We all love a fresh, hot cup of coffee to start the day. But have you ever wished that your morning ritual came with better health benefits? Mushroom coffee, a new coffee substitute made from a blended powder of one or more mushroom varieties, is gaining popularity because it promises an impressive health boost without the traditional stomachache or jitters.
Before you write this one off as a peculiar, lackluster beverage, you should know that mushroom coffee is made with a variety of excellent flavors. Some are designed to taste more like chai, while others use a one-to-one ratio of coffee and mushroom. This gives the drink the classic coffee flavor that you know and love with added health benefits. It comes in the form of a scoopable powder, an instant packet, grounds for coffee presses, and pods for single-serve coffee machines.
Many mushroom coffees are made using lion’s mane, a fungus that looks like a stringy lion’s mane growing off trees. As shown in a paper from the journal Nutrients, lion’s mane works as a medicinal mushroom that can reverse the age-related decline of recognition memory. Another study from the Journal of Biomedical Science found that lion’s mane could become a therapeutic treatment for Alzheimer’s disease because it may diminish plaque buildup in certain areas of the brain. Yet another study on this mushroom, published in the Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior Journal showed that lion’s mane extract has anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant properties.
Mushroom coffee brands also tend to use chaga, reishi, and cordyceps mushrooms. Chaga, which resembles lava rock as it grows on the side of trees, has long been used in traditional medicine across northern Europe. It is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to boost the immune system. In one study from the Mycobiology Journal, chaga encouraged the production of cells vital to the immune system. Another experimental study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine demonstrated the ability of chaga to reduce fatigue.
Reishi, a reddish, kidney-shaped mushroom, is an antioxidant-rich fungus that boosts the immune system as well. A Journal of Pharmacological Sciences study found that reishi promotes immune cells that recognize foreign substances in the body. Cordyceps, which resemble Cheetos, may reduce the growth of certain cancer cells in the body, as explained by two studies published in Molecules and the DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. An investigation in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal also found that cordyceps effectively reduced fatigue levels in mice.
While mushroom coffee could be a great alternative for many early risers, it isn’t for everyone. Much of the research is centered around animal studies instead of human studies. Some varieties of mushrooms in higher doses may also interact with certain medications. For instance, lion’s mane and chaga may lower blood sugar and slow blood clotting. These mushrooms may therefore heighten the effects of diabetes medications or anticoagulant drugs. Also, since many mushrooms increase immune system activity, they may work against immunosuppressants. Talk to your doctor before switching to mushroom coffee if you are concerned about medication interactions.
Despite these downsides, mushroom coffee could still be the morning drink that you’ve been missing. Just like regular coffee, this plant-based beverage makes for delicious lattes and mochas. The more you drink it, you may even come to love the flavor on its own.