This week I am featuring a guest post submitted By Nicole Apelian, Ph.D.
MS Management and My Medicinal Mushroom Trio
My MS Story
I was diagnosed with MS over 20 years ago. At the time, I was completely overwhelmed by the MRI that showed lesions in my brain, by the loss of my eyesight, and by how quickly I went downhill. I was scared, and I followed my neurologist’s orders. Back then, alternative medicine was, well, alternative. My doctor never asked me about my diet or my lifestyle. He simply gave me drugs – and then he gave me more drugs to counteract the side effects. I was on medication to combat muscle spasms and fatigue, and I started daily injections of Copaxone. But I kept getting worse.
Three years later I had quit the job I loved, and on good days I was using a cane during the day and often a wheelchair at night – and that was on days I felt well enough to get out of bed. I was so fatigued and weak that I was often bed-bound. My left side was often completely out of commission. Sometimes a book was too heavy for me to pick up. My concentration and memory were shot. I was a shadow of my former self. I had been a vibrant, healthy woman – just thirty years old, and now everything was stripped away.
I woke up one day and realized that I needed more. I wanted to have another child. I wanted to get healthy again. I decided it was time to make a change. So, much like Dr. Terry Wahls, I took charge of my own health.
20 Years Later
Now, 20 years later, I have no new lesions. No one would know that I have MS by looking at me. I am an herbalist and a survival skills instructor and even took on the challenge of the History Channel’s TV series “Alone”, where I lived completely solo in the woods, self-filming my journey, for 57 days straight living off the land during the harsh fall/winter season.
After my TV debut on “Alone”, where millions of people saw me thriving in the wilderness while living with multiple sclerosis, the question of “How do you manage MS” flooded my inbox. The foundations for my management of Multiple Sclerosis are rooted in diet, herbal medicine (especially medicinal mushrooms), and supplements, as well as lifestyle and exercise. I also put a lot of focus on the mind-body connection, gratitude, and nature connection. I work hard to maintain my health, and I still do have occasional minor symptoms, but my progressive MS is no longer progressing. Eating well and staying well takes time and focus, but it is worth it.
Medicinal Mushrooms for MS: Which, How, and Why
The three medicinal mushrooms that I take daily are Reishi*, Lion’s Mane, and Turkey Tail. All three of these mushrooms are known to help with leaky gut syndrome and gut inflammation. The gut-autoimmune connection is a focus of much new research. I take these mushrooms in their double/dual-extracted form, as the research strongly supports the need to extract mushrooms both in water and in alcohol in order to access all of the necessary medicinal compounds. For example, in Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), the main components with pharmacological activity are polysaccharides and triterpenoids. The polysaccharides (including beta-glucans) extract in water while the triterpenoids, like ganoderic acid, extract in alcohol.
Many people drink Reishi mushroom tea hoping to get the full therapeutic spectrum of this adaptogenic mushroom, but in reality they are missing all of the alcohol-soluble medicinal components.
I take all three of these every morning. I strongly believe (and there is much evidence to back me up) that these medicinal mushrooms play a key role in helping me stay healthy with MS. In addition, they do so without the extreme side effects of many modern medicines.
“Taken together, the chemical activity of many mushroom species points to a marked anti-pathogenic action coupled with the ability to modulate the human immune response: helping decrease it when it is overactive (as in allergies or autoimmune conditions), increase it when it is underactive (as in chronic debility and fatigue, or a pattern of recurrent infection), and stimulate it to attack cells that have mutated or are growing out of control (like cancer).” Mase, 2012**
Reishi is known as the “mushroom of longevity”, and has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years. I take Reishi Tincture daily as these mushrooms are known to be adaptogens, which help us deal with the negative effects of stress, addressing issues such as increased inflammation, depleted energy levels, oxidative stress, and various types of hormonal imbalances. Reishi also has been shown to have neuro-protective effects, to help with allergies, and to work as an antiviral.
Since many autoimmune illnesses are inflammatory in nature, I take it daily for its anti-inflammatory properties. It also has an immunomodulatory effect, increasing immune function when needed while inhibiting an overactive immune response; this is especially important for autoimmune disorders such as MS.
