©2008 by Susun S Weed
As seen printed in Mystic Pop Magazine
As summer nights lengthen into autumn, the forests of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York fill with magical, mystical, medicinal mushrooms. "Toadstool" is a quaint name for the many mushrooms that spring forth between rains, while "fungi" is the more technical term.
Fungi are plants, but plants without flowers, or roots, or chlorophyll (which makes plants green). Strange shapes (some quite sexually suggestive), the ability to grow (and glow) in the dark, and psychedelic colors make mushrooms an obvious addition to any witches' stew. But you will want some other reasons to make mushrooms a steady part of your diet. Is outwitting cancer a good enough reason?
It's true. All edible fungi--including those ordinary white button mushrooms sold in supermarkets--are capable of preventing and reversing cancerous cellular changes. We aren't exactly sure why.
Perhaps it's because fungi search out, concentrate, and share with us the trace minerals we need to build powerful, healthy immune systems. Or perhaps it's because of their wealth of polysaccarides, interesting complex sugars that appear to be all round health-promoters. It could be because mushrooms are excellent sources of protein and B vitamins with few calories and no sodium. Or we could single out the anti-cancer, anti-tumor, and anti-bacterial compounds found in the stalk, caps, gills, and even the underground structures (mycelia) of every edible mushroom.
So be sure to cook your mushrooms through; avoid eating them raw. Scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical School found that mice who ate unlimited amounts of raw mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) developed, over the course of their lifetimes, significantly more malignant tumors than a control group.
Everywhere I go in August and September--whether walking barefoot on vibrant green mosses or stepping lightly across the deeply-scented fallen pine and hemlock needles, whether climbing rocky outcrops festooned with ferny whiskers or skirting swamps humming with mosquitoes, whether following the muddy bank of a meandering stream or balancing on old stone walls inhaling the scent of righteous rot--I am on the lookout for my fungal friends.
My woods are especially generous to me with chanterelles, beautiful cornucopia-shaped mushrooms with a delectable taste. I find both the delicious little black ones--jokingly known as "trumpet of death" due to their eerie coloration--and the very-tasty and much bigger orange ones. Sometimes we return home naked from our mushrooms walks; if we find more 'shrooms than we have bags for, we have to use our shirts and pants as carriers to help haul dinner home.
The bright orange tops and sulfur yellow undersides of sulphur shelf mushrooms (Polyporus sulphuroides) are easy to spot in the late summer forest. Growing only on recently-dead oaks, these overlapping shelves make a great-tasting immune-enhancing addition to dinner. I have harvested the "chicken of the woods" in oak forests around the world. In the Czech Republic, I saw a particularly large example as we drove a country lane. Stopping, I found a portion of it had been harvested. I took only a share, being careful to leave lots for other mushroom lovers who might come down the lane after me.
You don't have to live in the woods and find your own mushrooms to enjoy their health-giving benefits. You can buy them: fresh or dried for use in cooking and medicine, and tinctured or powdered as well. Look for chanterelles, cepes, enoki, oyster mushrooms, portobellos, maitake, reishii, shiitake, chaga, and many other exotic and medicinal mushrooms in health food stores, supermarkets, specialty stores, and Oriental markets.
Maitake (Grifolia frondosa), is more effective than any other fungi ever tested at inhibiting tumor growth. It is very effective when taken orally, whether by lab rats or humans dealing with cancer. The fruiting body of the maitake resembles the tail feathers of a small brown chicken, hence its popular name: "Hen of the Woods." If you buy maitake in pill form, be sure to get the fruiting body, not the mycelium.
Reishii (Ganoderma lucidum) is one of the most respected immune tonics in the world. Reishii is adaptogenic, revitalizing, and regenerative, especially to the liver. Even occasional use builds powerful immunity and reduces the risk of cancer. In clinical studies, use of reishii increased T-cell and alpha interferon production, shrank and eliminated tumors, and improved the quality of life for terminal patients. Reishii and shiitake are great partners, the effects of one enhancing the effects of the other. Reishii is best taken as a tincture, 20-40 drops, 3 times daily.
Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) is highly medicinal and tastes good enough to eat in quantity. I go to an oriental market and buy the big, big, big bag of dried shiitake mushrooms for a fraction of what I would pay for them in a health food store. To use, I just rehydrate them by pouring boiling water over them or by dropping pieces into soups. Those who make shiitake a regular part of their diets, increase their production of cancer-fighting alpha interferon, reduce inflammation throughout their bodies, prolong their lives, and improve their ability to produce and utilize vitamin D.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a rather ugly and intensely hard fungi found on birch trees. Baba Yaga and other Russian herbalists favor it as an immune nourisher, cancer preventive, and an aid to those dealing with melanomas.
Mushrooms are not just for food and medicine; they are renowned for their ability to alter our perceptions of reality. Psychoactive psilocybin mushrooms were used by the famous shaman/healer Maria Sabina in Mexico. The red-capped mushroom with white dots usually drawn next to the witch's house is the mind-altering Amanita muscaria, sometimes called manna, and widely used in Siberian shamanic rites.
Whether you use fungi to make a mushroom soup or as a remedy for someone dealing with cancer, whether you stir them up in a witch's cauldron of spiraling power or sew them into a spirit bag, mushrooms offer magic and mystery, good health and good cheer.
Copyright © 2008 Susun Weed
As seen printed in Mystic Pop Magazine, www.mysticpopmagazine.com
Cooking for the Love of the World:
Awakening our Spirituality through Cooking
by Anne-Marie Fryer Wiboltt
A heart-centered, warmth-filled guide to the nurturing art of cooking.
200 pages, softbound
"Cooking delicious nourishing meals - with heart and soul - is easy, fast, and fun with this great guide. Everything you need to know is right here - along with exercises and experiences that will help you love cooking, love yourself, and love the earth."
-Susun S. Weed, Author, Healing Wise
Order Cooking For the Love of the World in our Bookshop
One Day Workshops
(Wise Woman Center, Woodstock, NY)
These one-day workshops (10AM-5PM) are taught outside among the plants, with Susun and the goats. Open to men and women, they include a wild-food lunch.
At each workshop we will identify, harvest, and use local plants for food and medicine. Registration Fee: $75.
Women can join us for a moon lodge on the Friday of each of these weekends.
Overnight lodging for Friday and Saturday nights is available nearby.
The Cookbook that Challenges Politically
Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.
Revised Second Edition, October 2000
by Sally Fallon with Mary G Enig, PhD
This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to
traditional foods contains a startling message: Animal fats and
cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary
for normal growth, proper funciton of the brain and nervous system,
protection from disease and optimum energy levels. Sally Fallon
dispels the myths of the current low-fat fad in this practical,
entertaining guide to a can-do diet that is both nutritious and
Sally Fallon's book at our bookshop
Or order via mail: Ash Tree Publishing PO Box 64 Woodstock,
include a check or money order for $29.95 (Nourishing Traditions
retails for $25.00 plus $4.95 shipping
Study with Susun Weed via Correspondence
Witch focuses on personal and spiritual development. You'll
create rituals, prepare an herbal first-aid kit, encounter your
Goddess archetype, discover the magic of menstrual & menopausal
changes, and develop wise woman ways of living and healing. Learn
Allies explores herbal medicine through direct experiences
with plants, plant spirits (fairies, devas), and plant medicines.
For those who want to deepen, rather than broaden, their knowledge
of plants: a year's worth of investigation and experimentation
with one plant ally. Learn
& Practice of the Wise Woman Tradition focuses on understanding,
internalizing, and using the Three Traditions of Healing (Wise
Woman, Heroic, and Scientific) and the Six Steps of Healing.
Health-care practitioners find this course exceptionally helpful,
but anyone who cares for the health of others (even family members)
will benefit. Learn
of Herbalism!! This is a special course for the aspiring
herbalist who'd like to have me "by your side" teaching
you how to harvest, prepare, and use 52 healing herbs. Your
studies will be both experiential and intellectual and you will
make and use herbal remedies as well as reading about them in
a variety of sources.
You are awesome. . thanks so much for coming to SB and imparting us with your wisdom, grace, joi de vive and especially your wild spirit :) I have been a fan of yours.
Thanks to your wise woman wisdom and herbs, I am sailing through perimenopause while women around me are determined to tread the slippery slope of mid-life clutching their addictions with their well manicured hands.. .gotta have those Du Pont hormones, martinis, starbucks, bad drama and plastic fantastic surgery. blah, blah, blah. What can you say, this is Hollywood land.
I learned so much from you, particularly about supplements. . yikes! I look forward to participating in one of your events when you are back in this neck of the woods, or maybe I might get to Woodstock some day.