Health focused businesses that centre around prodigy foods christened “super” is most definitely in vogue. Recently, trendy trailblazers or “people brands” have magicked up fresh interest in the otherwise forgotten fungi; the Shroom Boom is putting mushrooms back on the map.
Sales of mushrooms in America reached US$5bn in revenue in 2017, while according to Grand View Research, that number was expected to rise to $7.4bn in the following 3 years. Mushrooms have been employed for food, medicine and “recreation” all around the world for hundreds of years, and they are most certainly having a moment right now.
All of this trendy talk of fungi might make the great Chinese physician of the Jin Dynasty, Liu Wansu, turn in his grave and roll his eyes, for there is no doubt that he was working with the magical power of shrooms as far back as the the 12th century, when the now god-like Shiitake variety began in cultivation. These days, according to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, it is estimated that China is responsible for 70 percent of the world’s mushroom production.
Research online seems unable to pin point exactly when the Chinese understanding of the power of mushrooms really came about, but founder of Finish brand Four Sigmatic, Taro Isokauppila, was convinced anyway. On his list of best performing fungi that which may save you from disease and or insanity include many Chinese varieties; Reishi, aiding in sleep quality, stress and allergies; Chaga, helping with common colds, skin and inflammatory problems; Cordyceps, assists performance, energy and asthma; Lion’s Mane, good for memory, concentration and the nervous system; and last, but certainly not least; Turkey Tail, cooling digestion and infections. It is worth noting there is nothing new or shocking about what Four Sigmatic offers; it’s just mushroom powder.
Mushrooms in modern Chinese dishes include the Tea Tree Mushroom (茶樹菇), found in soups and fried dishes and containing 17 types of amino acids such as aspartic and glutamic acid, and more than ten kinds of trace minerals. Tea Tree mushrooms are also touted for their anti-cancer polysaccharides that are required by the human body; no wonder the Chinese also call it the God of Mushrooms. Many readers will recognise the Wood Ear Mushroom (黑木耳), a black fungus usually served cold with garlic and red chillies. It is cheap, abundant, known locally to clean the blood, is rich in protein and vitamin E, while its iron content is 20 times that of spinach.
Then there is the Supernatural Mushroom, the Reishi Mushroom (灵芝) capable of nourishing the heart, lung, liver and spleen. Soothing the nerves and improve “qi”, the Chinese are known to brew Reishi and serve as a tea with Goji berries. Equal in medicinal weight to the Reishi is the aforementioned Lion’s Mane (猴头菇) and Shiitake (香菇), packing punches that fight against gastrointestinal ailments, immunity and obesity.
So while you’re here in China and have easy abundant access to these super mushrooms at a low cost, get as many of them into you as possible, whether eaten with food, drunk as tea or soup, or in medicinal concoctions. One can even buy mushroom powder for around ¥50 on Taobao, so you can add it to your shake or morning coffee too!
Mushrooms in China and their healing properties:
- cháshùgū (茶树菇); improves immunity
- hēimù’ěr (黑木耳); cleans the blood
- zhūdŭgū (猪肚菇); an anti-inflammatory
- jītuigū (鸡腿菇); rich in copper
- jīn[zhēn]gū (金[针]菇); helps with high cholesterol língzhī (灵芝); possibly helps with every ailment! hóutóugū (猴头菇); an all around powerhouse; in China, it’s called “Monkey Head”
- xiānggū (香菇); another powerhouse
- jīròusīgū (鸡肉丝菇); said to be an aphrodisiac zhúsūnsh (竹荪属); eaten by royalty; great for the brain and liver
- xìngbàogū (杏鲍菇); weight loss, cholesterol and immunity yín’ěr (银耳); helpful for the lungs, nourishes Yin sōngróng (松茸); known locally as the “King of Bacteria” and is said to be the only surviving plant from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Great for the kidneys, brain and fighting cancer, ironically.