About Melissa Carr, D.TCM

Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others.

5 Reasons Why Reishi Mushrooms Are Great for Your Pets

Dogs and cats aren’t just pets, they are part of the family. If you’re anything like me, you’d do just about anything under the sun to make sure they are healthy and happy. Ever wonder if there are any supplements out there that can support your fur baby’s health and longevity? Great news! Medicinal mushrooms offer up a treasure trove of benefits, not just for you, but for your pets too. Here are five ways that reishi mushrooms can help keep your lovable pup or cuddly kitten on the path of wellness.

1. Fend Off Cancer

China and Japan have used reishi mushrooms to treat cancer for centuries. According to a study in Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, the triterpene compounds found in reishi mushrooms have numerous medicinal benefits, including anti-cancer properties. These medicinal mushrooms also contain beta glucans—complex sugars known to influence the immune system.

There is some evidence to suggest that reishi can stop cancer growth and shrink tumours. Additionally, research has demonstrated reishi’s ability to help prevent secondary cancer and decrease side effects from chemo or radiation.

2. Support Your Pet’s Liver Health

Just like in humans, a healthy liver is vital to the wellbeing of your pet. Fortunately, this miracle mushroom is rich in antioxidants that fortify, detoxify, and protect the liver against free radicals that can slow down proper function. Taking reishi can bolster the liver, regenerate liver cells, and improve liver detoxification. In research performed on rats, reishi was shown to reverse liver fibrosis.

3. Manage Diabetes

If your pet is struggling with diabetes, reishi may be able to help. These mushrooms have been shown to help manage diabetes. Researchers also found that these mushrooms can prevent or delay diabetes-related kidney problems.

Additionally, a common side effect of diabetes is that wounds can take longer to heal. Because reishi is rich in antioxidants, it may even help speed wound healing.

4. Strengthen Heart Health

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, reishi helps calm the nervous system and is a powerful cardiovascular tonic. Reishi increases the amount of blood delivered to the heart and improves its oxygen delivery. As a result, blood flows more easily and the heart isn’t put under as much stress. Reishi has also been found to lower blood pressure and alleviate heart arrhythmia.

5. Slow Aging

We all want to keep our furry friends with us for as long as possible, and reishi may help slow down the aging process.

In a mouse study, the bioactive components in reishi were found to prolong mouse lives and reduce their mortality risks. Reishi may also delay the gradual decline of immunity that occurs with age.

This supplement’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can help prevent and even keep cognitive decline at bay. Furthermore, it can ease arthritic issues associated with aging joints.

It may sound impossible that a fungus can have this many effects, but many of reishi’s health benefits come from the fact that it is an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens are natural substances that help the body adapt to stressors, normalizing the body’s processes and bringing it back to balance.

If you’re looking to add reishi to your pet’s health regime, speak to a holistic veterinarian for dosing specifics.

Six Amazing Health Benefits of Red Reishi

For centuries, medical practitioners in East Asia have used reishi mushroom because of this its long list of therapeutic pluses. But only recently has awareness about this highly revered superfood reached the shores of the western world. So, why is red reishi gaining so much popularity around the globe? Today, we want to dive a little deeper into the amazing health benefits of this miraculous medicinal mushroom.

Increase calm and reduce anxiety

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), reishi is known as ling zhi, or the “herb of spiritual potency.” When a person feels anxious, depressed, manic, or agitated, or suffers from a mental illness, TCM practitioners may describe this as the spirit or “Shen” being out of balance.

Reishi is categorized in its materia medica of herbal medicines as an herb that helps “calm the Shen.” As such, it can help calm the nervous system during times of stress, without causing sleepiness. So, you can still go ahead with operating large machinery (e.g. driving) when you take reishi, unlike some sedative herbs. In fact, reishi mushrooms are also considered “Qi tonics,” loosely meaning they can improve energy.

