What is Mushroom Coffee?

In recent years, a unique and somewhat unexpected trend has been brewing in the world of beverages – mushroom coffees. While the idea of mushrooms in your morning brew may raise an eyebrow or two, these fungi-infused elixirs have been gaining popularity due to their potential health benefits and earthy flavor. As a registered dietitian, I’m excited to shed light on this new nutritionally inspired brew trend.

One reason I think people are turning towards mushroom coffee is that many are seeking coffee alternatives. As much as we love our coffee in the US, many of us have experienced the burnout and side effects that can come with its overuse. Jitters, gut upset, insomnia and sleep disturbances, withdrawal symtoms, and heart rate issues are some common side effects of coffee use. For mental health, high doses of caffeine in coffee can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.

So while this article is titled ‘mushroom coffee’, it’ does include a product with coffee extract, a mushroom and tea blend, as well as a caffeine free blend coffee alternative.

What is Mushroom Coffee

There are different formulations out there it the world of mushrooms brews. They may or may not contain some coffee or black tea, providing some or no caffeine, but are blended with several mushrooms and possibly other plant based ingredients, depending on the product.

These products are typically made by blending a measured amount of the powdered ingredients with hot water, warmed milk or mild alternative of choice, and do not contain sweeteners, leaving it up to you “how you take your coffee.” Often a small, hand held immersion blender is included with your first order to get you set up to start blending up your own beverages.

Mushroom Coffee Brands: What Are The Ingredients?

The formulations vary from product to product. Here are a few different products to give you an idea of what is in them. Later we will discuss some of the different mushrooms and other ingredients found in these products.

MUD/WTR

MUD/WTR contains black tea which provides 35 mg caffeine. Other than black tea, it has cacao, masala chai, turmeric, sea salt, cinnamon, chaga mushroom, cordyceps mushroom, reishi mushroom, and lion’s mane mushroom.

RYZE

RYZE contains coffee and has 50 mg caffeine. Other ingredients in its formulation are coconut milk, MCT oil, cordyceps mushroom, reishi mushroom, king trumpet mushroom, lion’s mane mushroom, shitake mushroom, and turkey tail mushroom.

RASA

Rasa contains no caffeine, but uses roasted chicory root to provide a similar flavor. It also has roasted date seed, roasted burdock root, shatavari root, roasted maca root, red Asian ginseng root, acacia fiber, rhodiola root extract, cordyceps mushroom fruiting body extract, and gynostemma leaf extract. This one also adds other popular adaptogenic herbs to its formulation.

Four Sigmatic

This brand has different options that may or may not include coffee beans. The blends have with lion’s mane, cordyceps, turkey tail, and reishi mushrooms.

Everyday Dose

Everyday Dose has 45 mg caffeine per serving from coffee extract blended with lion’s mane and chaga mushrooms, collagen protein, and L-theanine. 

Are Their ‘Magic Mushrooms’ in Mushroom Coffee?

The claims by mushroom coffee brands may sound like magic, but you will not come across any commercial products with psychedelic properties. There are over 120,000 classified species of mushrooms, ~180 of which are of the class Psilocybe, which contain the compound psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance. This article has nothing to do with these. The mushrooms used in mushroom coffees generally have been used in traditional medicine for their immune boosting, antioxidant, and other health benefits.

A Brief Summary of Possible Beneficial Properties of Mushrooms Found In Mushroom Coffees

Mushroom coffees are often marketed for their potential to support immune health, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive function, but individual responses can vary. As with any dietary supplement, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian if you have specific health concerns or are taking medications.

Mushrooms in general contain small amounts of protein, antioxidants, and are good sources of B-vitamins including B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B5 (pantothenic acid), as well as essential minerals like potassium, selenium, copper, and zinc. They also contain ergosterol, a precursor to vitamin D2. When exposed to UV light, ergosterol can be converted into vitamin D2.

However, the bioactive compounds unique to the medicinal mushrooms founds in these products have more to do with a range of polysaccharides and terpenoids.

