Mushroom lattes, potions, and tonics have made their debut in the wellness world as practitioners of a healthy lifestyle have begun singing the praises of fungi for their incomparable health benefits and healing and beauty-enhancing capabilities. When I decided to consume mushrooms for a whole month, I started out by setting my parameters. I would focus on the "tonic" or "potion" as the main vehicle of the four mushrooms I had been hearing most about—reishi, chaga, lion's mane, and cordyceps.
These four medicinal mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries for effects as varied as strengthening the immune system (all of them, but especially chaga); increasing focus, concentration and memory (lion's mane); supporting a spiritual practice (reishi); and improving athletic performance and sex drive (cordyceps).
A mushroom potion, however, is a newer phenomenon and refers to the creation of a tea-like drink using powdered mushroom products. When making mushroom tonics, I recommend starting with small doses of one or two types of mushrooms and incorporating them mindfully. Consider keeping a mushroom journal and taking notes on how you felt before and after consuming your tonics! I started with reishi and chaga and then progressed to lion's mane and cordyceps. Here's what happened:
1. I felt more calm and focused.
I credit reishi with regulating my mood and helping me relax at the end of a day. Reishi (known in Chinese medicine as the "queen healer") is especially beneficial for women. It is relaxing, strengthens the metabolism and immune system, and is thought to have spiritual powers often associated with a feminine quality. Not to mention, reishi is adaptogenic and thus has the ability to balance hormones and prevent signs of aging. I started out with Four Sigmatic's Reishi Cacao Elixir and later experimented with Sun Potion's individual powders. Because of its mild, almost milky flavor, reishi can easily be blended with coffee, tea, matcha, milk, or water. I add some into my tea in the morning or blend with matcha to set myself up for a good mood. In the evening, I have gotten into the habit of making a reishi tonic with hot water, almond milk, and tocos to end the night on a peaceful note. My roommates and boyfriend are all obsessed now too!
2. I became more more in touch with my feminine side.
On my fourth day, I made this note in my mushroom journal: Walking to work, I can't stop thinking about reishi. It is a sunny morning in early January, and I remember how [Sun Potion founders] Scott and Nitsa spoke about reishi using female pronouns. It struck me as a little over the top at the time, but this morning I feel a distinctly "female sensation," and suddenly it occurs to me that I am accompanied by the female presence of the reishi mushroom.
Weird stuff for a Wednesday morning before 10 a.m., but I'm into it.
3. I learned to embrace the art of ritual.
By the second week of my experiment, I was totally obsessed with the mushrooms and kept finding myself in YouTube holes learning about their benefits! I watched a video about reishi in which one man elaborated on its anxiety-reducing and spiritual benefits. He warned against thinking of reishi as a "natural anti-anxiety" medication and thereby applying a Western medical framework to it. He suggested instead a more "shamanic" approach, taking reishi as a "companion" alongside your spiritual journey. Hmm.
I realized that I have been looking forward to consuming the mushrooms every day, and I can't help but wonder: How does ritual factor into the wellness equation? The mushroom products feel meaningful in a way that other supplements I take don't. Is ritual the vehicle of meaning, a tool helping me to internalize what it means to consume these intelligent fungi? I can’t imagine developing the same attachment to a vitamin B pill.
4. My skin improved.
I think the reishi and chaga were to credit for my improved skin and lessened inflammation as I noticed these effects before I started taking cordyceps and lion's mane. I'm not sure if it had to do with balancing my hormones and reducing stress (both qualities attributed to reishi) or decreasing my overall levels of inflammation (a major benefit of chaga mushroom), but I definitely appreciated all the effects I have noticed in this realm. I have a tendency toward autoimmune reactions (ahem, psoriasis) and have not noticed any flare-ups since I started taking the mushrooms. This is reason enough to continue usage!
5. My digestion got better.
When you're not noticing your digestive system, it's a good thing! I didn't notice that I had undergone any changes in this regard until one day I remembered how frequently I used to think about my digestion! I haven't experienced any digestive discomfort in a while, which has led me to believe that the mushrooms have had a positive impact.
6. They helped wean me off of coffee.
Well, sort of. I admit, I am still drinking coffee. But I credit chaga and lion's mane for helping me in the never-ending journey to consume less caffeine. When I first tried Four Sigmatic's instant mushroom coffee (an actual coffee product with lion's mane mushroom and chaga), I was blown away by the level of concentration I felt, as well as the notable absence of all negative side effects of coffee. No anxiety or weird stomach feeling. Just a heightened clarity and focus. The dark, smoky flavor of chaga is close to coffee, which makes it a great choice if it is the ritual and flavor of coffee that keeps you coming back.
According to Four Sigmatic founder Tero Isokauppila, chaga is highly alkaline and is therefore great for combining with coffee to decrease its negative side effects and acidity, and lion's mane offers a powerful instant brain boost—powerful enough that it seems to deliver the brain-stimulating effects of caffeine on its own, such as increased attention span and heightened focus.
7. They increased my sex drive.
Especially cordyceps. Lovingly referred to by some as "cordysex," this one is supposed to have an, erm, stimulating effect, and is commonly used as an athlete's tool as it supports stamina and muscle recovery. With a mild, almost milky flavor and a rich, nutty smell, cordyceps can easily be blended with tea, coffee, milk, or water. I've even added it to oatmeal!
Bonus: I learned that mushrooms can maybe even save the world.
On top of all the health benefits I've noticed since beginning this experiment, I learned that mushrooms can also clean up nuclear waste, and maybe even save the world. All mushrooms grow out of a giant root system called "mycelium," which covers the entire surface of the earth and essentially acts as the earth's immune system in times of need. Mycellium can actually eat nuclear waste (!!!!) and oil, converting highly toxic substances into compounds that are far less harmful to the environment!
Notes from the other side
I was excited to start this project, and yet I could not have anticipated how attached I would become to the mushrooms! I definitely plan to keep incorporating the mushroom products into my daily life; in fact, now I can't imagine my life without them! Should you decide to embark upon your own mushroom experiment, this creamy potion, recommended by Sun Potion, is a good place to start, although I also love Moon Juice's Vanilla Mushroom Protein Powder and Four Sigmatic's Instant Coffee if you want a ready-to-go package.
Daily Mushroom Tonic
- ½ teaspoon reishi
- ½ teaspoon cordyceps
- ½ tablespoon tocos
- 6 to 8 ounces cashew or almond milk
- touch of coconut oil
- sprinkle of cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
Blend until smooth and creamy, then pour, sip, and enjoy!