The Yin and Yang of Mushrooms and Herbs

Scholars of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) understand that mushrooms and plants have a special symbiosis and that they are often combined in herbal formulations to enhance their intended action. Similarly, Mycologists understand that the underground mycorrhizae are critical for both tree and mushroom, and use this knowledge when foraging; for example, Reishi mushrooms prefer hardwood trees such oaks.
Mushrooms are often considered safe and well-tolerated, and are valued for their mild, and often cooling energetics; which makes them suitable for longer-term usage. In TCM many mushrooms have “yin” predominance and these gentle and yielding properties make them an ideal partner for a stronger and sometimes more “yang” herb which may have a very robust effect on our physiology. This reciprocal combination creates  a more balanced and synergistic approach to supplementation which may extend the therapeutical value, regardless of constitution and seasonality. In summary, foods with a cooling yin action are beneficial to help balance the yang energy of the body in the same way that the autumn rains bring balance to the hot scorched soil after a period of summer heat. This is sometimes reflected in our bodies since we are a microcosm of the environment.

Astragalus Reishi; A Perfect Partnership

Reishi and Astragalus are two of the most highly regarded superstars in TCM and it turns out that this duo is a perfect match. Astragalus, is mostly associated with the yang spectrum since it has a warming energy meaning that it helps to tonify and strengthen the body's vital energy or qi. Conversely, the cooling and nutritive properties of Reishi mushroom are generally believed to be more yin in nature, resulting in a regulating and harmonizing effect on the body's vital force or qi.*
Herbalist nerds like us take delight in the fact that the active compounds produced by the mushrooms are very similar to those produced by our herbal allies. They are both complex in that they contain hundreds of compounds. The mycelium of mushrooms contains various bioactive compounds, including signaling peptides. Peptides are short chains of amino acids that have various biological activities in the body. Peptides are just one of the chemical groups within mushrooms which support the immune system. Mushroom mycelium also contains polysaccharides such as beta glucan, sterols, polyphenols, and terpenoids. Although beta glucans are rarely produced in plants, the polyphenols and terpenoids are often produced in plants in varying degrees- depending on the environmental condition. It is fascinating that these very compounds aid in increasing the resilience of plants or mushrooms, which ultimately nourishes our microbiomes and fosters resilience in OUR bodies and minds. Polysaccharides are a magical elixir for the probiotics within our intestines, and here, they contribute to this ecosystem within this important mucus membrane gut lining.*

Lion’s Mane Synergy with Ginkgo

A 2021 study proposed a potential synergy between Lion’s Mane and Ginkgo since the nerve cell-supporting effect of the combination exceeded that of the two herbs taken separately. Although preliminary, the researchers also noted that this combination supported brain function.

Cordyceps; An Energizing Adaptogen

An adaptogen is a natural substance that is believed to help the body adapt to stressors and promote overall health and well-being. Many mushrooms have adaptogenic properties, and Cordyceps meets the criteria for a true adaptogen. TCM values this amazing fungus for the increased stamina it can help cultivate and the modern research suggests that Cordyceps may have potential as a natural supplement to improve mitochondrial function and energy metabolism, especially in the context of exercise performance.*
We like to think of mushrooms as agents of transformation. They can literally be used to regenerate landscapes after pollution or over-cultivation. The impact of their actions can often be imperceptible, as a significant portion of their potency occurs beneath the surface while the mycelium gradually expands. We must exercise patience while this foundation takes root, before we can witness the emergence of the ideal mushroom above ground.

Joanne Roberts,
Product Development Scientist

About Joanne Roberts

With over 29 years of experience in supplement formulation and quality control, Jo is passionate about gardening, herbs, and nutrition and enjoys sharing her creations in her free time with loved ones.   She is an avid adventurer who finds solace in the forest or bonding with her dog, goats, and chickens.  Additionally, she is a mom, author, Ayurvedic Health Counselor, and is currently in the process of becoming an Ayurvedic Practitioner. Fueled by her own health journey, she is devoted to imparting the transformational wisdom of nature through the holistic art and science of Yoga and Ayurveda.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not diagnosed to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.