January 3, 2005

Mushrooms for Cough

Tis the season for coughs and sniffles, so I thought I'd share one of many obscure (to uninitiated, I mean) remedies that my parents swear by. In honesty, I was cleaning out my cupboard last week and found these Youngji mushroom packed in a small ziplock bag behind my beloved Hediard tea cans. I don't know what they're called in English but I'd love to know, if anyone -uh, the two people who are reading my entries - has any ideas.

These were given to my family by my parents' friends who, like so many other immigrants to the U.S., owned and operated a small store for many years and decided in their twilight years to pursue their dream of being closer to the soil. It was the husband who had studied agriculture in college and his wife, I must assume, went along with his dream. They sold off their business, bought a farm in Chino, way out there east of L.A., and began growing various agricultural products. I believe they raised goats too, at one point. Anyway, none of their endeavors yielded a great fortune but we'd receive small quantities of their efforts from time to time, such as these mushrooms.

As for my parents, they - like all Korean Americans of certain age who were raised in a Korea, formerly and certainly to some degree, still steeped in ancient rituals and ways of healing - espouse a certain amount of folksy wisdom when it comes to curing simple ailments of the body. The mind, well, that's another story. So it is that they know the Youngji mushroom is a great antidote to persistent coughs, the kind that won't go away even after your major cold/flu symtoms may have. And, my own experience tells me that there's some truth to this belief.
I have seen products that claim to contain Youngji mushroom extracts, often combined with ginseng extracts, as a kind of energy boost. I don't know anything about those and wouldn't take them as more than a pleasant diversion. And I'd stay clear away from anything that claims to have deer antler in any form - unless in Chinese medicine from a reputable Chinese medicine dr. - along with those claiming to be parts of a bear. So morally wrong.

The most effective method for bringing out the mushroom's potentcy is to make tea with it. Boil a big pot of water and add few Youngji mushrooms and cut-up pieces of ginger, another cold-fighting ingredient. You only need 4-5 mushroom pieces to a gallon of water. The result is a brown-colored liquid with earthy flavor and aroma. It can be slightly bitter but not unpleasant. You can add lemon or honey, if desired. If you have persistent cough but are without these magic mushrooms, I'd try making tea with ginger and lemon. That helps too.

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