A Turkey Tail Miracle
In 2009, a woman by the name of Patti Stamets found herself in an unenviable position. At the age of 84, Patti discovered her right breast was 5 times the size as her left and found six swollen lymph nodes the size of walnuts. Panicked, she called her son Paul, and had explained to him the situation----she didn't tell him sooner as he was 'always busy', and didn't go to the doctor as she was deeply religious. The last time she entered a doctor's office was in 1968, the year after the summer of love, at an age where smoking was a national pastime.
The two of them made arrangements to go to the hospital where doctors discovered stage 4 breast cancer, the second worst case the physician had ever seen, and gave Patti a diagnosis of only 3 months to live. She was too old to receive radiation, and couldn't have her breasts removed---there were few options moving forward. Patti was immediately placed on the drugs Herceptin and Taxol, started making funeral arrangements, and picked out a pine casket; the cheapest she could find as she didn't need anything more expensive. She knew she was going to heaven.
Then, the oncologist remembered a study conducted at Bastyr University in Seattle about something called turkey tail. Turkey tail was a mushroom studied for its effects on immunity and breast cancer and Patti was asked if she was willing to go on a regiment of turkey tail supplements. Patty laughed and proclaimed, "my son is the one who supplies turkey tail mushrooms to Bastyr! Those are my son's mushrooms."
Patty gladly went on a regimen of 8 turkey tail capsules per day, hoping to get some relief from the symptoms of her cancer and medications.
Six years later, Patty is still alive today with no traces of detectable tumors.
This story was told by Paul Stamets, one of the most famous mycologists in the world. Mycology is the study of mushrooms and Paul Stamets is the King of Mycology. He has studied and spread the gospel on mushrooms for the past 40 years, creating a cultural bridge between the soggy and sometimes misunderstood food, to potential world saving herb. Not only can mushrooms help save our health, but he claims they can help create safe pesticides, clean up oil spills, provide a defense against weaponized small-pox and break down PCBs among other things.
Mushroom Hunting Origins
My family originates from Poland, and I remember hearing stories of my mom's mushroom hunting past, spending hours in the forest searching for the edible varietals. It was an activity the whole family did together, scouring for mushrooms by day and eating their prize by night. They knew which were edible, which were poisonous and which were delicious. The things people did before 'Real Housewives of Orange County' marathons.
And little did they know these small bulbs of fungus were providing them with incredible and varied health benefits---benefits unseen to the human eye, not necessarily felt by the body, but so unbelievable as to be the stuff of lore. The activity of foraging for mushrooms was even more popular with my grandparents, as each successive generation has seen less mushroom hunting and more mushroom shopping from Costco. I've never hunted for mushrooms myself, but I love the thought of bringing home a bounty and declaring myself as, "Dog the mushroom hunter". I wonder about all the important nutrients missed out on as a result of not eating the amount and variety of mushrooms as previous generations.
What I do know is cultures around the world appreciate and relish the use of mushrooms as part of their culinary cuisine. I can't imagine a Polish meal without the thought of mushrooms, it would be sacrilegious. The edible fungus is a part of us, a part of our history and a big part of keeping us healthy. They've evolved with humans and have the potential to save us from our transgressions. So what exactly is so special about them?
Pictured above: previous generations of Poles enjoying their day mushroom hunting. What a life.
The Mushroom of Immortality
Possibly the most studied herb of all time, the Reishi mushroom is the stuff of fairytales. Highly regarded in ancient China and Japan, it's been called "The 10,000-year-old mushroom," "herb of spiritual potency", "divine mushroom," "mushroom of immortality," and "the supernatural mushroom." In Chinese, the herb is called Ling Zhi which translates as Ling: spiritual; spirit; soul; miraculous; sacred; divine, and Zhi: plant of longevity; seed; branch; mushroom. Given the various names associated with this herb, we know it's either something special, or over-hyped like the movie Chappie. (Yea, you have never heard of that movie for good reason).
In Chinese medicine, reishi belongs to the category of 'tonics', a classification of herbs denoted for their ability to support foundational health, vitality, and immunity. And among tonics, reishi is king, capable of slowing down time and curing all ills. It's the unicorn of herbs.
Amongst herbalists, many rank reishi as superior, qualifying it as the highest quality substance across all circles, and Taoist priests were among the first to use it for its medicinal qualities claiming it as a powerful 'shen tonic' (shen signifies the 'spirit' in Chinese medicine) where the mushroom can literally nourish your spirit.
