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Heart, Heart, and Heart

Three hearts? How can this be? “I may not have paid much attention in high school biology but I’m pretty sure there is only one heart.” Well, you’re right… and not right. There’s the first heart, the one we are all familiar with, the four chambered organ in our chest that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. Next is the second heart, this is what is known in traditional Chinese Medicine as Shen. It’s what we mean when we say someone has heart, or that person has a broken heart. Clearly this does not refer to the four chamber organ. What we are referring to here is more of an energy center, a center that ironically is located in our chest by many cultures. And lastly, the third heart. It’s what Valentine’s Day and romance and love is all about. The third “heart” is all about love, romance, and, frankly, sex.

The next question that comes to mind then is “Are there things one can do to support their heart, heart, and heart without it becoming too complicated?”. The answer is “yes’”. Amazingly, there are two mushroom allies that can support, energize, and enhance all three hearts… plus one simple breathing exercise. Cordyceps and Reishi, two long-used highly-prized tonic remedies.*


Cordyceps is only found at very high altitude in the Himalayan Mountains and has a long history of use in traditional Chinese Medicine dating back centuries. In Chinese it is aptly named Dong Chong Xia Cao, which translates as “winter worm, summer grass”, because it is a fungus that sprouts out of the head of a caterpillar when the warmer seasonal weather comes. Now before you get grossed out about using a caterpillar fungus we grow our Cordyceps in a fermentation process, so no caterpillars are involved, and no caterpillars are harmed. It’s a good thing too that growing techniques have been developed since wild Cordyceps can go for $10,000 a pound. So, while Cordyceps is probably best known to support energy and endurance, it has a wider array of benefits, including supporting healthy brain, lungs, kidneys, immune, endocrine, and of course heart and cardiovascular function.*

It’s benefits for healthy sexual function are reputed to be what lead to its discovery and use in traditional medicine. The story goes that herders in the Himalayan Mountains would bring their yak and cattle to higher grounds in the spring to graze on the new grasses. As it turned out, the yak appeared to be selectively grazing on something that, once eaten, made them frisky and randy. It turns out that they were routing around for these little sprouts of Cordyceps. Well, word spread from there, eventually making it to the imperial palace where they began exploring its health supporting gifts. I guess you could call Cordyceps a “yakodisiac”. Over the last few decades there have been several studies that seem to confirm the use of Cordyceps for supporting a healthy sex life, for both men and women. One clinical study found that 40 days of use improved the sex drive in hypo-sexual individuals, these are people who have a low sex drive. Studies have also found improvements in frequency and satisfaction. Add in the energy and endurance boosting and Cordyceps makes for a nice wholistic ally for maintaining a healthy sex life.*

A number of studies (mostly animal studies) on Cordyceps have demonstrated a number of possible benefits for supporting healthy heart and cardiovascular function. It may improve oxygen utilization, of particular importance here, in the lungs and heart.* Other heart benefits include:

  • Supporting healthy blood pressure*
  • Relaxing blood vessels*
  • Improving circulation*
  • Increasing levels of key anti-oxidants*
  • Supporting a healthy heart rate*
  • Supporting healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels (critical markers for cardiovascular health and longevity)*
  • Supporting a healthy inflammatory response*

Research has also shown that Cordyceps may support healthy blood sugar levels, one way is by mimicking the action of insulin, another by increasing insulin sensitivity. We know that sustaining healthy blood sugar and insulin are essential factors for maintaining a healthy heart.*. Animal research has also shown that Cordyceps may have potential for its cardio-protective activity.*

Reishi – Herb of Spiritual Potency

I have coined the phrase “tonic for the 21st century” to describe Reishi’s overall health and vitality supporting actions. I call it this because many of its actions seem well suited for the ills and travails we are confronted with in today’s world. Reishi is a tonic for the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, adrenals, GI, immune system, brain, and central nervous system.* But the one word that sums up Reishi’s benefits best of all is balance. Reishi is all about balance, mind, body, and spirit. Referred to traditionally as the herb or plant of spiritual potency, it’s easy to see why Reishi might have some specific benefits for the second heart in our discussion on heart, heart, and heart. While Cordyceps’ actions focused on heart number one, the organ, and three, “romance”, Reishi’s gifts are more attuned to heart one, and heart two, Shen. As I mentioned earlier, Shen is the emotional/spiritual center of the body, and a focus of many types of traditional medicine that western medicine is finally recognizing the significance of. Like Cordyceps, Reishi has been found to hold a number of heart benefits:

  • Supporting healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides*
  • Improving blood flow to the heart*
  • Reducing coronary demand for oxygen*
  • Supporting a healthy heartbeat*
  • Increasing nitric oxide*
  • Supporting a healthy inflammatory response*
  • Inhibiting platelet aggregation*

Traditional Chinese Medicine says that Reishi awakens the spirit, calms the mind, opens the breath, and strengthens heart Qi (vital energy or life force) keeping in tune with its Shen nurturing energy. While Shen is not a medical concept currently recognized by modern researchers there is a number of studies that could be said to confirm its Shen benefits. Stress research is one of those areas. Reishi has been shown to reduce stress hormones, protect against negative effects of excessive stress, nourish the central nervous system, and strengthen the adrenals. Sleep is another area that Reishi can impact with research demonstrating its ability to improve sleep patterns while holistically supporting the body’s detoxification processes and immune activities, both of which are in full swing while we sleep.* (Note: when shopping for a good Reishi product look for log grown and double extracted, like our Super Reishi)

Dynamic Duo

The synergistic and complementary combination of Cordyceps and Reishi is a true dynamic duo, both possessing a broad array of tonic and health benefits that stand alone, however, the combination increases their superpower. In fact, when asked for a simple all-around health and vitality supporting protocol my first choice is Cordyceps and Reishi. There is virtually no system, organ, or part of the body that is not supported by this combination. To maximize their gifts and energetics I suggest taking Cordyceps the first half of the day, then finishing the day off with Reishi. This provides a morning boost of yang (fire) energy that Cordyceps offers, with the calming, balancing actions of Reishi at days end.*

Take a Breath

There’s a very simple and very easy breathing exercise you can do to open up and nourish your heart, heart, and heart. It starts with breathing from your diaphragm. This is how we were born breathing but as we get older we tend to shift to the shallower, chest breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing (aka belly breathing) is where you pull the breath deeper into the lungs by expanding your belly, rather than your chest. This fills more of the lungs with the life giving oxygen and can quickly energize the body. The next step may take a little practice and getting used to. As you inhale from your diaphragm, picture the air moving into and filling your heart. This is called breathing into your heart. Once you get good at it, this technique can instantly both energize and relax you. Done regularly this can improve overall energy and function of all three of your hearts. It’s free. It’s always available, you can do it anywhere at pretty much anytime. You can use this “breathing into” technique with literally any part of your body to help support it and open up the energies. Try it, you’ll see.

Three Hearts

There has been a centuries old tradition or way of looking at the body, here in the West, in health and in healing, of isolating the body’s systems, organs, and even cells. The body has been thought of as not much more than a machine with a variety of parts that work independently for the most part. While traditional healing has recognized and honored the body as a whole, with everything interconnected and interdependent, western medicine has only, until recently, begun to awaken to this more holistic view. For example, immunology is now psychoneuroendoimmunology, recognizing the interplay between our thoughts, nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system. Thankfully our ancestors were way ahead of the game. And thanks to our two mushroom allies, Cordyceps and Reishi, for holistically supporting and nourishing our heart, heart, and heart.*

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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