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The Magic of Mushrooms


Oh, no...did I use the wrong picture??? I thought this was about mushrooms!


Have you heard of mushroom coffee? What is up with this seemly new mushroom coffee kick? Mushroom coffee…sounds a little gross, right?


Believe it or not, it’s not that bad, AND it’s really good for you! Yes, I have tried it. In fact, I drink mushroom infused coffee practically every morning. I mix the mushroom coffee 50/50 with my regular coffee grounds and it lends a more earthy flavor to my morning brew. I have also received strange looks from others who learn of my choice of caffeination…The scrunched-up nose and downturned mouth of disgust, but I encourage you to try it for yourself.


Functional mushrooms are part of a group of special bioactive compounds called ADAPTOGENS. Adaptogens help our bodies recover from past stressors, strengthen our immune system, and build resilience for future stressors. Adaptogens have been used for their healing properties for thousands of years. When I drink the mushroom infused coffee blend, I feel more energized, and my thoughts are clearer (less brain fog). I have less stress and anxiety throughout the day. But does the kind of mushroom make a difference?

Yes, it does. Each type of mushroom can have different effects on your health. I choose specific blends for what I feel I will need during the day, like if I feel run down, have a little brain fog, or think my immune system needs a boost.


There are also numerous species of poisonous mushrooms, as well as psychedelic mushrooms. Caution is always advised when consuming mushrooms. Foraging is only a good idea with an expert in mushroom identification. I do not recommend just finding mushrooms in the woods and consuming them, since there are many mushrooms that mimic other kinds and could be poisonous. We should probably take a closer look at five of the functional mushrooms that are commercially available as mushroom coffees, teas, or cocoas.




REISHI



Reishi is known as the elixir of immortality and was once reserved for emperors and gods. Reishi is best known for its calming ability and stress reduction. This fungus is also anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer. That’s a lot of protection from just a little mushroom. Reishi has also been shown to protect the liver and reverse non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Reishi is great to have before bed to unwind.


Of course, everything is about balance. Too much reishi can overstimulate the immune system, cause dry mouth, stomach upset, nosebleeds, or bloody stools.




LION’S MANE



Lion’s mane mushroom is referred to as the “smart mushroom”; it helps to support our brain health and function. The two active compounds for brain health are hericenones and erinacines. Hericenones help the brain form a protein called nerve growth factors which plays a role in neuroplasticity (making new connections and regenerating neurons). This may protect your brain from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease. Besides being beneficial for brain health, lion’s mane may also help with nerve and tissue damage around the body.


Lion’s mane also helps with anxiety and depression related to systemic inflammation. And of course, systemic inflammation is linked to poor gut health and dysbiosis in the gut.




TURKEY TAIL



This mushroom has some super immune-boosting powers (and it also fights cancer). Polysaccharopeptides are potent compounds that can turn immune responses on or off depending on what is needed at the time. Turkey tail mushrooms are also being studied as adjunct therapy (which means in addition to) in cancer treatment plans. Preliminary studies have shown patients with cancer taking turkey tail mushrooms live longer and reduce growth in certain kinds of cancers.


Turkey tail is also great for gut health. It can reduce harmful E. coli, Clostridium, and Staphylococcus species and increase beneficial colonies of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. These beneficial species have been linked to increased butyrate production in the gut which is an essential short-chain fatty acid used for energy in the cells lining our gut as well as other beneficial bacterial species.


There can be some side effects like gas, bloating, and dark stools when taking turkey tail mushrooms, but it is generally considered safe to use. A potentially rare side effect is the darkening of the fingernails.


I usually use turkey tail along with vitamin C, zinc, and elderberry if I feel like I’m coming down with something or I know I will be with crowds of people that might tax my immune system.




CHAGA



Chaga is known as the “king of mushrooms.” It contains many antioxidants that protect our cells from oxidation (and free radicals), which is linked to many kinds of cancers and the aging process. Chaga mushrooms have also been shown to increase HDL levels and decrease LDL levels, bringing cholesterol levels back into balance.


Chaga mushrooms are a parasitic mushroom that grow almost exclusively on damaged birch trees. It takes years for chaga mushrooms to kill their host, but any birch tree containing chaga mushrooms will eventually die from the infestation. This makes chaga mushrooms very difficult to grow, but easy to forage, especially in the northern US. Chaga mushrooms prefer the cold and are best harvested in fall and winter months. (Always consult with an expert in foraging mushrooms).




CORDYCEPS



This is the energy mushroom! It also has the reputation of being the “zombie mushroom” in certain species of caterpillars that live in the high elevations of China and Tibet (as well as other insect species). The spores of the cordyceps would attach to the caterpillar larvae and grow with the caterpillar eventually taking over the species and releasing its tendrils as the caterpillar died. However, there are over 400 kinds of cordyceps mushrooms and other species can be propagated in a less parasitic fashion.


Like I said, this is the energy mushroom! It is great for post workout recovery and to improve asthma symptoms. It has been used to improve lung capacity. It is also effective for people going from low elevations to high elevations to reduce altitude sickness and the huffing and puffing at the higher elevations.


Cordyceps improves energy without acting as a stimulant. A compound called cordycepin has a structure like adenosine in our body. Adenosine is found in ATP which is our cells main source of energy. So, if you did not sleep as well as you wanted to last night, drinking cordyceps in your morning coffee may increase your energy levels and mental clarity more than the coffee alone.

Of course, getting a good night’s rest is essential for overall health and sleep disturbances should be investigated for other underlying causes, but using cordyceps as a quick pick-me-up to get through the day is how we must roll sometimes.


Caution is advised for people taking medications for diabetes, because cordyceps can lower blood sugar levels. There may also be interactions with blood thinning medications, so always consult with a healthcare professional before using any supplements (even mushrooms).




So, while it may sound gross to some that you have mushrooms in your coffee, tea, or cocoa, you may find significant benefits to adding these (and other mushrooms like oyster, shitake, portabella, or button) to your daily routines. Enjoy the magic of mushrooms for health and wellness!


Are you ready to PIVOT to functional health and wellness?





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