Are Reishi Mushrooms the Healing Tonic You’ve Been Waiting For?

The latest ingredient for optimal health? Reishi mushrooms. Said to promote balance and calmness in the nervous system and even prevent cancer, these mushrooms are best consumed as a healing tea or cappuccino.

reishi_mushroomsphoto credit: shutterstock

If we accept that eating junk food makes us feel worse (you know it’s true!), then can we also accept that there are some foods that have the potential to boost our mood? If you’re ready, then it’s time I introduce you to the queen of medicinal mushrooms (no, not those types of mushrooms).

Reishi (pronounced ree-shee) isn’t the kind of mushroom that you sauté in a stir-fry. Instead, you brew it up in a tea or what the fancy herbalist might call a “decoction.” It may sound more granola than you’re up for, but trust me: This is well worth trying.

What are reishi mushrooms?

Reishi mushrooms are medicinal mushrooms that grow in northern Canada and China. They’re considered the “queen” in Chinese medicine and have been used traditionally for everything from autoimmune conditions to cancer. If you’re ever hiking through a Canadian forest, you might notice these beaming red disc-like mushrooms protruding from the trunk of a dying hemlock or other crucifer between May and July, but don’t harvest them or any others: Mushroom roulette is a dangerous game. The easier option is to pick up reishi mushrooms at a local herb store or check out the Reishi Elixir or Mushroom Hot Cacao with Reishi from Four Sigmatic. These brilliant instant drinks are bringing medicinal mushrooms to the masses.

The benefits

Reishi mushrooms have long been used in Chinese medicine as a nervous-system tonic, meaning they promote balance and calmness in the whole nervous system. They also serve as a symbol of well-being, divine power and longevity in Chinese culture. I’ll take seconds on that, please! Additionally, research has shown their effectiveness in preventing cancer, protecting the liver and gallbladder, healing viral and bacterial infections and offsetting the effects of diabetes. In the short term, reishi mushrooms act as an adaptogenic herb on the nervous system. This means that they can help us adapt to and cope with stress better. Awesome, right?

The plan

Reishi mushrooms can be purchased in pieces or as a powder from your local health food store and simmered on the stove to enjoy as a tea. You can also find them in a mushroom blend as an immune supplement. The easiest way to enjoy reishi is as a water extraction, now available in many health food stores and made by the company Four Sigmatic.

The key with adaptogenic herbs like reishi (maca works the same way) is to remember that it’s not about taking your whole supply at one time and thinking that you’re good for the month! The key is a moderate, regular intake. As a tonic herb, the benefits are cumulative, so having a cup of reishi tea once a day or a few times a week will do the trick. My favourite recipe? Reishi cappuccino. I’m sharing my recipe online:

Meghan Telpner is a bestselling author of UnDiet and The UnDiet Cookbook and founder of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. More at Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at: @meghantelpner.