About Brad Matthews, D.TCM

Dr Brad Matthews is a registered doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, practicing in North Vancouver, BC, since 2000. A competitive triathlete since 2012, he’s an expert in the treatment of acute and chronic pain, with training in herbal medicine, acupuncture, acupoint injection therapies and prolotherapy.

Red Reishi and the Endurance Athlete

I’m what could be called a late bloomer. That is, it wasn’t until I was well into my 40’s that I decided a pursuit of triathlons would be a fun thing to do. Problem was, as someone with a generally athletic lifestyle my whole life, I had no idea about the demands of endurance sports such as triathlon. I certainly couldn’t fathom swimming 3.8 km, cycling 180 km, and running 42 km all in the SAME DAY! That’s definitely the epitome of endurance.

When discussing athletic endurance, we are talking about the ability to sustain prolonged exercise – sometimes for many hours or even days, which demands optimal efficiency from our respiratory, circulatory, and immune systems. Like many things in life, as endurance athletes (or aspiring endurance athletes), we can train our cardiovascular systems to function more efficiently to optimize endurance.

Understanding our Energy Systems

The body creates energy in two different ways: anaerobic, and aerobic.

  • Anaerobic energy is created when the body burns sugars (carbohydrates) in the absence of enough oxygen to fuel the muscles. This would occur in exercises such as sprinting, track cycling, and weight-lifting. In the absence of enough oxygen to fully convert the sugars to carbon dioxide and water, the body will produce lactic acid which will accelerate the break-down of the muscles, and increase fatigue.
  • Aerobic energy occurs when the body uses oxygen to convert sugars, fats, and proteins, into energy. Examples would include walking, or sustained efforts of running or cycling. Strenuous, sprint-type efforts will trigger the body to switch to the anaerobic system to provide the energy requirements needed. The goal of the endurance athlete is to remain in the aerobic domain for as long as possible, in order to slow the build-up of lactic acid.

When training for endurance events, the objective needs to be to do most of your training below 85% of your maximum heart rate. This will keep the energy system in the aerobic range and result in less lactic acid build-up and therefore less muscle fatigue and soreness. This approach will also allow for quicker post-workout recovery times which is essential for endurance athletes.

Diet and Endurance

Diet is one of the most confusing subjects out there. Some say eat no fat, some say only fat. There’s the no-carb camp, and the raw food camp. There are vegans, vegetarians, frugivores, omnivores, and more. It’s very confusing. In traditional Chinese medicine, we would say that the “best” diet is a balanced diet of whole foods, naturally in-season, plant-based (which does not mean no animal products, but rather the plant portion should be the majority portion), and primarily cooked. This balanced approach rings true in the book “The Endurance Diet”. Endurance coach Matt Fitzgerald analyzed the diets of elite endurance athletes of 25 countries, and determined that there are six basic categories of natural whole foods: vegetables (including legumes); fruits; nuts, seeds, and healthy oils; unprocessed meat and seafood; whole grains; and dairy. The overwhelming majority of elite endurance athletes regularly consume all six of these.1 The reason they do so is that a balanced, varied, and inclusive diet is needed to supply the body with everything it needs nutritionally to handle the stress of hard training and to derive the maximum benefit from workouts.

Japanese Red Reishi

The health benefits of this amazing fungi have been recognized by practitioners of traditional medicines of China, Japan, and other Asian countries for over 2000 years. In recent years, it has been heavily studied, and in an Italian study regarding its effects on high-level cyclists, researchers found that after three months of supplementation, the testosterone/cortisol ratio changed in a statistically significant manner, thereby protecting the athletes from nonfunctional overreaching and overtraining syndrome.2 In a Spanish study regarding the effects on fitness in women with fibromyalgia, researchers determined that red reishi might be a useful dietary supplement to enhance physical performance of the patients suffering from fibromyalgia.”3 In yet another study, red reishi was used in football players training at high altitude, where the effects of hypoxia and training tend to deplete the immune system. The results of the studied showed that red reishi had an ability to stimulate t-cells in athletes training in high altitudes, and thus optimize an otherwise taxed immune system.4 In addition to these amazing benefits, it is also an adaptogenic herb that helps combat the effects of stress.

Endurance athletes require a great deal from their bodies. A combination of how to train, what to eat, and supplementation with high-quality Japanese Red Reishi can be the difference between surviving and thriving in the endurance sports world.

Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine – are they really that different?

