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 Cool Facts About Mushrooms That Will Impress Your Friends

Their appearance is otherworldly, their variety is abundant, their benefits are bountiful – there is no question that mushrooms are amazing. While no one can deny their culinary potential, they are also known for their cancer-fighting, digestion-supporting, and brain-protecting properties. But the truth is that we are just beginning to learn how truly fascinating fungi are, and how valuable they may prove to be to our future. In the spirit of this ornate organism, here are some fun facts about mushrooms.

1. Mushrooms Are Everywhere

When you see a mushroom above ground, know that the mycelium (its root-like structure) is spreading out underground. In the same way that an apple is the fruit of the apple tree, a mushroom is the fruit of a fungus. Instead of producing seeds, mushrooms send out tiny spores through the air.

Studying fungi is known as mycology, and there is plenty to learn. It is estimated that there are over 5 million different types of fungus on earth, and we’ve only discovered about 1% of them, making them the most widespread group of organisms on the planet.

2. A Fungus Is the Largest Living Organism on Earth

Believe it or not, the fungi kingdom lays claim to the largest organism on Earth. Nicknamed Humongous Fungus (actual name Armillaria solipides), this species inhabits 2,384 acres or 10 square kilometres of soil in Oregon’s Blue Mountains. Additionally, it is believed to be at least 2,400 years old. It is also called honey mushroom because its fruiting bodies are yellow and sweet.

3. Fungi Turn Ants into Zombies

Feel bad for a carpenter ant who becomes infected with spores scattered by a parasitic fungus called cordyceps. Upon infection, the fungus spreads through the ant’s body, robbing it of nutrients and enslaving the insect. Turning its host into something like a zombie slave, cordyceps force the ant to climb up a plant and lock its mandibles around a leaf. After slowly devouring the ant, the fungus sprouts through the ant’s head. Then, the bulbous growths explode, sending spores into the air to infect more unsuspecting ants below.

There’s a book and a movie based on the book, called The Girl With All The Gifts, that took this idea and ran with it. When I read this book, even before they mention the name of the mushroom that started it all, I knew exactly where they were going with this, and I immediately wished that I had written that book!

Not to worry though, it’s all fiction and cordyceps is actually a great fungi for us to consume to support our health.

4. Mushrooms Can Be Deadly

Death Caps, Destroying Angels, and Deadly Dappering all sound like they come from horror movies. And, no, they do not turn humans into zombies. But they are some of the deadliest mushrooms on the planet, and you would be smart to steer clear of them. They can cause internal bleeding and organ failure that can lead to death. When collecting wild mushrooms in nature, you must be very careful, as they can pose a serious threat if you don’t know how to identify them.

5. Mushrooms Make Reindeer Fly—Well Sort Of

Apparently, the flying reindeer myth isn’t as far-fetched as we think. During long winters, reindeer (along with other animals) sometimes eat a red and white mushroom called Amanita muscaria. This mushroom, also known as Fly Agaric, contains the compounds muscamol and ibotenic acid, both hallucinogens. The problem is it also contains a powerful toxin called muscarine. Despite this, it’s likely that those trying to domesticate the reindeer noted the animals’ unusual behaviour and decided to give it a try themselves. Rather than eat this mushroom to hallucinate visions of Rudolph and his flying buddies (and potentially get very sick), I suggest you watch a Christmas movie instead.

6. Mushrooms Could Replace Pesticides

Mushroom spores have been shown to repel more than 200,000 species of insects! Unlike the toxic pesticides that kill bugs but also accumulate in our environment and in our bodies, certain mushroom spores cause insects to simply avoid the crops they are sprayed on. This would be revolutionary to the food industry, our environment, and our own personal health.

7. Mushrooms are Low-Calorie, But Very Nutritious

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of eating rice cakes (or of counting calories). Yes, they can be made tastier with some nut butter or other topping, but otherwise they are pretty dry and tasteless. Mushrooms, on the other hand, offer a huge variety of delicious options, have a lower caloric count, and offer up a powerful punch of nutrients.

They are good sources of potassium, zinc, copper, magnesium, and B vitamins. For those looking for a vegetarian food source of vitamin D, you can find this in mushrooms raised in an environment that exposes them to ultraviolet light. And, as if that were not enough, mushrooms are a good source of fibre and antioxidants, along with an array of phytonutrients that offer medicinal benefits select to each species of mushroom.

