Story Lindsay Wilson
As days grow shorter and temperatures drop, our blood thickens and moves inward like the sap in trees to nourish and warm our vital organs. And, as with any extreme change in the environment around us, the cold weather will certainly challenge our immune system, which can result in a common cold or the flu.
There are quite a few herbs to have in your natural medicine chest for the wintertime — diaphoretic herbs (elderflower, bee balm), expectorant herbs (red clover, wild lettuce), anti-microbial herbs (usnea, garlic), immuno-stimulants (echinacea, prickly ash), and immuno-modulators (astragalus, ashwagandha).
I will focus on the latter group in this column, specifically medicinal mushrooms.
The naturalist and whole systems side of me likes to equate the role mushrooms play in our ecosystem with their effect on our physical body. The fruiting bodies of mushrooms, appearing in the right conditions form a vast network of mycelium strands in the forest floor, are the great decomposers. Basically, they transform fallen trees and other materials back into rich soil for new growth. With that in mind, I find that medicinal mushrooms are excellent adjunct therapies for chronic, degenerative diseases.
Medicinal mushrooms love cool weather, namely the fall and spring months. This is a great time to tromp in the woods with a well-illustrated guidebook and/or someone knowledgeable in identifying mushrooms. Let me emphasize that identifying mushrooms requires more skill than identifying plants, mostly because there is more at stake if you guess wrong (think emergency room).
That said, medicinal mushrooms are typically quite obvious and recognizable. Instead of gills on the underside, they have a fine network of small pores (hence the name polypore).
These mushrooms not only provide support for the immune system, they are anti-inflammatory, blood sugar balancing, host to powerful antioxidants and are a safe adjunct therapy for cancer patients (and even can be used during chemotherapy treatment). They also can be a great herbal therapy for dogs with similar immune function issues.
Integrating medicinal mushrooms into your natural medicine cabinet and kitchen is easy once you get the hang of it. In addition to local woods, there are numerous commercial sources.
You can order mushrooms in tincture, pill or powder form from Fungi Perfecti, Mountain Rose Herbs, Mushroom Harvest, Pacific Botanicals or Mushroom Mountain. And you can find certain medicinal mushroom preparations at my local apothecary, Sweet Gum Springs Apothecary.
LINDSAY’S DEEP IMMUNITY BONE BROTH
1 chicken carcass
4 chicken feet (optional, for added gelatin and collagen)
1 cup dried maitake mushrooms
1 cup dried shitake mushrooms
¼ cup dried astragalus root
½ cup dried calendula blossoms (optional)
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon whole pepper corns
1 teaspoon sea salt
Splash of apple cider vinegar
• In 1-gallon stock pot, sauté garlic and onion in butter or olive oil until tender.
• Fill pot with water. Add carcass and all other ingredients.
• Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Let simmer, covered, for 4 hours. Remove from heat.
• Cool to room temperature. Strain into quart-size canning jars. Store a couple in fridge and freeze the rest.