Reishi was called the mushroom of immortality in ancient China, as it was believed to be a cure for many age-related ailments. It represented a sort of spiritual potency, including well-being, connectedness, and longevity. It’s showed up in artistic images since at least the 15th century and has been cited for thousands of years in scripts and texts as being a special tonic for emperors. It was (and still is) used as a daily tonic in Asia, where it is thought to benefit vital energy, or qi. It is joined by another mushroom about which the same claims have been made: the chaga fungus that grows on birches in northern forests and tastes faintly of root beer and vanilla. Added to these are a number of other medicinal mushrooms: tumor-fighting turkey tails gathered by hand in Oregon, immune-boosting anise shelf mushrooms from my home in Idaho, and nerve-strengthening lion’s mane mushrooms from a dear friend in British Columbia. (Thank you Bill!)
But what to do with this magnificent blend of medicinal mushrooms? Make hot chocolate, of course! A warm drink is one of the best ways to get all the benefits from these mushrooms. Raw, the medicinal tree mushrooms included in this blend are tough and woody, very different from the gourmet varieties you might add to your soups or pasta. The most helpful medicinal components of these tree mushrooms—the polysaccharides and triglycerides—need a little time to break down. Ideally, you should cook them over low heat for a long period of time to extract all the good stuff.
So without further ado, here are the directions for making your own bio-available medicinal mushroom cocoa blend. It takes a bit of time, but if you don’t have the time to wait each chance you want a cup of hot cocoa, this technique will create a bio-available instant cocoa blend that can be enjoyed on-the-go! This mix is easily customizable too. If you’d like to exclude the sugar or use regular granulated sugar, go for it. You can stir it into any kind of hot milk to drink, though I often prefer it as more of a cocoa tea just mixed into plain old water. (You can also add powdered milk or coconut milk to the mixture itself.) I’ve added some other warming spices such as anti-inflammatory turmeric, black pepper to make the turmeric more bio-available, stomach-warming ginger, and circulation-supporting cinnamon. Oh, and cardamom, because it’s delicious. Feel free to add or subtract as you see fit!
Medicinal Mushroom Cocoa
This makes 2 to 3 cups of mix, depending on the ingredients that you add.
⅓ cup brandy
1 tablespoon powdered lion’s mane mushrooms
2 tablespoons powdered chaga mushrooms
2 tablespoons powdered reishi mushrooms
1 tablespoon powdered turkey tail mushrooms
1 tablespoon anise shelf mushroom
(or red-belted polypore)
2 vanilla beans
½ tablespoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sweetener of choice
(I used granulated honey)
½ cup coconut milk powder, optional
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Crock pot or thick-bottomed saucepan
Dehydrator with nonstick sheets for liquids (or cookie sheet with nonstick finish)
A silicone mat
Bottles or bags to package it in
In a small bowl, mix together all the various mushroom powders. Place half the mixture in a small jar and add the vanilla beans, chopped into small sections. Top with the brandy. Leave overnight. This extracts the alcohol-soluble constituents of the mushrooms.
Pour the infused mixture into a crock pot along with the rest of the mushroom mixture and the turmeric, black pepper, salt, and cardamom. Add ¾ cup water. Turn the crock pot on low and leave for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Check on it every three hours or so to make sure there’s still enough liquid and nothing is sticking to the bottom.
If not using a crock pot, place the ingredients into a thick-bottomed saucepan. Turn the burner on as low as possible and put the lid on. (The mixture should never boil or bubble.) Let it cook for at least 12 hours, checking on it occasionally to make sure it hasn’t boiled dry or started to stick. If you need to leave, just turn the burner off and leave the pan covered, then resume heating when you return.
After your mushroom mixture has infused for at least 12 hours on low heat, turn off the heat and let it cool to a tepid temperature. Pour it through a strainer to remove vanilla bean pieces and cardamom pods. Add the ginger and cocoa powder and stir well to form a thin paste. Spread the paste onto the dehydrator sheet or cookie sheet. If you’re using a dehydrator, set it to the lowest heat setting and run it until the brown mixture has dried completely. If you’re using a cookie sheet, set it somewhere warm and well-ventilated and let it air dry, which could take a few days. (Make sure to keep it covered by a screen or an upside-down box to keep out dust or insects.)
Crumble up the brown paste, then grind it back into a powder using the coffee grinder. You may have to work in small batches.
Add the reground cocoa mixture to a large bowl, then mix in the coconut sugar, optional milk powder, and the cinnamon. Your mixture is now ready to consume!
To drink, add a heaping teaspoonful to a mug of hot milk or water and stir. Package your homemade medicinal mushroom hot chocolate in pretty containers for sharing with your family and friends!