This mushroom's cap has a distinctly varnished appearance, making it one of the easier to spot. They are one to 14 in wide; the often overlapping, fan to kidney shaped, corky, tough caps are somewhat shiny, dark reddish and frequently they have a tan zone close to the margin. Underneath the cap is white, it can turn beige with age, its pores are too small to see without a magnifying glass. The lateral stalk, if there can be one to four in long & 1/4 to 1-5/8 inches thick, also likely a shiny reddish color as well. These are found from spring all the way through fall. They are usually growing on the base of deciduous trees, likely a maple, as well as logs and stumps, throughout most of the world. This woody mushroom can persist through the winter in some regions.
Called "the mushroom of immortality,” people in China and elsewhere in the far eastern cultures have been using this mushroom for centuries as a tonic. There is evidence that it strengthens the immune system and helps the body fight off a variety of ailments, and it's even used to ease the symptoms for cancer patients in traditional Chinese medicine and now in main stream western medicine. Its balancing effects on the body have become known to many western practitioners that deal specifically with caner or aides patients.
These particular mushrooms are not ideal to eat (perhaps you could boil it in a soup when it's very, very young and still somewhat soft), you saw off about a tablespoon of the mushroom, simmer it two hours, covered, over low heat, and drink the tea. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for several centuries. The Chinese name Ling Zhi translates loosly as the herb of spiritual potency and has been prized as an elixir of immortality. Its traditional Chinese medicine indications include treatment of general fatigue and weakness, asthma, insomnia, and cough. It is believed to be the oldest mushroom used in medicine and is one of the most respected medicinal mushrooms today. Reishi had been added to the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic Compendium. Once rare and expensive, this mushroom is now effectively cultivated and is readily available.
Several companies have sold supplements and other products infused with the extract or spores of these medicinal marvels for years and their popularity is growing with the word of mouth rage over their results in many different and surprising areas.