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Friday, March 21, 2014


TO CELEBRATE WOMEN'S (HEALERS) HISTORY MONTH (WHM), during the month of March ~ in addition to my weekly postings ~ I will be making DAILY postings of time tested herbal and medicinal foods used from a Medicine Woman's bag, which holds many, many herbs, generating many, many formulas, as one herb used for a cold (mullein), when combined with totally different herbs, can be used as an antispasmodic for inflammation or as an expectorant to relieve asthma or general lung congestion.

This week will be dedicated to Chinese herbs. For the 30 years that I have traveled around the country treating health imbalances with herbs and teaching herb courses and workshops, Chinese herbs have always made up a very large percentage of my inventory, and the success I've had with the efficacy of Chinese herbs are unmatched.


Fu ling is an herbal remedy used in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is extracted from a fungus which is found widely around the world. Many cultures, including the Native Americans, used this fungus to treat various health problems. Many Chinese herbalists and markets carry this remedy in a variety of forms, and it is also included in a number of tonics which are designed to promote general health. Harvesting fu ling is not recommended unless you are very familiar with mushrooms.

The fungi that fu ling comes from is called Poria cocos, and is found in the Polyporaceae family. It often colonizes things like tree trunks and roots, with a large mycelium hidden below the surface while the fruiting bodies of the fungus are visible to mushroom hunters. Fu ling happens to favor the ground around pine trees, and it is sought out much like the European truffle. The part of the mushroom which is used is the sclerotium, a hardened compact part of the mycelium which stores up energy for the fungus.

Fu Ling / Tuckahoe

Early Europeans who observed Native Americans harvesting fu ling referred to it as Indian bread or Indian potatoes, since they believed that the fungus was an important staple food. Slaves knew it as Tuckahoe, while others call it Polyporus, in a reference to its family. Another alternate name for fu ling is hoelen. Some herbal companies actively cultivate this fungus in Chinese red pine forests, ensuring a steady supply of the valued herb.

Fu ling is used as a general purpose yin tonic, promoting health and balance in the body. It also appears to promote urination and generally healthy blood flow, and some herbalists also prescribe it as a sedative, since the yin effects are calming. The remedy acts specifically on the heart, spleen, and kidney meridians, and it is used to treat a variety of conditions which are believed to be associated with these meridians.

The Poria cocos can destroy timber if left unattended. This mushroom has a soft texture with a sweet flavor when used in cooking. The Poria cocos is usually dried and used in ancient Chinese medication.
History and Origin
The Poria cocos is known in traditional Asian medicine to treats dampness, which is beneficial for people who are suffering from Insomnia. The Poria cocos is well known in more traditional Korean folklore as a medicinal herb which is a blessing from the Gods.
Ancient Uses
The Poria cocos was primarily used in ancient times as a treatment for tumors, inflammation and also used to treat a myriad of diseases commonly found in animals.
Modern Uses
The modern times has led to the research and clinical studies of the Poria cocos this mushroom contains monosaccharide that is responsible for its anti tumor properties. The Poria cocos has anti inflammatory properties that is essential for the treatment of joint pain, swelling and redness in rheumatoid arthritis. It has also diuretic properties that can benefit congestive heart failure and also edema in many types of illnesses. The Poria cocos also has antiemetic properties and can also benefit many gastrointestinal problems. Its central nervous system effects have also made the Poria cocos an invaluable treatment for depression. The effect of Poria cocos in depression is comparable to the anti depressant drug Prozac when it comes to effectiveness and therapeutic effects. 
This is the form I usually buy it in.
Herbal supplements should always be used with care. It is important to remember that herbs like fu ling are only one part of the larger practice of TCM, and that you should ideally see a TCM practitioner if you wish to pursue this method of medical treatment. The practitioner can examine you to form an accurate diagnosis, and a range of treatments may be offered to you in addition to herbal remedies. You should always disclose any drugs and herbal treatments you are taking to a healthcare provider, as this information is very important for safe and accurate treatment.

This next paragraph is the perfect example of how Chinese medicine differs from Western.  Make note of the references to the various way they consider "how" symptoms present: enriching the heart and spleen; draining heat and mobilizing water; calming the heart spirit . . . there are simply no Western herbs that we could choose to address the symptoms.  

The portion of the fungus that grows closer to the root is white in color and is thus known as white poria; that closer to the outer skin is pinkish in color and known as red poria. White poria is the product that is normally dispensed when just Poria (fu ling) is prescribed. Penetrating the Mysteries of the Material Medica observes that the red variety "can only drain heat and mobilize water; it does not have the many actions of white poria." Red poria is often prescribed for such disorders as scanty, dark urine or urinary difficulty. Another way of looking at this is that white poria enters the qi aspect and red poria enters the blood aspect; white poria more strongly tonifies, while red poria is more facilitating. Thus for enriching the Heart and Spleen, and calming the Heart spirit, white poria is superior, but for eliminating water and dampness, especially if associated with blood stasis, red poria is the better choice. (Chinese Herbal Materia Medica, 3rd edition).

And the Chinese Herbal Material Medica is one of my regular resource books (and is on my book list on the left.