Stress comes in a number of forms. It includes physical stressors like extremes in temperature, lack of nutrients, insufficient restorative sleep, infection, or disease. Stressors can also be mental and emotional ones like loss of a loved one, loneliness, fear, worry, anger, frustration, being overwhelmed, depression, and more. It is no wonder why this medical mushroom is the go-to tonic in TCM.

Boost the immune system

No matter the time of year, colds and flus are always a concern. One of the most beneficial effects of consuming reishi mushroom is its ability to support the immune system. The beta glucans, compounds found in this holistic herb, have been shown to promote a healthy immune response to fend off diseases and infections.

Fight off cancer

While so much surrounding the cause of cancer remains a mystery, fortunately, great strides have been made in treatment options, including reishi mushrooms. Studies have shown that including reishi mushroom supplementation renders conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments more effective at killing cancer cells. 3 Furthermore, the study groups who received reishi reported that their quality of life after these powerful conventional cancer treatments was higher than the control group who did not receive reishi during their treatments.

Further studies have shown promise with inhibiting the growth of cancer cell lines, potentially preventing cancer from developing. 2,6 Thus, reishi mushroom may be helpful as both a supportive therapy and also a preventative one for cancer.

Promote liver health

The liver plays a crucial role in eliminating toxins. So, if you want to ensure your liver is working in peak performance, consider giving reishi a try. Studies have demonstrated that triterpenes found in reishi has been shown to prevent free radical damage and support healthy liver function. 6

Keep allergies at bay

If you are looking for a more natural way to manage allergies, take reishi. Studies have revealed that the compounds found in Japanese red reishi are an effective treatment for allergies 5 and other respiratory ailments. Researchers also detected that the ganoderic acids found in this herb act as a natural antihistamine.

Reduce cardiovascular risks

Did you know that reishi mushrooms can help lower blood pressure? The ganoderic acid in reishi is responsible for a variety of heart health benefits, from decreasing high blood pressure 4 and reducing excessive cholesterol levels to lowering the risk of dangerous blood clotting. There is also evidence to suggest that this mushroom can improve blood flow and reduce plaque build-up on artery walls. 1

Choosing Reishi Supplements

When it comes to reishi mushrooms, the advantages of using this natural medicinal wonder are far too many to ignore. But it’s equally important to make sure you are getting a quality product with the medicinal compounds that your body can use.

  1. Firstly, if you are only getting the mycelium (root-like structure) found in some reishi supplements, you are missing out on the ganoderic acids and other useful compounds found in the fruiting body (cap and stem).
  2. Second, if you are getting a supplement that has only ground up the mushroom and is not an extraction, then you are unlikely to be able to absorb many of the important compounds, and those compounds are also not going to be in sufficient quantities to have true medicinal value.
  3. Third, a quality reishi mushroom is one that is grown cleanly in a high-nutrition foundation and allowed to sufficiently mature.

Why You Should Protect Your Skin and How to Do It

Your skin—it protects you, so protect it. With summer just around the corner, you’ll want to do everything under the sun (wearing a big hat, of course) to shield your skin from the harsh elements. With a little preventative care and some helpful habits, you can safeguard your skin from damage, keeping it healthy and looking and feeling great for years to come.

There’s no doubt about it, when it comes to getting your vitamin D fix, nothing quite compares to the sun. But as with everything in life, a little too much of a good thing, can be…well, not so good.

The sun produces two kinds of skin-ravaging rays—ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). While both of the terrible twins can cause cancer, UVA can reduce the elasticity of your skin, cause wrinkles and liver spots, with UVB doing its own number on your skin, causing sunburn and dryness.

Sun damage can creep up on you. Over time, prolonged exposure can wreak havoc on your skin that can not only create noticeable changes to the skin, but also lead to serious and deadly diseases.

What can you do to protect your skin from the sun?