Medical systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda have evolved over thousands of years and the two share many similarities. Both utilize five element systems as a means of diagnosing and prognosticating various diseases. Ayurveda stresses a balance of the three elemental energies of Vāyu / Vāta, pitta, and kapha, and TCM stresses the balance of three energies of Yin, Yang, and Qi. Both systems consider that the relative balance of these three substances is fundamental to health. When disease occurs, both systems stress the use of plant-based medicines and treatments.

In TCM, there are thousands of herbal medicines. Common examples include red reishi, and ginseng. Red reishi is the Japanese name for ganoderma lucidum, a medicinal mushroom that was described in Chinese medicine classics as a “plant of immortality”. Modern research indicates it has anti-tumor properties, and potent immune-boosting properties, making it an excellent herb for the upcoming cold and flu season.

Studies show that red reishi boosts the immune system by raising the amount of macrophages and T-cells. This immune-boosting action not only helps to protect from cold and flu viruses but also works wonders in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Usage of reishi to fight cancer is so positive that the Japanese government officially recognizes it as a cancer treatment.

There are numerous other benefits of reishi. The lanostan in reishi acts as a natural antihistamine, and may provide relief for allergy sufferers. How about arthritis and chronic pain? Dr. William B. Stavinhoa, University of Texas Health Science Center found that reishi is as powerful as five milligrams of hydrocortisone, but with minimal side effects.

Managing Stress the Natural Way

Stress. Let’s face it, every single one of us is affected by stress in our lives. The term “stress”, as it is currently used was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand”¹. He was also the first scientist to identify ‘stress’ as underpinning the nonspecific signs and symptoms of illness. “Nonspecific” symptoms such as “looking tired”, “having no appetite”, or “losing weight”. In reality, recognizing stress symptoms can be really difficult, because many of us are so used to being stressed, we may not even recognize it until we are at the breaking point.

Most of us have been led to believe that stress is harmful to our health, and the truth is, depending on the source quoted, stress or stress-related ailments account for somewhere between 75-90% of all visits to a physician. Stress has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, muscle tension, menstrual irregularities, fatigue, obesity, depression, anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and a plethora of other conditions. These are some sobering statistics.

Change Your Mind About Stress
Did you also know that your own perception of stress could directly influence how stress affects you? It’s true. In a US study of the effects of stress on 30,000 adults over an 8-year period², there were some pretty surprising results. Study participants were asked two questions:

  1. How much stress did you experience in the last year?
  2. Do you believe stress is harmful for your health?

Then they looked at public death records in the following year, and they determined that people who had experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% increased risk of death. But, perhaps most interesting, was that the increased risk of dying was only true for those who also believed stress was harmful to their health. By contrast, people who experienced a lot of stress but also didn’t view stress as harmful were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study – including those with relatively little stress! And, over the 8 years the researchers conducted the study, they estimated 182,000 people died prematurely, NOT from stress, but from the BELIEF that stress is harmful to their health.

The new science of stress is that how you think about stress makes a huge difference in how stress affects you, and this was proved in a Harvard study³. During a normal stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises, and your vessels constrict. Participants in the Harvard study were taught to view these responses as good things: and guess what? The blood vessels stayed relaxed, similar to the cardiovascular profile seen during times of joy or courage! Wow! Stress is really just nature’s way of telling you you’ve gotten ready to act. It is how you protect yourself. This is a good thing! Changing your mind about stress, really will change how stress affects you.

Try Some Japanese Red Reishi
The health benefits of this amazing fungi have been recognized by practitioners of traditional medicines of China, Japan, and other Asian countries for over 2000 years. The ancient Chinese referred to it as a “Plant of Immortality”, so highly regarded it was for health and longevity. It’s an extremely potent adaptogen, meaning it’s non-toxic, it normalizes physiologic function, and it helps the body adapt naturally to the effects of stress, fatigue, trauma, and anxiety. Red reishi is rich in triterpenes which are the compounds believed to result in lipid-lowering and antioxidant effects. Triterpenes are what give the herb its distinct bitter taste, and in Chinese medicine, the bitter flavour is said to enter the heart, and thus can calm and relax the mind. Given what’s been said above about changing our minds about stress, an adaptogenic herb like red reishi, with its potent ability to induce a state of calm relaxation, is the perfect ally to combat stress.

It’s 2:37 am. Why Aren’t You Sleeping?

It’s 2:37 am. I’m normally a good sleeper. Not tonight, though. It’s been one of those nights — that I’m certain we all have. Tonight, my mind Just. Won’t. Stop. Thinking. It’s 2:37 am, and my thoughts?

“Octopus. OCT-O-PUS. Octo-pus. That’s a weird word. Octopus. I wonder if animals know that they have names?”

