This month’s featured herb isn’t actually an herb at all. In honor of our featured vendor, Central PA’s own MycoSymbiotics, we’re talking turkey… tail and other fungi. The mushroom kingdom is full of untold mysteries and uncountable health benefits. Join us as we explore just a few!
The beautiful turkey tail, or Trametes versicolor, is a very identifiable fungi. If you live in this region, you can readily find it growing on fallen trees and logs while foraging or simply taking a stroll. Just keep your eyes peeled for exactly what it sounds like, a striped crescent shaped fungus resembling the former tail of your Thanksgiving dinner.
There is a long established history of using turkey tail for medicinal benefits, but one thing we find extra exciting about this mushroom is research being done for its ability to complement cancer treatment. Its strength in boosting the immune system has earned it a spot in several studies. Its also said to have positive impacts on blood sugar, gut health, and athletic performance.
Cordyceps have taken center stage in the imagination of many ever since the show The Last of Us introduced the wider population to the idea of zombie fungi. In this case, the truth is as strange—though not quite as scary—as the fiction. Cordyceps militaris reproduce by setting up shop inside unsuspecting insects who ingest them while eating. They then take over control of the insect’s brain, ultimately freezing them in place where the insect dies and the fruiting body springs forth from its carcass. With the right knowledge, keen observers and persistent foragers may even come across some of these specimens in our area.
While there’s no indication that these mushrooms are about to make the jump to human hosts, they are still worth attention. These little orange guys are nutritional powerhouses, full of chemicals like cordycepin and cordymin which bring big boosts to human health. Long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cordyceps has demonstrable adaptogenic properties. These are thought to aid problems related to inflammation, aging, cancer, and much more.
Next on our list is the reishi mushroom, or Ganoderma lucidum. Another immune booster, reishi is thought to benefit white blood cells, which help your body fight disease. A powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, reishi is being studied for its potential to help fight cancer. Some even say it is useful in treating fatigue and depression from chronic illness like autoimmune disorders.
While you may be able to find reishi in the wild, you’ll want to make sure you’re ingesting it after it’s been processed. You can find it powdered in capsules, and teas or in extracts and tinctures. Stop in the apothecary to grab a MycoSymbiotics tincture that mixes reishi with relaxing lavender and chamomile.
We know lions for their courageous hearts, but we actually know lion’s mane mushroom for its benefits to our brains. This fungi is good for your noggin in several respects. Hericium erinaceus boosts memory and cognitive function. It’s also reported to benefit mood and anxiety, protect nerves, and help recover from brain injuries.
If you find lion’s mane at your local market, you may wonder how to cook the strange furry fungi. Appearing in white fluffy balls, it lives up to its descriptive name. Try using it the same way you might use crab or other seafood. You’re sure to enjoy its flavor and texture, even if mushrooms aren’t usually your favorite. If you’re on a hike, keep your eyes low at the base of broad-leaf trees to find it growing for yourself!