Updated: Aug 1, 2022
Pākaiahi is a powerhouse of rongoā.
They are truly the alchemists of the forest in that they are exceptional at turning death to life.
PĀKAIAHI Ganoderma applanatum
These magnificent fruiting bodies are most often found on trees that are dead or dying. They are of a vast mycelium network that can extend throughout an entire forest. They are sometimes known as Artist's Conk or bracket fungi but I first learned of them as PĀKAIAHI - the keepers of fire.
I first came across this mushroom in 2013. I was in the ngāherehere and off the beaten track. I could feel something behind me and when I turned to look I saw a magnificent mushroom growing on what looked like a dying tree. It was quite extraordinary. I knew I needed to learn about this mushroom so I went home to do some research and found out a little about it. Even though it was only about 10 years ago there was not much information that I could find on the mushroom. However, the next night I attended a friend's home and overheard their guest talking about a mushroom and how powerful it was as a rongoā. I knew they were talking about the mushroom I had seen so I asked the man about it. I described what I had seen and showed him the photo I had taken and he told me it is called PĀKAIAHI.
In times past, it was used as a fire-starter. It could burn for long periods of time and was often used in damp forests. Because of its strong burning capabilities, Pākaiahi was also used as a rongoā for building and strengthening immunity. It can eliminate dampness and warm the body. They help our body deal with pathogens by 'turning on' the immune system to recognise different types of disease and imbalance to come back into coherence with the natural flow of the universe. It is a fire-starter that ignites the puku (stomach) and liberates the primordial wisdom within. Where trees represent solar energy and bring light into darkness; mushrooms represent the underworld, and are lunar, dark, and mysterious. They are what is considered as the higher evolution of the mushroom kingdom.
It is only recently, that pharmaceutical companies are beginning to reveal their research into the anti-cancer, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties of the mushroom. Lots of information can be found on this mushroom now. Paul Stamets, a mycologist, has brought a lot of attention to medicinal mushrooms.
In our clinic, we use Pākaiahi as an extract to strengthen the immune system, improve digestive function- digestion, assimilation, elimination and heal respiratory infections. We’ve seen really strong bugs in the last few years, which have been immune to antibiotics. Pākaiahi can be great for tackling these and other chronic respiratory conditions, like bronchitis and asthma.
I see Pākaiahi as the soul of the forest. These mushrooms gather the intense power of a rākau rangatira (large tree) and transform it into a dense power-packed rongoā. They alchemize the dead tree into a live mushroom. They are sentinels, guardians and watchers. Pākaiahi is one of the few perennial mushrooms that grows year after year in size, growing in wisdom and power.
Drinking an extraction of Pākaiahi is literally like sipping the forest itself- asking for the whenua (land) to bring back life, to remove the dead, dying and unwanted growths and invasions that have overtaken a depleted body and soul. Pākaiahi is a fire-starter and a life restorer- a taonga to be revered and honoured for their deep wisdom.
Written by Joanne Hakaraia-Olson