(Photo: Four Sigma Foods)
There’s a new type of tea showing up at your health food store, and it’s not exactly plucked from leafy fields or served with crumpets: it’s mushroom.
Sipping fungi for health reasons has been done for thousands of years in the East, and recently Western wellness insiders have been brewing the earthy little, grow-in-the-dark spores for things like stress-reduction, immunity, and a long list of health benefits. (None of which are associated with the hallucinogenic variety that we know of, just FYI.)
In part, this trend is due to increased availability of mushrooms that lend themselves to beverages. Four Sigma Foods, a Finnish brand that specializes in mushroom tea, recently relocated its headquarters to Los Angeles and is in the process of making its products available all over California and New York. (It’s already available in 21 other countries).
Mushrooms like reishi are adaptogens, explains Cap Beauty’s Kerrilynn Pamer, meaning they help your body manage stress. (Turmeric is another adaptogen.) “They respond to what our systems need through the miracle of plant intelligence, supporting you from the inside out,” she says.
Why all the health hype?
You’d be surprised by how much existing research there is on mushrooms’ health-boosting properties, explains Four Sigma Foods president Tero Isokauppila, who hired a biochemist to collect scientific information on their benefits.
(Photos: Four Sigma Foods)
One surprising element of proof is the pretty abundant use of mushrooms in pharmaceuticals. According to the University of Sydney Mycology Department, at the beginning of the 21st century, “fungi were involved in the industrial processing of more than 10 of the 20 most profitable products used in human medicine,” including drugs for high cholesterol, antibiotics, and immunosuppressants. Cordyceps, for example, were used to create the drug Gileyna, used to fight autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis.
Cordyceps are one of the three main types of mushrooms the teas tend to focus on, along with reishi and chaga. (Memorize those three and you’re set!) “Reishi is the most studied and the queen of mushrooms,” Isokauppila says. “It can help regulate hormones, lower stress, and break down [stress-related] cortisol. Chaga has the highest source of antioxidants…while cordyceps are really good for oxygen intake, so a lot of athletes drink that.” Maybe your new pre-workout hydration ritual? Which brings us to a very important question…
Is mushroom tea even drinkable?
Since mushrooms don’t come in pretty leaf form, their active components are made into powder, which comes in tea bags or in a pouch like a sugar packet, which you can pour into hot water (or smoothies or coffee) and stir to dissolve.
In your cup, it sort of resembles coffee—that is, it’s a brown, nearly opaque liquid. As for the taste, you can certainly tell that it’s healthy. A few of us tried Four Sigma Food’s Instant Reishi, a powder blended with star anise, mint leaf, licorice root, and stevia, in hot water. It smells vaguely like a diluted cup of miso soup and is surprisingly sweet (from the stevia) but isn’t all that different from a weak black tea.
And if you wanted to sip it during a work meeting (to balance out the stress said meeting might create), there’s no real funky fungi scent that would give you away.
By Jamie McKillop for Well+Good
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