Polysaccharides

The polysaccharides found in mushrooms have piqued the interest of researchers and health enthusiasts due to their potential health benefits. They are often extracted from mushrooms and used in dietary supplements, functional foods, and traditional medicine in various cultures. However, it’s important to note that the specific properties and effects of mushroom polysaccharides can vary depending on the mushroom species, cultivation techniques, and extraction process.

Polysaccharides found in mushrooms are complex carbohydrates composed of long chains of sugar molecules. These compounds play a significant role in the structure, function, and potential health benefits of mushrooms. Several polysaccharides found in mushrooms have gained attention for their various biological activities and potential health-promoting properties. Here are some notable examples:

  • Beta-Glucans:
    • Also found in oats and barley, beta-glucans are one of the most well-known polysaccharides in mushrooms. They are primarily found in the cell walls or fibrous part of mushrooms. They can stimulate the immune system and help the body defend against infections and diseases. Research has shown that they may enhance the activity of macrophages, white blood cells, and natural killer cells, all of which play critical roles in the immune response.
    • Beta-glucans also possess antioxidant properties, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body and reduce oxidative stress, which is associated with chronic diseases.
    • Anti-Inflammatory properties have also been found with beta-glucans, as they help regulate the body’s inflammatory responses, potentially reducing inflammation associated with chronic conditions like arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
    • Some studies suggest that beta-glucans may help lower LDL cholesterol levels, contributing to heart health and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
    • Beta-glucans may help stabilize blood sugar levels, making them a potentially beneficial dietary component for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition.
    • Beta-glucans can act as prebiotics, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiome is linked to various aspects of overall health.
    • While more research is needed, beta-glucans have shown promise in laboratory studies for their potential anti-cancer effects, particularly in stimulating immune responses against cancer cells. Mushrooms are used in China and Japan as a complementary treatment to standard cancer treatment for decades.
    • Beta-glucans may aid in wound healing by promoting tissue repair and immune cell recruitment to the site of injury.
  • Chitin:
    • Chitin is a polysaccharide that forms the structural framework of the cell walls in mushrooms. It’s also found in the exoskeletons of insects and the shells of crustaceans. While chitin itself is not digestible by humans, its breakdown products, such as chitosan, have been investigated for potential health benefits, including weight management and cholesterol reduction.
  • Alpha-Glucans:
    • Alpha-glucans are another type of polysaccharide found in mushrooms. They are less researched than beta-glucans but have shown promise in various studies. Alpha-glucans from certain mushrooms, like Agaricus blazei, have been associated with potential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory effects.
  • Fucogalactans:
    • Some mushroom species, like maitake (Grifola frondosa), contain fucogalactans. These are complex polysaccharides with potential anti-tumor and immune-enhancing properties. They have been studied for their potential role in cancer therapy and their ability to stimulate various immune responses.
  • Heteropolysaccharides:
    • Mushrooms can also contain a variety of heteropolysaccharides, which are composed of different types of sugar units. These polysaccharides often exhibit diverse biological activities and have been investigated for their potential antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant effects.

Terpinoids

Terpenoids are a diverse class of organic compounds found in some plants and fungi. In mushrooms, terpenoids play essential roles in the mushroom’s biology and often contribute to their aroma and flavor. They have phytochemical activity with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potentially even anticancer properties.

The terpenoids in mushrooms help protect mushrooms from oxidative stress and damage, and they can also serve as antioxidants in the human body, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals and reducing oxidative damage to cells. Demonstrating anti-inflammatory effects, they may help in managing conditions associated with inflammation.

Mushroom Varieties Found in Trending Products

Different mushroom beverages are available on the market, each featuring a blend that may have coffee, tea, chicory, or another base and various medicinal mushrooms and other ingredients. For the sake of this article, we will examine the mushroom ingredients in the previously discussed beverage mixes: MUD/WTR, RYZE, Four Sigmatic, Everyday Dose, and RASA. These are the ones that have popped up on my social media feed, but please comment below if you would like me to update this article with others.

