You may already be on the keto coffee train, but have you tried mushroom coffee? I know it sounds like a really bizarre combination, but this fungi-focused coffee is very trendy at the moment and only seems to be picking up steam. Lovers of the somewhat eccentric brew say that the earthy essence of mushrooms is a complementary addition to coffee that actually makes for a smoother overall flavor. Plus, you get even more antioxidants with less jitter-promoting caffeine.
So mushroom coffee may be gaining popularity, but is it healthy? Mushroom coffee gives you the health benefits of coffee along with the impressive benefits of mushrooms. Same goes for mushroom tea or mushroom hot chocolate. But these beverage options don’t use your typical culinary mushrooms. Instead, they add in medicinal mushrooms. Are medicinal mushrooms good for you? The short answer, which I’ll elaborate on shortly, is “yes.”
The nutrition-rich mushrooms used in mushroom coffee and mushroom tea include health powerhouses like cordyceps. Scientific research continues to show major health benefits of medicinal mushrooms ranging from boosting immune function to even improving brain cells, which means mushrooms may even help fight serious neurodegenerative issue like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. (1)
If you’re interested in possibly taking your coffee nutrition to another level, then you may just want to try a hot cup of mushroom coffee. And don’t worry — it still tastes like coffee!
What Is Mushroom Coffee?
I know what you’re probably picturing: a hot cup of coffee ruined by some random spongey floating mushrooms. But don’t worry, this is not what I’m talking about here. Right now, there are different kinds of mushroom coffee being made by various companies, and it’s basically regular coffee infused with medicinal mushroom extracts.
Several companies are now making a powdered combination of instant coffee and mushrooms extracts. All you need to do is add hot water to create a cup of mushroom coffee. To create mushroom coffee mixes, mushroom extract powders are often created by by isolating and spray-drying different key constituents of medicinal mushrooms. Mushroom powder is touted as having the health benefits of mushrooms but at an even more concentrated level. (2)
There are also packets of mushroom extracts with healthy ingredients like organic peppermint and anise extracts along with some stevia. A packet like this can be added to your favorite tea to create a hot cup of mushroom tea.
There are all kinds of disease-fighting mushrooms. Some of the most common medicinal mushrooms used in mushroom tea and mushroom coffee include:
Mushroom Coffee vs. Regular Coffee
Obviously the biggest difference between regular coffee and mushroom coffee is that the mushroom coffee contains mushrooms while regular coffee does not. When you drink mushroom coffee, you get all of the benefits of drinking coffee plus the benefits of mushrooms.
While regular coffee can attribute to anxiety and insomnia thanks to all that caffeine, the addition of mushroom is said to result in a more balanced cup of joe. So while a regular cup of coffee can leave some people feeling on edge and wide awake when they want to be counting sheep, makers and drinkers of mushroom coffee say it’s not as likely to make health concerns like anxiety and insomnia worse. (3)
Prepackaged or instant mushroom coffee is also said to be lower in caffeine and less acidic than regular coffee, which makes sense because most mushroom coffee mixtures are equal parts mushroom and coffee. So a cup of mushroom coffee typically has half of the caffeine of a regular cup.
How does mushroom coffee taste? Makers as well as drinkers of mushroom coffee say it does not taste like mushrooms at all. They even say that the mushrooms that are added actually have a similar taste to coffee itself!
Some components of mushrooms have been shown to stimulate the immune system in such a way that certain mushrooms appear to exert antitumor and anticancer activity. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology looked at a type of mushroom that’s commonly used in mushroom coffee (even way back in the 1940s). It’s called the chaga mushroom. The researchers found that ergosterol peroxide, a derivative of the chaga mushroom, exhibited impressive anticancer activities in human colorectal cancer cell lines.
The study concludes that the data demonstrates how chaga mushroom’s ergosterol peroxide can suppress the proliferation of human colorectal cancer cell lines, and it also successfully inhibited colon cancer linked to colitis in animal subjects.
Overall, the researchers conclude, “These properties of ergosterol peroxide advocate its use as a supplement in colon cancer chemoprevention.” (4) Cancer chemoprevention is the use of a substances to stop cancer from developing, making mushroom coffee a cancer-fighting food.
2. Loaded with Antioxidants
One of the top coffee benefits of its rich antioxidant content. Scientific research has shown that an average cup of coffee may be even higher in disease-fighting and anti-aging antioxidants than than cocoa, green tea, black tea and herbal tea. (5)
Most coffee health benefits can traced back to this high level of antioxidants. Mushrooms also contain significant levels of antioxidants, especially glutathione and ergothioneine. (6) As such, mushroom coffee really packs a literal double punch of antioxidants in a single cup, but why is this so great for your health? Decades of scientific research have shown that the more antioxidant-rich foods you get in your diet, the more you can protect yourselves from all kinds of harmful diseases and health problems.
