Lining the shelves of grocery stores and becoming increasingly popular is mushroom tea made from medicinal mushrooms.
Typically sold in powder form, these mushroom extracts are being lauded for their impact on our health: from warding off stress to fighting cancer-causing cells and improving cognition.
Mushrooms contain high levels of antioxidants that aid the body in fighting off certain diseases and cancers. Adaptogens, often called “tonic herbs,” are natural remedies that help to restore and balance the immune system (an ad for adaptogenic face cream popped up on my Instagram feed before I sat down to write this). Adaptogenic mushrooms like cordyceps, chaga, lion’s mane and reishi, though long revered in eastern medicine, are getting another look under the microscope with both scientists and consumers gravitating toward them as non-toxic therapies.
Roy Upton, Executive Director of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, considers adaptogens “to be among the most important class of herbs to utilize for general health purposes.”
Drinking mushrooms in the form of tea is a simple way to reap the health benefits and can easily be implemented into your morning routine. Once immersed in hot water, a mushroom’s many bioactive compounds are released into your cup of tea. To some, a cup of fungi-infused tea may not particularly sound like it would taste good, but drinking it will bestow a bevy of benefits upon you.
This style of mushroom tea is not to be confused with magic mushroom tea, also known as shroom tea. These mushrooms, commonly called magic mushrooms, contain a naturally-occurring psychoactive and hallucinogenic compound called psilocybin. Instead, we’ll focus on a tasty and healthy drink that won’t take you on an intoxicating trip.
Depending on your needs and predilections, it is important to learn which mushrooms align best with your body. Like all medicinal supplements, however, it is vital to first speak with a healthcare professional to avoid any complications. When it comes to making mushroom tea, here are the top five mushrooms used to brew a cup of tea:
How to Make Mushroom Tea
Quick Summary of Health Benefits:
- regulated blood sugar levels
- enhanced immune system
What is Chaga?
Called “the Herb of Kings” or “Gift from God,” Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a fungus that grows on living birch tree trunks in Canada, Northern America, Northern Europe, Russia and northern China’s cold regions. Thousands of years ago, in the high altitudes of Siberia’s snow-capped mountains, locals reaped the benefits of the native chaga mushroom by making tea. Through westernization, this form of eastern medicine has attracted many consumers.
Research and Studies on the Benefits of Chaga
The international scientific journal, Aquaculture, published the findings of researchers who tested the remedial properties of chaga on fish that were infected by the bacteria vibrio harveyi. Fish given a diet of extracted chaga showed an improved immune system with “significantly enhanced” levels of white blood and red blood cells, hemoglobin, haematocrits, lymphocytes and monocytes.
Additionally, the exposure to this bacteria increased the production of phagocytes, a type of white blood cell that breaks down bacteria and other foreign organisms in the body. Lysozymes, responsible for antimicrobial properties, flourished as well.
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology explored chaga as an aid in colon cancer chemoprevention. A team of 10 researchers isolated ergosterol peroxide, a steroidal derivative found in the mushroom, and tested its effect on human colon cancer on lab mice.
Results showed that mice treated with ergosterol peroxide experienced “inhibited cell proliferation” and “suppressed tumor growth in the colon.” Is it coincidental that the Norwegian translation of chaga, kreftkjuke, is “cancer polypore”?
Aside from its antitumor activity, ergosterol peroxide in vitro studies demonstrated inflammation and antiviral properties and overall enhanced immune systems.
Vanilla Chaga Mushroom Tea Recipe
Because chaga produces small amounts of vanillin, a fragrant compound in vanilla beans, the added vanilla ingredient in this recipe enhances the taste of this mushroom tea.
Here are the steps to make it:
- Boil one liter of filtered water
- Add three chunks of cleaned and pre-washed chaga to water, or place coarsely ground chaga in a reusable tea bag infuser and place in hot water.
- Place on low heat and let the tea simmer for 30 minutes. Be sure not to over boil because the nutrients will corrupt and denature.To achieve a stronger brew, allow the chaga to simmer longer.
- Remove chaga chunks and store in freezer. Leftovers can be reused to make tea until the tea no longer resembles the dark hue of coffee.
- Add half a vanilla bean or a few drops of vanilla stevia, strain and enjoy.
- Brewed tea can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks.
Maitake Mushroom Tea
Quick Summary of Health Benefits:
- weight loss
- helps with treatment of diabetes
- relieves side effects of chemotherapy
- immune booster
- lowers blood sugar
- prevents cancer cell growth
What is Maitake?
Maitake (Grifola frondosa), the Japanese word for “dancing mushroom,” appears at the bases of decaying oak, elm and maple trees of China, Japan and North America’s hardwood forests, from late summer through autumn. It’s categorized as a polypore, a group of fungi that produce large, flowering bodies on top of a network of pores or tubes tucked underneath.
Also called the “Hen of the Woods” for the flowering mushroom caps’ appearance to soft, delicate chicken feathers, maitake mushrooms boast a rich umami or meaty flavor due to high levels of L-glutamate and pack 25% protein content coupled with high concentrations of B-vitamins.