8. Reishi Offers Over 400 Nutrients

Reishi is a multitasker. Its polysaccharides, like beta-glucans, help support a balanced immune response. The triterpenoids found in the cap and stem portion can address a wide range of health conditions, including lowering high blood pressure, stabilizing blood sugar, and supporting the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. As an adaptogenic herb, it helps the body adapt to stressors and it calms the nervous system without being a sedative.

While the hard chitinous shell of this mushroom makes it a difficult task to simply stir fry up a reishi dinner, there’s an easy way to get your fill. The powerful, bitter compounds of reishi are concentrated and packed into an easy-to-take, one-a-day capsule.

Now that you’ve read a few more fascinating facts about mushrooms, the next time you see one in nature or in the grocery store, maybe you’ll pay it a bit more attention and respect.

No-Cook Reishi Protein Balls

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cashews (you can substitute in peanuts, almonds, or other nuts)
  • ¼ cup ground or milled flax (optional)
  • ¼ cup raw cacao powder
  • 3-6 Mikei reishi capsules
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ – 2/3 cups water

Instructions:

  1. Put cashews into a food processor and blend into a flour/powder.
  2. Add ground flax and 2 Tbsp cacao powder.
  3. Open reishi capsules and add in powder. Choose the number of capsules based on how much reishi kick you want.
  4. Pulse until mixed.
  5. Add in dates, vanilla extract, and ¼ cup of water and blend into a dough, adding more water, if needed. It should form a sticky “dough.”
  6. Roll into 1-1.5” balls and roll these in remaining cacao powder to coat them. If they are too sticky to roll, you can refrigerate them for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling.
  7. Store in the fridge. They can also be frozen for later consumption.

What Does Reishi Taste Like?

Divine mushroom, mushroom of immortality, the fungus of long and vibrant life, and the crowning glory. These are just some of the names given to what is possibly the most famous of all Asian medicinal mushrooms – reishi, also known as ling zhi.

Reishi mushrooms have been used for many centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to modern research, this medicinal mushroom has been found to possess some incredible therapeutic properties. Looking to take advantage of all the benefits offered up by this incredibly powerful food and wondering about the taste? Let’s take a closer look at the flavour of this fantastic fungus and why it matters.

Unlike other mushrooms commonly used in cooking—like cremini, portabella, and shiitake—reishi has a distinctive earthy, bitter flavour. Though you might think that reishi doesn’t offer the savoury punch you need for your next gourmand experience, bitter is exactly what you should be looking for in quality reishi. Otherwise, you might not be getting a high enough potency mushroom. So, if you want to enjoy all the wonderful benefits reishi provides, bitter is better.

Nature has used bitter to help signal either poison or medicine, and it is one of the more complex flavours we recognize. Further, scientists have discovered that we have genetic differences in how much we can taste and how the taste is interpreted by our brains. When I prescribe concentrated Chinese herbal powders to be mixed in hot water, I know that I have to let my patients know that they may initially curse me for the bitter concoction that they have to drink. But they usually find that they get used to the flavour and may even begin to like it, especially as they feel better. The same can apply for reishi.

Of course, you can just keep the reishi powder in its capsule and easily gulp it back without tasting it, but if you’re looking for ways to incorporate it into your food, read on.

Add Reishi to Your Recipes

Feel free to experiment with reishi in your favourite dishes. One way to help manage the bitter is to counterbalance it with something sweet or help neutralize it with salty flavours.

For something sweet, you could make your own no-cook protein bars using dates. You could also add it to your hot chocolate, brownies, or banana bread recipe.

By adding more salty or savory ingredients to your reishi-included dish, you can help to alleviate the bitter aftertaste. Tapioca, seaweed, soy sauce, or salt can be great additions! You can add reishi mushrooms to a wide variety of dishes, from soup and stews to chili and roasts.

While we may have become accustomed to thinking that sweet and salty are the only flavours to receive top billing for cravings, there are actually many bitter foods we truly enjoy. Coffee, chocolate, alcohol, matcha, and tea are some of the more popular bitter foods, so some people choose to simply add reishi to those already bitter foods.

Here is one recipe to get you started.

