Here’s what to know before amping up your morning cup with the power of functional mushrooms.
There’s nothing quite like a cup of coffee to help you shake off morning fogginess and start your day right. Heck, many Americans can barely function without it. But anyone hooked on coffee and wondering if it’s really the healthiest and most effective sip for a morning boost has probably heard rumors of the latest coffee trend—and it has nothing to do with a new Starbucks release.
Enter: mushroom coffee. With over six billion views on TikTok, it has people going nuts. But what is mushroom coffee? Does it actually contain coffee, will it perk you up, and is it really better for you than regular java?
What Is Mushroom Coffee?
There’s no question that mushrooms are having a moment, but we’re not talking about your everyday buttons or portobellos here (though we love those, too). Functional mushrooms are what the health-conscious crowd is reaching for lately, and the result is a full-on boom in functional mushroom products, like mushroom coffee.
Mushroom coffee does not necessarily need to include actual coffee—though it often does. Some brands do include coffee in their blends and others don’t, citing that the flavor and impact of their beverage mimic that of coffee without the caffeine crash. For example, you won’t find any coffee in MUD\WTR, which poses its curated shroom mixes as coffee alternatives and wants to replace your morning Joe altogether. But you can also find ground coffee with a boost of lion’s mane and chaga mushrooms for energy and focus from a coffee brand like Four Sigmatic.
Of course, the one requirement for mushroom coffee is the presence of dried, ground, and sometimes extracted (to bring out more of their nutrition) functional mushrooms. Popular functional fungi varieties used for mushroom coffee include lion’s mane, reishi, chaga, cordyceps, turkey tail, and king trumpet.
Some mushroom coffees may also contain other adaptogenic or herbal ingredients like ashwagandha, burdock root, chicory, dandelion, maca, turmeric, cinnamon, pepper, and rhodiola. (Adaptogens are natural substances found in certain plant foods, like mushrooms, herbs, and roots, that help the body react and adapt to environmental stressors).
Mushroom Coffee Benefits
With three in four Americans drinking at least one cup of coffee per day, it’s no wonder companies are coming up with new ways to squeeze a few extra nutrients into their morning brews. So what (if any) health benefits are associated with mushroom coffee—and is it worth the buzz?
Functional mushrooms are not the hallucinogenic kind—they’re mushrooms with additional health benefits outside of the nutrients they contain as well as adaptogenic properties. Embraced by traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for thousands of years, adaptogens are a group of plant compounds (but can also be synthetically created) that assist the body in adapting to stress of any kind, whether that be biological, physical or chemical. This helps the body fight off any illness or disease resulting from these stressors and swiftly return back to homeostasis. These compounds have been linked to improvement in all sorts of conditions including bodily inflammation, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cognitive impairment. Of the over 70 naturally occuring adaptogens known today, functional mushrooms are some of the most frequently utilized nowadays.
Each functional mushroom has its own unique health benefits with burgeoning evidence to show for it. Here are the cliff notes on some of the most popular varieties used for mushroom coffee:
This mushroom is one of the most common ingredients you’ll find in mushroom coffee blends. Research has found it to have therapeutic potential for neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, heart disease, liver disease, mood disorders, and metabolic conditions—though continued research is needed to fully understand these mechanisms.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom:
Another popular addition, lion’s mane is especially appealing to mushroom coffee engineers because it contains neurotrophic factors. These are protein biomolecules that encourage the differentiation and growth of neurons, i.e. nerve cells in the brain that transmit information. This, in addition to lion’s mane’s ability to reduce inflammation in the brain, make it an excellent food to start your day with for increased clarity and mental focus. Plus, it’s been shown to be supportive of gut, metabolic, heart, and sleep health while also working to alleviate symptoms of other brain-related concerns like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
This mushroom is typically added to coffee blends to promote inflammation reduction throughout the body. Beyond this benefit, these unique-looking mushrooms are linked to boosting respiratory health, regulating blood sugars, and even protecting against several types of cancer. It’s been found to be effective against viruses and exercise fatigue, too, which can be handy if you reach for a mushroom coffee with this variety in it after your morning workout.
You’ll also be very likely to find chaga in popular mushroom coffee blends. These grow on the sides of trees, looking almost bark-like themselves. They offer an impressive number of health benefits, including the potential to improve heart, gut, brain, and metabolic health. Chaga has also been shown to be effective against viruses and cancer. One note on chaga, though: Be cautious with it, as it contains high amounts of oxalate – a plant-defense chemical that can negatively impact kidney health if consumed in high amounts over long periods of time. Because of this, it’s important to find reputable mushroom coffee brands that understand the full impacts of chaga, including this varietal in modest amounts in their product. Ideally you want to limit consumption of these ground mushrooms to no more than 2 grams (or one tablespoon) per day to avoid oxalate-related risks.
Turkey Tail Mushroom:
Finally, we have turkey tail mushrooms, a broad-spectrum anti-inflammatory agent, boosting our immune systems from every angle. Research has also shown that it may even be powerful against cancers like melanoma, though more is needed to confirm such claims.
All of these functional fungi will also add to your morning cup healthy doses of fiber that will boost gut health, plant compounds that will support the immune system, and B vitamins that will help you maintain healthy energy levels throughout the day.
Beyond offering energy, clarity, and mental focus, drinking mushroom coffee drinks can help reduce your caffeine load a bit in the morning, since some of the coffee grounds are replaced by these adaptogens. If you’re looking for a way to perk up without jitters, sleep troubles, or a midday energy dip, this may be the answer to your prayers and offer more even, calm, and prolonged energy.
How Solid Are These Claims of Functional Benefits?
It’s important to note that the evidence on these mushrooms—and therefore any products they’re used in, including mushroom coffee—is still developing. A large portion of the available research is also animal-based. That said, these mushrooms are generally considered to be safe and are full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy macronutrients like fiber, so they do provide nutritional value regardless of whether or not claims of all their additional, adaptogenic super benefits have yet to be proven as bulletproof.
Mushroom Coffee Types and Brands
If you want to give mushroom coffee a try, you have quite a few options. You can DIY mushroom coffee, by buying your own dried mushrooms, grinding them up, and adding them to your morning brew. But the most common option is to purchase pre-ground and mixed mushroom blends, like Naturealm’s Sacred 7 Mushroom Extract Powder and stir that into your coffee. You can also spring for a pre-blended mushroom and coffee mix, from which there are many to choose.
You can also find mushroom coffee alternatives containing no coffee at all. Some of these will contain caffeine in the way of tea, while others are caffeine-free, though all are intended to provide you with a comparable energy boost to coffee. Brands of this kind include MUD/WTR, as well as some varieties of Rasa, Wooden Spoon Herbs, and Velty (which does technically contain decaf coffee).
All of these brands offer loads of transparency surrounding their sourcing processes and ingredient quality on their websites. And while they will likely be more expensive than your go-to dark roast grounds due to the addition of adaptogens, it’s hard to beat the convenience they offer through ready-to-brew grounds, individualized serving packets, or even pods.
Whether you make your own or buy a blend, let your inner barista run wild with mushroom coffee—preparing lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, Americanos, or just black—the sky’s the limit.
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