Research and Studies on the Benefits of Maitake
Research has given people even more reason to be excited over maitake. Alpha glucans, active properties found in the mushroom, affect insulin levels, making maitake an ideal treatment for diabetes and weight loss, as corroborated by a 2015 study published in The International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. Another active ingredient, 1,6 beta glucan, recharges the immune system and deters tumor activity.
Brenna Jacks, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, noted the power of maitake, and cites over three decades worth of research. D-fraction, an extract from the mushroom, she said, is a “potent immune system modulator with antitumor activity.” The main research focus, she stated, continues to target its use in cancer therapy, “either to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy or to decrease the side effects of cancer drugs.”
A group of researchers at Kobe Pharmaceutical University in Japan tested Maitake D-Fraction, extracted from the mushroom, on 10 cancer patients. Results demonstrated that the extract “hindered metastatic progress, lessened the expression of tumor markers and increased NK [natural killer, white blood] cell activity.”
Another study, conducted in 2013, suggested that Maitake D-fraction can also serve as a likely “new target for breast cancer chemoprevention and treatment.”
Maitake Mushroom Green Ginger Tea Recipe
To balance the umami, meaty taste of maitake, blend with the bright notes of green tea.
- Bring eight ounces of filtered water to a boil.
- Add four slices of maitake mushrooms to water and simmer on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Discard the mushrooms or add to your compost.
- Add one green tea bag, a flew slices of ginger and four drops of vanilla stevia.
- Let simmer for an additional five minutes.
- Strain and enjoy.
Reishi Mushroom Tea
Quick Summary of Health Benefits
- enhanced immune system
- longevity promoter
- rheumatoid arthritis aid
- chronic fatigue syndrome aid
- regulated cholesterol
What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
The Chinese name, lingzhi, means “herb of spiritual potency.” People have consumed this species to promote longevity and well-being.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushrooms grow on decaying or dead hardwood trees such as the hemlock found in humid regions of southeast North America and Asia. These fungi have kidney-shaped caps with a color palette reminiscent of the 70s — warm reds, browns, oranges and yellows coated in a glossy finish. Its name comes from “lucidus,” the Latin word for “brilliant” or “shiny.”
The many present polysaccharides and triterpenes, the two major components in reishi mushrooms, enhance white blood cells. As a result, these strong white blood cells show chemopreventive and/or tumor killing effects, as proven by numerous studies from in vitro experiments, as well as animal and human in vivo studies.
Research and Studies on the Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
In the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers found that reishi possessed “significant antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.” In another study, researchers tested 58 mushroom extract species with reishi exhibiting the most effective in killing cancer cells.
The book, “Human Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects,” dedicates an entire chapter to reishi mushrooms and cites over two dozen studies conducted between 2002 and 2009 that corroborate claims of their anticancer properties. In various cancers — ovarian, prostate, lung, breast, colon, bladder and leukemia — reishi demonstrated strong antiproliferative activity, or the ability to shrink and inhibit tumor growth on cells.
Reishi Mushroom Chai Tea Recipe
Known for its bitter, tree-bark-like flavor, reishi mushrooms blend well with the flavorful notes of Indian spices found in chai tea.
- Start by boiling eight ounces of filtered water.
- Add in four pieces of organic reishi mushrooms
- Let simmer on low heat for an hour or two; allowing the mushroom to simmer for a longer period of time brings out more the bioactive ingredients.
- Remove the mushrooms and discard in a receptacle or compost.
- Add three tablespoons of loose chai blend to a tea bag infuser or drop in two chai tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes.
- Remove tea bags.
- Add a splash of sweetened almond milk.
Cordyceps Mushroom Tea
Quick Summary of Health Benefits
- helps with treatment of diabetes
- sustained energy
- increased virility
What Are Cordyceps?
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) is a parasitic fungus with thousands of species found across the globe. This fungus releases deadly spores into the air that infect surrounding insects.
Once infected, the insect dies, and the fruiting body of a new cordyceps grows out of the insect’s head. You may have seen this very sci-fi-like image on an installment of the BBC Planet Earth.
The most well-known species, cordyceps sinensis, is typically found in the cold regions of Asia’s high altitudes like the Himalayan Mountains. This wild species infects, grows out of and feeds on caterpillars.
It also comes with a high price tag. According to a site dedicated to fungi, one kilogram of cordyceps sinensis is $20,000. The Chinese have run into obstacles in trying to cultivate the fungi.
This difficulty portends the unlikely chances of the mushroom making its way to the U.S. market. The supplements you buy will source other types of strains.
Research and Studies on the Benefits of Cordyceps
It might be strange to ingest a fungus that grows out of insects, but research indicates that we should not overlook this unique fungus. Like reishis, cordyceps possess polysaccharides to enhance white blood cell and antitumor activity.
Last year, William Padilla-Brown, a man well-versed in mycology, the study of fungi, offered his expertise for a Public Goods article on mushrooms.
