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Is mushroom coffee really good for you?

Mushroom coffee has been brewing up a storm in the wellness world. Famed for its potential advantages over regular coffee, mushroom coffee includes a mix of supplemental mushrooms, each claiming to offer distinctive health perks. But what exactly is mushroom coffee? How is it made? And do its benefits live up to the hype?

Foods which claim to provide additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition (functional foods) are becoming more popular. One such example is functional mushrooms. Mushroom coffee - coffee that contains functional mushroom powder - is gaining momentum as a supposedly healthier alternative to traditional coffee.

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What is mushroom coffee?

Mushroom coffee is a unique drink that combines traditional coffee grounds with extracts or powders derived from functional mushrooms. This fusion results in a drink that is similar to regular coffee in taste, and offers the possible health advantages of these added supplements.

Many people are excited about mushroom coffee because it offers a potential double benefit to their favourite hot beverage - lower caffeine content and additional wellness perks. For some, regular coffee can trigger jitters, anxiety or an upset tummy. Mushroom coffee blends typically contain less caffeine - around 50mg of compared to around 100mg in an average cup - making them a gentler option. On top of that, these blends often incorporate functional mushrooms believed to offer health gains.

Despite its current popularity, the idea of using mushroom extracts to enhance wellness is by no means new. Functional mushrooms have played a crucial role in traditional medicines worldwide for centuries.

Some types of functional mushrooms are believed to:

  • Enhance concentration.

  • Reduce inflammation.

  • Improve cognitive function.

  • Boost the immune system.

  • Reduce stress.

Catherine Gervacio is a registered dietitian and certified exercise nutrition coach at Living.Fit.

She says: "The trend of choosing organic or natural means of taking food and supplements may have contributed to the growing popularity of mushroom coffee in the wellness industry. These coffees can enhance energy and stamina without the jittery side effects often associated with traditional coffee."

How is mushroom coffee made?

Mushroom coffee production blends methods from both coffee roasting and mushroom preparation.

  1. To unlock their health benefits, functional mushrooms go through an extraction process. This can involve using hot water, a combination of water and alcohol (dual extraction), or other methods.

  2. Once the valuable compounds are extracted, the mushrooms are dehydrated to prevent spoilage and then finely ground into a powder.

  3. The mushroom powder is then combined with regular ground coffee beans.

Mushroom coffee comes in several forms - pre-ground blends, instant mixes, and single-serve pods. You can also create your own by adding mushroom powder to your regular coffee at home.

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Types of mushroom coffee

Several varieties of wellness mushroom are growing in popularity, to be enjoyed as standalone supplements or blended into coffee.

Some of the most common types are:

Chaga coffee

Chaga powder has long been a staple of traditional folk medicine. It comes from a fungus that thrives on trees in humid regions across Asia, Europe, and North America. Studies claim it's packed with fibre, antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and minerals. It's also believed to strengthen the immune system, promote gut health, and reduce inflammation1.

Turkey tail coffee

One of the most renowned mushroom supplements - the turkey tail mushroom - grows on dead tree stumps and logs. Like chaga, this type of fungus is known for helping the body fight off disease and infection, and is rich in antioxidants2. It's also a prebiotic source, which means it's good for your gut3.

Lion's mane mushroom coffee

The lion's mane mushroom - named for its resemblance to the mane of a lion - grows in North America, Asia and Europe on pieces of dead wood. It can be eaten or taken as a supplement and is best known for its connection to brain health. It's believed to have a positive impact on some cognitive functions such as memory4.

Reishi mushroom coffee

The reishi mushroom, native to East Asia, thrives on decaying hardwood trees and is also cultivated in parts of Europe and North America. Renowned for its health benefits, reishi is known to enhance the immune system5, and help with sleep6.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps - also known as caterpillar fungus - is a fungus that grows on insect larvae. Its use in folk medicine originated in Tibet and Nepal, and it is celebrated for its reputation for boosting energy levels7. This makes it especially popular with people who lead active lifestyles.

"The health benefits of functional mushrooms may vary from one person to another," Gervacio explains. "The differing effects of mushroom coffee among individuals are influenced by a combination of genetic, metabolic, lifestyle and environmental factors, as well as the quality and composition of the mushroom coffee itself."

Mushroom coffee benefits

From immune-boosting to stress-reducing, the claimed health benefits of combining functional mushroom powder with regular coffee appear to be wide-ranging. While some mushrooms are prized for specific effects, many share common upsides such as containing antioxidants, supporting the immune system, enhancing gut health, managing stress, and easing depression symptoms.

"Generally, these mushroom coffees combine the alertness and energy boost from caffeine with the health benefits," says Gervacio. "This combination may lead to improved mental clarity, better stress management, enhanced immune support and sustained energy throughout the day."

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Mushroom coffee side effects

While combining mushroom powder with coffee is gaining popularity for potential health reasons, research into this practice is ongoing, so it's important to be aware of possible side effects.

Gervacio warns: "The most obvious side effect of drinking coffee would be potential allergic reactions. Some individuals may have allergies to specific types of mushrooms - leading to reactions such as skin rashes or digestive issues".

She also advises that people on certain prescriptions should consult their doctor before consuming functional mushrooms. Certain mushrooms like reishi can interact with medicines - especially those affecting blood pressure and blood clotting.

Side effects of drinking mushroom coffee could include:

Digestive issues: People with sensitive digestion or grain sensitivities may find mushroom coffee troublesome, as some mushrooms can be difficult to digest. Coffee itself can also irritate the stomach, and together they may worsen digestive discomfort8.

Kidney stones: Some mushrooms - like chaga - are high in oxalates. Oxalates can contribute to kidney stone formation in people susceptible to them9.

Caffeine withdrawal: The caffeine content in mushroom coffee is lower than that of regular coffee. This might take some getting used to if it's a change in strength from your usual morning pick-me-up.

"On the other hand," Gervacio adds. "Drinking too much mushroom coffee can still lead to overconsumption of caffeine and its associated side effects - such as insomnia, anxiety and increased heart rate."

When it comes to mushroom coffee, a balanced approach is key. While functional mushrooms have a long history in traditional folk medicine, with several studies claiming they offer health benefits, ongoing research is still needed to fully understand their effects.

For this reason, it's wise to treat these benefits with caution. While drinking less caffeine can be good for you, more studies are needed to see if drinking mushroom coffee has a significant impact on your health.

If you are taking certain medicines or are worried about how mushroom coffee will affect any existing health concerns, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before trying it or incorporating it into your routine.

Further reading

1. Fordjour et al: Chaga mushroom: a super-fungus with countless facets and untapped potential

2. Janjušević et al: The lignicolous fungus Trametes versicolor (L.) Lloyd (1920): a promising natural source of antiradical and AChE inhibitory agents

3. Saleh et al: Immunomodulatory Properties of Coriolus versicolor: The Role of Polysaccharopeptide

4. La Monica et al: Acute Effects of Naturally Occurring Guayusa Tea and Nordic Lion’s Mane Extracts on Cognitive Performance

5. Wang et al: Immunomodulating Effect of Ganoderma (Lingzhi) and Possible Mechanism

6. Qiu et al: Exploration of the anti-insomnia mechanism of Ganoderma by central-peripheral multi-level interaction network analysis

7. Hirsch et al: Cordyceps militaris improves tolerance to high intensity exercise after acute and chronic supplementation

8. Fiddleheads Health and Nutrition: Singing the Praises of Medicinal Mushrooms

9. Simhadri et al: Calcium Deposition and Other Renal Crystal Diseases

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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