What’s all the hype about? Why am I now being offered the option to order a Chagaccino instead of a regular oat cappuccino? Mushrooms have been all the rage lately. Besides the culinary mushrooms in the produce section that we’re accustomed to, functional mushrooms such as Chaga, Cordyceps, and Reishi are popping up in coffees, teas, chocolates, and lotions.
I began researching the healing powers of mushrooms after my grandmother passed away of Alzheimer’s in 2015. Having witnessed the toll that this disease took within a short span of time, I was curious to seek preventable measures for myself and my mother, as I knew that Alzheimer’s can be passed down from generation to generation. I soon learned that medicinal mushrooms may be the adaptogen that could prevent dementia and other neurological diseases. Before I knew it, I was hooked.
What kind of mushrooms are we talking about here?
Functional mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years as they have the incredible potential to maintain vitality and extend longevity. Alongside mold and yeast, mushrooms are classified as fungi--but before you let those thread of words freak you out, get this: The genetic makeup of fungi are actually more similar to the DNA of the human species than to that of plants. So does that mean we’re descendants of mushrooms? I like to think so.
As we see it, mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi. Working underground as a huge network of threads called mycelium, fungi is one of the largest and oldest organisms on this planet. They break down dead plant and animal matter to become usable for new plant life. (kinda gross, but kinda cool!) The web of intelligence beneath us holds so much mystery, kind of like the Upside Down in Stranger Things… just not nearly as morbid.
“FUNGI ARE THE INTERFACE ORGANISMS BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH.”
-PAUL STAMETS, MYCOLOGIST
Will these shrooms get me high?
Don’t get it twisted—these mushrooms will not trip you out since they do not contain psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms. I don’t discount the benefits of psilocybin, though. Magic mushrooms could be used as a powerful tool to unlock parts of our consciousness.
Recently, centers such as MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) and John Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research are advancing the field of psychedelic medicine for its potential to treat addiction, PTSD, chronic depression, and other mental health challenges.
How can I add functional mushrooms to my daily intake?
Since these exotic varieties aren’t easy to come by in sunny Los Angeles, powders and tinctures can be purchased at natural food markets or directly from online retailers. I like to add powders to my cup of coffee, sprinkle into warm oatmeal, mix into smoothies, or cook with savory soups and stews. When shopping for products, you want to make sure that the mushrooms are extracted, not raw or whole, to guarantee full absorption of its compounds.
Without further ado, let me introduce some of my favorite fungi. Each mushroom is unique with its own specific healing properties, so use this as a guide to identify which mushroom will work best for you.
Words & graphics by Melissa Ver