Thursday, April 2, 2015

How to Make Your Very Own Reishi Mushroom Tincture

Red Reishi Mushroom growing in the wild, photo courtesy of Vik Nanda,

For those who are really interested in herbs and superfoods as I am, the other worldly looking Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is considered to be one of the most powerful adaptogenic herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Rare in nature and once reserved for Chinese royalty, this “Mushroom of Immortality” is now cultivated commercially and widely available for “the rest of us.”

Adaptogenic herbs (check out my post on Holy Basil to learn about another great adaptogenic herb that is easy to grow in your own garden) are a special class of herbs that help to bring overall balance and restoration to the body and help to combat the physical and emotional effects of stress.  They are especially effective at helping to support the immune system.  Reishi is one of the best herbs in this class and is well worth learning about. 

For those who are not familiar with Reishi or other medicinal mushrooms, world-renown mycologist (a scientist who studies fungi, for those who are unfamiliar with the term) Paul Stamets is probably one of the best folks to learn from.  He wrote an article about Reishi in the Huffington Post, and it’s well worth a read.  So is this article from Dr. Joseph Mercola describing the benefits of mushrooms for health, including Reishi mushrooms. 

For all of you gardeners out there, Paul Stamets’ site, Fungi Perfecti, is a great resource for those looking to cultivate mushrooms on their own, along with a plethora of other resources for all things fungi. 

I dream of someday cultivating my very own patch of Reishi in my own backyard.  For now, I enjoy drinking Reishi tea almost every morning with organically cultivated Reishi that I purchase from a reputable herb vendor online, and I recently made my own dual extraction tincture from some that I already had at home.  Using organically cultivated or sustainably sourced Reishi from a clean source is especially important, since mushrooms tend to soak up toxins such as heavy metals.  While that “soaking up” is super great to help detoxify our bodies, that is not so great if you are using medicinal mushrooms from polluted sources to help your body heal or to just stay healthy.

A Dual What?
What is a dual extraction tincture, you ask?  Well, for certain herbs and medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, there are a variety of medicinal properties that you need to employ several methods to extract as many of those properties as possible.  For Reishi, the immune system supporting properties, such as beta-glucans and polysaccharides, there are certain properties that are extractable through boiling the Reishi in hot water (this method is called a decoction in the herbal world), and the most powerful adaptogenic and liver protecting properties are only extractable through an alcohol extraction method. 

To learn more about why dual extraction is important for medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, check out Daniel Vitalis’ article on the subject here.

While there certainly are a number of high-quality commercial sources for obtaining Reishi dual extraction tinctures, many of them are rather costly, and for most folks who don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend on herbal remedies but would still like to experience the health benefits that such remedies have to offer, making your own might be the best way to go.  And that, Dear Readers, is just what I recently did in the Day by Day Homesteading kitchen.

How I Made a Dual Extraction Reishi Tincture (and You Can Too!)
For such powerful herbal medicine, making a dual extraction Reishi tincture is actually fairly simple.  It just requires some time and patience to complete the entire process.  From what I have heard, the longer that you let the alcohol tincture infuse, the more the alcohol will continue to extract the medicinal components of the mushroom.  I have even heard of some medicinal mushroom alcohol tinctures that were extracted over a period of two years!  I didn’t wait that long, but I did wait and let mine extract in alcohol for about six months. 

For those who would like information about how to make a basic herbal alcohol tincture from leafy plant parts, such as from Holy Basil leaves, check out this post.


 1.  Place some Reishi slices in a glass jar and pour enough 80 to 100-proof alcohol such as vodka (I prefer organic whenever possible) to cover them by a couple of inches.

The organic vodka and Reishi mushroom slices that I used to make
the alcohol portion of the tincture.

2.  Screw on the lid of the jar and shake the contents to begin the alcohol infusion process.

Infusing the Reishi slices in vodka.

3.  Let your jar sit for a minimum of 4-6 weeks, but in the case of a medicinal mushroom such as Reishi, the longer that you can let it infuse the more potent that your extract will become.  As I mentioned above, I let my Reishi infuse in alcohol for about six months. 

Shaking the contents regularly is important to assist with the infusion of the medicinal properties of the herb into the alcohol.  For most herbal tinctures, shaking every day is standard, but generally, that is for only 4-6 weeks.  A couple of times a week should be sufficient if you are going to let your Reishi alcohol tincture infuse for a much longer period of time.

4.  When you have decided to stop infusing the Reishi in alcohol, strain off the Reishi slices, but don’t discard them yet!  You can use the very same Reishi slices to prepare your Reishi hot water decoction (used to extract medicinal properties from woody or fibrous plant materials), since the water decoction method will extract different properties from the Reishi than alcohol does.

The Reishi alcohol tincture after infusing for about six months.

Straining off the Reishi slices from the alcohol tincture.

 5.  After you have strained off the Reishi slices/pieces from the alcohol tincture, measure an equal amount of filtered water (I used spring water) to use for making your Reishi decoction.  When your Reishi dual extraction tincture is complete, you should end up with a ratio of 1:1 alcohol tincture of decoction that is mixed together.

Measuring a volume of spring water equal to the amount of liquid alcohol tincture
in preparation for making a Reishi decoction.

6.  Make the decoction by simmering the Reishi in water on low heat for 25 to 45 minutes, and then strain off the Reishi pieces from the liquid.   For an even stronger decoction, you could also simmer the Reishi in water for 20 to 30 minutes, and then pour the Reishi slices + decoction into a quart jar and let it sit overnight, or for a good part of a day (6-8 hours should be good).

Making the Reishi decoction.

7.  After you have strained off your Reishi slices from your decoction, let the liquid cool fully or strain off the Reishi after letting your decoction sit for 6-8 hours.  You will now have two different liquids: a Reishi alcohol tincture and a Reishi decoction. 

In the picture below, the jar on the left has the alcohol tincture, and the right has the decoction.  Note the different colors between the two extractions and that some of the water volume for the decoction had decreased to less than the original volume, leaving a slightly greater ratio of alcohol to water decoction.  This should not be a big deal, but you might try adding slightly more water prior to making the decoction to end up with a closer ratio of 1:1 in your completed dual extraction tincture.

The Reishi alcohol tincture (left) and the Reishi decoction (right) prior
to mixing them together to complete the dual extraction tincture process.

 8.  Pour the decoction into the jar with the alcohol tincture, and mix together well.  A wooden spoon works great for this.  You now have a Reishi dual extraction tincture!

The finished Reishi dual extraction tincture!  Yay!

9.  Be sure to label what your tincture is and when it was made.   Pieces of recycled brown paper bags labeled with permanent marker work great and are an inexpensive option. 

Store your tincture in a cool dark place away from direct sunlight, and your tincture should stay good for a year or much longer.  Here is a great article that discusses Reishi dual extraction tinctures and suggestions for dosage.

Congratulate yourself that you have made a powerful herbal adaptogenic remedy that did not cost you an arm and a leg!

As always, be sure to check with your health practitioner to determine if Reishi supplements or tinctures are a good fit for you and your current health situation.