MushroomNicknameBeneficial CompoundsPotential Health Benefits
Chaga
(Inonotus obliquus)
Mushroom of ImmortalityPolysaccharides, Phenolics, TriterpenoidsPotential antioxidant properties, immune-boosting effects
Reishi or Lingzhi
(Ganoderma lucidum)
Mushroom of Spiritual PotencyPolysaccharides, Triterpenoids, Ganoderma Lucidum Peptide (GLP)Potential immune support, stress reduction, potential antitumor and immunomodulatory properties
Lion’s Mane
(Hericium erinaceus)
Hedgehog MushroomPolysaccharides, Hericenones and Erinacines, TerpenesPotential cognitive support, brain health, neuroprotective and nerve-growth-promoting properties, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, immune modulating properties
Cordyceps
(Ophiocordyceps sinensis)
Caterpillar FungusPolysaccharides, Cordycepin, Cordycepic Acid (D-Mannitol):Potential energy enhancement, athletic performance, potential antiviral and immune-enhancing properties
Turkey Tail
(Trametes Versicolor)
Yunzhi MushroomPolysaccharides, Polysaccharide-K, TerpenoidsPotential immune-modulating properties, potential antioxidant effects, research on its potential role in cancer treatment and immune system support
Shiitake
(Lentinula edodes)
Oak MushroomBeta-Glucans, Lentinan (a specific beta-glucan)Potential immune-enhancing properties, potential antioxidant effects
King’s Trumpet
(Pleurotus eryngii)
King Oyster MushroomBeta-GlucansPotential immune-boosting properties, potential cholesterol-lowering effects

Remember to exercise caution when consuming or using mushroom-based products and consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Differences in Mushroom Cultivation Techniques = Differences in Beneficial Compounds

Medicinal mushrooms are grown through various methods, and the cultivation process can impact the concentration of bioactive compounds like beta-glucans. For mushrooms that are produced for commercial purposes, the substrate material on which the mushrooms are grown can influence beta-glucan content. For example, growing mushrooms on hardwood logs will produce a better beta-glucan content compared to those grown on sawdust or rice bran.

Other ways polysaccharide content may vary depending on cultivation techniques include:

  • Wild Harvesting: Some medicinal mushrooms are still wild-harvested, meaning they are collected from their natural habitat. This method can yield mushrooms with variable beta-glucan content, as it depends on factors like environmental conditions, soil composition, and seasonal variations. Wild mushrooms may have high variability in quality.
  • Indoor Cultivation: Many medicinal mushrooms are grown indoors in controlled environments. Indoor cultivation allows for consistency in growing conditions, which can lead to more predictable and standardized beta-glucan content. It also reduces the risk of contamination from pollutants or other harmful substances.
  • Outdoor Cultivation: Some medicinal mushrooms are grown outdoors on logs, wood chips, or other natural substrates. Outdoor cultivation can mimic the mushroom’s natural habitat and provide unique growing conditions. The beta-glucan content in outdoor-grown mushrooms may vary based on factors like sunlight exposure and weather conditions.
  • Strain Selection: Different strains or varieties of the same mushroom species may produce mushrooms with varying beta-glucan content. Cultivators often select strains that have been bred for specific characteristics, including beta-glucan concentration.
  • Cultivation Techniques: The cultivation technique itself, such as the use of specific growth media as mentioned previously, temperature, humidity, and aeration, can influence the synthesis and accumulation of bioactive compounds, including beta-glucans.

It’s essential to note that while cultivation methods can affect beta-glucan content, the species of mushroom also plays a significant role. Some mushrooms are naturally higher in beta-glucans than others, regardless of the cultivation method.

Extracts vs Whole Mushroom Fruiting Bodies

Furthermore, products can vary widely in what part and form of mushroom are included in the formula.

You may have noticed extracts in some products while other list whole fruiting bodies. The two are different, and generally extracts are considered to be more beneficial for use as a targeted medicine rather than a functional food. They both can contain beta-glucans, if the mushrooms had them depending on cultivation technique.

When choosing medicinal mushroom products or supplements, it’s crucial to consider factors like the mushroom species, the cultivation method, and the manufacturer’s quality control measures. Reputable manufacturers often conduct testing to ensure consistent levels of bioactive compounds like beta-glucans in their products. To make an informed choice, look for products that provide information on the specific mushroom species used, the cultivation method, and the standardized content of beta-glucans.

