Forget your morning latte and grab a handful of mushrooms. Recently, Ladders covered the various health benefits of mushroom coffee. As noted in that piece, fungi’s relationship to morning fuel is by no means a novel consideration.
Eastern traditions of yore have long since derived the cognitive and somatic utilities afforded by synthesizing fungi into hot beverages. Back then and into the 16th century, the teas were used to attenuate stomach aches, fatigue and boost energy before battle and long travel.
The healing powers of mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms boast a rare dietary classification; they’re immune modulators which means they’re able to adapt to the specific needs of our immune systems on the day to day.
Moreover, the adaptogens are teeming with raw nutrients and free radical-fighting oxidants. There’s only one problem. Like an arcane riddle, their spores have a historically low bioavailability. Without hot water, you’ll have a very difficult time extracting the good stuff.
Thankfully, it didn’t take us long to crack the code. In fact, Ancient Russia and India observed medicinal mushroom tea as standards well before blog posts and smart-health literature.
More recently, it occurred to the citizens of a war fractured Finland to use Chaga mushrooms to brew tea and coffee after they were amputated from many of their most profitable exports. The four most commonly used mushrooms in hot beverages were as follows:
- Reishi mushrooms, also known as the mushroom of immortality: These vibrant caps are packed with immune system boosting chemicals that protect against the flu, and even chronic diseases like asthma.
- Lion Mane mushrooms: These mushrooms are especially regenerative for cognitive function. In addition to decreasing our risk for developing dementia after extended consumption, they also help boost memory and mitigate symptoms of depression and anxiety in the short term. They’re composed of proteins that are important to the maintenance, survival, and repair of cells within the nervous system.
- Cordeyceps Mushrooms are a Chinese mushroom renowned for their ability to naturally boost energy. They do so by improving the way our body utilizes oxygen during exercise. Famously, in 1993 when three athletes broke world records during the Chinese National Games the each occasioned cordyceps mushrooms as the reason for their success.
- Chaga mushroom: Chaga mushrooms are filled with antioxidants, which protect us from damage done by free radicals. A study conducted in 2006 that used rodent models, genetically modified to carry diabetes and obesity, had their blood sugar levels effectively lowered after consuming Chaga mushrooms for eight weeks.
All and any of these can be made nutritional by steaming, but Cordyceps, Chaga and Reishi are the best medicinal shrooms to use for tea specifically.
“Reishi is the most studied and the queen of mushrooms. It can help regulate hormones, lower stress, and break down [stress-related] cortisol. Chaga has the highest source of antioxidants…while cordyceps are really good for oxygen intake, so a lot of athletes drink that,” says Four Sigma Foods president, Tero Isokauppila.
As it should happen, Isokauppila is the great descendant of one of the Finish culinary pioneers that began exporting mushroom tea more than 70 years ago. After hiring a team of biochemists to uncover each and every health benefit associated with each of the three fungi species indexed above, Isokauppila published a comprehensive book detailing their findings.
“From breakfast, lunch, and dinner to happy hour and dessert. Flip open Healing Mushrooms to enter a fungi-filled world that has been waiting for its opportunity to show you what is possible from eating and drinking mushrooms,” Isokauppila wrote in his book. “Mushrooms are finally having their moment, so it’s time to diversify our Portobellos and take a deep dive into this magical kingdom. These fungi contain powerful healing properties, startling amounts of protein, and enough nutrients and vitamins to make fruit and vegetables start questioning their place on the food chain.”
Depending on your desired effect pick a mushroom and follow the simple instructions below:
- Chop or crush mushrooms.
- Use 1 cup of water per person and/or 1 cup of water per 5 grams.
- Heat water to boiling, pour hot water over mushrooms.
- Wait 5-10 minutes, strain water into drinking cup.
- Pour a second amount of water over strained mushrooms.
- Drink first infusion.
- Strain second infusion into drinking cup and drink.