Feed Your Face with Fungi
It does sound rather magical — one of China’s legendary beauties, the imperial concubine Yang Guifei, whose stunning face reputedly “put all flowers to shame,” maintained her flawless complexion with a … mushroom?
Mushrooms, in fact, have long held an important place in traditional Chinese medicine. For centuries they have been highly valued for their unique nutritional properties that also promote skin health and youthfulness. But before you go snuffling around Rock Creek Park’s bosky trails with a prize truffle pig and a mycologist in tow, allow me to explain which types of mushrooms are the best beauty enhancers. You might also be relieved to learn that the beauty benefits of mushrooms are now available in skin care products, which makes mushroom hunting a much easier affair.
The tremella mushroom, also known by the less flattering name of silver fungus, was Yang Guifei’s favorite. Treasured for its ability to keep skin moist, soft and resilient, it’s chock full of vitamins and minerals vital for healthy skin. It contains high levels of vitamins D and B, magnesium, sulphur, calcium and potassium. It is also the source of a complex polysaccharide that surpasses hyaluronic acid in increasing skin moisture levels. Tremella, along with reishi and maitake, can be found in Aquamella’s Advanced Skin Care with Tremella and Pearl, which is available at www.swansonvitamins.com.
The Chinese and Japanese have traditionally attributed great spiritual and physical healing powers to the reishi (or lingzhi) mushroom. Difficult to obtain, the reishi mushroom grew at high altitudes and was only available during certain times of the year. This fungus is well worth the effort, as it is bursting with antioxidants and long chain polysaccharides. These components, along with an assortment of amino acids and vitamins, give reishi its skin brightening properties. It is known to improve the appearance of wrinkled skin and reduce discolorations and age spots.
Nefeli Essential Eye Cream is enriched with reishi extract www.nefeli.com.
The Mega-Mushroom line by Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins also contains extract of reishi, blended with other mushrooms such as chaga, cordyceps and maitake that promote skin rejuvenation. www.origins.com.
Maitake, also called dancing mushroom, was reputedly worth its weight in silver in ancient Japan. Known for its multiple health benefits, it’s recently become a hot ingredient in skin care products. Like tremella and reishi, maitake is high in nutrients, including vitamins B-2, C, D, niacin and important amino acids. Its mineral content includes magnesium and potassium. Maitake counters inflammation, which, as we all know, is a hidden but pervasive cause of aging.
To achieve maximum anti-aging benefits, one should ingest mushrooms in addition to applying them topically. There are numerous recipes for tremella and maitake (known in the West as “hen of the woods mushroom”) although reishi is too bitter-tasting to eat as food and is best taken in extract form. Dried tremella can be purchased in Asian supermarkets –- just add hot water and see a giant mushroom emerge in minutes. Mushrooms boost immunity, reduce inflammation and improve digestion —- all of which contribute to a more vibrant and youthful complexion.