Last week I was so sick that it felt like my brain was slowly leaking out of my head through my nose. I’ve had a jar of lingzhi, or powdered reishi mushroom, sitting on my kitchen counter for months, but I never felt like I was sick enough to have any until then. After one glass of “tea” and a night of decent sleep, I felt better than after anything else I tried. My sinuses cleared, my nose dried up, the headache at the back of my neck went away, and the only thing left was the scratchiness in my throat.
I’d heard of lingzhi before, as my dad started drinking it daily a few years ago, but never really understood, or believed, it’s magical properties until now. As a child growing up in a Chinese family, it’s not uncommon to be exposed to all sorts of esoteric appendages and vegetation, but nothing was as revered as the reishi mushroom, not even ginseng. It turns out that it has a history as the oldest mushroom to be used in medicine over 4000 years ago, and peasants were once executed for consuming such a valuable resource as it was reserved exclusively for the emperor and his family.
As described in Wikipedia:
Lingzhi is anti-tumor, immunomodulating and immunotherapeutic. It is also adaptogenic, anti-allergin and anti-hypertensive due to the presence of triterpenes. Apart from these properties, lingzhi has also been found to be anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, anti-diabetic, anti-hypotensive, and hepatoprotective. It has also been found to inhibit platelet aggregations, and to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
It makes me quite proud to have such a significant substance as a part of my cultural history, a little secret known only to those lucky enough. Perhaps I may feel the same way about tiger penises some day.
The only downside is the taste. I’m sure it’s nothing like eating cockroaches on Fear Factor, but it’s definitely a play on the palate that takes a bit of getting used to. The smell reminds me of the musty scent of old, dried, golden coloured lumber, that’s crumbly and falling apart. This comes as no surprise, as it only grows on the trunks of dead trees. Even though it comes in (clumpy) powder form, it doesn’t exactly dissolve in water. At all. The picture of the mug is after a good stir and five minutes of settling. For some reason, half of it sinks and half of it floats. I tried to describe it to John, and the best I could come up with is that somehow it’s an entire glass of dregs.