5 Reasons You Should Start Drinking Mushroom Coffee

A hot steaming cup of mushroom coffee

By now, you’re more than aware that mushroom coffee is a thing. You’ve heard about it, seen ads for it, and your co-worker has been raving about it for weeks. You may be wondering, is mushroom coffee worth the hype? Why is everyone putting mushrooms in their coffee?

The tradition of drinking mushrooms started in Finland during World War II, when coffee was in short supply. Finnish people used the chaga mushroom, which grows there natively, to stretch their supply. As mushrooms themselves have a flavor that is bold, earthy, and slightly bitter, it worked quite well alongside the coffee. 

Eventually, people found that the added nutrients that mushrooms brought to their coffee was enough reason to keep adding them long after the coffee shortage was over. The trend finally made its way into the United States several years ago, and in the last few years, it’s gone viral.

There’s good reason for that - mushrooms show promise for providing a variety of health benefits. They've been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, and more and more studies are being done to find out about their medicinal properties. 

As interest in healthy eating and natural foods continues to increase, a lot of people have been giving mushroom coffee a try.

Here are some of the top reasons to start adding mushrooms to your morning beverage:

1. Mushrooms may reduce inflammation in the body

Turkey tail mushrooms growing in the jungle of Puerto Rico

Mushrooms have bioactive compounds, like polyphenols and antioxidants, that have the ability to suppress the production of inflammatory mediators (molecules that the body releases in response to injury or infection). In plain English, that means they can reduce inflammation.

Mushrooms may be an effective alternative to NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen, which are commonly used for inflammation but are known to have negative side effects when used long term.

Chronic inflammation in the body is the root of most diseases. It can eventually cause severe damage to cells, tissue, and organs. Untreated, long-term inflammation can lead to serious disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, cognitive decline, and cancer. Reducing our inflammation levels is key to optimal health and living a long and happy life. If incorporating mushrooms into our diet can help with that, we’re all for it.

2. Mushrooms can reduce cortisol levels

Cortisol is a hormone in your body that plays a key role in managing stress. Think of it as your body's natural alarm system. When you're in a stressful situation, whether it's a real threat or just a tough day, your body releases cortisol to help you cope.

However, too much cortisol over a long time can be harmful. Chronic stress can lead to high and prolonged levels of cortisol, which may contribute to health problems like weight gain, sleep issues, and a weakened immune system.

Studies have shown that certain types of mushrooms can reduce cortisol levels, helping your body to deal with stress naturally. These substances help maintain balance by influencing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and regulating key elements of the stress response, including cortisol.

Reishi is particularly important for lowering cortisol. Many people report that it helps them to relax and get deeper sleep. As an adaptogenic mushroom, it can have a positive effect on our adrenal glands, keeping cortisol levels low during stressful times. In this way, adaptogenic mushrooms may help to reduce the negative effects of stress on the body.

3. Adaptogens help improve sleep quality

Similarly, because functional mushrooms are adaptogens, they can help to improve sleep quality. Adaptogens can help us to deal with both emotional and environmental stressors.

Inappropriate release of cortisol can throw off our circadian rhythm, making it difficult to feel calm and tired at the end of the night. By reducing feelings of stress, adaptogens can help our bodies to feel calm enough to get a good night’s sleep.

4. Mushrooms can improve brain function

One of the most exciting discoveries in fungal studies is the ability for some mushrooms to stimulate nerve growth in the brain. In particular, a lot of emphasis has been placed on lion’s mane mushroom for enhanced cognition. Studies have found that consuming lion’s mane extract reduces stress-induced cell death, which may help to reduce the effects of neurodegenerative disease.

One double-blind trial was conducted on a group of Japanese men and women aged 50 - 80 who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. After taking a lion’s mane extract powder daily for 16 weeks, their cognitive function scale scores improved significantly.

Another study done by researchers at the University of Queensland found that the active compounds in lion’s mane actually cause nerve growth in brain cells and enhanced memory. Research on mushrooms overall is still in the early stages, but so far they’ve shown immense potential for being a healing force in our bodies.

5. Mushrooms support a healthy immune system

Mushrooms have several active compounds that fight viruses, inhibit tumors, and help regulate the immune system. Specifically, beta glucans in fungi work to activate T cells and natural killer (NK) cells, aiding our bodies’ natural defense mechanisms to kill invading pathogens. 

They’re also high in certain nutrients like selenium and zinc, which can help to fight off common illnesses, like the cold and flu. Some of the most promising mushrooms for supporting immunity are reishi, turkey tail, and maitake.

Ok, but why mushrooms specifically in coffee?

Over-the-shoulder shot of a person holding a latte at camp

All of these potential healing properties of mushrooms are super exciting, but some people ask us why mushroom coffee, specifically, has gotten so popular. And I think it’s largely because the flavor…just works. The strong earthy flavors of coffee beans and tea leaves complement and help mask the somewhat bitter taste of medicinal mushrooms. Truly, mushroom coffee does not taste like mushrooms! 

Also, coffee and tea are such great vehicles for taking your mushrooms. It’s easy to remember, because you probably already drink coffee every day. Drinking mushroom coffee (or tea) is a great way to start the day, and it’s easy to make it part of your morning ritual. 

Of course, you can incorporate mushrooms into your life however you see fit - it doesn’t have to be with coffee or tea. We also like to add them to our smoothies and energy balls. And you can always just cook them up with your dinner (well, some of them).

It’s worth noting that mushrooms are considered a tonic herb in herbal medicine, meaning that they’re meant to be used over a long period of time. It can take a few weeks to truly feel their beneficial effects. If you decide to give mushroom coffee a try, be sure to make it part of your regular routine for a couple of weeks before you decide how you feel about it.

If you have any questions, feel free to send them our way! We love talking mushrooms. Leave a comment below or send us an email at info@cinderbird.com.

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