On Saturday I had a fantastic opportunity to learn about medicinal mushrooms from one of the UK’s leading experts, Jesper Launder, a mycologist and medical herbalist.
The day began in the classroom in the middle of the Forest of Dean and a room full of herbalists and mushroom enthusiasts were already excited just by looking at the display in front of us (pictured right).
We were soon put to work foraging for mushrooms in the surrounding area. We found some fantastic species, many medicinal, some edible and some poisonous.
The first medicinal species that we concentrated on was turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), which we were very lucky to find and several closely related species. Turkey tail is being used clinically to
combat the side effects of chemotherapy.
In the afternoon session we all set to make learning how to process the medicinal mushrooms and make them into medicines (always my favourite bit). Turkey tail is certainly a precious medicine as the steps to make it into a medicine are extensive! Firstly you dry the mushroom, then break it up into large pieces. Then the dried mushroom is ground to a coarse powder. The powder is then mixed with the appropriate amount of water for the dosage required and boiled for 8 hours. The mixture is then strained and mixed with 90% alcohol in the appropriate amounts for the dosage required. Phew!
The second medicinal mushroom we focused on was chaga (Inonotus obliquus), a rare birch wood fungus. Unfortunately we didn’t find any on our foraging walk but Jesper had brought some with him for us to try. Chaga is currently being used specifically for brain tumours but it is also used for inflammatory skin conditions.
The third medicinal mushroom we studied was artist’s bracket (Ganoderma applanatum) (pictured left). A much more common species and one related to reishi. Artist’s bracket has many uses including fire lighting and making paper. Medicinally it has antiviral effects and boosts the immune system.
There were many more species to learn and taste and we could have easily spent several days walking in the woods and discovering the delights of British fungi.
I will certainly be incorporating medicinal mushrooms into my clinic, and my confidence in identifying mushrooms has definitely grown so you will probably find I’m talking about them at my next year’s herb walks.