The amount of research done on reishi is short of miraculous, with many Chinese and Japanese doctors using it alongside modern Western pharmaceuticals for a myriad of diseases such as autoimmune disorders, cancer, as well as bacterial and viral diseases. And while the existence of a spirit can be debated eternally, reishi has been shown to help relax the mind, calm the nervous system and help the body adapt to stress; otherwise known as an adaptogen.
Adaptogens are an important classification of herbs, which must meet certain criteria; be completely nontoxic, and must have a broad use for health both mentally and physically. Adaptogens literally help the body adapt to stress; whether the stress be physical, like running a marathon, or mental the stress of watching Brittany Spears act in a movie.
These substances are unique in the fact that no matter the circumstance, they will balance you. When you wake up in the morning and need a boost of energy, they will aid in your pick-me-up, but the same herbal adaptogen can turn around and help you sleep later that night. They help you relax when you are jittery, energize you when you are fatigued, increase your endurance, stamina, and even immunity. The most incredible aspect of an adaptogen is that they will adapt to your specific immune system needs. If you have low immunity or an overactive immunity, the same herb will know to balance, and over time help build a better overall immune response. If you have an autoimmune disorder, consider taking a Reishi supplement.
Reishi obtains over 400 active ingredients found inside (practically its own pharmacy!), and the amount of medicinal applications is astounding. Reishi has been researched in regards to:
- Antioxidant properties and ability to enhance the immune response.
- Reduce an over-reactive immune response often seen with autoimmune disorders.
- Boosts immune system's vigilance against cancer cells.
- Anti-inflammatory properties.
- Targeted benefit for Asthma (Hello Chinese medicine!).
- Protecting the liver.
- Various mental diseases caused by environmental stress
- High altitude sickness
- Alleviate symptoms of coronary heart disease
- Chronic bronchitis
The studies continue on and on, with no lack of information and more research being conducted every day. Reishi mushrooms aren't the only fungi to have amazing benefits, though. Even the most innocuous, little mushrooms found inside your cheese omelette have numerous health benefits; button mushrooms have a high vitamin B complex and also the ability to protect against cancer and heart disease. Not bad for the most vanilla variety of them all.
If you are interested in buying some reishi mushroom for yourself as a daily supplement, I suggest you purchase from no other than Paul Stamets. You can buy his products Here.
"Viruses not only challenge the immune system, but they reduce your defenses, making you more susceptible to other diseases. Moreover, mushrooms have immuno-modulating and anti-inflammatory properties that can help the immune system respond without going haywire. This area of research is very dynamic, currently, and we have high hopes for identifying a consortium of new fungal based active ingredients in 2009. At this point in time, it appears the beneficial compounds work synergistically. Mushrooms proffer a composite menu of benefits helping you stave off diseases." -Paul Stamets
"The black and green Yun Zhi are beneficial to one's spirit and vital energy and strengthen one's tendon and bone. If taken for a long time, it will make you vigorous and live long."
-Compendium of Materia Medica (Ben Cao Gang Mu) by Li ShiZhen (15th century – Ming dynasty)
Luckily for us, these are some of the most abundant mushrooms on the planet. Called turkey tail due to the various colors reminiscent of (you guessed it!) turkey tail feathers, this is another block- buster mushroom, taking its deserved moment in the spotlight.
As experienced by Patty Stamets, turkey tail has been shown to be quite the immune modulator. The clinical study from Bastyr University (funded by the NIH), of which Paul Stamets helped supply, showed that turkey tail improves the immune systems of breast cancer patients. The multiyear study tracked whether or not turkey tail could positively affect the immune system of patients after they ended their radiation therapy.
It was found to:
"Augment conventional therapies for treating breast cancer by increasing NK and CD8+T cell activity, suggesting that turkey tail mushrooms are an effective adjunct to conventional chemotherapeutic medicines and radiation therapy." -
This is HUGE news, and with absolutely no side-effects, turkey tail has been shown to be one of the most important health discoveries in the mushroom world since Penicillin was discovered from the Penicillin fungi. Turkey tail can not only help patients who currently have breast cancer, but it can also help prevent breast cancer.
“We consider cancer a failure of the immune system…When they [turkey tail] are ingested into the body, they stimulate immune cells that line the intestines, and then those stimulate other immune cells all over the body,”
-Dr. Leanna Standish at Bastyr University.
Big news folks! Start taking your turkey tail today to help boost your immune system and start preventing cancer and other diseases. What's more, turkey tail is an anti-viral and has been shown to target HPV and Hepatitis C, both of which may lead to cancers.