It’s never too late to jump on the skin-protecting bandwagon. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to guard against the damaging effects of the sun. Some of the proactive tips you can do include:

  • Cover up with clothes that have an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF)

  • Wear a wide-brim hat to protect your head, face, and neck

  • Sport sunglasses that protect against UV light

  • Limit your sun exposure time when the sun is at its strongest, between 11am and 3pm

  • Slather on that sunscreen and reapply every two hours

  • Keep tabs on the side effects of any medications you are taking that may increase your sensitivity to sunlight

Take Reishi Mushrooms

Dubbed the “Mushroom of Immortality,” reishi (or Ganoderma lucidum for all you lovers of Latin out there) has been revered for thousands of years by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. This miraculous mushroom is an adaptogen—a fancy way of saying that it can help you adapt to stressors, bringing your body back into balance.


Living is not easy work. Pollutants, toxins, infections, and even just living (breathing and moving) causes cellular damage. Our bodies are constantly working to mend this damage, but over time, the amount of new cellular injury exceeds the amount of repair.

Reishi can help in a few ways. For one, red reishi is jam-packed with antioxidants, helping to reverse some of the oxidative stress that injured the cells in the first place. By taking this mighty mushroom, you can help protect your body from some of the harmful effects of free radicals that contribute to aging and skin damage.

Reishi also has anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it can help reduce skin-inflammation issues, including acne, wounds, blemishes, and swelling.

Additionally, reishi contains compounds that can help boost the immune system, helping to prevent cancer cell growth, while other compounds support the liver, playing an important role in detoxification.

While you can’t actually slow down the hands of time or stop aging, reishi has cell-protective benefits that can contribute to smooth, radiant-looking, and—most importantly—healthy skin.

Taking Japanese red reishi mushroom capsules is just one more way to protect your skin. You might also consider Mitsuwa’s reishi body cream to keep your skin moisturized and looking healthy

The Amazing Health Benefits of Reishi for Your Dog

A couple of years ago, we noticed our precious little girl—a sweet, now 12-year-old dog named Hana—was having a difficult time breathing and was frequently coughing.

We took her to our veterinarian, and after running a bunch of tests, Hana was ultimately diagnosed with a weak heart valve, enlarged heart, and collapsed trachea. Her breed is also prone to congestive heart failure.

The news was shocking and heartbreaking, to say the least.

Ever since then, I’ve been doing everything under the sun to make Hana’s conditions more manageable and slow its progression. If you’re anything like me, there is nothing you wouldn’t try to help ease your fur baby’s suffering and boost their quality of life.

I started using reishi mushrooms a while back to keep my immune system strong, fend off fatigue, and manage stress—this fantastic fungus isn’t called “the mushroom of immortality” for nothing. Reishi mushrooms have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for their many health boosting properties.

This got me thinking…

Can reishi mushrooms offer health benefits for dogs too?

While most studies about medicinal mushrooms are for use on humans, some veterinarians are now prescribing mushrooms like reishi to their animal patients for a wide range of reasons, including supporting cancer treatment, liver health, kidney health, heart health, immune support, blood sugar regulation, and lowering inflammation.

Here’s why.

Packed with nutrients, reishi mushrooms are renowned worldwide for their medicinal properties. These mushrooms contain an array of interesting and heath-supporting compounds, including beta glucans and ganoderic acids called triterpenes that are shown to regulate the immune system and help protect against cancer.

Reishi Mushrooms also contain antioxidants, including zinc, vitamin C, and selenium. These antioxidants help nourish, detoxify, and protect the liver, as well as fight free radicals that can compromise liver functioning.

If your pet suffers from diabetes, reishi mushrooms may be able to help manage this disease. Powerful compounds found in these mushrooms have been shown to reduce blood sugar and help control glucose levels.

Finally, and most importantly for my Hana, reishi mushrooms may help support heart health by boosting blood supply and oxygen delivery to the heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the red reishi mushrooms, in particular, are said to support heart health. Classified in the TCM textbooks as calming the nervous system, they also help my Hana settle down, as getting too excited puts too much stress on her body.

