Elecampane is a premier herb for lung infections, digestive troubles, and a world of complaints stemming from spleen (TCM) and lung deficiency.
Tsuriganetake / Hoof Mushroom / Ice Man Polypore / Amadou
Both the scientific name and "Ice Man Polypore" refer to its use for fire-starting. The felty interior of the mushroom can be pounded into an ideal tinder for starting fire. Plus, the dried mushroom can be lit and burned like punk, which can be used for repelling insects and as a form of moxibustion. It was hollowed out by fire-keepers in ancient times in order to transport coals to the next campsite.
I don't recall how I first learned of Tinder Polypore as a medicinal for the lungs. But, the idea easily stuck with me as the shape (which is also reminiscent of a bell or hoof) is similar to that of a lung. (The Doctrine of Signatures states that medicinals are marked by "signatures" that are indicative of their uses. The notion has been a part of virtually all systems of traditional medicine world-wide.) I have since been making tincture and decoctions from Tinder Polypore for use in lung formulas as well as with other medicinal mushrooms.
I assume that Tinder Polypore shares similar medicinal benefits as other polypores like Reishi, Turkey Tail, and Maitake, and for this reason can be included in mushroom blends for general purpose, for boosting the immune system, and for treating cancer. Additionally, it has specific acknowledged properties as an antiviral and antibacterial medicinal and as a tonic for the lungs.
Tincture of medicinal mushrooms is often prepared as double-extraction, rather than the typical method used with herbs of simply soaking the herbs in the alcohol (after chopping them, of course). The double extract attempts to capture as many of the fresh constituents as possible by tincturing the mushroom in alcohol. But because of the woody consistency of the polypores and the nature of their medicinal constituents, standard tincturing-by-soaking doesn't work well. So, the mushroom is also decocted (simmered... even "reduced"). The decoction is then combined with the tincture for what is then essentially a tincture, or at least used like one. A major benefit to tinctures is the ease of combining them with other tinctures to quickly prepare custom formulae. Another benefit, especially compared to long decoctions, is the convenience of having a ready-to-use preparation. I especially love the aroma of the fresh Tinder Polypore. It has always intrigued me. I don't agree with those that insist the double-extract is the only way to use medicinal mushrooms (see online articles for discussions of the benefits of double-extract mushroom preparations, as well as details on how to do it at home). Consider, for instance, that these medicinal polypores have been used in decoction for ages, often by those who did not have distilled alcohol and the ability to make double-extracts. In the case of Tinder Polypore, I do want to note that I especially like the idea of capturing the pleasant, fruity aroma from the fresh mushrooms and think the double extract is a good idea.
A major benefit of the decoction is that is it more appropriate for larger doses than tincture. Decoction is prepared by covering the sliced mushroom with plenty of water in a pot, bringing it to a boil, reducing it to a simmer, and letting it simmer for some time. For herbs, we usually range from a short decoction of about 15 minutes to a standard of 30 minutes or so. With mushrooms, we usually decoct for over an hour. Often several hours of decocting time is used to produce a strong preparation. By simmering even longer the water content can be reduced to make a full-strength beverage or for the double-extract preparation described above.
The decoction can be used as a tonic for prevention of colds in the autumn. The general benefits and mild flavor make it agreeable to use in this way. It can also be used, perhaps combined with other herbs, for treatment of specific illness.
My favorite go-to on medicinal mushrooms is Robert Rogers The Fungal Pharmacy. I originally bought from him an earlier version (maybe Medicinal Mushrooms of the Mid-West) at an American Herbalists Guild conference, and I intend to buy the newer version soon). Although I have encountered few others using Tinder Polypore as much as I do (even among those who are quite fond of Reishi and some others), Rogers managed to find plenty of references on its medicinal uses. (I wonder if his new edition discusses even more.) He mentions that Oetzi may have been using it to treat parasites and that it was used in European folk medicine for the bladder and as a styptic. Regarding Asian uses he has:
"In Chinese medicine, this fungus warms the lungs, removes lumps from the abdomen, soothes vital energy, and reduces asthma and edema. It is mild in nature, slightly bitter to taste, and is used to resolve indigestion and reduce stasis.
In Japan it is known as Tsuriganetake.
It has been used traditionally in that country as a dressing to staunch blood from deep wounds and in the form of tea for colds, flu, bronchitis, and general debility. It is used in some food preparations associated with autumn and winter."
Rogers also reports on modern studies that found Tinder Polypore active against herpes, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and E. coli. And that it is used to treat cancer.
Christopher Hobbs also discusses Tinder Polypore in his book Medicinal Mushrooms. He describes its moxibustion-like application by Northwest Natives. Also that "In TCM, F. fomentarius is considered slightly bitter and mild. ... In China, it is used for indigestion and to reduce stasis of digestive vitality, as well as for esophageal cancer and gastric and uterine carcinomas."