Sleep. It’s something we all need, and something that many people have a difficult time achieving. Insomnia, characterized as dissatisfaction with sleep, difficulties initiating or maintaining sleep, along with substantial distress and impairments of daytime functioning, is not only unpleasant, it’s unhealthy.¹ Chronic and persistent insomnia has been associated with adverse health outcomes, such as reduced quality of life, and negative impacts on the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems resulting in obesity, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, depression, and excessive alcohol use, to name a few.²

If you suffer from insomnia, you’re not alone. Nighttime insomnia symptoms in persons aged 18 and older increased by 42% over the eight-year period 2007-2015.³ In reality, that means that almost one-quarter of Canadian adults are not sleeping well. Think about that: 25% of adults are dissatisfied with their sleep. That’s not good, so what can we do about it?

Sleep Hygiene

Quite simply, this talks about sleep habits, and a few simple tips can help.

  • Keep a regular bedtime and waking schedule. Nowadays we have apps that can remind us when bedtime is approaching, and this can be very helpful if routine is something you struggle with.
  • Avoid napping.
  • If you find your mind racing, don’t stay awake in bed for more than a few minutes. Get up, maybe find a chair and sit quietly in the dark until your mind begins to quiet. Do NOT check Twitter, open a book, turn on the lights or TV. Just remain quietly in the dark. If you tend to constantly stare at the clock, then hide the clock.
  • Avoid caffeine. Should be obvious, but it should be noted that the effects of caffeine can last several hours, so just don’t do it.
  • Drugs (including some over-the-counter medications), cigarettes, and alcohol can all impair sleep.
  • Bedrooms should be dark and comfortable.
  • Exercise


Some foods may be beneficial for those who have difficulty with sleep. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, as well as chick peas, are high in vitamin B6, which can be helpful to increase the body’s production of melatonin, the sleep promoting hormone. As well, the Omega 3 fatty acids combined with the vitamin D in fatty fish can stimulate increased serotonin production, which is a sleep-promoting brain chemical. Potassium / magnesium -rich foods such as bananas and almonds are natural muscle-relaxants. Magnesium, may help reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone that can interrupt sleep). Foods that are high in calcium like cruciferous vegetables such as kale, collard greens, broccoli, as well as yogurt may be beneficial, as lack of calcium has been shown to have a link to sleep difficulties. Finally, while getting somewhat of a “bad rap” these days, moderate amounts of carbohydrates – particularly whole grains – can actually help boost serotonin in the brain.

Mindfulness Practices and Acupuncture

In a study published in “JAMA Internal Medicine” a few years ago, 49 middle-aged and older adults who had difficulty sleeping were divided into two groups. Half completed a mindfulness and meditation training program, while the other half received education in proper sleep hygiene. At the end of the six-week study, the participants in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression than the participants in the sleep hygiene group.⁴

Acupuncture has also been shown to have positive effects for sleep difficulty. It is one of the most commonly-used methods of treating insomnia in China, and in a study of 46 randomized trials involving 3811 patients, acupuncture was shown to be effective in the treatment of insomnia.⁵

Japanese Red Reishi

The health benefits of this amazing fungi have been recognized by practitioners of traditional medicines of China, Japan, and other Asian countries for over 2000 years. Ganoderma lucidum (red reishi) polysaccharides exhibit a broad range of bioactivities, including anti-inflammatory (think arthritis), hypoglycemic (think diabetes), anti-ulcer, anti-tumour, and immunostimulation.vi Rich in triterpenes which are the compounds believed to result in lipid-lowering and antioxidant effects, this is what gives the herb its distinct bitter taste. In Chinese medicine, the bitter flavour is said to enter the heart, and thus can calm and relax the mind. An adaptogenic herb that helps combat the effects of stress, red reishi has been used for hundreds of years to treat anxiety, insomnia, weakened immune system and more, and modern studies indicate that certain cytokines in the herb may be responsible for its sleep-promoting effects.⁶

Sleep difficulties and insomnia affect a significant proportion of the Canadian population. In many cases, using an herb such as Japanese red reishi, in combination with healthy lifestyle choices outlined above, can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and a sleepless night.

Let’s Talk About Depression

Emotional “ups and downs” are a normal part of life and are experienced by everyone. Most of us feel temporarily down when things aren’t going our way, such as in the case of the break-up of a relationship, or the loss of a job. True depression, or “major depression” describes the situation where feelings of hopelessness and/or worthlessness last for a period of more than 2 months.

It is the most commonly experienced mental health disorder among Canadians, and the most unfortunate thing is that it can have serious and sometimes fatal results. The good news is that for most people depression can be treated effectively.

