I understand that you are originally from the States, can you tell us about how it is you came to live and work in Peru?
I came to Peru for the first time with my family in 2004. We spent 4 months in Cuzco and I fell in love with Peru, the freedom, the magic, the way of life I could have here. Working with herbal medicine has led to me studying more about alternative medical and spiritual practices, I was drawn to the mysteries of the world around us, I think we need the humility to accept there is still so much we don’t know, I found that in the US such beliefs and pursuits are very much marginalized and outright persecuted. In Peru, however, I found a freedom to pursue my spiritual calling I never felt before. Shamans (could we use the local name given to them) advertising in the newspapers, visionary plants readily available with a long still living tradition of spiritual use, the land full of spirits and magic. Markets where I could wander around and buy a large variety of exotic local foods, medicinal plants. I no longer felt the force of cultural judgment that I was programmed with in my country of birth, I could avoidably use public transport to explore new incredible places. I fell in love with the freedom of it nowhere else in the world have I felt such a great freedom to just be myself. We returned to Peru in 2006 years later and stayed.
What drew you to start working more closely with Reishi?
I’ve been working with Reishi 6 or 7 years now. Reishi is an incredibly powerful medicinal mushroom with many properties and even other potential uses for example Reishi is one of the main fungi used in the new construction and packaging materials. It is a mushroom that helps balance the mind body and spirit. Many people ask me if it is hallucinogenic and of course it isn’t. However it does put you in a better place to explore natural means of spiritual connection, meditation, yoga, dancing, martial arts, dreaming, whatever. I have had one case of a healing crisis bring on a spontaneous prophetic dream. The guy was not a spiritually active guy and he got scared never tried it again but it is still kind of cool.
What motivated you to begin Fungi Amazonica?
I have been interested and studying mushrooms all my life. I was trying to study plants in Iquitos and one day while trying to identify a plant I saw a giant billboard for a Reishi mushroom product. then one day I found Reishi mushrooms in the wild wandering around the jungle and I chewed on it and felt some effects. Then I started studying the Reishi mushroom more in depth and gathering preparing extracts, trying them. There is a already existing market in Peru for Reishi mushrooms thanks to DXN(what is this?) so I started selling them and little by little got more serious about it. This is just a beginning my real mission is to introduce the full potential of fungi to Peru.
You work with local communities to harvest the Reishi fuitbodies, where are they and how did you get to know them?
At the moment I work with three communities along the Nanay river. San Pedro, Tres unidos, and Lupuna I will be expanding to the Matse community (a particularly interesting indigenous group), Restinga, and hopefully many others. The people of San Pedro were the first community I started working with and now they are very good at harvesting the mushrooms. I met them through a friend who was working at a local healing center. I was invited to there to explore the idea of collaborating with them on a mushroom cultivation project. Astonishingly, on the way to the center I found more Reishi mushrooms than I had ever seen before and I learned where they grow in abundance. These communities already worked with the healing center and my friend helped me get into contact with the communities who also had employment with the healing center.
What differentiates Amazonian Reishi from other types of Reishi?
Ganoderma lucidum is a name that is commonly used for many different species of Reishi. Fungal taxomony is undergoing a thorough revision at the moment thanks to genetic analysis. The Lucidum species it is actually a European species that became popular when Western scientists decided to study the medicinal mushroom known to Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The Chinese Reishi is not actually Ganoderma Lucidum and it is likely that Lucidum is a cryptic species. (I just want to be a bit careful with this until I use up all the labels and boxes) The species I use is wild harvested in the flood forests of Peru. It has a shorter growing season and is therefore more densely productive and faster growing than other species of Reishi. This means that because of more accumulated bio mass will attract more pests causing the mushroom to focus on it’s bio-chemical defenses. These chemicals are the immunologically active compounds that that can have such a profound affect on our health. Our Reishi has been shown to have average polysacharide levels and particularly high levels of Triterpenes so it is particularly good for a lot of the adapotgenic properties.
How do you make the tincture?
The Fungal Amazonica tincture a dual, broad spectrum extract. This means I process the dried Reishi in two way to obtain the maximum amount of immunologically active compounds from the mushroom.
The harvesters pick dry and store wild Reishi mushrooms. Mushrooms are carefully selected for old, too young, or spoiled specimens. The good mushrooms are weighed and paid for. They are then rinsed dried and crushed in a machine. The crushed Reishi is then soaked in alcohol for three months. The Alcohol extract is then drained out and the remaining shredded Reishi is then boiled in clean filtered water for about 5-6 hours. The water extract is drained out. Both Extracts are then boiled down to equal about 1 litre per 1 kilogram of dried Reishi. The ratio is 40% alcohol extract 60% water extract.
