Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lacquered polypore

Species name: Ganoderma tsugae

Common name: Hemlock varnish shelf, lacquered polypore

Location: Ontario

This is probably as "native" as a species can get with respect to fungi; there is an Asian species of lacquered polypore that grows mostly on hardwoods, and this North American species that grows mostly on conifers, especially hemlocks. I took this photo when I was out with my supervisor at a private woodlot in Exeter, Ontario on an enormous hemlock stump of a tree that had likely been cut down in the mid-1800s to support the ever expanding railroad.

The two closely related species of lacquered polypore, Ganoderma tsugae and G. lucidum, both have reported medicinal properties (they have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for the last 2,000 years where the fungus is called "Lingzhi") while both fungi themselves are classified as "inedible" (since they have much the same texture as soft wood or hard cardboard, even after being cooked, and are not poisonous). The reported active chemicals in the lacquered polypores are called ganoderic acids, which closely resemble steroid hormones. There are many, many reported health benefits of these extracted acids, but whether any of these benefits are likely in terms of how much you can get from drinking a tea made from these species of Ganoderma is still up for debate. Among the reported benefits are anti-tumor effects, anti-inflammatory effects, inhibiting platelet aggregation, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood glucose, and protection for the liver from viral infections like hepatitis. The traditional way to prepare the tea is to thinly slice fresh or dried fruiting body and to put it in boiling water where it will cook for two hours. The tea can be sweetened with sugar or flavoured with lemon juice (the tea is incredibly bitter) before consumption.