Mushrooms and fungi have been sought after both for their psychoactive properties and medicinal uses for hundreds of years. Pictured here, the Amanita Muscara was traditionally used for ceremonial purposes in Northern Europe, typically to 'transport' the consumer across the veil to the spiritual world of the unseen. Although reported as toxic, and the active ingredients effect the liver, they are not deadly like their cousins 'The Death Cap'.  

Mushrooms pop up during the autumn months when conditions favour their appearance (just enough damp, not too cold) in all their weird and wonderful varieties. As Mother Nature would have it - they serve a purpose and taking a look into their properties will reveal the wonders they have in store. 

Medicinal mushrooms are gaining more momentum in popularity as a health food and super food. More traditionally used in folk medicine in Eastern Europe, but also Japan, China, Tibet, Korea, mushrooms such as: 'Maitake' which means in Japanese' dancing mushroom' is also known 'Hen of the Woods' here in Northern Europe and the British Isles.  It's properties include the ability to boost the immune functioning of the body. Many mushrooms including Maitake contain polysaccharides, in particular beta-glucans which stimulate the body to produce T-cells. Many studies have been conducted and trials have been conducted on mushrooms in cancer research. Turkey Tail and Maitake have been shown to cause apoptosis (cancer cell death cycle) in some types of cancers and inhibit the further growth of tumours. 

Cordyceps a tendril type fungus found in the Himalayas was once observed by herdsman when they found after their Yaks consumed it, they increased in vigour and vitality. Now Cordycep is used to treat Kidney and Lung imbalances in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). It is reportedly good for asthmatics and was used by the Chinese Olympic team in 1993. They broke 3 records in athletics that year. 

Another great thing about medicinal mushrooms is that they frequently contain vitamin D2, trace minerals like potassium, manganese calcium and copper  and amino acids. Chaga mushroom is a fungus that grows in very cold climates like in Siberia, and appears on birch trees when part of the tree has broken, to seal the break point. It is hard and black and has to withstand harsh temperatures. 

Aside from an extraordinary array of nutrients, Chaga also contains melanin, pantothenic acid and Betulinic acid, a substance being researched to shrink tumours.  

No need for foraging in the rain to access these amazing health fortifying plants! Available in easy concentrated powders, they can be added to soups, teas, or smoothies and will get you through the winter and keep you feeling vital.