The term “medicinal mushroom” used to draw snickers and knowing glances, but these days science is recognizing legitimate medicinal uses for mushrooms. Reishi mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, and western science is just beginning to explore their many uses.
Medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, chaga, maitake, turkey tail and shiitake contain both water-soluble components, known as polysaccharides, and alcohol-soluble components known as triterpenes. For this reason, medicines made from reishi mushrooms often include a double extraction. This two-step process combines alcohol and water extracts to maximize the medicinal benefits.
Benefits of Reishi Mushroom Tincture
Reishi’s water-soluble polysaccharides have been shown to boost immune response, especially in relation to cancer cells. Studies show that “The polysaccharides from G. lucidum are believed to trigger an indirect antitumor mechanism in which the host immune system is altered to target the tumor cells.” Specifically, a type of polysaccharide in reishi mushrooms know as beta-glucans “has the ability to induce both innate and adaptive immune responses…triggering a series of molecular pathways…which in turn, activate the host immune response for immune cell proliferation.”
Reishi’s alcohol-soluble triterpenes go a step further. Science has found that alcohol extracts from reishi mushrooms are “the only known source of a particular group of triterpenes, also known as ganoderic acids, which have been found to have direct cancer cell cytotoxicity on a wide variety of cancer cell lines, such as murine Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) and Meth-A, and many of them have been suggested to counter angiogenesis and metastasis.”
What does all that mean? Water extracts boost your immune system and help your body combat cancer, while alcohol extracts combat cancer directly. Talk about a one-two punch!
Some traditional reishi preparations involve making a decoction by simmering the mushrooms for 2 hours. This preparation misses the benefits of the alcohol-soluble constituents.
As a whole, western science has proven reishi mushroom extracts to be:
Reishi mushrooms have also been shown to reduce blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar and reduce platelet aggregation that results in blood clots. Its effects on blood sugar were significant enough that it has been successfully used in the treatment of diabetes.
The antioxidant activity of compounds found in reishi mushrooms seem to target free radicals responsible for aging, and reishi helped reverse the effects of aging in lab mice. Reishi works to protect and strengthen the liver and has been successfully used for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B.
How to Make a Reishi Mushroom Tincture
- Thinly sliced Reishi Mushroom (either purchased dried or wild foraged)
- 80 proof alcohol, such as vodka
- Fresh spring water (or chlorine-free water of any sort)
- Mason jar (pint, quart or a half-gallon depending on your batch size)
- Cooking pot
- Filtering equipment: funnel and mesh strainer or cheesecloth
- Tincture bottles for storage
Fill a mason jar about halfway with dried reishi mushrooms. Dried mushrooms will expand, and need a bit of extra space. If you’re using fresh reishi mushrooms that you were able to collect yourself, fill the jar 2/3 full.
Cover the mushrooms with 80 proof alcohol, filling the jar to within an inch of the top rim.
Let the mixture extract for 4 to 6 weeks. Ideally, it should be kept in a cool dark location like a pantry. To maximize extraction, shake the jar as often as you remember (daily would be ideal).
After the alcohol extraction is complete, strain through a fine mesh strainer and set the alcohol aside. Measure how much alcohol extract you had remaining and make a note of it.
Place the strained mushrooms into a pot, and add about a half gallon of water for every 2 cups of mushrooms. Simmer the mushrooms on low for 2 hours, keeping an eye on the water level. Do not let it boil dry.
The water extract should be reduced to about half the quantity of alcohol extract. For example, if your strained alcohol extract was a total of 16 ounces (2 cups), you’ll want to reduce your water extract to 8 ounces (1 cup).
This 2 to 1 ratio will ensure that your final extract is roughly 30% alcohol, which will be shelf stable.
Once the water extract has cooled, mix it with the alcohol extract and bottle in an amber tincture bottle.
Store in a cool, dark place and take a dropper full daily for best results.