Feeling on the low? Get high with shrooms (not the ones you’re thinking about) in your coffee to reduce anxiety, decrease inflammation, and boost your immune system.
Beyond the Portobello and Crimini, an entire kingdom of mushrooms exists, many with amazing health benefits for immunity, energy, and longevity that have been studied for centuries. This is why our Finnish friends at Four Sigmatic, a superfood brand, have created a varied assortment of medicinal mushroom based products designed for easy on-the-go use. They are mushroom-based instant (non-GMO) coffee and hot chocolate blends that only need to be added to hot water, or nut milk or mixing them into your smoothies and shakes, and BOOM—get ready for an instant shot of energy and feel good effect.
Medicinal mushrooms are nature’s most powerful biodynamic adaptogens, which means that they help your body adapt to its environment, and cope with external change and stress. Adaptogens do not have specific functions—they neither stimulate nor inhibit bodily functions; instead they establish homeostasis, assist the body’s ability to heal, and strengthen the immune system. Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress by recharging the adrenal glands, which results in feeling calmer and more at ease. Adaptogens work differently each time depending on the person ingesting it and his/her body state at the moment. They include chaga, reishi, cordyceps, maitake and shiitake mushrooms. When taken in combination, medicinal mushrooms appear to have a synergistic effect, enhancing immunity more than if taken individually.
Mushroom coffee is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of the focus and concentration benefits of coffee plus the added medicinal, anti-inflammatory benefits of medicinal mushrooms. Yes, okay, I get it… If you’ve never tried mushroom coffee or medicinal mushrooms, it probably doesn’t sound appealing at all. You’ll just have to trust me on this one, they are actually surprisingly delicious!
I have found Four Sigmatic to be an extremely reliable brand that does a great job at truly preserving the magic and properties of functional mushrooms like reishi, chaga, cordyceps, and lion’s mane, as well as other superfoods and adaptogens like rhodiola, eleuthero, and schisandra to help us live healthier, more enhanced lives. They do in-depth research on their sources to absolutely verify that their products are either wildcrafted straight from nature or 100% pesticide and chemical free. Their aim is to make these research-backed, well-studied foods accessible and easy to add to anyone’s diet and daily routine.
The two main benefits of mushroom coffee are:
- Increased focus and concentration (caffeine, maybe rhodiola)
- Reduced inflammation, boosted immune health, improved nerve growth, and cognition (medicinal mushrooms)
A few facts on medicinal mushrooms…
- Used for thousands of years, lion’s mane mushroom can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and depression according to a 4 week study on 30 participants. Most interestingly, lion’s mane research suggests benefits for preventing neurodegeneration and increase the expression of “nerve-growth factor” (NGF) in certain regions of the brain.
- Chaga is more well-researched as a cancer-prevention and immune boosting medicinal mushroom. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Important to know:
In order to receive the rewards of medicinal mushrooms, the extract must be made from fruiting bodies NOT mycelium. Many brands claim to have all the medicinal mushrooms as Four Sigmatic, but use mycelium to create their extracts, which have little to no medicinal value. In fact, 90% of medicinal mushroom products on the market are made from the mycelium rather than the fruiting bodies. So check the labels!
Four Sigmatic, on the other hand “only use the fruiting bodies of Lion’s Mane, and they are grown on real wood…exactly as they would in the wild.” This means that it’s one of the few medicinal mushroom companies that has a positive verdict when it comes to using the fruiting bodies as opposed to mycelium.
My top 4 Four Sigmatic Picks:
4 Mushroom myths demystified by Tero Isokauppila, founder and President of Four Sigmatic.
MYTH #1: MUSHROOMS HAVE HIGH TOXICITY LEVELS.
The facts: This statement isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s misguided about medicinal mushrooms that you’ll find in our products. Some fungi do contain toxic compounds—but this isn’t the case for functional mushrooms.
The reason mushrooms have gotten a bad rap when it comes to concerns about toxicity is because of a little thing called mycotoxins, or organic substances that are present in mushrooms and poisonous to humans. Once again, it’s important to note that mycotoxins aren’t present in all mushrooms. Instead, these undesirable fungi include black mold (the stuff of home renovation horror stories) and aflatoxins, another genus of molds that is sometimes found on foods such as cacao, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Researchers believe that mycotoxin-containing fungi evolved to regulate other, “rival” fungi.