One of the big benefits of medicinal mushrooms like reishi mushroom is that they appear to be extremely safe. Occasional side effects could include mild digestive upset, skin rash, or dry mouth, but they resolve after discontinuing. It’s also important to talk to your veterinarian about your animal, especially if they have complex health conditions or are on medications.

What I know is that I feel good including reishi mushrooms in her diet. I sprinkle it on her food and her “sibling’s” (another dog; his name is Kendo) food too because I want them in my life as long and as healthy as possible.

How to Quiet the Mind and Boost Cognitive Clarity

Goals are what move us forward in life. They provide the spark to our dreams and the direction for the first steps to every journey. Goal setting is one of the tools to achieving success, happiness, and yes, wellbeing. But for many people, there is one thing that can constantly get in the way—a distracted mind.

When your brain is restless and stressed out, your thinking becomes muddled and you find it harder to concentrate, remember, and come up with the correct…ummmmm…words. In this state of mind, you can easily lose focus and direction, and that can ultimately move you away from your destination.

But you can fix that.

There are a host of effective relaxation techniques and tips you can use to quiet the mind and boost cognitive clarity.


When your mind starts racing, a great way to reel in your thoughts and stay in the present moment is to breathe. To do this, slowly inhale through your nose for 4 or 5 seconds, then exhale for the same amount of time. Continue to take deep breaths, concentrating on only moving your stomach. You could also try a 4-7-8 count breath practice, breathing in for a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 7, and breathing out for a count of 8. There are many other mind-calming breath practices you could learn and try out if you want more.


Meditation can offer up a variety of healthy benefits for the mind and body. Taking the time to meditate can help you clear away the distractions that are clouding the real inner you. Meditation can be done almost anywhere, though a quieter place is probably easier, and even as little as 10 minutes daily can provide benefits.


Keeping a journal can help you zero in on your goals and stay focused. You will have a record of achievements and roadblocks, making it easier to plan for the days ahead. Writing down the next steps of your goal-setting plan in your journal is an effective and fun way to tell your scattered mind, “Hey, I’m working on this.”

​Reach out to a friend

Having a supportive circle of friends (or one dependable friend) can really come in handy with goal setting. Sharing or “downloading” with that trusted someone can go a long way to helping you process what you are experiencing and feeling. Friends can offer you an influx of new and helpful ideas, help you handle stress, relax your mind, and motivate you to stay focused.

​Take reishi mushrooms

If you want to improve cognitive clarity, Japanese reishi mushrooms can help. The Chinese herbal materia medica (collected knowledge on the therapeutic properties of substances) places reishi mushrooms—called ling zhi—in the “Calm Spirit” category. These soothing mushrooms are Mother Nature’s answer to relaxing the mind and improving concentration. Health practitioners use them for a wide range of calming reasons, including lowering anxiety and managing stress.

Though reishi can also be included in formulas to address insomnia, don’t worry, they aren’t going to knock you out or make you sleepy. In fact, a more tranquil mind can feel clearer and more alert. After all, chasing thoughts around your head is tiring, is it not?

Not only that, but having a frantic, anxious, or overactive mind can put stress on your body, weakening your immune system, impairing your digestion, and lending you less able to repair damaged tissues.

Having a more peaceful mind helps you gain traction on your health goals.

If you are feeling foggy-headed, forgetful, and unmotivated, a Japanese red reishi mushroom supplement (one a day is easy to remember to take!) can help you get back on track, ready to take on your day and your goals.

Summer Colds and Reishi

No one wants to think about viruses and infections in the middle of summer, but you should. After all, the last thing anyone wants to do is to spend their vacation suffering indoors.

It might not be cold and flu season just yet, but it’s never too early (or too late for that matter) to start thinking about reducing the risk of getting sick. Without further ado, here are some healthy living tips that will help keep your body, mind, and spirit humming all year long.

Eat Healthy
Yes, we know. You’ve heard this one a million times before—so, what’s one more time. How well you eat has a huge impact on how your body can handle pathogens. You don’t need to get fancy here either. Stick with the basics. Consume natural (organic if you can) foods, make sure you get a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as good sources of protein and healthy fats.