Causes of Depression

There is no single cause of depression, but there are certain risk-factors that can predispose an individual to it. Things like the death or illness of a spouse, friend or family member, job or relationship dissatisfaction, addictions, financial stress, chronic medical conditions, or prior major depressive episodes have all shown to be factors in development of depression.

Recovery from Depression

Remember, depression is an illness that can be treated, and for many the first step in the recovery process is to recognize that it is an illness, not a sign of personal weakness. You are not alone, and help is available. Most importantly, if you or someone you know is having recurring thoughts of suicide, it’s very important that they get medical help immediately.

Talk to People

We are all fantastically individual and unique, and there are therefore many different approaches to recovery. One of the best? Talk. For depression, one of the most common and successful treatments is psychological counseling. But please TALK. Talk to family, friends, co-workers and others. There are also self-help groups that can make a big difference in how well and how quickly a person with depression recovers. Please. Just. Talk.


Exercise releases endorphins in the blood stream. These are the “feel good” chemicals that can improve mood. A Harvard Medical School report found that “exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression, (and) may also play a supporting role in treating severe depression.”. There is no universally-agreed to level of exercise, but most agree that at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise such as a vigorous walk on most days will do wonders for our emotional health. Not only that, but moderate physical activity produces risk-free benefits for people with depression without harmful side-effects. It’s a total win!

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids (EFA), also known as omega-3 fatty acids, or simply fish oils, are highly concentrated in the brain and are important for cognitive and behavioral function. They are called “essential” which means your body can’t make them and you have to get them through your food such as salmon, halibut, anchovy, sardine, krill, some plants, and nut oils. While it’s true that research is inconclusive on whether taking omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve depression symptoms, we do know that symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include mood swings and depression. Several studies show that people who took omega-3 fatty acids in addition to prescription antidepressants had a greater improvement in symptoms than those who took antidepressants alone.

Japanese Red Reishi

One of the Superior Herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, red reishi is a mushroom that has sometimes been called the “Medicine of Kings” owing to the fact that in ancient China it was so rare and valuable that it’s use was reserved for the Emperor. It’s an extremely potent adaptogen. An adaptogen, by definition, is a non-toxic substance that normalizes physiologic function. Basically, it helps the body adapt naturally to the effects of stress, fatigue, trauma, and anxiety. In traditional Chinese medicine, red reishi has a strong ability to calm the mind, returning it to a more balanced state, and helps people to feel calm and happy. That’s one great mushroom!


Another potent adaptogen (and another fungus), cordyceps also has a long-standing history of use in Chinese medicine, and can be another great herb to combat the effects of depression. Grief, in Chinese medicine, affects the lungs, and the cordyceps herb has a particular affinity to the lungs. Much like red reishi, cordyceps has a very calming, relaxing effect on the nervous system. A Chinese study found that cordyceps has an ability to inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MOA). Drugs that inhibit MOA are routinely employed to treat depression, which suggests that cordyceps could also be useful in treatment.

Depression is a very serious mental health issue that affects many of us. Persons having recurring thoughts of suicide need to seek immediate medical advice. In addition, TALK, exercise, essential fatty acids, and red reishi or cordyceps could be incredibly valuable on your road to recovery.

Red Reishi & the Immune System

“I’ve heard that red reishi is commonly used in herbal medicine to support the immune system. How does it work?”

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), red reishi (ganoderma lucidum) is classified as an herb that strengthens your Qi, or vital energy. For thousands of years, it has been prized for its ability to balance energy levels, reduce the negative effects of stress, and support the immune system. But how does it work?

The “immune system” is a western medicine term, and is not expressly identified in classic TCM. However, we do know that the functions attributed to the western concept of the immune system are in TCM mainly related to the functions of the wei qi (Defensive Qi), which is a product of the healthy functioning of the lungs, kidney, and spleen. Red reishi has a very strong ability to optimize the functioning of the heart, lungs, liver, kidney, and pancreas, and it is precisely for this reason that it helps to support and optimize the immune system. Modern day research has suggested the ancient Chinese were right about the immune support functions of red reishi. Studies have shown that the potent polysaccharides contained in the fruiting body of the mushroom actually raise the amount of macrophages and T-cells in the blood. Macrophages and T-cells are critical players in the immune system, as their role is essentially to ingest foreign pathogens that invade the body. So regardless of whether we are talking about the qi of the lungs, kidney, and spleen, or the stimulation of macrophage and T-cell production, red reishi has a potent ability to support immune function.