Medicine Hunter


Medicine Hunter

From forest bathing to barefoot walking and healing with mushrooms we celebrate the therapeutic magic present in the natural world. Following a medicine hunter through the forest we look at the journey behind creating healing tinctures with mushrooms like Red Reishi and Turkey Tail. Medicinal mushrooms have the efficacy of thousands of years of proven benefit and scientific credibility in preventing and treating issues from immune disorders to viral diseases and cancer.

Hormones are the ‘molecules of consciousness’—powerful bio-peptides that control mood, perception, sleep-wake cycles, bonding and connection and our awareness of reality. Reishi’s effect on the hormonal system is legendary. It is gentle yet powerful, working to balance the body’s many glands and organs steadily overtime, which makes it ideal for daily use.  ~ Justin Faerman

Mushroom hunting is just as romantic as it sounds. Following barefooted and somewhat wild forest dweller Archie Terblanche through his land in the Knysna forest yielded a story about a porcupine, a mushroom (obviously) and a huge envy for a life lived so close to nature. On the third turn we couldn’t resist taking off our shoes, the forest floor was incredibly soft from months of rain and our intrepid guide mentioned that walking barefoot has an instant anti-inflammatory benefit. I’m not sure Archie wore shoes much, he was beautifully in touch with the forest and had an uncanny intuitive sense of which pathway to follow. “You learn to read the trees, the shapes of them become familiar and you develop a natural compass,” he said. He also affirmed that, you don’t find Reishi, it finds you. And so he took no credit for his foraging forays, inferring that it was inevitable – he and the Reishi mushroom were meant to be. And yes, he casually walked over a tree trunk, behind a bush, through another thicket and lo and behold, there it was. A spectacular Red Reishi. When Archie first realised he had Red Reishi right at his doorstep he was totally blown away. Unlike the Ancient Reishi which is more commonly found in the wild, the Red counterpart is not. They’re very beautiful mushrooms, and mostly grow on very old trees where they appear hard, brown, woody and wavy with a noticeable aura of wisdom and majesty.

With a legacy in China of being reserved for royal immortality, it’s just and fair they’re given admiration and respect. And Archie has appropriate reverence never removing too much from the cluster of mushrooms allowing the ‘God of Fungi’ it’s due to grow back.  Mushrooms are also never harvested until they have dropped their spore – when their life cycle is complete. This ensures survival and proliferation of the species.

In China, Reishi or Ling Zhi, is known as the Mushroom of Immortality and has an exhaustive amount of healing qualities too long to list here. Ranging from longevity promotion to cancer protection, nervous system calming, liver healing, heart repair and even spiritual wisdom and insight, effectively it’s an all over life-giving tonic and immune booster.

It’s not the only medicine offered up by the forest in Knysna, besides Red Reishi and Ancient Reishi, Archie discovered Turkey Tail and started making tinctures and teas to properly harness and extract the healing properties. “Being wild harvested”, says Archie, “it’s not so much of a commercial venture as it’s all up to the forest to determine availability.”

Hand picking and sustainable harvesting creates a limited supply and I got the feeling that bringing these gems to market was more a labour of love than a primarily profit making endeavour.  Archie believes the high potency of wild plants and the energies they absorb from growing in a wild natural environment rather than in a grow-room or controlled area makes them precious and powerful. He explained that the joy of finding ‘medicine’ grown wild rather in a hothouse is that it has absorbed all the energies of the forest, of the weather and of the astrological activity.  “That’s what makes it so special”, he says, “we take these wild energies into our bodies when we drink wild Reishi teas or tinctures.  This helps remind us of our wilder, more natural, less ‘domesticated’ state of being and helps bring us closer to it.”

Archie explains that medicinal mushrooms need to be extracted in hot water or alcohol (or both) for their medicine to be released and the benefits properly bio-available to the body. Often this is overlooked and it’s a very important part of making medicine.

Wild plants have to be tough to survive as their predators are not controlled as they would be in a farming situation.  As a result they are vulnerable to attack and develop potent chemical defenses against such attacks.  These chemical substances, if beneficial and biologically assimilable in our own bodies, become ‘medicines’ to us and can have profound health benefits. Wild soils also tend to be far richer and less demineralised than cultivated soils and this, too, adds to the potency of wild plants.

After zig zagging through the forest we sat on a log and Archie remembered sitting on the same log some time ago when a porcupine happened to walk right down the path and pass him by. He told us stories about forests and forest people and legends of ancient hunting tradition where the porcupine was known as a medicine seeker. “They eat medicinal plants and as a result the contents of their tummies were regarded as highly medicinal and eaten,” he elaborated.

We also got a mini lesson in mindfulness, about setting an intention and following that intention with intuition and resolve. “That’s how you find your way and find the medicine.”
After a beautiful walk, we headed back to his home where we were treated to a feast of home grown and gathered leaves, superfoods, berries and treats all completely delicious. Porcupine stomach, thankfully, wasn’t on the menu. Part of Archie’s daily ritual is a cauldron of superhero immune boosting  – his very own concoction designed for maximum health and longevity benefit respendant with Ancient Reishi, Turkey Tail, Cinnabar Polypore, Chaga, Goji berries, Vanilla pods and Licorice root. It’s a brew that can be sipped all day and in fact makes an excellent base for rice, stew, soup or a cacao chocolate drink. Its woody, aromatic and satisfying taste is joined in goodness with a hundred magical benefits, most of all immune boosting although as an adaptogen it targets whichever part of the body needs it. We sipped on that too. It was difficult to leave. The healing embrace of the forest and the charm of our unusual medicine hunter elicited immense gratitude that healing and preventative remedies could carry such high intention and care and could be harvested in a mindful and sustainable fashion.

Archie Terblanche lives in the Knysna forest along the Garden Route and creates a limited amount of tinctures and teas under the label African Forest Medicinals.

REISHI – the life-giving tonic
A variety of woody mushroom species are classified as Reishi, important one’s are Ganoderma Lucidum, Ganoderma Sinensis and Ganoderma Tsugae. In the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, the Chinese ‘Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica’, Red Reishi is classed as a superior medicine that “boosts vitality of the heart, nourishes the organs, supports a centered state of mind, sharpens wit and improves memory. Prolonged usage may prevent senility, and prolong life so as to make one immortal.” 
In numerous hospitals in China, a high quality Reishi noted as having extraordinary immunological activity is popularly sought after as part of a cancer healing protocol. Hundreds of biologically active components in Red Reishi are said to be beneficial to every cell of the human body in different ways. It’s revered as a protective and tonic herb that creates radiant health and recommended as a life giving gift that should be taken daily. Although not mind altering it is used in China as a benevolent spiritual ally said to have a positive effect on consciousness accelerating enlightenment and opening the pathways to abundance.
It’s important to research where your Reishi comes from and how it is cultivated as this has a profound influence on its effectiveness. You can buy dried, ground medicinal mushrooms and use them to make tea if you manage to cultivate the taste. Alternatively, they’re available as liquid extracts or capsules. It’s recommended to ingest medical mushrooms for at least two months to properly notice the deep rooted effects.

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