The Other Magic Mushroom
By Marcelina Maciejewski
Tonic Herbs & Medicinal Mushrooms
Shanolin monks (Buddhist warriors) and Daoists of China have for thousands of years collected knowledge and wisdom on the medicinal properties of herbs, mushrooms and other plants. They classified certain herbs as being superior or ‘tonic’. These could be consumed regularly to increase the overall health and wellbeing of the body. This is in opposition to herbs that are more medicinal in action, which incur benefits to specific parts of the body and are best used temporarily, at time of need.
Tonic herbs have high nutritional and medicinal properties, a long history of study and use. They are essentially foods, extremely safe and free of negative side effects.
In the Daosist tradition, the foundation of Oriental healing, there are three ‘treasures’ that constitute one’s life: jing, qi, shen or essence, vitality and spirit. The ultimate goal is to expand and cultivate balance among these three aspects. Tonic herbs act on multiple treasures, and are thus balanced and broad scoped in their benefits.
Some of the greatest, most powerful tonic herbs are the medicinal mushrooms.
Click to enlarge infographic.
Mushrooms belong to the Fungal Kingdom, of which there are 10,000 known species.
The mushroom structure that grows above ground is the reproductive organ or fruiting body of a much larger fungal colony. This fungal colony is referred to as the mycelium – a sentient, constantly evolving network of branching, thread like, single cell chains that grows throughout the soil or within wood.
Unlike plants, fungi do not undergo photosynthesis, and must absorb their food from their surroundings via the mycelium. Because they are so good at drawing in nutrients, mushrooms are great sources of minerals, including calcium, iron, cadmium, zinc, copper, potassium, and phosphorus. They also provide vitamins B, C and D and are an excellent source of fiber (cellulose, lignans and chitin).
The oldest known mushroom species dates back to the Cretaceous time, 92-94 million years ago. Thus, mushrooms evolved their basic form prior to that of the most distant of human ancestors.
Hippocrates, 455 B.C. spoke of using fungi to heal chronic conditions. The traditional Chinese system of Medicine, which is over 3,000 years old, reveres the use of medicinal mushrooms as some of the greatest ‘tonic’ medicines. Medicinal mushrooms are currently approved modes of treatment in the Japanese healthcare system. In North America, fungi have only been recently recognized for their healing capabilities.