No-Cook Reishi Protein Balls

  • 2 cups cashews (you can substitute in peanuts, almonds, or other nuts)
  • ¼ cup ground or milled flax (optional)
  • ¼ cup raw cacao powder
  • 3-6 Mikei reishi capsules
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ – 2/3 cups water
  1. Put cashews into a food processor and blend into a flour/powder.
  2. Add ground flax and 2 Tbsp cacao powder.
  3. Open reishi capsules and add in powder. Choose the number of capsules based on how much reishi kick you want.
  4. Pulse until mixed.
  5. Add in dates, vanilla extract, and ¼ cup of water and blend into a dough, adding more water, if needed. It should form a sticky “dough.”
  6. Roll into 1-1.5” balls and roll these in remaining cacao powder to coat them. If they are too sticky to roll, you can refrigerate them for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling.
  7. Store in the fridge. They can also be frozen for later consumption.

Tea or Capsules

The traditional use of reishi is to prepare it as a tea. If using whole reishi mushroom, you need to cook it for awhile, as the hard chitinous shell makes it hard to digest and access the nutrients and valuable compounds inside.

For those who find the bitter taste unpleasant or don’t want to spend the time doing all the prep work, you can opt to take reishi extract capsules instead. Mikei has done all the concentrating for you and even with just one capsule a day, you are getting a powerful dose of all of reishi’s health benefits.

Will Reishi Keep Me Awake?

Who doesn’t want a great night’s sleep? We spend one-third of our lives sleeping, and that is what keeps us healthy throughout the day! On average, adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per day. This is the time during which important processes happen, including detoxification, tissue repair, new cell production, and healthy cognitive processing.

Missing restorative sleep can result in more susceptibility to infection, poorer recovery from injury, and increased risk of illness and disease. It can also mean that we make more mistakes, perform worse at our work, and respond badly to challenging situations and people. We all know how much more difficult it is to take the high ground when we are exhausted.

With busy schedules and endless to-do lists, it is harder than ever to truly recharge your batteries. Despite your best intentions, you might end up staying up later than anticipated. Worse yet, you lie there wide-eyed, unable to sleep despite the fact that you are exhausted. “Tired but wired” seems ever more common.

Our bodies need sleep to work properly. So, if you have heard that mushrooms can improve your energy but worry that they might interfere with your sleep pattern, fret not. Mushroom supplements have played a critical role in the support of natural sleep cycles for centuries. Truth be told, medicinal mushrooms have a long list of benefits, including increased energy, longer life, and improved immune function.

Read on to learn why reishi is the perfect nighttime elixir to help you sleep like a baby and bring balancing energy to your mind and body.

Nature’s answer to a better night’s sleep

While many of us think that a substance can either be stimulating or sedating, but not both, welcome to the world of adaptogens. Adaptogens are natural substances that help the body find homeostasis, a self-regulating process that maintains internal conditions necessary for survival.

Reishi mushrooms can help provide of a feeling of energy during your waking hours, while their active compounds can assist in sleep when it’s bedtime, helping you recharge and rejuvenate and be better prepared for another full day. Unlike prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills or even some natural sleep remedies, reishi mushrooms won’t cause you to feel drowsy the next day.

For hundreds of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has classified reishi mushrooms—called “ling zhi”—under the category of “calm the mind” herbs. Though the stressors of centuries or even decades ago may be quite different than today, we are wired for survival and have always had to deal with stresses, whether from illness and disease or worries about potential issues in the days to come. In TCM, it is the fruiting body (stem and cap) that is used to soothe the nervous system, creating a feeling of calm. It’s thus important to make sure that you choose a reishi supplement that includes the fruiting body and not just the mycelium. The medicinal mushroom compounds will not only improve tranquility, but also support healthy liver, heart, and kidney function, helping you deal with the body’s physical stresses, providing a better night’s sleep.

Modern day research has found the reishi mushroom to have promising results as a sedative. In an animal study, supplementation with reishi demonstrated that the mushroom increased the duration of sleep in rats.

How to use reishi mushrooms for optimal sleep

In TCM, herbal formulas are generally prescribed by someone skilled in assessing an individual’s constitution and current health situation. A variety of chosen herbs are mixed together and taken for a specified duration of time. It is rare that individual herbs are recommended.

Reishi mushroom is unique in this regard. Because of its adaptogenic properties, safety, and wide range of applications, it may be recommended to take on its own. If you suffer with insomnia, or simply want to enhance your sleep routine, reishi mushroom supplements should be taken every evening before bedtime. As a mushroom with sleep-enhancing properties, it can help you maintain your natural biorhythm. You will fall into a deeper sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. Simply add the reishi mushroom supplement to your favourite drink or recipe or consume it in capsule form.

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.

HOW CAN REISHI IMPROVE SKIN

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.

​Breathe

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.

​Meditate

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.

​Journal

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.