Tag Archives: exercise

Pre-Season Scouting: Finding key mushroom spots

With the temperatures slowly warming up and the snow finally starting to melt, it can only mean that mushroom picking season is just around the corner! Much like athletes that train for their upcoming sport seasons, mushroom foragers can get a head start by reviewing notes from last year’s mushroom hunts, scouting for probable picking spots, locating (or supplementing) their gear and getting in shape in anticipation of the long, forthcoming forest hikes.

Although we still have knee-deep snow on the ground here in the Northeast, this does not prevent die-hard mushroom hunters from getting ready for the imminent picking season.  In fact, the open, snow-covered trails allow for great tree identification, helpful for locating likely mushroom spots that will save scavenging time once the first fungi appear.  This is a great time of year to strap on snow shoes, back country skis or winter hiking gear, get a good workout while recording important information that will lead to a successful foraging season. The following are some trees to scout for where certain mushroom varieties are likely to be found.

Morels are the first edible mushrooms to appear in most areas, emerging sometime in May based on geographic location and elevation.  Here in New England we typically find Morels during the second week of May though they could come up earlier or later depending on environmental factors such as temperature and precipitation.  Once Morels have started to pop up, their lifespan is approximately two weeks and their season lasts roughly a month based on the amount of moisture their habitat receives.


Common or Yellow Morels (Morchella esculenta) are usually found in the Eastern part of the country growing around the base of living White or Green Ash, dead or dying American Elms, and can also be found in older, unattended apple orchards.  (Morels should not be picked in active orchards as pesticides may have been used and seeped into the ground.)  Morels have a mycorrhizal relationship with these trees, and thus it can be expected to find them popping up within an 8 foot radius.  Morel hunters typically go from Ash to Ash to pick their morels and don’t bother searching around the base of any other trees.

White Ash trees are easy to spot as they look similar to the morel caps.  The trunk is dark gray, darker than most trees and is deeply furrowed with noticeable diamond-shaped ridges.  Additionally, they have opposite branching, meaning that the limbs grow directly across from each other making them easy to identify since only a few species grow in this manner.

Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), King Bolete (Boletus edulis) and Lobster Mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum) come up later in the summer and early fall and are usually found near conifers such as Hemlocks and Douglas Firs. These evergreen trees are usually surrounded by mature hardwood trees that provide some shade which is important to their subsistence.  They have soft, flattened needles with a distinctive white line on the underside.

Maitake/Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) can usually be found at the base of mature oak trees in late summer and fall.  These majestic trees are simply beautiful featuring enormous trunks that are certain to have this fungi growing around them.  Look for large Oaks (Red Oaks in particular) that have dying branches in established forests, open areas, as well as parks and open fields.  The bark is grey with deep grooves and ridges but it’s the girth of the mature tree that will be a key feature.  The good news is that once you have found Maitake mushrooms growing at the base of a tree, it will usually appear in the same spot the following year.

So get outside, hike around, observe your surroundings and identify some of these trees.  Take descriptive notes as to your location, particular tree stands and how you got there.  Not only are you getting good exercise and adding to your fungi knowledge, but the anticipation of the upcoming mushroom season will get you excited and put you in a great mood!

Ash Hemlock Oak_edited-1

Cordyceps Improve Exercise, Energy and Endurance

We have all been told that in order to improve our health and reduce our chances of getting a lifestyle-related disease is to eat wholesome foods and exercise regularly.  Exercise boosts our energy levels, improves heart, lung and muscle fitness, prevents weight gain and enhances our mood.  Researchers in 2012 surmised that worldwide 1 in 3 adults and 4 in 5 adolescents did not meet the minimum, daily exercise requirements thereby contributing to a decline in global health.

Athletes, on the other hand, understand the importance of taking care of their body by fueling it properly in order to maintain a desired level of fitness.  A university study of intercollegiate athletes determined that 88% used nutritional supplements as part of their training regimen (though there are some that resort to unnatural substances that promise to improve their performance).

The desire to improve physical performance and dominate in competition is not new.  For centuries, athletes have used a variety of “performance-enhancing” concoctions including the Ancient Greek Olympians who, prior to competing, ingested dried figs, mushrooms and strychnine amongst other substances, the Norse Berserkers who consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms to increase their fighting strength and, more recently, the Chinese women distance runners who shattered world records in ’93 due in part to a daily intake of cordyceps in chicken broth.

Cordyceps (aka Caterpillar fungus) are parasitic mushrooms that live on the larvae of butterflies and moths, primarily in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau in Central Asia.  These celebrated mushrooms used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine grow in a mineral-rich soil at high altitudes and low temperature making their harvest a dangerous and treacherous activity.  Because of their incredible health benefits, scarcity, remote habitat and tough geography, cordyceps were historically reserved for the Emperor’s highest court and Chinese nobility and today are sold in Asian markets for exorbitant prices.