Are These Also Adaptogenic Mushrooms?

Adaptogens are a specific category of herbs and fungi, including some mushrooms, that are known for their ability to help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance. They can support the body’s ability to respond to various stressors, whether physical, mental, or environmental. While not all medicinal mushrooms are adaptogens, some mushrooms like Reishi and Cordyceps are considered adaptogenic because they can help regulate stress responses and promote overall well-being.

So, while there is overlap between medicinal and adaptogenic mushrooms, not all medicinal mushrooms are adaptogenic. Some mushrooms have both medicinal and adaptogenic properties, making them valuable additions to traditional and holistic approaches to health and wellness.

Side Effects of Mushroom Coffee

Before using mushroom-based supplements or extracts, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, as their efficacy and safety can vary. Additionally, some people may be allergic to mushrooms or experience adverse reactions, so caution is essential when incorporating mushroom products into one’s diet or health regimen.

Mushroom coffees, often made with ingredients like medicinal mushrooms (such as chaga, reishi, or lion’s mane), are generally considered safe when consumed in moderation by most people. However, as with any dietary supplement or herbal product, there is the potential for side effects, particularly if consumed in excessive amounts or by individuals with specific sensitivities or medical conditions. Here are some possible side effects to be aware of:

  • Allergic Reactions: Some people may be allergic to specific mushroom species or other ingredients in the coffee blend. Allergic reactions can vary from mild, such as itching or rashes, to severe, like difficulty breathing. If you have known allergies to mushrooms or related substances, exercise caution.
  • Digestive Issues: Certain mushroom extracts, especially in high doses, may cause digestive discomfort, including upset stomach, gas, or diarrhea in some individuals. It’s essential to start with small amounts and gradually increase the dosage to assess your tolerance.
  • Interactions with Medications: If you are taking medications, particularly those that affect blood clotting, the immune system, or have other health-related interactions, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before adding mushroom coffee to your routine. Some medicinal mushrooms can potentially interact with medications, affecting their effectiveness or increasing the risk of side effects.
  • Caffeine Sensitivity: Mushroom coffee typically contains caffeine, and some people may be sensitive to caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine can lead to side effects like jitteriness, increased heart rate, and sleep disturbances. Be aware of your caffeine tolerance and choose mushroom coffee with an appropriate caffeine content.
  • Mental Health: While some mushroom coffees may be marketed for cognitive support, individuals with mental health conditions or who are taking medications for mental health issues should be cautious. Some mushroom extracts may have psychoactive or mood-altering effects, which could potentially interact with existing treatments.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should exercise caution when consuming mushroom coffee. The safety of specific mushroom extracts during pregnancy and lactation is not well-established, so it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before use.

Trying Mushroom Coffees? Suggestions, Warnings, and Conclusions

You can certainly get many of the benefits of mushrooms from eating them in a more traditional way rather than in a coffee or tea beverage. Culinary mushrooms share some of the health benefits associated with medicinal mushrooms. However, some may find the texture and flavor of mushrooms unappealing. For them, mushrooms in drink mixes may be a very clever way of incorporating mushrooms into the diet as their flavors are masked by that of more common flavors like coffee and tea.

Slipping some mushrooms into your daily brew can be a way to add more of these beneficial foods into your diet. However, if it’s not your jam, you may reap the benefits of mushrooms by eating them on your plate as well. Of course, not all mushrooms are the same. So having the more common culinary varieties will impact how much beta glucan you are consuming, for example. Herfe is a table showing the beta glucan content of different mushroom varieties:

Mushroom VarietyBeta-Glucan Content (per 100g)
Shiitake Mushroom2.8g
Maitake Mushroom2.9g
Reishi Mushroom3.2g
Lion’s Mane Mushroom3.3g
Chaga Mushroom2.5g
Cordyceps Mushroom8.9g
Turkey Tail Mushroom3.7g
King Trumpet Mushroom2.4g
Oyster Mushroom2.5g
White Button Mushroom1.0g
Portobello Mushroom1.4g
Porcini Mushroom1.7g
Morel Mushroom2.5g
Enoki Mushroom1.0g
Shimeji Mushroom2.0g
Agaricus Blazei Mushroom4.5g
The beta glucan content of different mushroom varieties

Please note that the beta-glucan content can vary depending on several factors, including the cultivation method, growing conditions, and mushroom species. The values provided are approximate and can serve as a general reference.