Wash Your Hands Often
Hey, we’re humans—and as humans, we touch. It’s how we interact, learn, and communicate with the world around us. The problem, however, is that it is also how we come into contact with a host of nasty germs.

If you could manage to keep your hands away from your face, those germs you picked up from touching the elevator button, the change in your wallet, or handle of that door would not have entry to your body. Problem is that the average person touches his or her face about 16 times per hour. Your nose itches, you brush your hair out of your face, you rest your chin on your hand, or worse yet, you chew your nails. Germs, welcome to your body. It’s a hard habit to break, but do your best not to manhandle your face too much.

At the very least, if you want to stay cold and flu-free year-round, do yourself one simple favour by keeping your hands clean.

Sleep Well
Missing out on the occasional good night’s sleep isn’t going to do much harm, but making it a habit sure will. Yes, summer months mean longer days for many of us who are wanting to take full advantage of the sun, the festivals, the barbeques, and the outdoor activities. But irregular sleep patterns wreak havoc on your immune system, opening doors to infection and sickness.

Getting seven to eight hours of good quality downtime helps the body restore itself and stave off harmful bacteria and viruses.

Think Positive
Did you know there is direct correlation between your health and how you think? The mind-body connection is well established, making it an important part of your overall well-being. Practicing yoga, meditation, and visual techniques are all great ways to refocus your mind and release stress.

Take Japanese Red Reishi
Japanese red reishi isn’t known as “The Great Protector” for nothing. This marvelous mushroom has been used for thousands of years for its virus busting abilities. It has powerful adaptogenic and immune-boosting properties that regulate your body’s antibody production, helping protect you from harmful bacteria and viruses the full year round.

Viruses and bacteria don’t take a summer vacation, so taking just one capsule daily of Mikei Japanese red reishi helps keep the immune system supported. Because, as you know, summer colds suck.

How Reishi can Help with Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints that patients don’t tell their doctors about. Many think that it’s just “a sign of aging” or “part of living in the modern world.” Others reason that there’s nothing their doctors can do about it anyway, perhaps because it’s been dismissed in the past. But fatigue can have real and sometimes serious negative impacts on your life.

A symptom of many ailments, fatigue can also cause its own cascade of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms, including compromised immune function, slowed healing, headaches, dizziness, poor judgement and mental functioning, slow reaction time, body pain, irritability, depression, and susceptibility to a wide range of diseases.

If you’re tired of being tired, read on to learn more about how to manage and reduce fatigue using Japanese red reishi mushrooms, also known as the “mushroom of immortality.”

Not enough sleep

When patients tell me they are often tired, the most sensible questions for me to ask first are about their sleep.

  • How many hours of sleep are you getting daily, on average?
  • Do you have problems falling asleep? What about staying asleep?
  • Do you have a regular sleep schedule?
  • Do you wake up still tired?

Though we’ve all been there with an occasional sleepless night, tossing and turning in bed, prolonged insomnia and chronic tiredness can have a negative impact on your health and your wellbeing, including making you a dangerous driver, apt to emotional outbursts, and prone to self-isolation.

If you have insomnia, check out these things you can do to help you get better sleep: “Why Aren’t You Sleeping?” In addition to working on sleep hygiene, Japanese red reishi mushrooms have been shown to help calm and relax the mind enough to promote a restful sleep.

If you are falling to prey late nights (into early morning) of internet browsing, YouTube trance-inducing video watching, and “next episode” tv streaming, it’s time to break those habits that are preventing you from getting enough sleep and being your best self.

Other causes of fatigue

Even if you are clocking in enough bedtime hours, sleep apnea, shiftwork, and excessive alcohol consumption can all affect the restorative quality of your sleep.

Apart from sleep issues, other causes of fatigue include anemia, poor diet, digestive malabsorption issues, hypothyroidism, diabetes, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, pain, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, liver disease, autoimmune disease, allergies, concussion, obesity, infection, stress, and even the medications that are used to treat some of these health issues.