3. Decreases Oxidative Stress
One of the main reasons the antioxidants found in coffee beans and mushrooms are so health-protective is they provide defense against free radicals we’re exposed to in our daily lives (like air pollution, for example). Free radicals cause oxidative stress to humans, which can then cause cellular damage to our bodies.
Oxidative stress is believed to be a big part of a lot of serious and chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and serious eye diseases like cataracts. (7) Upping your antioxidant intake in your diet is a way of reducing oxidative stress on the body, which in turn may help to ward off all kinds of serious health issues.
4. Boosts Liver Health
You can find variations in what types of mushrooms are included in a mushroom coffee. One type you’re likely to see included is the reishi mushroom. The reishi mushroom is rich in adaptogens that may help improve liver function and prevent liver disease by encouraging waste and toxins to be flushed from the body more efficiently.
A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that reishi induces hepatoprotective effects on acute liver injury because it contains antioxidant properties and fights harmful immune responses that slow down liver function. (8)
5. Aids Digestive and Diabetic Health
Mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides, specifically bioactive ones called beta-glucans or homopolysaccharides. These special polysaccharides act as prebiotics in the digestive system that directly help boost digestive health in various ways.
These mushroom beta-glucans have also been shown in animal studies to decrease body weight, glucose levels, cholesterol and triglycerides in diabetic mice. The beta-glucans also appeared to have a very positive biochemical effect on insulin receptors that equated to improved insulin sensitivity. (9)
6. Focus without Jitters
Since most mushroom coffee on the market today uses a mixture of half coffee, half mushroom extract, when you switch to mushroom coffee from regular coffee, you should end up getting roughly half of the caffeine that you normally do. Of course, check packaging of a product for specifics, but with the addition of mushrooms to any coffee, the amount of caffeine naturally goes down.
Since caffeine in moderation can improve focus yet in excess produce jitters, mushroom coffee can give that same focus benefit, but with the addition of adaptogenic or medicinal mushroom extracts the likelihood of nervous energy after a cup becomes less likely.
There actually is some very interesting history to mushroom coffee. During World War II, some of the most common things we know and love today were hard to come by. I’m talking about items like coffee.
There have been some very interesting alternatives to coffee that people have come up with throughout the years, including things like roasted barley as well as chaga mushrooms. That’s right — in Finland during the 1940s people were actually using their native chaga mushroom as a wartime coffee substitute.
The founder of one current mushroom coffee company says, “To our knowledge, our grandparents invented the concept of using chaga as a coffee substitute.” So back then, mushroom coffee came about as a result of lack of coffee availability, whereas today it’s becoming popular not because there’s a shortage of coffee, rather because people are looking to get more and more out of their coffee intake. (10)
Risks and Side Effects
Most purveyors of mushroom coffee recommend a max of two packets of mushroom coffee per day. Even though mushroom coffee typically has less caffeine than regular coffee, you still don’t want to risk a caffeine overdose.
For anyone with a known autoimmune disease (for example, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis), some doctors warn that medicinal mushrooms can worsen the problem. Because they stimulate the immune system, it’s possible that medicinal mushrooms can interfere with medications for these diseases or overactivate certain immune cells. The same warning goes for anyone with a known bleeding or blood clot disorder, since medicinal mushrooms can sometimes interfere with proper blood clotting.
Possible side effects and interactions of mushroom coffee can depend on the type of mushroom used so I suggest double-checking the specific side effects of the mushroom(s) in your mushroom coffee of choice.
If you have any ongoing health concerns or are taking any medication, definitely check with your doctor before drinking mushroom coffee or mushroom tea. It’s also possible to have an allergy to mushrooms. If you have an allergy or intolerance to mushrooms, you should not consume mushroom tea or mushroom coffee.
Mushroom coffee offers another intriguing option in the world of hot beverages, especially for lovers of coffee who are looking for the possibility of more health benefits or just a cup of coffee that leaves them feeling less jittery yet still has a lot of flavor.
People not only enjoy the taste of mushroom coffee, but many drinkers claim that they enjoy the health benefits. One of the most common perks you hear mushroom coffee drinkers raving about is having energy and focus yet not feeling shaky. Of course, mushroom coffee still contains a significant amount of caffeine so it should still be enjoyed in moderation.