishing and relaxing evening tea. 

Notes
• My initial connection with Ganoderma was meeting it alive in a plant shop I worked in, seeing it’s vibrancy and also something mysterious about it, the mystery of how it actually does what it does. My clinical use of it stems from a tutor of mine including it in many of her prescriptions and her testament to how effective it has been for autoimmune conditions. There is deeply regenerative earth energy here. As an ally that strengthens, relaxes and encourages healthy immune response, Ganoderma can help tune us to a place from which we establish a more coherent, calm and appropriate response to the world around us – a process of healing and transformation that medicinal mushrooms appear to be very good at doing.
• Wood describes his friend Don Babineau saying of Ganoderma tsugae that it ‘Looks like fire and restores fire to the system’. 

Californian Poppy

Plants
Escholzia californica
Californian Poppy

Family: Papaveraceae

Part used:  Usual practise is to harvest the whole plant fresh, including the roots and the seed pods for tinctures. Some just harvest the aerial parts, especially for the tea.

Botanical Description

Technically a perennial plant but is treated by most growers as an annual. It is a perennial or annual plant growing to 13–152 cm tall with alternately branching blue-green foliage. The leaves are alternately divided into round, lobed segments. The flowers are solitary on long stems, silky-textured, with four petals, each petal 2 to 6 cm long and broad; flower color ranges through yellow, orange and red, with some pinks. Flowering occurs from February to September in the northern hemisphere (spring, summer, fall). The petals close at night or in cold, windy weather and open again the following morning, although they may remain closed in cloudy weather. The fruit is a slender, dehiscent capsule 3 to 9 cm long, which splits in two to release numerous small black or dark brown seeds. It survives mild winters in its native range, dying completely in colder climates. 

Location, Cultivation & Harvesting

Native to the western regions of North America. Grows readily from seed and preferably in light, sandy soil. Seed can be scattered by hand into very shallow furrows or simply sown on the surface of the soil and lightly pressed in. If no rain follows and the soil is very dry, be sure to keep the soil moist to promote germination. California poppy does not like to be transplanted, so it is best that it is sown where it is grown.
Harvest: 40-60 days of growing should see the plant to full bloom. It blooms for so long – at the time of writing it is mid-November here in Ireland (albeit everything is late this year) and the poppies are still going for it.

History & Folklore

It’s latin name is imprinted by a colonial expedition of a Russian ship in the 19th century. On board was German surgeon and naturalist Friedrich Gustav von Eschscholtz, who saw the San Francisco Bay area hills emblazoned with California Poppy. It was used by indigenous cultures to the area as food, boiled or steamed. 


Taste / Energetics

Bitter with a hint of sweet ; cooling

Constituents

Roots 

Morphine alkaloids (inc. protopine, sanguinarine, chelerythrine), eschscholtzione, glycosides)

Actions
Sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, anodyne, nervine, febrifuge

Traditional & Current Uses


Upper Cauldron
• Though a cousin to the opium poppy, Californian poppy is far less potent. It provides safe sedative medicine to calm down over excited states, cool down hot anxiety, tension and insomniac states. It is suitable for calming hyperactive children; there is widely reported success with helping little ones in getting to sleep.
• Brings down overactive yang energy, helping to cool down states of heat and bringing some water to the fire.
• Anodyne and relaxing, and can be good for migraines, headaches, neuralgia, back and muscle pain, arthritis, sciatica & shingles. 


Middle Cauldron

• It can help slow a rapid heart rate, relieve palpitations and reduce blood pressure


Lower Cauldron

• As it is an antispasmodic herb, Californian poppy can help to relax the gut and relieve colic in the stomach and gallbladder.