The History of Mushroom Magic
Mushrooms…in coffee?! Yep. Mushroom coffee has been around since WWII. The people of Finland, like many other countries, experienced a shortage of coffee during the war. And who wants to live without coffee? No one. The answer is no one. So they got creative and started cutting down chaga mushrooms on local birch trees. These trees grew abundantly in the area, as did the mushrooms that look like burnt wood (see below).
So the Finnish had these chaga mushrooms. They soaked and pressed them to essentially steep their medicinal properties without eating them (which you can do by the way). Drinking this chaga “tea” resulted in long-lasting energy. It was similar to the stimulant effects coffee provides, but without the caffeine crash to follow. Many also noticed less stomach upset with increased focus. Once the war ended and coffee became readily available again, the Finnish kept their chaga ritual by mixing the mushroom “tea” in with their regular coffee. This is how mushroom coffee came to be.
Present Day Fun-guys
Today’s mushroom coffee is made from mushroom powders derived from medicinal mushrooms (mainly Chaga, Lion’s Mane, Turkey’s Tail, reishi, and cordyceps) that are then mixed with traditional coffee grounds. See the nutritional breakdown below.
Notice that Lion’s Mane mushroom powder is mostly comprised of carbohydrates and protein. Moisture and fiber content is minimal. Acrylamide is not considered a nutrient, but I included it in this table because it is present in mushroom powders.
Acrylamide is a byproduct produced during the heating process of drying mushrooms to make powder. It is considered a carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance. The FDA tests acrylamide present in foods and approves foods with <20ppm measurements. Mushroom powders are so low in acrylamide, it is either undetectable or in minimal amounts deemed safe by the FDA.
The state of California does require that mushroom coffee companies, as well as other acrylamide-containing food products, display a warning label on their packaging. Their Proposition 65 law enforces companies disclose chemicals present in their products, including both coffee and mushroom powders separately.
“WARNING: Consuming this product can expose you to chemicals including acrylamide, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and lead, which is known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov. “
Don’t Feel Like Mush
Why not just drink coffee then? Sure, a regular cup of Joe gives you an instant boost of energy, but chugging coffee can be followed by an energy crash a couple of hours later. Caffeine can do this- provide a momentary jolt that makes you feel like a superhero, and 2 hours later, leaves you feeling exhausted and defeated. Unlike caffeine, mushroom coffee releases energy slowly due to its polysaccharide makeup that takes longer to break down in the body. The mushroom powders in this coffee are also proven to fight and improve both mental and physical fatigue, avoiding that afternoon crash while uplifting your mind, body, and spirit.
No Cap on Benefits
On top of giving you steady energy, the mushroom powder in this coffee protects your stomach lining against gastrointestinal irritation and bloating coffee can cause. In one study, the Lion’s Mane mushroom showed promise in reducing ulcerative symptoms, guarding the lining of the digestive tract, and fighting against the bacteria H. pylori (which causes infection in your stomach).
The medicinal mushroom powders also contain antioxidants, nutrient parts that fight off free radicals and stress. We can all use a little stress relief in our lives, am I right? In fact, mushrooms are considered adaptogens, which means they are considered a food that helps you adapt to stress.
They are anticancer too, a property we want all of our foods to have and protect us against. If you open my poster project I worked on this entire semester, you will be able to see the charts I made that display Lion’s Mane killing cancer at a 67% effectiveness rate, while Chaga killed all 4 strains of adenocarcinoma (commonly known as lung cancer). Chaga was 100% successful in killing these cancerous cells- amazing! More studies must be done before adding this to preventative and therapeutic treatments.
I Can’t Believe This Shiitake!
Summary of the top 5 benefits of medicinal mushroom coffee…
- Fights mental & physical fatigue
- Protects gastrointestinal epithelial lining, limiting stomach irritation and upset
- Increases energy levels at a steady pace without the caffeine crash
- Is adaptogenic and contains antioxidants that fight stress!
- Contains anticancer properties
*You should not consume Chaga if you are currently on blood thinners or about to undergo surgery. Chaga is also not ideal for diabetic patients because it can induce hypoglycemia. Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medication should consult with their physician before consuming this mushroom, or any medicinal mushroom/product.
Make ‘Shroom in Your Pantry
Are you interested in trying this alternative to mainstream coffee? Great! There are many companies who specialize in mushroom coffee, the most popular being Four Sigmatic. Their product can be found on their website, Amazon, and in many grocery stores. In grocers, these products may be found in the coffee aisle or by the health supplements. Don’t be shy to ask an employee where they stock their products.
If you find certain brands are more pricey, keep in mind that the medicinal mushrooms are worth the investment. Here is $15 off your first purchase with Four Sigmatic Co. Let me know what you think, and happy sipping this energizing brew!
Photo: Mushroom Coffee.; 2017. https://www.health.com/food/mushroom-coffee-trend. Accessed March 18, 2020.
- Sen M. The Hidden Wartime Origins of Mushroom Coffee. Food52. https://food52.com/blog/18958-the-hidden-wartime-origins-of-mushroom-coffee. Published September 26, 2018. Accessed February 10, 2020.
- Kim SP, Kang MY, Choi YH, Kim JH, Nam SH, Friedman M. Mechanism of Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake) mushroom-induced apoptosis of U937 human monocytic leukemia cells.Food & Funct. 2011;2(6):348. doi:10.1039/c1fo10030k.
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food: Individual Food Products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/survey-data-acrylamide-food-individual-food-products. Accessed February 7, 2020..
- Crawford LM, Kahlon TS, Wang SC, Friedman M. Acrylamide Content of Experimental Flatbreads Prepared from Potato, Quinoa, and Wheat Flours with Added Fruit and Vegetable Peels and Mushroom Powders. Foods. 2019;8(7):228. doi:10.3390/foods8070228.
- Baek J, Roh HS, Baek KH, Lee S, Lee S, Song SS, et al. Bioactivity-based analysis and chemical characterization of cytotoxic constituents from Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) that induce apoptosis in human lung adenocarcinoma cells. JEthnopharmacol. 2018;224:63-75. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2018.05.025.
- He, Xirui, et al. “Structures, Biological Activities, and Industrial Applications of the Polysaccharides from Hericium Erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom: A Review.” International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, vol. 97, 2017, pp. 228–237., doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2017.01.040.