First, I soak shredded Reishi mushrooms in alcohol for a 3-4 months. I then I drain the liquid (menstrum) out from the material (marc) and keep that to one side as I then use the marc for the second extraction this time using hot water. With an alcohol extraction the terpenes are soluble whereas the polysaccharides are extracted through the water. I then concentrate both extracts to about 1 litre /Kilo of dried mushrooms and combine the extracts 40%alcohol extract/60% water extract.
I hope to improve my laboratory setup to make more highly concentrated extracts such a pressurized hot water extraction for better polysaccharide extraction, super-critical liquid CO2 extraction for other constituents, Ultra sonic celular disruption during alcohol extraction process. Some way to dry extracts into a powder to add to Pills, chocolates, etc.
Can you give examples of how the Reishi has helped people who have used it?
Over the years I have come across many and varied positive affect form the use of this Reishi extract. When i first started studying the Reishi mushroom in depth after finding it in the wild I could not believe the very large amount of medicinal properties. I asked myself how something I just pulled off of a rotten stump could do these things but little by little many of the properties have been confirmed.
Personally, I started using it to stop the common cold. I combined the tincture with Camu Camu fruit from the rainforest with a very high vitamin C content. I have had Dengue twice and a combination of papaya leaf extract, camu camu, and Reishi cured me both times. My first patients were suffering from arthritis. After using the tincture they reported that it reduced pain and swelling and led to increased movement.
people have come to me for the tincture to treat their insomnia with success. I understand this is the soporific affect of the Reishi spores is now a recognised treatment in herbal medicine.
I recommend the use of the tincture in high blood pressure,
Generally, Reishi and indeed other medicinal mushrooms are a wonderful tonic and should be used in part with other treatments and efforts for improve one’s health such as an appropriate diet. I know some of my customers use the tincture as part of a detox regime, in particular to detox their livers.
Some of the more strange stories I had reported for the use of the tincture was from a friend who seemed to have lost the ability to dream because, perhaps, of the overuse of extremely strong marijuana, he started dreaming again after using my tincture. Also, I recently was told of a guy whose dog was suffering from from tumors by boiling Reishi mushrooms and soaking their food in the tea.
Why can’t I just make a tea from the dried mushroom/powder?
The extract is better for the wider variety of compounds extracted. The tripterpenes for example which are a particular strong suite of the variety I use are much more soluble in alcohol. However specifically for the polysacharides the tea would actually be better. I use the extract mostly but particularly for digestive problems i use the tea because i can combine it with other plants. Also if I want to meditate with Reishi I make the tea.
Tell us more about Fungi Amazónica and what you hope for the future of the business?
Fungi Amazónica is dedicated to realizing the full potential of fungi in Peru and the rest of Peru. I want to help improve the economy, health, quality of life, management of ecology, agricultural practices, and establish better agricultural waste recycling. Now, with our better and increasing understanding of mycology it is clear, to me at least, that fungi can play a key role in achieving these outcomes. At the moment I am focused on expansion of the harvest, and export of the product in order to finance future developments of the business. I then want to move into more product development such as high concentrated extracts, capsules containing the Reishi with combinations of medicinal plants, even chocolates.
I would also love to start working on cultivation projects. There are other species of Reishi in the rainforest which are also very interesting but simply do not exist in nature in sufficient quantity to sustainably harvest them. I could clone particularly good strains and start a natural cultivation project that could greatly increase the sustainability of agriculture in the Amazon rain forest. Right now the most common forestry practice is to clear fell trees and make charcoal which is then sold cheaply to the city. In the Amazonian ecosystem the nutrition base of the land is in the rapid decomposition and recycling of bio-matter. The topsoil of the rainforest is actually quite thin. This means that by taking exporting the trees as timber or charcoal they sell all the nutrition of their land to the city and deplete the soil. If instead they could cultivate Reishi and other mushrooms on logs and leave some of the trees for shade and natural reforesting they can actually make more money with less effort, recycle the biomass into their farms and maintain productivity indefinitely and eventually reforest their land naturally with selected useful plant species. It is this idea of applied mycology, of Radical Mycology, that really inspires me. Fungi can improve our health and the health of all the communities with which we share this precious world.