Most plants are fairly easy to prepare in terms of medicine–you can either tincture them, use them fresh, or create a tea or something similar. Reishi, the most incredible healing mushroom, requires a bit more preparation than a standard tincture to extract all of the medicinal benefits.
This post will describe the method for getting the most out of the reishi mushroom commonly found on Eastern Hemlocks in forests in the midwest and eastern US. This extraction method would work with any reishi mushroom, including those you would purchase or wildcraft. To understand what we need to extract the mushroom’s healing properties, we have to understand where it derives its healing.
This link has a wonderful overview to the Reishi’s medicinal properties and the research that has been done (this link is on Ganoderma Lucidium, but research done on Ganoderma Tsugae suggets the same compounds are present). In a nutshell, Reishi is a mushroom that can aid in a long and healthy life for a number of reasons: it has anti-cancer/anti-tumor properties that essentially prevent the creation of cancerous cells and tag the existing cancerous cells to allow the body to combat them; it has anti-aging properties, is anti-inflammatory, lowers blood pressure, protects the liver, protects DNA, and so much more. Reishi basically heals through three kinds of known compounds:
- Polysaccharies, which are extracted by water.
- Triterpenoids, which are extracted by glycerine or alcohol.
- Unique antioxidant properties to the peptide protein, also extracted by alcohol (not sure about glycerine?).
So, looking at this list, we understand the nature of the problem: Reishi needs both a water and an alcohol extraction, and we also want to preserve it long term. How do we manage that? Using a double-extraction:
1. If you are starting with fresh, wildharvested reishi, begin by cut your reishi into small pieces and drying it. Because the water content of the end double-extraction matters, starting with dried rather than fresh reishi allows you to easily know how much water is in the final product. If you use fresh reishi, you won’t know the water content in the alcohol.
Obviously, if you have purchased reishi, you can skip this step, as its already dried and ready for you. Make sure you cut it up though, if its whole.
2. Tincture your reishi in high proof spirits (I use 190 proof, 95% alcohol, when I can). The proof of the alcohol does matter (see my comments below)–get the highest you can. Tincture your reishi for at least a month. I usually don’t worry about ratios for this–I just fill the jar with reishi and then top it off with alcohol. The reishi will expand, taking on the little bit of water content in the alchohol, so keep this in mind.
3. After a month has passed, press your tincture out (there’s a LOT of alcohol held up in those mushroom bits!). And yes, I just found this AMAZING small fruit press at a flea market that I’m using for my new tincture press! I also have instructions on how to make a Under $30 tincture press on the blog.
4. Now, you need to decoct (that is, make a very strong tea over a period of days) the reishi mushrooms that you just tinctured. To do this, after I press them, I add them to my crock pot with fresh spring water or distilled water and keep them on low for three days, checking the water level often.
5. I let them mixture cool, pour off most of the liquid, and then press the decoction so that I get every last drop. This is also really important because you’ll lose a lot of the good medicine if you don’t press. You will likely have more liquid than you need for the tincture–you can freeze this, add it to tea, etc. Its going to be super concentrated!
6. Finally, you need to combine your water and alcohol into one jar and complete the double-extraction. This requires some math, but its not too hard once you wrap your head around it. This home distillation calculator will be invaluable to you during this last step.
This is where the proof of the alcohol critically matters–you have to add the right amount of the reishi decoction to the reishi tincture to get 40% alcohol or above (it will be preserved at that ratio indefinitely).
The proof of the alcohol in the USA is twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. This means that an 80 proof drink is 40% alcohol; a 100 proof spirit is 50% alcohol; a 150 is 75% alcohol, and a 190 is 95% alcohol. Its critically important to know what the alcohol content is when you are doing the double extraction, because your goal is to end up with a 40%-50% alcohol tincture after you add your reishi decoction in water.
I recommend using a 190 proof alcohol to decoct your reishi, because this makes the math VERY easy. When you add a mixture of half tincture and half decoction, you end up with 40% alcohol, exactly what you want for a long-lasting tincture.
Now, not everyone has access to such a strong proof alcohol depending on the state where you live. Most people can get 150 proof, at least, however. If that’s the case, you just need to get to 40%, which means less water and more alcohol. For example, an alcoholic tincture at the 150 proof (75%) means you can add 40% water to the alcohol and still end up above proof.
So once you’ve done that–congratulations! You now have one of the most healing substances! It tastes just like reishi mushroom! I take mine every day :).