“Cordyceps are great for energy production, great for respiratory health, great for DNA protection from modern contaminants and it’s also an aphrodisiac. There also has been more research coming out saying that it is beneficial for people with HIV and malaria,” he said.
His company, MycoSymbiotics, and Asheville Mushroom Company, grow — without the use of insects — and sell cordyceps militaris. These cordyceps are sold by the ounce ($100), half ounce ($55) and quarter ounce ($30), in FDA-approved rice packaging. Padilla-Brown, who sports Converse sneakers with cordyceps artwork, recommends using a gram a day.
A 2014 study tested cordyceps militaris extracts on type 2 diabetes-induced rats. After three weeks, rats that had been given the extract exhibited drastically reduced blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Researchers confirmed cordyceps militaris extract to be “a safe pharmaceutical agent, present[ing] excellent antidiabetic and anti-nephropathic activities and thus has great potential as a new source for diabetes treatment.”
Science also indicates that cordycepin, another compound found in cordyceps, may have anticancer properties. The International Journal of Molecular Studies wrote that cordycepin “effectively induces cell death and retards their cancerous properties” in cancer cells. Cordyceps may also be used to treat asthma.
Cordyceps Mushroom Mint Tea Recipe
Adding the refreshing flavor of mint to this natural energy booster of a mushroom is perfect for a productive day. An acid such as lemon juice also helps to bring out the active components of this cordyceps-infused drink.
- Start by boiling 2 cups of filtered water.
- Add one gram of dried cordyceps to water.
- Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add in 1 tbsp. of crushed mint leaves and two lemon wedges (or lemon juice).
- Steep the tea for 10 minutes.
- Strain and enjoy.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Tea
Quick Summary of Health Benefits
- Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s brain activity suppression
- antihyperglycemic and hypolipidemic effects
- nerve regeneration
What Are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
As its name suggests, this mushroom looks like the long, thin, shaggy hair that frames a lion’s face. Instead of producing flowering caps, Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a hydnoid, a type of fungi that produces long, teeth-like pores. They thrive in the wild from late summer through the fall, on hardwoods found in the northern hemisphere.
Research and Studies on the Benefits of Lion’s Mane
Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, published a 2015 study that analyzed the chemical components of lion’s mane in leukaemia cells. The anticancer effects were promising, noting “significantly reduced cell proliferation” and “induced apoptosis” (or the killing of cells), ultimately suggesting the compounds in lion’s mane to be “suitable for use in potential cancer treatments.”
Students at the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences tested cognitive levels in mice that had been injected with neurotoxic peptides to evaluate Alzheimer’s disease in relation to lion’s mane. The mice had to then maneuver through the standard “Y” maze to test their memory.
One group of mice was fed a normal diet while the other was fed a diet consisting of 5% dried lion’s mane mushrooms for three weeks. As the beta-amyloid proteins, or the amino acids related to Alzherimer’s, developed and clustered into plaque on the brains of the mice, their ability to memorize the maze diminished.
Conversely, the mice supplemented with lion’s mane regained cognition and were able to maneuver the maze. These results suggest lion’s mane “may be appropriate for the prevention or treatment of dementia” and may be beneficial in the hindrance of cognitive dysfunction.
A 2019 study tested 77 overweight or obese patients who were affected by mood or sleep disorders and prone to binge eating. After they were given an eight-week diet of lion’s mane, patients experienced “improved mood disorders of a depressive-anxious nature and the quality of the nocturnal rest.”
Additionally, lion’s mane provided “increased circulating pro-BDNF levels” without altering BDNF circulating levels. Brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNFs) are vital in regulating various processes in the central nervous system.
Most recently, the January 2020 edition of International Journal of Molecular Sciences highlighted the therapeutic effects of lion’s mane in depression through a series of critiques in current literature.
The authors of the review wrote, “Though antidepressant effects of H. erinaceus [lion’s mane] have not been validated and compared to the conventional antidepressants, based on the neurotrophic and neurogenic pathophysiology of depression, H. erinaceus may be a potential alternative medicine for the treatment of depression.”
Lion’s Mane Chai Tea Recipe
Some claim that lion’s mane has a flavor similar to lobster. Chai spices work well to balance.
- Start with two cups of filtered boiling water.
- Place three grams of dried organic lion’s mane mushrooms to water.
- Lower heat.
- Allow mushrooms to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Toss mushrooms in trash bin or add to compost.
- Add one or two black tea bags, one tbsp. ground cinnamon, one tbsp. ground cardamom*, one tbsp. ground ginger (if you don’t have cardamom on hand, make using equal parts ground cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Steep 5-10 minutes.
- Add honey and lemon to taste.
- Strain and sip.
Try Mushroom Tea Yourself Before It Goes Mainstream
With various, new products like mushroom coffees, teas and lattes hitting the shelves of health food stores, it is apparent that consumers are aware of the health benefits of adding mushrooms to their diets. It might not be long until even the big conglomerates — Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts — begin adding mushroom tea to their drink menus.
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