What exactly is the point of sipping mushroom tea, anywa?
With the ever-increasing popularity of functional mushrooms, people are finding more ways to include fungi in their everyday routines to reap their healing benefits, and drinking mushroom tea is one of the trendiest—and, actually, one of the oldest—ways to consume these ’shrooms. But what is mushroom tea—is there any tea in it, how do you make it (or even find it), and are there any real perks to drinking it? Time to learn all about mushroom tea and its intriguing health benefits.
What is mushroom tea?
Simply put, mushroom tea is a beverage of hot water infused (or steeped) with mushrooms. But we're not talking about your everyday culinary mushrooms like creminis, buttons, or portobellos. Mushroom teas are really a medium through which to integrate functional, adaptogenic mushrooms—that have some healing health properties beyond their nutritional profile—into the diet more easily.
The most common medicinal mushroom varieties found in these warming beverages include reishi, chaga, and lion’s mane. You may also see cordyceps, tremella, turkey tail and shiitake mushrooms included as well. (There is such a thing as mushroom tea made from psychedelic or hallucinogenic mushrooms—that’s not what we’re talking about here, however.)
Mushroom tea can appear a few different ways. You can find tea blends that include whole, ground mushrooms, where you just need to add water, stir, and enjoy. Others require a more traditional steeping process where you’re not actually ingesting the mushrooms themselves. Some varieties will include actual tea leaves, while others don’t. You may also find some brands that include additional ingredients in their blend like black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, dandelion, and ashwagandha.
Mushroom Tea Benefits
It may help manage stress and inflammation with adaptogens.
Functional foods, including mushrooms, are defined as those having health benefits outside of the nutrients they offer. Many will also have adaptogenic properties. Adaptogens are a group of compounds found mostly in plant-based foods, though there are some synthetic types available as well, which work to help the body better manage stress through calming the central nervous system, moderating its response to the common stress hormone, cortisol. Through this process, adaptogens can help us avoid the illness and disease that can come with chronically high stress environments.
“The potential benefit of taking adaptogens is managing short-term body stress to help prevent the long-term impacts of stress,” as Bianca Tamburello, RDN at FRESH Communications, sums up perfectly.
There are over 70 naturally occurring adaptogens that we know of today. While modern science is only just scratching the surface to evaluate their functionality, adaptogen use has really stood the test of time. “Eating mushrooms and foods with adaptogens for their health benefits is not a new concept and has a long history in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine,” Tamburello says. Evidence shows us that these compounds can also help to reduce inflammation and symptoms of cognitive impairment and chronic fatigue.
It’s a great source of micronutrients and antioxidants.
Fungi that have been grown with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light rays are going to be excellent sources of vitamin D, a micronutrient that’s hard to find in the diet. Additionally, the majority of mushrooms will also offer a whole host of B vitamins, which are vital to energy metabolism. Plus, each variety contains bioactive plant compounds that are potent antioxidants, helping our immune systems to be in peak condition.
It contains a key fiber for heart, gut, and immune health.
One incredible benefit of all mushrooms is that they offer a healthy dose of fiber, supportive of gut health and overall health. And many varieties will contain a specific kind called beta-glucan. This soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the small intestine, allowing it to pass through our system instead of being absorbed, making it an excellent heart-healthy addition. Plus, it acts as a prebiotic, feeding the healthy bacteria in our gut microbiome, helping that whole system to thrive. A healthy microbiome is not only linked to improved gut health, but better overall immune health as well.
It can have less caffeine than other teas (or coffee).
If you are trying to cut back on your caffeine intake, switching over to an herbal tea, with little or no caffeine, can be a nice substitute for black teas or coffee. “Some people enjoy swapping their morning cup of coffee for mushroom teas because they tend to have less caffeine, providing a more gentle boost, but this effect does vary across products and brands,” Tamburello says.
Is drinking mushroom tea safe?
“Mushroom teas are often considered to be a supplement, so be sure to speak to your doctor before trying,” Tamburello says, adding, however, that, “drinking mushroom tea has little risk for most people and can be a part of a balanced routine of nutrient-rich foods and regular physical activity.”
Mushroom Tea Varieties
One avenue to trying mushroom tea is to buy any dried functional mushrooms your heart desires, steep them in hot water (with or without your favorite tea leaves), and enjoy. Another would be to purchase a pre-mixed variety you only need to steep or mix with hot water.
In terms of products, there are a few powdered options that blend directly into hot water, resulting in consumption of the actual mushroom itself. These have a slight nutritional leg up as you’ll be consuming more of the fiber from the mushrooms. Brands here include MUD/WTR and Om Mushroom Superfood.
Otherwise, there are many varieties that you steep in hot water without actually consuming the fungus itself, just like you’d brew regular tea. Some brands offering this kind of mushroom tea include Buddha Teas, Baikal Tea, Traditional Medicinals, Tealeaves, The Republic of Tea, Tamim Teas, and Full Leaf Tea Company.
Whether you enjoy these teas as a wake-up in the morning, a pick-me-up in the afternoon, or as a way to wind down in the evening, it’s undeniable that there are plenty of health benefits associated with these cozy beverages.
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