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Are Mushrooms the Future of Wellness? – The New York Times

Posted: September 21, 2020 at 11:56 am


Even before the onset of the pandemic, which has increased the demand for all manner of so-called organic immunity elixirs, wellness-minded Americans were warming to mushrooms. To be clear, mushrooms dont cure Covid-19, but they are thought to provide a host of other benefits, from serving as an aphrodisiac to bolstering ones defenses to toxins. As Ligaya Mishan explains in her essay for Ts Fall Mens issue, Eastern cultures have long been enthusiastic about edible fungi, both in culinary and health contexts mushrooms are rich in umami, the Japanese fifth taste that denotes savoriness, and woody species such as reishi are often prescribed in traditional Chinese medicine while the West has been more ambivalent. Today, though, American cooks and diners delight in foraged morels and matsutakes, while others mix mushroom-based powders into shakes and teas. In an article published in 2014 over 80 years after the British scientist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the powerful group of antibiotics derived from the fungus Penicillium the mycologist Paul Stamets, best known for the TED Talk 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World, described mushrooms as natures miniature pharmaceutical factories.

Fungi have the ability to soak up and escort waste from our cells, and have a digestive system almost identical to that of humans, says Liz Smithers, who studied Ayurvedic medicine and herbal sciences before launching the sustainable Kauai-based nutrition brand Laka Living with her sister, Kate, in 2015. The line includes a chocolate-flavored hemp protein ($34) containing mushrooms such as lions mane (shown in studies to reduce anxiety and prevent cognitive decline), and Super Shroom Dip ($30), a macadamia nut butter laced with a five-mushroom blend. At this point, only 7 percent of the worlds fungi have been discovered, and Hawaii, the most isolated archipelago in the world, has some of the most understudied species, says Benjamin Lillibridge, the Kailua-Kona-based founder of the wellness company Mlama Mushrooms, and of the Hawaii Fungi Project, a nonprofit dedicated to the discovery and responsible use of the islands native species. Of course, there are also plenty of noteworthy mushroom nutraceutical ventures Stateside see Shizu Okusas brand Apothkary, which has teams in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. but Lillibridges wider point, perhaps, is that with so much still to discover about fungi, who knows what heretofore unknown powers they may possess? Here, a list of just some of the beneficial properties mushrooms are thought to have, and where to find the best blends.

I grew up in a super-traditional immigrant Japanese family where my parents wouldnt give me Tylenol or Advil, says Okusa, who was instead given dark, oozy drinks of mushrooms and dried herbs that had been brewed for days in stone pots. Last year, she launched Apothkary, offering her Immunity Set ($45), a trio of different mushroom powders that draw on the blends of her youth: One pairs reishi with ashwagandha root to reduce inflammation, while another is made purely of ground reishi and meant to be used as a concentrated booster in teas and smoothies by advanced herb users, she says. Reishi by itself can be a bit more difficult, taste and potency wise. Meanwhile, Steven Gundry, a Palm Springs-based cardiologist, has grouped what he calls the big three reishi, chaga and coriolus, the latter two best known for their high antioxidant content and immune support benefits in his Gundry MD M Vitality immune support tonic ($66), drops of which can be applied directly to your tongue. If youd prefer something sweeter, consider Forest Juice ($31), a reishi- and chaga-infused maple syrup from Rainbo, a line of mushroom-based supplements and food products founded by the holistic chef and nutritionist Tonya Papanikolov.

Lions mane, which has the look of a shaggy, faux-fur ottoman, was found in a 2016 study published by the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine to promote peripheral nerve regeneration in rats. For humans, the mushroom is typically used with the goal of enhancing concentration, memory and mental clarity. It has a mild taste and is fantastic sauted in butter, says Wooden Spoon Herbs founder Lauren Haynes, who gets hers from Oregon and upstate New York. For the brands Mushroom Cocoa powder ($38), a scoop of which can be added to your morning coffee, fruiting bodies of lions mane and other varieties are extracted via a long-simmer method and flavored with vanilla and mesquite. Another option for those hoping to improve recall is Gaia Herbss Mind Spring powder ($35), which contains lions mane and turmeric. Cordyceps, on the other hand, whose stems often resemble Cheetos in both shape and color, may contribute to physical acuity. In the 1993 Olympics, three Chinese runners were screened for steroids, but all the panel found were cordyceps, says the naturopathic doctor Nadia Musavvir. She recommends Four Sigmatics Instant Mushroom Coffee With Chaga and Cordyceps ($15) the chaga is purported to neutralize caffeine jitters.

Tremella is amazing for boosting gut and skin health from the inside out its been revered as a beauty mushroom in Asia for hundreds of years, Stephanie Park, the founder of the Brooklyn supplement label Wylde One, says of the vitamin D-rich variety. Wrapped in single-serving packets, the brands Golden Glow Up ($29) adaptogenic turmeric latte blend contains astragalus and tremella, also known as silver ear mushrooms, along with cardamom, black pepper and digestion-enhancing ginger. Another option is Moon Juices Collagen Protect powdered creamer ($58), which incorporates organic tremella extracts and rice bran-derived tocotrienols, or tocos, natural sources of vitamin E that lend a mildly malty finish. Picking up some raw shiitake mushrooms from your local farmers market might also be a boon: Jeannette Graf, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, says the familiar umbrella cap contains significant levels of vitamin D, selenium and zinc, which help to maintain skin health. And then theres Sun Potions Astragalus the Great Protector ($57), made with ingredients grown wild at high elevations, and filled with polysaccharides, which have long been endorsed as natural aids for hydration and soothing stomach ulcers.

The repeatedly invoked cure-all of functional fungi is reishi. Its most popular and well-known benefits are its ability to reduce stress and fatigue, and, in general, help chill you out, says Lillibridge, who suggests Mlama Mushroomss Reishi Mushroom Extract Powder ($30). When taken consistently, the multitasking queen healer, as reishi is sometimes called, is even believed to help regulate rest cycles: Its been shown to increase deep delta-wave sleep, Lillibridge says. For a soothing nightcap enjoyed half an hour before bed, try the reishi- and valerian root-filled Sleep Superfood Water Enhancer by BareOrganics ($12), which will dissolve in liquid at any temperature, or Kamu Labs Dream nightly sleep drops ($60), which enhance the mushrooms calming effects with those of CBD and California poppy. Its no wonder emperors of the Qing dynasty were said to exchange gifts of ceremonial ruyi scepters sculpted to resemble reishi, the so-called mushroom of immortality.

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Are Mushrooms the Future of Wellness? - The New York Times

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