The causes of fatigue are diverse and are often triggered by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological, and general wellbeing issues. While you source out the reason for your fatigue, here are some steps you can take to improve your energy.

  • Do your best to get enough restful, restorative sleep.
  • Limit your intake of sugar, alcohol and other intoxicants, caffeine, and processed foods.
  • Choose a variety of healthful, nutrient-rich foods.
  • Hydrate well.
  • Manage your stress with breathwork, meditation, time with loved ones, creative activities, or nature walks.
  • Include daily movement. I know you’re tired, but the right amount of exercise can actually improve your energy.

Treating fatigue with Japanese reishi mushrooms

Known as ling zhi in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Japanese reishi has been used for centuries to boost health and wellbeing. This incredible herb has been shown to calm the mind, reduce anxiety, manage stress, and treat insomnia.

Reishi mushrooms also support the immune system that would otherwise take a beating when you don’t get enough quality sleep.

Additionally, as a Qi and Blood* tonic with a reported action of “nourishing the Heart* and calming the spirit,” reishi mushroom can support energy, digestion, and respiration. It offers a non-stimulant way to feel more energized, so it can be taken at the start or end of your waking day.

Tired of being tired? With the fatigue-fighting benefits of Japanese red reishi mushrooms, you have a tool to help manage your stress, curb insomnia, and have more energy.

*Traditional Chinese Medicine defines organs as a whole system with a multitude of connections, not just a single physical organ.

Living Healthy with Diabetes

An astonishing one in four people above the age of 65 have adult-onset (type 2) diabetes. Even more have prediabetes—a condition close to, but not yet diabetes. Though it’s exceedingly common, neither type 2 diabetes nor prediabetes should be taken lightly. If not well managed, diabetes can lead to debilitating health problems.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Your pancreas is a busy organ, with one of its most important roles being to make insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels by acting like a key that unlocks the cell’s ability to take in sugar for energy.

As you may already know, or could at least guess, since there is a type 2 diabetes, there is also a type 1. Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the person with this disease does not produce insulin. Those with type 2 diabetes do produce insulin, but their cells don’t use it as well as they should, so it’s also called insulin resistance.

With type 2 diabetes, because the cells are unable to take up the circulating sugar, blood sugar can rise—or “spike”—after a meal. Rather than feeling energized and full of vigour though, spiking blood sugar can trigger sluggishness and even extreme exhaustion in some cases.

The problems associated with diabetes

Diabetics must learn to identify symptoms that their blood sugar levels are problematic. Sweating, a rapid heartbeat, slurred speech, numbness in the fingers and toes, headache, and feeling anxious, sleepy, or confused are all signs alerting to dysregulated blood sugar.

Over time, poorly managed diabetes may cause atherosclerosis—or hardening of the arteries—that can lead to heart disease or stroke. It can also lead to vision loss, kidney failure, nerve pain, and more.

Preventing dangerous spikes in blood sugar

One of the most common risk factors for getting type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese. Though people who aren’t overweight can also end up with diabetes, extra pounds increase the risk. Eating healthy and exercising regularly are two of the most important actions a person can take to decrease the risk of ending up with type 2 diabetes, as well as managing the disease itself.

Fortunately, nature has also provided some herbs—including Japanese red reishi mushroom—that can help you get your blood sugar levels under control.

Hailed as the “Mushroom of Immortality” in the Far East, reishi mushrooms have been used to treat a long list of ailments for over 2000 years. Though Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors have long used red reishi (called ling zhi), to treat diabetes, research is now catching up with how it works.

Studies have found compounds—including polysaccharides—in red reishi mushrooms that help treat and manage diabetes by improving insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar levels, stopping the liver from releasing too much glucose, and decreasing the fat to body weight ratio.