In recent years, six varieties have been cultivated for medicinal purposes; Cordyceps sinensis being the most common and promising.  This mushroom contains a broad range of compounds including vitamins E, K, B1, B2, B12, all essential amino acids, many sugars and polysaccharides, proteins, sterols and a host of macro and micro elements.  In traditional Chinese medicine, cordyceps are used to treat respiratory and pulmonary disease, renal, liver and cardiovascular disease as well as immune disorders.  In Tibet, it is considered a rejuvenator that increases energy and reduces fatigue.

In Western medicine, cordyceps are used primarily by two distinct groups: the elderly and athletes, though with increased research, there are promising applications for patients undergoing cancer treatments and those suffering from respiratory, kidney and liver diseases.   Some athletes add cordyceps to their training regimen as research has shown it increases useful energy and endurance.  A Japanese study using aqueous cordyceps extracts showed that it dilated the aorta by 40% which increased blood flow to the muscles thereby greatly enhancing endurance.

A study in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise tested 30 healthy male athletes for 6 weeks to record the effects of cordyceps on their performance.  The group that added cordyceps to its daily regimen had twice the oxygen intake of the control group.  Oxygen intake is essential in supplying nutrients to the muscles, preventing fatigue and the build-up of lactic acid.  Another study done by the same group on 30 healthy Chinese elderly adults showed a 9% increase in aerobic activity.

Separately, a study performed in Shrewsbury, MA at the Rippe Lifestyle institute, tested sedentary adults for 12 weeks on their aerobic capability, exercise metabolism and endurance.  The healthy volunteers (ages 40-70) were divided into two groups with one consuming a mixture of cordyceps and rhodiola.  Their oxygen intake, respiratory exchange ratio (RER), blood pressure and body weight were measured at 0 weeks, 6 weeks and 12 weeks.

The group that consumed the cordyceps mixture reduced their timed one mile walk by 29 seconds at the end of 12 weeks, increased their work out on a cycle ergometer by 3.1%, increased their VO2peak by 5.5% (maximum of O2 body uses during a specific time) and decreased their RER by 2.1% (ratio between CO2 produced and O2 consumed in one breath).  Additionally, the group that consumed cordyceps lowered its blood pressure by 3.1% and decreased body weight by 1.2% by the end of the 12 weeks.

Research using laboratory animals also concluded that cordyceps improve performance.  In lab tests, mice that had cordyceps added to their diet significantly increased their time-to-exhaustion over the control group suggesting improved performance/endurance from increased energy output and decreased fatigue.  Another study using rats also determined that cordyceps improved endurance.  Two groups were tested; one that had not exercised prior to testing and the other that had.  The rats were given cordyceps over 15 days and tested against a control group.  The animals that had not exercised improved their endurance by 79% whereas the group that had exercised prior to testing improved by 179%.

Researchers concluded that the improvement in endurance was due to the activation of the skeletal muscle metabolic regulators, angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels important in improving physical performance) and better glucose and lactate uptake (glucose is necessary for ATP synthesis, lactate diminishes the “burn” in muscle). Others suggest the increased endurance was due to improved respiratory activity concomitant with the metabolism of lactic acid.  A Boston marathon runner shared that he improved his running time by 25 minutes recently attributing his success, in part, to consuming cordyceps in tea form.

Though more conclusive research needs to be done on the influence cordyceps have on physical performance, the positive health effects these fungi have on a slew of illnesses and disease is convincing.  Therapeutic effects include: anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, anti-viral, blood pressure, blood sugar moderator, cardio-vascular, cholesterol reducer, immune enhancer, kidney tonic, lungs/respiratory, nerve tonic, sexual potentiator and stress reducer.  Additionally, there are some encouraging results using cordyceps in conjunction with certain cancer treatments including lung cancer, leukemia and lymphoma.

Consuming cordyceps from Asia in their natural form is not recommended as there may be many impurities, fungicidal residue and some are also stuffed with foreign objects (including lead) to increase their weight (and thus price).  Cordyceps cultivated in the US organically from mycelium are considered better and safer with greater consistency, quality assurance and controlled potency.  Terrafunga carries a reputable line of supplements including cordyceps that are grown organically in the US.

As many of us have resolved to eat healthier and exercise more this coming year, perhaps adding some cordyceps to our routine will give us the energy boost we need while improving our performance and endurance.

 Terrafunga does not offer medical advice.  Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.

Sources:  PubMed.gov, US National Library of Medicine, International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 10(3):219–234 (2008), Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, Medicinalmushroominfo.com/cordyceps, Mycomedicinals, Paul Stamets 2002