Furthermore, if mushrooms totally are not your thing, I’d suggest eating oats and barley on a regular basis as they contain bet glucans similar to those found in mushrooms.

Safety Concerns

To be on the safe side when considering adding medicinal mushrooms to your coffee or tea, here are a few suggestions:

  • Start Slow: If you’re new to mushroom coffees, start with a small serving and gradually increase to gauge how your body responds.
  • Be Mindful of Allergies: Some individuals may be allergic to certain types of mushrooms, so it’s essential to be aware of any potential allergies or sensitivities.
  • Consult with a Healthcare Professional: If you have specific health concerns or are taking medications, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider before making significant changes to your diet.
  • Mix and Match: You can mix mushroom coffee with your regular coffee or try it with your favorite milk or milk alternative. Sweeten it as desired, but avoid excessive sugar to maximize health benefits.

Remember that individual responses to supplements can vary, so it’s essential to listen to your body and discontinue use if you experience adverse effects. If you have any concerns or questions about consuming mushroom coffees or other dietary supplements, it’s best to seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

Conclusions

In conclusion, mushroom coffees are a fascinating addition to the world of wellness beverages. While continued research will help us understand their potential benefits, these fungi-infused brews offer a flavorful and potentially healthful alternative to your regular morning cup of joe. They may help you take less caffeine and have a few potential benefits.

However, it’s essential to maintain a balanced diet rich in a variety of nutrient-dense foods for overall health and well-being. Adding any one tweak to your diet by itself is just one drop in the bucket.

A Random Brief Commentary On Eating Mushroom Stipes

What is a stipe you ask? I only found out myself while researching the literature on this blog post. But as with all divinely inspired action, it coincide with a recent moment in my kitchen.

I was preparing some shiitakes to go with some sauteed peppers, onions, garlic, and a grass fed steaks for dinner. The very bottoms of the stems were trimmed and the mushroom cut in half, then tossed with olive oil and placed on a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper (I love parchment papers that are pre-cut to fit the baking sheet perfectly, they make for easy clean up).

My husband commented that I should have removed the stems because you cannot eat them. I get a little annoyed in the kitchen with him sometimes as he learned refined cooking methods in French and other fine dining restaurants. That’s great, and trust me, I get to eat some great meals he makes, but I think of my own cooking style as laid back and rustic (some could say a bit lazy).

Anyway, I left the stems on and they ate fine in my opinion. Maybe they could be considered just slightly tough?

During the research process for this post, I learned that stipes of mushrooms are the most concentrated area of beta-glucans. Therefore, even if they can be a bit chewy, I recommend eating them!

References:

Cerletti C, Esposito S, Iacoviello L. Edible Mushrooms and Beta-Glucans: Impact on Human Health. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 25;13(7):2195. doi: 10.3390/nu13072195. PMID: 34202377; PMCID: PMC8308413.

Sari M, Prange A, Lelley JI, Hambitzer R. Screening of beta-glucan contents in commercially cultivated and wild growing mushrooms. Food Chem. 2017 Feb 1;216:45-51. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.08.010. Epub 2016 Aug 5. PMID: 27596390.

Thornthan Sawangwan, Wanwipa Wansanit, Lalita Pattani, Chanai Noysang. Study of prebiotic properties from edible mushroom extraction. Agriculture and Natural Resources, Volume 52, Issue 6, 2018, Pages 519-524, ISSN 2452-316X.

Website | + posts

Anne Marie Berggren RDN, MS, CDN, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian with a Master's Degree in Nutrition, training in integrative and functional nutrition, nutrition for mental health, obesity and weight management, is a board certified nutrition support clinician, and an adjunct professor for the Stony Brook Graduate Nutrition Program teaching advanced clinical nutrition.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top