Image of mushrooms in the wild

Mushroom Coffee – What is it and is it worth trying?

By now you’ve probably seen artful pictures of mushroom coffee populating your Instagram feed, but if you haven’t, here’s a quick intro. Mushroom coffee is a blend of ground mushrooms and coffee beans, which supposedly tastes pretty similar to regular coffee. Mushroom coffee tends to use medicinal mushroom extract as opposed to the culinary mushrooms you might be used to, like Portobello. The coffee is made by extracting the fruiting bodies of the mushroom which are compressed into an organic powder, free from additives. The mushrooms are then dehydrated and ground into a fine powder mixed with ground coffee beans.

The most popular mushrooms used include:

  • Chaga
  • Lion’s Mane
  • Reishi
  • Cordyceps

Chaga – The Chaga mushroom is a type of fungus that grows mainly on the bark of birch trees in cold climates, such as Siberia and Russia. It produces a woody growth, similar in appearance to burnt charcoal, though inside has a soft orange coloured core. Chaga has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries to boost immunity and has also been used to treat diabetes. Test tube studies have suggested that Chaga can improve immunity by reducing long-term inflammation. Chaga has also shown to reduce the blood sugar levels of diabetic mice, which is why some believe it may help those with diabetes, however human tests are yet to go ahead.

Lion’s Mane – These mushrooms get their name from their appearance; they are large, white, shaggy mushrooms that resemble a lion’s mane. They’re used in Asia for both culinary and medicinal purposes. They contain bioactive substances that are beneficial for the brain, heart, and gut. A study in older adults with mild cognitive impairment found that consuming 3 grams of powdered Lion’s Mane daily for four months improved mental functioning. However, these benefits stopped when the supplementation stopped. Other studies have shown similar positive effects on the brain. A high dose of Lion’s Mane extract was given to rats immediately after a stroke which helped to decrease inflammation and reduce the size of stroke-related brain injury by 44%.

Reishi – The Reishi mushroom grows in humid locations and has been a staple in Eastern medicine for years. Reishi is thought to have immune boosting properties, as research has shown that some of the mushroom’s molecules can increase the activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells. These cells fight infections and cancer in the body.

Cordyceps – This is a type of parasitic fungi that grows on the larvae of insects and is widely used within traditional Chinese medicine. It is thought that the mushroom may increase the body’s production of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is essential for delivering energy to the muscles. Cordyceps may also have anti-aging properties, as studies found that the mushroom increased antioxidants in aging mice, helping to improve memory.

The main health benefits attributed to mushroom coffee are improved sleep, boosted immune system, higher energy levels and improved memory. However, it is worth noting that human studies on the health benefits are lacking, plus it can be a pretty costly habit, mushroom coffee is often double the price of your classic coffee blend.

Aside from the health benefits, mushroom coffee blends tend to be lower in caffeine than regular coffee. As the mushroom powder is usually combined with the ground coffee beans in a 1:1 ratio, meaning the caffeine content is halved in comparison to regular coffee. So if you're looking for a way to reduce your caffeine intake mushroom coffee could be a great alternative. 

If you enjoyed this, check out our post on the benefits of a plant based diet.

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