Ancient Remedies Revisited;
How some very old remedies may help reverse the sands of time.
by Mark J Kaylor
Humankind has been searching for the fountain of youth probably as long as we have inhabited this planet. You probably could go so far as to say that this search for longevity is part and parcel of who we are, one of the many elements that distinguish us as human. If we are to explore the possibility of turning back the aging clock we must first investigate the very concepts of aging and anti-aging. The biggest reason that aging is such a difficult process to slow or reverse lies with the fact that it is clearly a very complex, complicated, and slowly, subtly, developing progression. Even today researchers cannot agree on the actual causes and reasons for the aging process as we know it.
Essential to understanding aging and healthy longevity is the phrase “as we know it.” It is the opinion of the author and many others that what we call “aging” is really more a result of a lifestyle that includes a poor diet, insufficient exercise and movement, chronically high stress levels, and the toxic environment in which we live. Osteoporosis, poor vision, lack of energy, forgetfulness, arthritis, and weakening are by no means inherent to the aging process. These conditions arise out of usually decades of neglect and abuse of our body and our health. Aging then, is really nothing more than living.
This brings up another important perspective, and that is, if aging is just the inevitable and unavoidable process of living, then it makes no sense to pursue a path of “anti-aging”. To travel the anti-aging road is to set oneself up in opposition to life and the natural process of living. Clearly this is not a path that promotes the absolutely essential free flow of energy, healing, vitality, and rejuvenation that would allow us to live young.
So is it possible to slow or reverse the “aging process”? The answer is a resounding YES! Is it possible to attain immortality? Well that’s another question and a story for another time but one I’m working on so I’ll have to let you know.
A Holistic Approach, the Best Approach
Since the body and the aging process is such a complex and intricate progression it only makes sense that any effective approach must be a holistic one, affecting all aspects of our body, our health, and our lift. This being the case it is highly unlikely that pharmaceutically oriented substances, with their linear and singular causal actions, will provide us with the age–reversing effects that we seek. The good news is that our ancestors discovered and explored a range of tonic, balancing, and supportive medicinal substances that fit this holistic need. And one very promising, rejuvenating category of medicinal herbs (although technically not an herb) that may surprise you, are the medicinal mushrooms.
Mushrooms are a subset of a larger category of herbs called tonics. Because tonic’s gifts and actions are very different from the linear drugs our culture is so enamored with, they are what I have called the most neglected, overlooked, underappreciated, underused, and undervalued remedies. Rather than affecting a single action or pathway, tonics work in many different directions, and on many levels. These “superior” medicines are about balance, harmony, integration, connection, and even transformation; clearly very different remedies and a very different approach than what we normally think of from our medicine, whether they be conventional or alternative.
Mushrooms to the Rescue
My number one age-defying remedy, albeit mushroom or otherwise, is Cordyceps. A traditional Chinese Medicine (tCM) tonic with thousands of years of hands on use, Cordyceps has, over the last 40 years or so, been subjected to a significant amount of research that has confirmed virtually all of the original applications. Today, much of what we call aging would be called a deficiency of Yang Qi in tCM, especially the lack of energy, drive, and fire that most of us would accept as a given in the aging process.
Those of us in the West who are familiar with Cordyceps generally think of it as an energy booster which recent research supports but it’s benefits go way beyond this. It has been shown to increase the body’s endogenous antioxidants that are necessary to combat age-related free radical damage. Other age defying benefits include liver support, inflammation reduction, adrenal restoration, blood pressure lowering, atherosclerosis prevention, sleep quality improving, and increase oxygen uptake and metabolism.
One area of concern that I’m sure many of us hope to avoid as we age is sexual dysfunction. Clinical studies on both older men and women demonstrated significant overall improvement in their sexual lives, increased satisfaction, along with improvements in their sexual function.
A close second to Cordyceps is the Reishi mushroom in its ability to slow or prevent the ravages of time. So effective a remedy is Reishi that I have coined the phrase “tonic for the 21st century” to describe its incredible healing potential and gift. If you consider the fact that the two leading causes of death in the U.S. today are heart disease and cancer, and that Reishi benefits and reduces risk for both, it is easy to see how Reishi came to this title.
This remedy is a tonic for the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, respiratory, and central nervous systems, supporting their overall healthy functioning and balance. It also particularly aids the liver, kidneys and adrenals while reducing inflammation, fighting free radicals, and improving sleep quality. A range of activity that I would dare to say would benefit virtually all of us. It is Reishi’s support of the emotional center that may be it’s biggest gift, bringing a calming, centeredness that promotes inner awareness all the while building energy and vitality. In my over 3 decades of working with people in their healing processes, I have yet to meet someone that would not benefit from the use of this tonic.
New Kid on the Block
There is a “new” mushroom that deserves mention in our quest to maintain our youthfulness and vivacity, Maitake. Recent research has shown that it is liver protective, endocrine balancing, immune activating and blood sugar and insulin lowering. By healthily reducing blood sugar levels Maitake may help stop a significant aging process called glycation. While the long history of use is not there like it is for the Reishi and Cordyceps mushrooms, researchers today are exploring and confirming these applications and several others.
These ancient remedies are powerful allies in our quest to not personally becoming ancient ourselves. Backed by tradition and renewed by modern inquiry, medicinal mushrooms hold a unique and extraordinary place as healing transformative allies that can help us slow or reverse the aging process, allowing us to live more fully and possibly for longer.