This article includes a discount code, which you’ll find at reason 10.
Mushroom coffee doesn’t necessarily sound appealing, I grant you.
But what if I told you that you can’t taste the mushroom? And that I attribute drinking it to my amazing mental energy and clarity of thought these days? Maybe you are a bit more interested.
Coffee additions have been growing increasingly weird for a while. The first big splash was bulletproof coffee, which I could never get into. But mushroom coffee I knew better than to sniff at. The powerful health benefits of ancient medicinal mushrooms (the ‘brain of triathlon’ Ben Greenfield calls them ‘nature’s best kept secret‘) was already more established in my mind, from my nutrition training.
Where I live in London, coffee shops featuring things like reishi lattes on their menus are springing up all the time, which is really exciting. But there is only one company whose passion and ethos I trust with my mushrooms, and that’s Four Sigmatic.
I remember Four Sigmatic – then called Four Sigma Foods – when they had just started out. I met the guys at a trade show in London where they were sampling boxes of instant Reishi, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane and Chaga. The company, founded by a group of Finnish friends in 2012, launched its products in the US in 2015.
I already knew medicinal mushrooms were obscenely good for you. And straightaway I loved the packaging and taste of the drinks. When I dug a bit deeper into the company ethos, what I discovered impressed me. They identify their mission as “to democratize mushrooms. We see immunological issues ‘along with hormonal and digestive problems’ as the key thing to solve in order to help people live healthier”, which I really admire.
The company has now grown massively and has added extensively to its range. For me, the major turning point was when it started selling coffee products – and good ones at that (I like good coffee). That’s when the products became a regular fixture in my diet.
Here are ten reasons I love mushroom coffee – and Four Sigmatic’s in particular.
1. I feel and look better when I drink mushroom coffee
When I drink mushroom coffee regularly, I experience a noticeable improvement in my physical and mental performance levels, my sleep quality and my ability to handle stress. As I frequently travel, and I don’t tend to take my mushroom coffee with me, I get a clear comparison between my life on mushroom coffee and without it. I prefer it with.
2. I feel calmer when I drink mushroom coffee
Medicinal mushrooms are adaptogens, which is a category of foods and substances that have a re-balancing effect on the body. In practical terms, this means mushrooms are great for helping you keep a positive mood, balancing your hormones, and dealing with stress.Medicinal mushrooms are adaptogens. They help us deal with stress. Click To Tweet
3. I really enjoy the taste of mushroom coffee
To be honest, drinking mushroom coffee wouldn’t be a sustainable habit without this. It has to be pleasurable too.
I have tried other brands, but never more than once. Here’s what I drink from Four Sigmatic’s range:
Mushroom coffee: This gives you the double health whammy of coffee and mushrooms. Now, if you wanted, you could make a bulletproof mushroom coffee. 🙂 I have tried all the varieties, and I preferred them to my normal espresso (I found them less acidic).
Mushroom hot chocolate: Medicinal hot chocolate. I really like the chai flavored one.
Other stuff: Four Sigmatic also produce superfoods blends.
4. I adore the crazy names
This is a bit of a silly reason really. But the mushrooms have some pretty funky names. Here are some characters from the medicinal mushroom kingdom:
(My personal favorite) Turkey tail
5. Drinking mushroom coffee is a convenient way to get the health benefits, which would otherwise be complicated due to the extraction process
The reasons get a more serious and technical now.
Medicinal mushrooms aren’t the same as the culinary kind. Unlike the edible kind, medicinal mushrooms don’t grow on the ground – they grow on or near trees. Some actually look like tree bark. Others resemble something from a horror movie.
Because you can’t really eat them raw, you need to extract the benefits from mushrooms using a process. The main processes are by hot water extraction (i.e. boiling them) and alcohol extraction (soaking the mushrooms in alcohol).Four Sigmatic use the best extraction process Click To Tweet
The extraction method is one of the main reasons I’m in love with Four Sigmatic mushrooms. Four Sigmatic doesn’t just powder its mushroom: it extracts them in both hot water and alcohol for all beneficial compounds to become bioavailable. The final extracts are standardized, before being combined with herbs and natural flavors including liquorice root, star anise, mint, stevia and rose hip.