Ways to Manage Anxiety Naturally

While much of the focus in the world of healthcare is often placed on physical wellness, mental wellness is equally important. Anxiety is one of the most commonly experienced mental health issues, and those who suffer know how all-consuming they can be, especially at a time of such uncertainty with the constant influx of bad news regarding the effects of COVID-19.


Anxiety is an emotion that most have felt, perhaps related to a first date, a job interview, taking a test, or giving a speech. Feeling apprehension, nervousness, or fear about an event, something new or unknown, or something that makes you uncomfortable is a natural response to stress. However, if the anxiety is extreme, interferes with your life, and lasts longer than six months, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Those who suffer anxiety also often report feeling anxious even at times when nothing particularly stressful is happening. Anxiety may arise while you are simply relaxing or trying to go to sleep.

As the most common type of emotional disorder, it includes phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and illness anxiety disorder. Symptoms include an increase in heart rate and breathing rate, feeling restless, sweating, feeling faint, shortness of breath, problems focusing and concentrating, worry, obsessive or repetitive thoughts, and problems sleeping.

Ways to manage anxiety

While there are medications to help manage anxiety, there are many natural and lifestyle-oriented things that can be done. One of the most frequently recommended ways to counter to anxiety is practicing deep, slow breathing. Let’s explore why.

The autonomic nervous system is divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic. When the sympathetic nervous system is fired up, it signals the body to be ready for “fight or flight,” increasing heart and breath rate, pumping blood to the big muscles of the body, increasing pupil size, and decreasing salivation. Your body is behaving like you’re about to be attacked. Conversely, when the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered, the body is prepared to “rest and digest,” slowing the heart and breath rate, stimulating gastric juices and saliva for digestion, and allowing for cellular repair. The body is responding to a relaxed environment.

These systems operate in opposition to each other, so as one is stimulated, the other tones down. One of the things we can control is how we breathe, so consciously breathing more deeply and slowly signals the parasympathetic system to come into play and suppresses the sympathetic system response.

Of course, in the midst of a panic attack, it’s difficult to practice this calming breath, so regular, daily practice through breathwork, meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, or other methods is key. The oft repeated health tips of regular exercise, creating a regular sleep schedule, eating healthy, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol also help with managing anxiety. And since caffeine is a stimulant, it is best avoided.

Supplements for anxiety

In addition to eating healthy foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B complex vitamins, vitamin D, and magnesium, supplementing with these nutrients may also help. You may want to talk to a natural health professional to make sure to get high-quality versions in the right format and dosing for you so that you will notice the benefits.

Green tea contains a compound called l-theanine, which has been shown to help stimulate the brain waves associated with an alert, but calm state of mind. Since green tea usually also contains caffeine, you could seek out a supplement version—often found in combination with other nutrients and herbs—to get the dosing that will help you without the caffeine.

Chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, and valerian are common herbs to help calm the mind, though some can also be sedating, so best not to take during the daytime.

Reishi Mushroom

Japanese red reishi mushroom, also called ling zhi, is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal medicine categorized to calm the mind, while also providing energy and supporting whole body health. Modern science has recognized it as an adaptogen—a natural substance that can help the body adapt to stressors, returning the body to a normal and balanced state.

While most herbs used in TCM are given in combination formulas, reishi mushroom is one that is sometimes given on its own. It is used to treat insomnia, fright, racing or skipping heartbeat (palpitations), forgetfulness, and fatigue—all familiar symptoms of anxiety.

If you are taking pharmaceutical medications, it is always a good idea to discuss the addition of any supplement with your qualified healthcare practitioner. However, reishi mushroom, unlike some other herbal supplements, is not commonly listed as a substance that interferes with anxiety medications.

Like many other natural supplements, it doesn’t generally yield instant effects like a pharmaceutical, but it is unlikely to give unwanted side effects.

Whether you have a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, tend to feel anxious, or are just feeling anxious now with the uncertainty around you, it’s important to know that you can regain some control over your anxiety by incorporating some lifestyle changes and with the options of some supplements, including Japanese red reishi mushrooms.