Are you on mushrooms right now? If not, you should be. It’s not what you think. Yes, some people use them to enhance chicken marsala, and some use them to pursue psychedelic enlightenment, but if that’s all you see in a mushroom then you’re selling it short. People creatively consume fungi to sleep better, feel stronger and live longer. Well, we have one question: Are mushrooms really magic?
Wellness trends come and go, and medicinal mushrooms might seem like the newest self-care method right now, but their benefits have been known for quite some time. For centuries, mushrooms have been used to produce health benefits of immunity, energy and longevity — even cancer-fighting properties. You’ll see a lot of ‘shroom-usage in traditional Chinese medicine to fight viral, bacterial and fungal infections. And they provide important vitamins and antioxidants, as well.
So why do they seem to being gaining popularity now? Starla Sholl, a therapist in Chicago who swears by medicinal mushrooms and even leads workshops to educate the public about them, says it all has to do with science. Bottom line, Western cultures wanted clinical proof.
“In the last 20 years or so, the science has developed to actually demonstrate how and why mushrooms help us,” Sholl says. “Asian cultures have known the power of mushrooms for a long time, and now research is validating their use. Hundreds of studies are currently being done on everything from diabetes to cancer.”
Don’t be fooled by the term “medicinal mushrooms.” They don’t need to be prescribed by a doctor. You might even be familiar with some of the most common consumed like shiitake and chaga. Others sound straight out of a fairy-tale, such as lion’s mane and turkey tail.
You don’t need to get your feet wet foraging in the forest to hop on this health trend. Companies like Four Sigmatic hope to inject medicinal mushrooms into the mainstream with products like mushroom coffee and hot chocolate. Via their website, you can order coffees, elixirs, cocoas, teas and more by the box. In hopes of further educating the public, the Finnish company even launched The Mushroom Academy, a free online video education course on mushrooms.
Another ‘shroom boomer is California-based smoothie and tonic shop Lifehouse Tonics, which incorporates mushrooms into its offerings like the “fungi palmer,” an elixir of cold-pressed juice and four types of mushrooms. Don’t be surprised if you start to notice more mushrooms on a menu near you.
Whether you consume them via tea, coffee or capsule, mushroom blends can be eaten according to the season or health issue. Sholl takes kidney-related mushrooms in winter because the kidney is weakest during that time. She also shares a story about a woman who rid herself of allergies thanks to incorporating lung-related mushrooms into her diet. You just have to do your research. Most importantly, Sholl recommends 60-90 days of mushroom consumption to see real results.
“Some people believe these mushrooms are like Western medicine so they try them for a week or two,” Sholl says. “We’ve become so used to seeing products cure the symptom as opposed to what’s underneath. Medicinal mushrooms can help to heal the underlying cause.”
Just like anything else we consume, it’s good to be concerned about the origins of the mushrooms you’re about to eat. Are they truly organic? Are they harvested sustainably? Is the whole mushroom being used, or just the root? Before you buy a year’s supply of mushroom matcha mix, make sure the fungi fruiting bodies are dual extracted, which means you’ll get both the water- and fat-soluble compounds of that mushroom — aka all the good, immunity-boosting stuff.
Plain or powdered, mushrooms provide undeniable health benefits. So, whether you want to better your mood, boost your energy, strengthen your immune system or just get a better night’s sleep, there’s a ‘shroom for you.