We have been planting medicinal herb seeds, such as a recent seed order from Mountain Gardens in North Carolina. This morning I decided to look up some details regarding cultivating Shiso ( http://justhungry.com/how-grow-shiso-perilla ). I hope to post information in this blog regarding details of cultivating many of the medicinal herbs that we are focused on producing to supply the Chinese herbal apothecary. Of course, I hope to learn more about the cultivation of Shiso from others sharing on the internet and will post links to good sites I find with details for seed-starting, cultivation, harvest, and use. By adding posts with such links this blog can be a good resource for information on the cultivation of Chinese medicinal herbs like Licorice, Astragalus, DangGui, Rehmannia, and so many others that we really need to start producing locally.
If you are interested in my current planting list, just let me know.
Bladder (Monkey 3-5pm) Akebia, Water Plantain, Poria, Rehmannia, Duckweed, and Safflower
Kidneys (Cock 5-7pm) Achyranthes, Rehmannia, Fennel, Vitex, Rabbit Foot Fern, Honeysuckle
It has always been my aim to primarily use herbs from our region. I also favor wild herbs. The discussion of why local and especially wild herbs are superior will be left for another day. This post is an announcement of the coming season's intentions.
My efforts are primarily devoted to wildcrafting. I am also helping farmers and gardeners to cultivate those herbs that cannot be found in the wild but that compliment the materia medica selection that is available through wildcrafting, especially important herbs from Chinese herbal medicine. Through the season I will be offering a wide selection of wild and organically cultivated medicinal herbs. Future years will include the many more perennial medicinals, which will take time to mature.
Regarding wildcrafting, I am particularly interested in making invasive medicinals much more available for regular use. Japanese Knotweed, Burdock, Garlic Mustard, Reed Grass, Purple Loosestrife, Multiflora Rose, Teasel, and many others are all very useful. I also intend to gather invasives outside our region in order to include herbs like Kudzu in the materia medica.
Sabine Wilms has the superior category as "Upper Medicinals". It is good to consider trees in the winter. They are actually available for harvest. Evergreens like Hemlock (Tsuga) and Pine can be harvested for needles or bark. Further, the trunks of the trees remain after the leaves and fruits have fallen. Regarding botany, it is time to study bark and buds. It also happens that many of the barks are very appropriate in the winter. The evergreens are good for their vitamin C and other fresh constituents, in addition to treating colds, flu, and fevers. Cinnamon is a good warming medicinal. Slippery Elm is good for supplementing the fluids. (Of course, The Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica lists a Chinese Elm, Ulmus pumila.) Cherry Bark is another medicinal for coughs. And there are many more examples besides. Let's consider the medicinals listed by the Divine Farmer in the superior or upper class of medicinals.
See my new article: 5 Poisonous Plant Families the Survivalist Should Know & my Poisonous Plants Page
In Timothy Lee Scott's Invasive Plant Medicine he discusses 24 invasive medicinal plants in some detail.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in wildcrafting medicinal herbs. For materia medica consideration I present the herbs here. It is well worth considering the benefits of those plants that are so despised for swallowing up the habitat of our native species. You can read well-done and broad-reaching descriptions of the herbs by reading the book, which also contains sections on ecology and general considerations.
Culpepper seems to start his description of Nettles with humor:
"Nettles are so well known, that they need no description; they may be found by feeling, in the darkest night."
Hopefully, you won't stumble on Nettles at night. Or during the day. It is worth learning to identify nettles by sight so that you can avoid accidental contact with the plant. Parents especially should learn so that they can teach their childern. The stinging of Nettles is usually not immediate and for this reason they can be diffictult to learn. If you brush up against them while walking along a path or pushing through a thicket you might be well away from the plants by the time you notice the stinging. In order to harvest them you may want to use scissors, which can be done in such a way as to avoid touching the plant. Gloves can be helpful, but often the Nettles will sting through thin or light material. With callouses you may not need gloves at all. Except for in sensitive individuals, the stinging property of Nettle breaks down with cooking or drying. Nettle is a favorite green vegetable and nourishing herbal tisane.
Here are some images from April: http://www.nathanielwhitmore.com/blog/nettles
"This is also an herb Mars claims dominion over. You know Mars is hot and dry, and you know that Winter is cold amd moist; then you may know as well the reason why Nettle-tops eaten in the Spring consume the phlegmatic superfluities in the body of man, that the coldness and moistness of Winter hath left behind... ...to open the pipes and passages of the lungs... ...helps the swelling of the almonds of the throat... ...to heal and temper the inflammations and soreness of the mouth and throat... ...to provoke women's courses... ...against the stinging of venemous creatures... ...The seeds or leaves bruised, and pu tinto the nostrils, stays the bleedign of them, and takes away the fresh growing in them called polyps... ...aches and gouts, and the defluxation of humours upon the joints or sinews..."
Quick description of a medicinal soup: http://www.nathanielwhitmore.com/blog/nettle-chive-soba-soup
Nathaniel Whitmore, herbalist