While some varieties of fungi may include mycotoxins, the reality is that functional mushrooms contain naturally occurring, non-toxic substances called adaptogens that can do wonders for people’s wellbeing. Adaptogens have been shown to protect the body from stress by stabilizing and optimizing its physiological functions; in the process, they can boost immunity, offer protection from disease, and promote overall wellness. The takeaway? When it comes to mushrooms and toxicity, it’s important not to confuse the bad with the good.
MYTH #2: MUSHROOMS ARE POISONOUS.
The facts: Saying that mushrooms are poisonous is like saying all people are bad. Are there a few bad seeds in this world? Of course. Just as there are a few dangerous mushrooms. But given that there are more than 1.5 million types of fungi, it would be foolish to throw them all out with the (presumed poisonous) bathwater. In fact, research suggests only approximately 60 species out of the whole lot of known mushrooms are actually poisonous.
On the flip side, adaptogens and functional mushrooms may assist in the treatment of more than 200 health conditions and may offer more than 130 medicinal functions in the human body. Mushrooms are jam-packed with essential vitamins and nutrients and have been shown to balance and restore the immune system, promote brain health, lower stress levels, improve heart health, promote gut health, and support healthy skin. They may even play a role in cancer prevention and treatment, have anti-diabetic properties, and assist in recovery from Hepatitis B. Mushrooms’ benefits are so powerful that roughly 40 percent of all pharmaceuticals contain fungi in some form—including the world-changing and life-saving penicillin.
MYTH #3: THERE’S NOT ENOUGH SCIENCE TO CORROBORATE MUSHROOM SAFETY.
The facts: This one is just patently false. In the last decade, there have been more than 100,000 studies on medicinal mushrooms in Asia alone. In recent years, as Western researchers catch on to the potential wellness benefits of mushrooms, there’s been a huge surge in mushroom-related studies across the U.S, and, overall, this research has been overwhelmingly positive. For starters, it’s turned up all the potential wellness benefits of mushrooms outlined above. If you’re interested, you can find more of this research throughout this post.
MYTH #4: EATING RAW MUSHROOMS IS DANGEROUS.
The facts: Eating functional mushrooms in raw form will not hurt you, but it also won’t take advantage of all of the benefits. If you want to obtain the maximum healthy living impact from mushrooms, it’s important to keep in mind that
- Fruiting bodies have higher concentrations of active compounds. By “fruiting bodies,” I mean the part of the fungi that grows above ground (what we typically call the “mushroom,” though it is in fact only a part of the whole). These fruiting bodies contain concentrated healthful compounds.
- Mushrooms need to be dual-extracted in order for their benefits to be made bioavailable to the body. This two-step process entails using alcohol extraction to release fat-soluble compounds (including good-for-you terpenoids) and then using a hot-water extraction in order to release water-soluble compounds (such as healthful polysaccharides). This means that if you’re attempting to utilize mushrooms for their functional benefits, raw mushrooms are a big no-no.
As mushrooms grow in popularity, many companies are promoting the potential health benefits of mushrooms on the packaging of products that have not been dual-extracted, which means those benefits are less available to the body. It’s a good idea to steer clear of any product that hasn’t been dual-extracted if you want to get your money’s worth.
It’s also smart to avoid products that mention they are both raw and extracted as well as products that say they contain the fruiting body, spores, and mycelium all together (unless they explicitly stipulate the exact amounts of each part). These “blends” are often a clever way to mask lower-quality ingredients.
It’s fair to say that these presumptions about mushrooms have done us all a disservice, because they’ve resulted in the healing potential of mushrooms being largely overlooked in Western culture. Fortunately, the recent rise of mushroom popularity in both the culinary and health-and-wellness spheres is helping functional mushrooms’ cause. The more people who take the time to address their misconceptions about mushrooms, the more we can all enjoy the benefits of these potent members of the fungi kingdom.”