Herb Profile: Artist’s Bracket Fungus

Botanical Name: Ganoderma applanatum

Common Names: Artist’s Conk, Shelf Fungus, White Mottled Rot Mushroom, Bear Bread, Powder Coated Monkey’s Bench  

Family: Ganodermataceae

Parts Used: Fruiting Body of the Fungus

Related Species: There are many species of Ganoderma and a number of them have uses as medicinal mushrooms. The most well known and researched is Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) which grows on hardwood trees. Another is G.tsugae (Hemlock Varnish Shelf) which grows on conifers especially the Hemlock Spruce (Tsuga spp.). These two and the Artist’s Bracket are all collectively sold together as ‘ling zhi’ in Asia and considered to have similar properties though Reishi is commercially the preferred species.

Mycology & Identification: It grows on many species of dead or dying deciduous trees across temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere.

Growing & Harvesting: Artist’s Bracket is a perennial fungus which adds on a layer of growth to fruiting body each year, identifiable as a distinct ring of tissue. The medicinal part of the fungus is the fruiting body harvested when it is spore bearing, usually mid August to early September. The spores are released from the underside, and the top of the fungus has an opposite electrical charge to the spores, so some are attracted to the top and sit there as a dusty brown deposit that looks like cocoa which can be seen at the peak of its fertile period. Only harvest the fruiting body from individuals that are two years or older and still growing. You can tell if they are still growing from the white band along the outer edge. Only harvest this year and the previous year’s growth to allow the conk to continue growing in the following years.

You can also just harvest some of the spores by brushing them off with a small brush and preserving them as a nutritional powder to consume later.

Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
Hemlock Varnish Shelf (Ganoderma tsugae)

Edibility & Nutrition: Inedible raw, but used as a flavour enhancer in Chinese cooking and as part of the base for soups

Constituents: Polysaccharides, Beta-Glucans, Adenosine, Triterpenes, Protein, Phyto-sterols, Lipids, Ganesterone, Vitamins C & B2

Qualities:  Cooling, Neutral

Tastes: Meaty, Salty

Medicinal Actions:  Adaptogen, Adrenal Stimulant, Antiallergenic, Anti-Microbial, Anti-Hepatotoxic, Anti-Neoplastic, Anti-Viral, Astringent, Diaphoretic, Hypoglycaemic, Immune Tonic, Nervine, Relaxant, Tonic, Vasodilator

Uses:

Immune Support

  • The Ganoderma genus are powerful immune tonics: they generally increase the rate of action and efficiency of immune cells in the body, and balance the overall immune response. By normalising the immune response, they are specifics for reducing auto-immune excess and problematic allergies.
  • They are able to both alleviate symptoms of allergies as well as preventing their development by addresses the underlying immune imbalance that predisposes the body to overreact to pollen or other allergens, as well as  reducing the histamine-mediated inflammatory responses that follows the body’s overreaction

Cancer Protective

  • Artists’ Conk reduces proliferation of tumour cells and inhibits tumour necrosis factor, slowing and reversing the spread of cancer.
  • One of the best herbs for restoring the function of the immune system following chemotherapy, and also for synergistically increasing the effectiveness of chemo while decreasing its side effects. Here it works well in combination with Inonotus obliquus and Piptoporus betulinus

Anti-Pathogenic

  • Anti-bacterial against Staphylococci & Streptococci bacteria.
  • Anti-fungal against Candida species
  • Anti-viral -effective against HIV, herpes, hepatitis B, post viral fatigue

Adaptogen For Stress & Sleep

  • The Ganodermas are adaptogenic tonics for building up cold, deficient and exhausted states. Matthew Wood writes that Artist’s Bracket is a tonic to the parasympathetic side of the nervous system (responsible for rest, relax, eat, digest, sleep, dream)
  • Reduces stress & anxiety, improves adrenal function & sleep quality
  • Reishi Mushroom is known as ‘spirit mushroom’ relating to its sedative qualities. It is often prescribed to improve sleep patterns.
  • Excellent rejuvenative for elderly and during convalescence

Heart & Circulation

  • Supports heart function, increasing coronary circulation and protecting against damage to the heart muscle.
  • Relieves heart palpitations and disorders of heart rhythm

History & Folklore:

  • ‘Applanatum’ means Shelf, and ‘Ganoderma’  means Shiny Skin
  • The name Artist’s Bracket refers to the white underside of the mushroom’s fruiting body which can be marked to draw pictures onto
  • It is known as ‘ling zhi’ in China. This is derived from the pictographs for ‘shaman praying for rain’ (ling) and ‘tree fungus’ or ‘substance used to concoct an elixir of immortality’ (zhi).
  • Artists Bracket sister mushroom Reishi is known in China & Japan as the ‘Mushroom of Immortality’ and is used as a longevity and vitality tonic. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is considered warming, tonic, nourishing, antitoxic, astringing, and dispersing of accumulations
  • Artists Conk in Japanese is known as コフキサルノコシカケ – which means ‘Powder Coated Monkey’s Bench’
  • Anecdotes from zoologists working with gorillas tell stories of these primates self-medicating with Artists’ Bracket Fungi. They have been seen breaking them off trees and then carrying them far away from the group and jealously guarding them

Preparations & Dosages: Fresh or dried tincture, infusion, poultice, ointment, compress, powder, soup base. Its immuno-modulating polysaccharides are water soluble and can be decocted and drunk as a tea. Extraction into alcohol will release the ganodermic acids.

Tincture Dose is 10-20ml, up to three times a day.

Powder Dose is 3-6g a day in chronic disease, and 9-15g in acute conditions

Cautions & Contraindications: Not recommended in pregnancy, lactation or concurrently with immunosuppressants. Avoid in Mushroom Allergies. May cause diarrhoea in large doses.  The Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is considered synergistic with the following medications and it can be assumed that Artist’s Bracket will be similarly so: Cefazolin (antibiotic), Interferon-Alpha & Interferon-Gamma, Acyclovir (Anti-Fungal).

References:

Harrod-Buhner Stephen (2012) Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition

McIntyre, Anne (2010) The Complete Herbal Tutor

Powell, Martin (2013) ‘Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide’, Mycology Press

Wood, Matthew (2008) The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants  

http://michaelvertolli.blogspot.com/2013/08/harvesting-artists-conk-ganoderma.html

http://livingearthschool.ca/documents/GanodermaBlog.pdf

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