2020 has been the year of mushroom tinctures in the Blizzard household. I have always been a believer in the medicinal qualities of mushrooms. Kristen and I got more serious about the medicinals this year when COVID peaked our interest in boosting our immune systems. I am not starry-eyed eyed about medicinal mushrooms: they are neither panacea nor miracle cure. There is a large body of research consistently indicating that mushrooms improve immune system function and maybe even more.
While tincture is not the only way to enjoy the medicinal qualities of mushrooms, it is the topic of this blog post. My favorite tincture technique is a double extraction which means the mushroom is soaked in alcohol and then in hot water, each of which extracts different qualities from the mushroom. Some people use a triple extraction which means an initial cold-water soak is performed. Others use a “Spagyric” technique where the solid remains of the soak are burned and the ash added back into the tincture. Many other techniques exist.
Figuring out the best way to extract the medicinal qualities from mushrooms is quite troubling. Do different mushrooms deserve different treatments? What is the best technique? How long to soak? At what temperatures? There are many questions! There are also very few answers. There is hardly any research to provide guidance. Just to be perfectly clear: we are not experts. I am just going to tell you what we do and why we do it that way. I’m sure there are other methods that are equally viable.
I have relied mainly on three resources to hone techniques and produce results:
- Chinese herbal medicine has been using mushrooms for thousands of years. We pay attention to the traditional techniques and pick the brain of our favorite practitioner: David Teitler of Carbondale Acupuncture Center.
- Robert Dale Rogers, RH is the author of The Fungal Pharmacy and Medicinal Mushrooms – The Human Clinical Trials. His books offer a wealth of information, both from Western medicinal research and traditional medicinal usages. While they don’t contain all the answers, they do an excellent job of summarizing the existing research and tradition for each mushroom. I use both as research guides.
- Tradd Cotter is the author of Organic Mushroom Farming and Remediation. Tradd is a researcher and his book shares good technique for making safe and effective tinctures. If you are going to buy tincture, I’d recommend Mushroom Mountain’s MycoMatrix brand.
Without further ado, here is how I create tincture, in 4 super easy steps:
Start with about enough mushrooms to fill a quart mason jar, can be fresh or dried (or a combo).
- Soak 1/2 of the mushrooms in 190 proof Everclear for 2 weeks, shaking regularly.
- Strain, retaining mushroom solids, and set aside liquid.
- Add unused 1/2 of mushrooms to the alcohol drained mushroom solids and soak in hot water (130-160 degrees) for 12 hours using a crockpot set to warm.
- Strain out all mushroom solids and then combine water and infused alcohol in a 3.5:1 ratio. (3.5 water/1 alcohol)
I have refined this technique over time and find the following tips helpful:
- Either dried or fresh mushrooms work. I prefer to use fresh mushrooms and believe the final product is better. However, if they are not available, no biggie.
I grind the mushrooms up in a grinder to break them down allowing the extract to work more efficiently. This makes a big difference.
- I use Everclear, but any alcohol will work as long as you adjust your final ratio of alcohol to water. Our 3.5:1 ratio is based on using 190 proof alcohol. There are many fine distilled products that are awesome go ahead and use your local distillery’s 190 proof grain alcohol!
- Honestly I don’t measure much… fill the mason jar with ground ‘shrooms (no more than 1/2 full) and pour enough Everclear to cover the solids by an inch. When I strain out the Everclear, I measure it and then add 3.5 times the amount of water back to the solids (along with the new fresh solids). After I strain out the water in the last step, I may add some fresh tap water to make sure it is equal to 3.5 X the amount of alcohol.
- Straining can suck. After much trial and error, I now pour it all into a fine cheesecloth and hand-squeeze out as much liquid as possible. I am 150% OK with having fine particulate in our final product.
- You can pour boiling water over our mushrooms and let them sit for 12 hours for the second extraction. I got a better product when we kept the water warm overnight in a crockpot set to warm.
- I gauge the quality of our water extraction by the amount of polysaccharides visible in the water. You see this as the “cloudy stuff” in the final product. You want a lot of that! You will not actually see the cloudy polysaccharides until after the alcohol is added back to the water, which causes an instant visual reaction.
- I try to keep the temperature between 130 and 160 because research indicates that the water soluble medicinal components can degrade at higher temps.
- I now use a Magical Butter Machine for the overnight soak and set it to either 130 or 160 degrees. We often only run it for an hour or two and then let it sit because some combos can get “gummy” and then overheat, notably polypores. We love our Magical Butter machine for extracting medicinals!
- We store the tincture in a cool dark place – the pantry.
We use our tinctures in dropper bottles and take 2-4 dropper fulls of each mushroom tincture each day. Make sure to shake them before use, they should have lots of particulate and cloudy stuff floating around. I personally put it into my coffee in the morning since I am not a big fan of the taste of these tinctures and coffee covers up the flavors perfectly. Lately we have been combining all our tinctures into one bottle in equal measures for the sake of convenience.
The Medicinal Mushrooms
There are many different mushroom species that you can turn into tincture. We tend to focus on the ones we forage ourselves (except for cordyceps, which we grow). 50% of our tincture intake is typically composed of a foraged polypore stack. With no proof, we do prefer to “stack” our mushrooms, introducing variety into our medicinal diet.
Please note: I am not going to get into the medicinal benefits of the mushrooms… no point in regurgitating what you can read yourself in Rogers’ aforementioned books. They certainly impact gastro-intestinal, blood sugar, immunity, and anti-tumor. I think that these tinctures should be ingested every day to impart their benefits. If I were to get sick I would stop taking them at that point so as not to over-stimulate my immune response.
Warning: these mushrooms are known to affect blood sugars and can be blood thinners. If you have health conditions relating to blood sugar or take blood thinning drugs, be careful and consult with your doctor first. In fact if you have any serious health conditions, consult with your doctor first.
Reishi is the grand-daddy of medicinal mushrooms. We typically use Ganoderma oregonense but I believe G. sessile, G. tsugae and of course G. lucidum are medicinal equivalents. Look for white pores on bottom (indicate freshness) and make sure to slice up before drying, they get rock-hard after dry.
Ganoderma applanatum) is a close cousin to Reishi and pretty easy to find. We also use Western Artists Conk (Ganoderma brownii) interchangeably.
Fomitopsis pinicola makes a really thick and even sticky tincture when fresh specimens are used.
Trametes versicolor is well known for its anti-tumor qualities and is prescribed by doctors (or at least in its industrially processed pharmaceutical drug derivation) along with chemotherapy.
Hericium erinaceous is classically used but we also use H. coralloides, H. abietes and H. americanum in our tinctures based on what we can find. Hericium is relatively easy to grow at home if you want to try! Lion’s Mane is exciting because it helps with brain-function and has some highly compelling human trials. We try to take 3g of plain old dried and ground Hericium every day.
Cordyceps militaris is another mushroom we cultivate at home. These are probably impossible to forage in enough quantity to make a tincture. The good news is that Cordyceps are increasingly being cultivated in the USA; dried and un-processed Cordyceps are widely available for purchase.
Inonutus Obliquus is one of our favorites. We drink chaga tea every day and find the taste quite delightful. I often grind it fine (to maximize extraction), brew it for days under 160 degrees, and then freeze-dry the whole batch, making a potent powdered chaga that can be instantly added to hot water. Of course it can be tinctured too.
Grifola frondosa is a highly regarded medicinal mushroom. We haven’t added it to our tincture regimen because we have not foraged enough to use for that purpose… yet.
Do you tincture? Have any tips or tricks that work well for you? Let us know in the comments!