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A Functional Medicine Doctor’s Take on the Mushroom Coffee Trend

Mushroom Coffee Benefits: Magical Health Cure—Or a Whole Lot of Hype?

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Just a short decade ago, if a friend would have asked if you’d like a cup of mushroom coffee, you probably would have wrinkled up your nose in A. disgust (ew, mushrooms!) or B. confusion (is said friend really that casual with hallucinogens?!).

Oh, how things have changed.

Taking herbs and natural supplements has caught fire over the past couple of years on social media (and in our lives)—and as a functional and integrative medicine practitioner, I couldn’t be happier. But as a holistic, healthy lifestyle has become popular, it’s opened the door for about a million companies to capitalize on the trend and create products that, at best, are a waste of money. 

Is mushroom coffee one of those snake oils—or is it truly a wonder adaptogen that some companies claim will boost your brainpower, supercharge your workouts and even help you sleep better at night? We examine mushroom coffee and its supposed benefits from a functional and integrative medicine perspective. 

Age-Old Wisdom for Modern Times

First off, while the idea of drinking mushroom coffee for health benefits is fairly new to most of us, ingesting mushrooms for health is definitely not. Mushroom coffee is simply a new twist on an old favorite. The idea of taking a medicinal mushroom—like reishi,  maitake, and lion’s mane, for example— and then extracting the nutrients that modulate your immune system for some type of medicinal purpose is practically old as time.

Chaga coffee set up

What Is Mushroom Coffee?

Mushroom coffee, for the most part, is just regular old ground (or instant coffee) with functional mushrooms added in. Mushrooms commonly used in modern products include reishi, chaga, lion’s mane and cordyceps. These medicinal mushrooms are usually freeze-dried and then mixed in with coffee.

Historically, extracting a mushroom’s medicinal properties has been done in several ways:

  • Taking the mushroom itself and eating it.
  • Taking the mushroom and boiling it in water for a period of time to extract the water-soluble nutrients and then dehydrating it.
  • Taking the mushroom, dehydrating it, and using alcohol and/or glycerol to extract the nutrients (which is more common now).

Each one of these methods for consuming mushrooms has different nuances and different benefits, but the underlying idea is you’re extracting out the part of the mushroom that helps modulate your immune system through the gut and then making that mushroom extract available to individuals.

Mushroom Coffee: Health Trend, or the Real Deal?

Does trendy mushroom coffee live up to the health hype? In short, yes, there are numerous health benefits to be enjoyed from drinking mushroom coffee.

Mushroom coffee is a great way to make the immune-boosting benefits of medicinal mushrooms available to the average consumer. Simply taking a powder of a mushroom extract, and then putting it in your coffee, allows you to take an everyday beverage and boost it up.

And the immune-boosting powers of the mushroom variety used in popular mushroom coffee brands are very real. Mushroom coffee also has a lower caffeine content than regular coffee which helps to lower anxiety levels in people and improve sleep quality.

Wild mushrooms on a white background

Eating Whole Mushrooms vs Mushroom Coffee Powder: Which is Better?

If you’ve already looked into purchasing mushroom coffee extracts, you know they can be pricey… especially if you buy the real deal. So wouldn’t it be better to just save some cash by buying some mushrooms at the grocery store, chowing down, and calling it a day? 

Well, not really. 

We talk a lot about how eating foods in their natural, whole foods form is best—but that’s not always the case

Yes, eating regular whole mushrooms does have many benefits. There’s as much protein per ounce of weight in mushrooms as there is in red meat, and mushrooms also have other fibers in there when you eat them whole that you lose when you do extracts. 

But you need to get large amounts of mushrooms into your system for the medicinal effects, and it is really hard to do this when consuming them whole. You’d have to eat large quantities of mushrooms for the immune and gut benefits—while using extracts allows you to get the medicinal benefits in a more consumable quantity. When’s the last time you were able to sit down and eat a pound or two of whole mushrooms? 

The bottom line? If you’re looking to boost your health, spruce up your coffee, and do it with a food that has been consumed for generations, powdered mushroom extracts are a great way to reap amazing benefits.

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