But that's not all. Like Reishi, turkey tail has a myriad of benefits including helping with upper respiratory tract infections, pulmonary disease, elimination of urinary tract infection, relief from digestive tract irritations and a remedy for lack of energy.
BUT You must look for a 100% organic product due to its uncanny ability to pick up heavy metals in bad quality soil. The one product I trust is, yet again, by Paul Stamets. Get it here.
The Zombie Mushroom
The grossest one of them all, Cordyceps will make your stomach turn and gag reflex appear so don't read this if you're eating cottage cheese. This is a dry post, please.
Cordyceps is not really even a mushroom, and I'll let BBC explain to you in this video below. Again, don't eat anything. Enoy!
As astounding, gross and gag-inducing as that was, people INGEST this stuff for their health and well-being. And while these fungal parasites are dangerous to your average insect, people are eating these zombie-like creatures for not only preventative care, but for added endurance and stamina. Still want to suck this down? No? Okay, more for me.
Why would anyone on this beautiful green earth take this revolting mushroom from hell? Because it will get you world records.
Traditionally it's used as a tonic, to help improve energy, libido, appetite, stamina, endurance and more. It's said to boost both yin and yang in Chinese medicine, making it a valuable medicinal that helps build up your resources and also help energize. There are over 400 varieties of Cordyceps, and as David Attenborough explains, each species of Cordyceps specializes in attacking a different insect; a specialization in death if you will.
In ancient China, only the rich were able to get a hold of it because it was so rare. Chefs would stuff ducks with Cordyceps and roast until well done for a delicious and satisfying menú del zombie. There's even lore surrounding this mysterious and magical substance for its abilities of resurrecting the dead. Now, that's a powerful mushroom.
Cordyceps has been found to be adaptogenic, can stimulate the endocrine glands (responsible for making hormones) as well as increase blood circulation and aid the cardiovascular system. They've even been shown to be a natural "Viagra", increasing the sex drive of men in bathtubs everywhere. It can improve sperm production and help regulate abnormal menstrual cycles. And old people everywhere in China take Cordyceps for fatigue in order to 'enhance their aerobic performance'.
Furthermore, in 1993, female Chinese runners achieved world records in the 1500m, 3,000m, and the 10,000m. How did they manage such a feat? By taking supplemental Cordyceps, or so they claimed. While there will always be more need for research, a small UCLA study tried to study the effects of Cordyceps on fatigue, (look at the study here). What did they find?
"These findings support the belief, long held in China, that Cordyceps sinensis has the potential to improve exercise capacity and resistance to fatigue."
Not bad! You too can become a record-breaking runner in the 1500m, 3000m and 10,000m and all you have to do is take Cordyceps and radically change your lifestyle to train 6 days a week, 7 hours a day. Good luck.
Watch below to hear Paul Stamets talk about cordyceps.
Mushrooms have evolved to help us heal, maintain health and prevent disease. What is it about fungus that always wants to help us foolish humans overcome large feats? Why are they so diverse in their functions, yet so effective at the same time? We'll never know, but as long as they're here and willing to help, we should take full advantage of their special abilities.
Want to know more about mushrooms and how they can help save the world? Check out Paul Stamets' book here.
And if you would like to purchase some mushrooms for your health, you can find the famous products below. I don't go a day without my mushroom fix, and Paul Stamets is where I get my supply.
So many mushrooms, so little time
If you are looking for whole body support and preventative care, I suggest taking the 'Comprehensive Immune Support', or the 'Stamets 7'. I personally take the Myco Botanicals Women, to help support healthy 'female' tissues, if you know what I mean. However, you literally can't go wrong with any of these products, because if you have read this far, you understand each mushroom has the ability to help with a variety of things. I've put together a small list of which supplements you should be taking for certain ailments.
Autoimmune disorsders: Comprehensive immune support, Stamets 7 or Reishi
Prevention: Comprehensive Immune Support, Stamets 7 or Woman (to help support healthy breast tissue).
Breast Cancer Support: Turkey Tail
Chronic Bronchitis: Reishi
Liver Health: MycoBotanicals Liver (pretty straightforward).
I didn't cover every mushroom around, but if you are looking for some delicious, nutritious recipes for Maitake (another health powerhouse), shiitake (healthy again) or even button mushrooms, go here for a ridiculously easy recipe.
Like what you read? Please share and pass along. Have any ideas for a new blog post? E-mail me! I'll try (almost) everything once!