Cultures around the world have been using teas made with medicinal mushrooms to help support their wellbeing for thousands of years. It’s easy to do at home, too! Discover how to make mushroom tea from a variety of medicinal mushrooms such as lion’s mane, reishi, cordcyeps and chaga.April 27, 2022 4:20 pm January 20, 2022 6:04 pm
Ötzi the ice man
Thirty years ago, a German tourist named Helmut Simon was hiking in the Tirolean Ötztal Alps, between Italy and Austria. Taking in the gorgeous scenery, he was totally unaware that the accidental discovery he was about to make would change anthropological science forever.
Coming to a rocky hollow, Helmut stumbled upon the mummified remains of a human body. Scientists would later discover that the strange, perfectly preserved figure dated back to 3300 BC. This makes ‘Ötzi’, as the body was nicknamed, over 5000 years old, and a denizen of the Copper Age.
Judging by the items found with Ötzi upon his discovery, he had led quite a life. 61 tattoos mark his body along joints and modern acupuncture points. During his lifetime, he appears to have suffered a broken nose and several broken ribs.
He carried a copper axe and a deerskin quiver, along with a supply of arrows. A lump of smouldering charcoal wrapped in maple leaves made it easy for him to start a fire quickly when he stopped to rest.
Scientists have a few theories about how Ötzi came to be in his final resting place. However the original researchers believed that he had been shot in the shoulder with an arrow and bled to death, simply remaining where he died until he was covered by ice flows.
Others suggest that he may have been deliberately buried there by his people as a kind of territorial marking.(1)(2)(3)
Ötzi and his mushrooms
Ötzi now resides in a special, carefully monitored cold chamber at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology. He receives around 300,000 visitors per year, and is the regular subject of scientific study.
But why are we talking about Ötzi the iceman in an article about mushroom tea?
Well, as it turns out, Ötzi may well have been taking advantage of medicinal mushrooms himself, demonstrating just how long we have been using these fabulous fungi to nourish and heal ourselves.
Among Ötzi’s possessions, researchers found a girdle bag containing Fomes fomentarius (‘true tinder bracket’ fungus) and two pieces of Piptoporus betulinus mushroom mounted on a leather thong.(4)
It looks like the ‘true tinder bracket’ fungus was used primarily as tinder, but may also have been useful as a wound compress.
However scientists believe that Ötzi was using Piptoporus betulinus medicinally. In more modern times, this fungus has a long history of this kind of use, from Russia to Great Britain. It has been described as having anti-fatigue, soothing and immune-enhancing effects.
Why was Ötzi carrying around Piptoporus betulinus? It appears that he may have been consuming it to treat an ailment.(4)
How we use mushroom tea today
Before the advent of modern science, mushroom teas were hugely popular in folk medicine.(4) People used them to treat a wide variety of ailments.
However, in the modern day, with the benefit of targeted medicines for specific diseases, mushroom tea has taken on a new role.
That is, we tend to drink it now as a way to help support our body’s natural health. Rather than using them as a treatment for illness, medicinal mushrooms are becoming more popular as a regular part of our wellness routine.
Throughout most of the period that humans have been drinking mushroom tea, we’ve been making it simply by steeping the mushroom in hot water.
However, we’ve also been experimenting with flavour combinations that bring out the best in the mushroom. Below, we have some great ideas for how to make your mushroom tea a little bit more special.