About Armillaria (Mi Huan Jun)

One of the lesser known ingredients in Blue Poppy Herbs' formula HyperQuell is Armillaria or the so-called Honey Mushroom. In Chinese, this medicinal is called Mi Huan Jun or Tian Ma Mi Huan Jun, and a number of our customers have asked us for more information on it. Armillaria is widely dispersed in temperate regions throughout the northern hemisphere. For instance, it is found in the San Francisco Bay area and in the British Isles. It is an important wood-rot fungi for both better and worse. However, it is also notable in that some Armillaria species can act as mycorrhizal fungi to support the growth of orchids and other non_photosynthetic plants. In fact, the Armillaria used in HyperQuell is a fungus which grows commensally or in symbiotic association with Rhizoma Gastrodiae Elatae (Tian Ma), the tuber of the orchid, Gastrodia elata. In recent years, Tian Ma has been put on the CITES list of banned wild-crafted Chinese herbs. Tian Ma originally grew wild in the mountainous regions from Yunnan in the southwest to northeast China and Korea, mostly at more than 900 feet above sea level. When this medicinal became popular for the treatment of hypertension in the 20th century in China, its price sky-rocketed and attempts were made to commercially cultivate it. However, this medicinal was difficult to cultivate until the close relationship between Tian Ma and the mycelium of the Honey Mushroom, Armellaria mellea, was discovered.

Gastrodia has two unusual requirements for its growth and survival. It requires a fungus, Mycena osmundicola, to sprout its seeds, and Armillaria mellea mushroom mycelia must be incorporated into its tuber in order to maintain its maturation and growth. Because Tian Ma tubers lack the rootlets that normally absorb nutrients from the soil, they rely, instead, on the mycelia of Armillaria to do this for them. When these two requirements were finally understood, the commercial cultivation of Tian Ma became relatively easy, and, by the late '80s, an adequate cultivated supply of Tian Ma was developed in the People's Republic of China. Nevertheless, because Tian Ma grows so slowly, its cost almost equals that of cultivated Ginseng. The good news is that the active medicinal components of Tian Ma are, in fact, mainly the metabolites of the Armillaria mushroom, and batch fermentation of the Armillaria is easily accomplished. This process is similar to how many other medicinal mushrooms, such as Maitake, Shiitake, and Ling Zhi, are now commercially grown. This mycelial material has been continually tested by a number of different research teams in the PRC for more than 25 years, and dozens of published studies have shown that the chemical constituents, pharmacology, and clinical effects of Armillaria and its culture medium after growing the mycelia are indistinguishable from that of Tian Ma. According to these studies, the main active ingredient of Tian Ma is gastrodin, a simple glycoside, comprised of glucose attached to 4_hydroxybenzyl alcohol (HBA). Other active ingredients are the aldehyde form of HBA (4_hydroxybenzylaldehyde), vanillyl alcohol, and vanillin. All of these compounds are chemically similar, all are produced in the mycelia from the same starting materials, and pharmacology studies indicate that they all have similar medicinal effects, such as relieving spasms.

The New Drug Group of the Chinese Academy of Medical Science in Beijing has confirmed that Armillaria fermentation liquid does achieve the same medicinal effects as Tian Ma. For example, it can alleviate dizziness due different etiologies, such as hypertension, cerebral basilar ischemia, Meniere's syndrome, and vegetative nervous functional disturbance. It is also effective in the treatment of numbness of the extremities, insomnia, tinnitus, epilepsy, vascular headache, and post_stroke syndrome. In fact, Armillaria is twice as potent gram-for-gram than Tian Ma.

At Blue Poppy Herbs, we have long been concerned about environmental issues. More importantly, we have a long track record of "putting our money where our mouth is." We were the first company in our industry to print on recycled and alternative pulp papers using soy-based inks. You'll find recycling bins throughout our plant, and all employees use both sides of every piece of paper. Commitment to the Coalition of Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) principles is written into the front of our company operating manual and each employee handbook. Some of our older customers will remember that we were some of the first voices in our industry alerting us to the plight of tigers, rhinoceroses, and bears. Perhaps you remember or, better yet, participated in our "Save the Tiger" t-shirt campaign. Therefore, because Armillaria is 1) just as effective medicinally as Tian Ma, 2) is more potent gram- for-gram than Tian Ma, 3) is easily produced commercially and, therefore, spares an endangered species, and 4) is considerably cheaper than Tian Ma, we at Blue Poppy are excited to be able to use it instead of the better known Tian Ma. This substitution was recommended to us by Bob Quinn, formerly of China International Herbs & Natural Products Inc. and now of People's Herbs in Portland, OR, and we are very grateful to Bob for this advice. Like many Western practitioners of Chinese medicine, we had never heard of Armillaria before Bob brought it to our attention. While this substitution does not lend itself to bulk- dispensed decoctions, it is extremely suitable for commercially manufactured extracts, such as HyperQuell.

In this formula, Armillaria has all the same functions and indications as Tian Ma. That means it levels the liver and extinguishes wind, relaxes spasms and resolves tetany, frees the flow of impediment and stops pain. It is indicated for the treatment of both ascendant liver yang hyperactivity and internal stirring of liver wind resulting headache, dizziness, hypertension, epilepsy, pediatric convulsions, tonic-clonic spasms, opistohotonus, and cerebral vascular disease or stroke. It may also be used for wind damp impediment resulting in pain and/or numbness of the low back and extremities.

In the six months since HyperQuell has been available in North America and Europe, we have had a number of pieces of great feedback on its effectiveness. We believe that part of this effectiveness is the inclusion of Armillaria in this formula.

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