#2: Lion’s Mane
I take Lion’s Mane Mushroom tincture (Hericium erinaceus) daily for my nervous system and for gut inflammation. Lion’s Mane is well known as a neuro-protective, may help remyelinate nerves, and has been shown to help with nerve regeneration. It promotes the genetic expression of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), proteins that play a pivotal role in the development and the maintenance of neurons. It helps with neuronal survival in both the Peripheral Nervous System and the Central Nervous System, and NGF maintains the neurons necessary for learning, memory, and attention. Human studies have shown that Lion’s Mane also increases cognitive function.
#3: Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
I take Turkey Tail Mushroom Tincture for many reasons, including its effect on the gut. It is a prebiotic and also helps with Candida and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Much of the research surrounding turkey tail is about its anti-cancer polysaccharides, PSP and PSK (Krestin), but it has many benefits aside from its uses for cancer treatment and prevention. It is a well-researched adaptogen and it is the best-researched mushroom for its role in immune modulation. It has even been shown to be good against the cold and flu, HPV, Herpes, HIV and more.
Like Dr. Terry Wahls, I am gluten-free. I eat an anti-inflammatory diet and strongly believe that the Wahls Protocol is an excellent example to follow. I often eat ketogenically. I do intermittent fasting. I protect my nerves. I take Reishi, Lion’s Mane, and Turkey Tail Mushroom tinctures every day. I do all of these things to decrease inflammation in my body and mitigate my stress response. I avoid illnesses like the cold and flu by taking herbs that help ensure I don’t get sick.
I hope that you find this article helpful, and that it has been a good introduction to the relationship between medicinal mushrooms and multiple sclerosis. Please share with someone you know who is suffering with autoimmune challenges.
I wish you the best for you on your journey to wellness,
– Nicole Apelian, Ph.D.
If you would like to learn more about natural herbs and remedies, Dr. Nicole Apelian’s book, The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies: The Healing Power of Plant Medicine, is available here.
For access to Dr. Nicole’s Apothecary at a discounted rate, please use the coupon WAHLS at checkout. And to learn how Nicole manages her MS on a daily basis please read her detailed blog on this subject. Thank you!
* Do note that Reishi is a vasodilator, so it is contraindicated for those with a bleeding disorder or for use before surgery.
**Masé, G. (2012). Medicinal mushrooms: A brief history and overview of principal species. Retrieved on 08/27/2016 from http://www.vtherbcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Medicinal-Mushrooms.pdf
Please note that the contents of this article are for informational purposes only, do not constitute medical advice, and are not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk.
Bio for Nicole Apelian, Ph.D.
Dr. Nicole Apelian is an herbalist, a mother, a survival skills instructor, an anthropologist, and a biologist. She has B.S and M.S. degrees in Biology from McGill University in Canada and the University of Oregon. She earned her Doctorate through Prescott College while working as an anthropologist and ethnobotanist in Botswana.
She has spent years living in nature with the San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, one of the last indigenous peoples who still live as hunter-gatherers. Developing strong relationships within the tribe helped Nicole learn many of the remedies and skills she practices and teaches today and she continues her work with the San through her non-profit, “The Origins Project“.
An unexpected diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2000 led Nicole to apply her research skills towards her own personal wellness. She focused on a healthy living strategy, including deep nature connection and gratitude practices. Through changes in her lifestyle, recognizing profound mind-body linkages, and making and using her own remedies, Nicole went from bedridden to being fully alive and from surviving to thriving.
She believes that there are many more people suffering who need to find their own remedy. This became her life’s mission and the main reason for writing her book “The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies: The Healing Power of Plant Medicine”. In it she poured over 28 years of plant knowledge and her first-hand experiences of making her own poultices, tinctures, decoctions, salves, infused oils, and other herbal remedies.
In 2015 she was among the first women ever selected for the History Channel’s hit TV show “Alone”. Despite having MS, she went on to survive solo for 57 days straight in a remote area of Vancouver Island with little more than her hunting knife and the wild foods and medicines she found there.
For more about Dr. Nicole Apelian please visit www.nicoleapelian.com.