Functional—or medicinal—mushrooms are Nature’s Ancient Healing Allies. They are not just for pizza and spaghetti sauce, anymore! Mushrooms can regulate blood sugar, attack tumors, lift the spirits, raise libido, make the brain sharper, create visions.

Here at Finca Luz in the Cloud Forest of Panama, during one wet October, we saw and photographed 50 different types of mushrooms growing out of logs, under trees, hiding beneath the soggy ground cover. Mushrooms in the Cloud ForestDid we eat them? No! We are neither that brave nor that stupid! Because no matter how much some of them might be beneficial, some might make you really, really sick or dead and we don’t always know the difference! That, however, has not stopped us from diving deep into traditional and emerging research for proven uses for specific, known-to-be-safe mushrooms. We are students and explorers!

Our investigations led us, as the leading western herbalists and only CBD formulators in Panama, to ask the question: given how powerful these fungi are, what might happen if we combined them WITH traditional medicinal herbs AND CBD? This exploration has led to the development and release of new synergistic formulas that build upon the entourage effect. (It’s what we did during the COVID lockdowns—had to stay busy!).

medicinal mushroom tincture‘Shroom Boom—our first commercial release—is amazing.

We took five of the top functional mushrooms (gathered from certified organic suppliers) and made carefully crafted, super potent tinctures. We then combined them with a proprietary blend of terpenes (those  healing phytochemicals in all kinds of plants) designed to reduce inflammation, pain and anxiety. Next, we combined them with 3000 mg (!) of full spectrum organic CBD. Lastly, we flavored that combo with organic cacao extract from the Panamanian rainforest. The result is a deliciously chocolately, herby tincture that provides a gentle lift to the spirits, eases aches and pains, and increases the immune system’s ability to ward off viruses and bacteria. Boom! Yeah, baby. We are loving it and so are our clients. Read about or order it here.

The study of mycology is gaining a lot of popularity these days, thanks to the pioneering work of scientists such as Paul Stamets, Christopher Hobbs, and many others. Go to YouTube and put in a search for medicinal mushrooms and you will find dozens of excellent videos about how to identify mushrooms, how to use them, how to find them, how to prepare them.

It isn’t my objective here, in one short article, to provide all the substantiating research or information available on functional mushrooms. You, dear Reader, can seek out your own references should you be so inclined. Paul Stamets (featured narrator in the Fantastic Fungi film on Netflix) has written volumes on the subject. One of the best, in my opinion, is Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.  Another very accessible introduction to medicinal mushrooms is Christopher Hobbs’, Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide. (Google titles to see where to purchase and download. Both are available on Kindle.).

Here are the Cliff Notes on some of the top functional/medicinal mushrooms:

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor): IMG 20211205 WA0014the woody, fan shaped fungus that grows on tree trunks, around the world, has been shown to be anti-cancer and is used in China and Japan as a primary cancer treatment. It is the most researched of all the mushrooms and is showing great promise as an adjunct to treating breast cancer. It also, according to research, can ease the sometimes nasty side effects of chemotherapy and radiation when given in conjunction to these anti-cancer treatments.

Here is the latest link from the FDA, approving the use of turkey tail in cancer research: “It’s been brewed for thousands of years as a Chinese medicinal tea. Now Bastyr University researchers are closer to discovering whether the turkey tail mushroom  can help cancer patients boost their immune systems during chemotherapy.” 

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus): a gnarly, black knob of woody fungus that grows on birch trees, supports the cardiovascular and immune system. Chaga tea is often used by herbalists to help with gut issues such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus): now, this is exciting!—has been shown in clinical trials to significantly improve memory function, even in those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Lion’s mane is a giant among ‘shrooms, helping to repair nerve damage, support the gut, reduce inflammation and pain due to neuropathy, and reverse aging! What’s not to like?! (And by the way, when fresh and sauteed in butter, it tastes a bit like lobster!).

Lions mane may be our first smart mushroom. It is a safe, edible fungus that appears to confer cognitive benefits on our aging population. –Paul Stamets

Shitake (Lentinufa erodes) : flourishes from fallen tree trunks (especially oak), is a wonderful meat substitute or addition to stews and soups for its earthy, rich taste and texture. Besides which, it, too, supports the immune system through anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Same with Maitake (Grifola frondosa), (aka Cloud Mushroom, Hen of the Woods or the Dancing Mushroom). Both of these are staples of Asian cuisines and figure prominently in Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM).

Cordyceps (Cordyceps Sinensis), aka Caterpillar fungus, is the libido enhancer of the wild Himalayan slopes, and boosts all kinds of energy! Stay tuned–we have plans for this one! Exciting plans!

jason and the giant reishiAnd, then, there is Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) which seemingly does it all. This hard, woody, non-mushroomy looking fungi, is referred to in Chinese literature as the Mushroom of Immortality.

0e724350 64b9 476c bc4b 0f1d60922d41It boasts a huge library of research supporting its use for treating diabetes, protecting the liver, helping with sleep issues, reducing inflammation, supporting heart function…the list goes on and on.

Here we have Jason Cook of Sunara Farm in the Darien of Panama, with his just harvested Giant Reisi! Whoa!

Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health. –Paul Stamets

Around the world, across cultures, the ancients worshipped and feared mushrooms. The Egyptians believed they were sent by the gods and thus only the pharaohs were permitted to eat them. The Greeks thought they were all poisonous and thus to be shunned. Romans served them at their banquets—and used them to poison those out of favor. Across Mesoamerica there are still stone artifacts of mushrooms in various poses and expressions. In European folk tales mushrooms often appeared as magical or poisonous, depending on who was delivering them to be eaten. Various cultures have used psychedelic mushrooms to induce visions and spiritual enlightenment. Today, gourmet chefs and home cooks alike are discovering the deliciousness of morels, oyster, trumpet, chanterelles, and enoki—all varieties of ‘shrooms with significant nutritional benefits.

Stay tuned for information on the release of more super combo formulas from Cloud Forest Botanicals. In the meantime, eat more ‘shrooms. Grilled, sauteed, in stews and soups, in teas…your mother was right. They are good for you. And, a daily dropperful of ‘Shroom Boom may just help keep the doctor away!

Stay well–let us hear from you.

Sending all good vibes,

Dianne and Elizabeth, looking forward