6. I like the idea that it is probably slowing down my ageing
Drinking mushroom coffee will probably make us biologically and physically younger. I’m not old – 34 – so I can’t currently prove that mushrooom coffee is responsible for my youthful appearance. But I suspect it is helping.
Reishi has been used as an overall health and longevity tonic for thousands of years. Tests on Reishi show that the mushroom has neuro-protective effects in rats, a life-span promoting effect on worms, an inhibiting effect on the growth of tumors and liver re-generation effects in mice. Check out Examine.com’s neat little compilation of the studies (there is a page for some of the other mushrooms mentioned below too).
Chaga, another type of mushroom, has the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score ever recorded. That makes it profoundly anti-aging. When we eat a high antioxidant diet, our whole body benefits. We look better (skin and hair) and our organs function better.
I have written before about the role of antioxidants in healthy aging.
7. Drinking mushroom coffee supports my immune system
If I drink this through a London winter, I do not pick up colds and flu. That’s despite being around my bug ridden nieces and nephews!
There is a lot of research that explains my experience.I tend not to pick up bugs Click To Tweet
Mycologist Paul Stamets, probably the world’s leading authority on mushrooms, likens them to miniature pharmaceutical factories. In fact, medicinal mushrooms are understood to be responsible for 130 functions. You can watch documentaries about mushrooms here and Stamets’s fascinating Ted Talk here.
The active part of medicinal mushrooms is a category of compounds called polysaccharides (which are a form of sugar/carbohydrates). It is these compounds that are linked to protection against cancer cells, as well as viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.
The Osher Center in the States recommends medicinal mushrooms for people who might benefit from extra immune support. Melissa Ring, MD: “Anybody who struggles with recurrent respiratory infections, people entering the cold and flu season, people who work in careers that expose them frequently to infections, like teachers, all those sorts of people can benefit from including medicinal mushrooms in their regimen, whether through diet or supplements.”
8. My brain is better on mushroom coffee
I really care about the health of my brain, as I am sure do you. I can concentrate for longer when I drink mushroom coffee regularly.
Again, research backs up my experience. Lion’s Mane helps to stimulate nerve growth factor (plays a significant role in immunity), has an improving effect on mild cognitive impairment conditions, reduces beta amyloid plaque in the brain (a marker of Alzheimer’s), reduces anxiety and depression in menopausal women, and improves concentration.
Here’s the equally brain obsessed Max Lugavere interviewing Four Sigmatic Founder Tero about that exact subject.
9. Mushroom coffee doesn’t have any unpleasant side effects
One of the fantastic things about medicinal mushrooms is they don’t have any adverse side effects. You can just keep consuming and the benefits accumulate.
One exception has been highlighted: where individuals are using immune suppressing medicines (used after a transplant). In such cases, the immune modulating effect of medicinal mushroom extracts might neutralize the effects of the drugs.
10. Four Sigmatic are a generous company
I would have written a post on the products anyway, because I love them. But the guys have offered my readers a 10% discount on their products if you use the code, ‘artofwellbeing’ when you go to check out.
The products are priced at around $15-25 per box of ten sachets.
Identifying other quality products
If you want to shop around, there are a couple of things to be aware of.
Currently there are three main types of products that you can buy: whole mushrooms (used by Four Sigmatic), mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus), and spores. Most of the research has focused on extracts of whole mushrooms. Mycelium and spore products do not have the same level of data.
In general, quality products are available as concentrated powder made from the whole mushroom.
Polysaccharide compounds tend to be found in the water-soluble fragment of the mushroom, or the hot-water extracts. Triterpenoids are found in ethanolic (alcohol based) extracts. You should ensure that whoever you are buying from has extracted the mushrooms in one of these ways.
Making your own
You can prepare a hot infusion made from chaga bark at home – it’s pretty simple. Obviously this doesn’t have the convenience of using the powders, but on the plus side, it’s very ceremonious! I have used and can recommend UK company Indigo Herbs of Glastonbury (non-affiliate).