This article is written in partnership with Earth & Star—they’re dedicated to making it more delicious & convenient than ever to get all the amazing benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms. We’re honored to work with them. ~ ed.
Functional mushrooms are finally having their moment in the sun (or shade, as the case may be).
Remember when everyone was doing a juice cleanse and then you started seeing cold-pressed green juice on store shelves everywhere?
Well, you can thank (or blame) Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Huss for that!
They founded the iconic organic juice company, BluePrint Cleanse, in 2007, and now they’re one of the first to lead the way in a health movement that’s been gathering momentum in the West (it’s nothing new in the East) since 2015: functional mushrooms.
Earth & Star is the latest in their quest to take what works (however weird!), and bring it to the wellness-curious world in a way that’s easy to understand and incorporate into our already jam-packed daily schedules. And it also happens to be freakin’ delicious.
What the F are Functional Mushrooms?
Unless you’re deep into the health scene and like to keep up with all the latest superfood trends, you may not yet be intimate with this unique family of fungi. Even if you are already acquainted, there may be a few nuggets in here to surprise and enlighten you, so read on. Functional mushrooms (also known as medicinal mushrooms or adaptogenic mushrooms) are a breed apart from your garden-variety button, portobello, or oyster mushrooms on account of their healing properties. Although they’re not trippy like their psychedelic cousins, psilocybin mushrooms, they can help us deal with our modern-day diet of stress, toxins, and Trump tweets without clocking out. This is because they’re a potent source of adaptogens.
Gimme Alllll the Adaptogens!
The benefits are enough to make your chakras spin:
Adaptogens have been shown to (deep breath in) boost heart health, combat viruses, reduce inflammation, fight asthma, fight allergies, balance blood sugar, raise energy levels, lower stress levels, combat cancer, soothe PMS, curb cravings, sharpen focus, lower anxiety, up your workout, fight free radicals, lower cholesterol, enhance sexual performance, regenerate brain tissue, increase cognitive function, fight depression, boost memory, improve immune function, and decrease excessive fat storage…and, exhale!
What exactly are they, though? Functional medicine doctors describe them as “the little soldiers fighting the good fight on the frontlines of your adrenal system,” or “like a thermostat calming you down or boosting you up depending on what your body needs.”
Simply put, adaptogens adapt the body to stress, normalizing the body’s functions, and essentially telling it to chill the F out. Or rev the F up, if that’s what it needs.
Adaptogenic Mushrooms got Street Cred for Centuries
The first recorded use of mushrooms for medicinal purposes dates back to a 7000-year-old cave painting found in Algeria of a shaman dancing among a field of mushrooms.
Three-thousand-year-old writings from India detail the health benefits, and Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine doctors have been using mushrooms in their practices for thousands of years.
Fast forward to World War II, when the former Soviet Union began testing the mental and physical effects of herbal pills on its air and submarine pilots. Two decades later, Russian scientist Israel Brekhman gave adaptogens their name, derived from the idea that when encountering stress, the body either kicks into fight, flight, exhaustion, or—best case scenario: adaptation.
So What Say the Scientists?
Despite a ton of white paper research on medicinal mushrooms, it’s surprising they haven’t made it to the mainstream yet—turns out there’s not a lot of incentive for proprietary-hungry pharmaceutical companies to spend money researching something that can literally grow in sh*t. That said, here are four standout ‘shrooms that have withstood the test of time:
Shiitake: long-used as a medicinal plant in traditional medicine, shiitake’s high nutrient content—including vital vitamins, minerals, and enzymes—gives it powerful immune-supporting properties. Studies have also shown shiitake to have anti-cancer and antimicrobial benefits as well as the potential to help regulate body weight and enhance cardiovascular health.
Turkey Tail: the most researched of the bunch, Turkey Tail gets the prize for the cutest name and mushroom most thoroughly proven to promote immune function and even help fight certain cancers. Plus, turkey tail may improve gut bacteria balance, which has been shown to can positively impact your immune health.
Reishi: all hail the “Queen of the Mushrooms.” This shady lady has been used for thousands of years to support and balance hormones, allowing your body to relax and recover during the night. Reishi is also thought to support immune function, slow cancer growth, fight inflammation, and promote longevity.
Maitake: often known by its more common name, “Hen of the Wood,” maitakes contains chemicals that might help fight tumors and stimulate the immune system. There is also some evidence that it can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and lower blood sugar levels.
Okay, so this all sounds great, but drinking mushrooms? Surely that’s kinda gross.
Well, that brings us back to the Earth & Star’s raison d’être: to make mad-tasty mushroom drinks in sexy, sustainable packaging that you actually want to drink on the daily. In fact, Erica and Zoe pretty much guarantee that the taste is far superior to any mushroom product out there.
They pride themselves on using the best ingredients they can lay their wellness-lovin’ hands on…and never cutting corners. So, they insist on always using 100% of the fruiting body versus the mycelium since that’s where you’ll find the highest concentration of beta-glucans, the compounds that support our immune system and reduce inflammation. A lot of companies are using mycelium and labeling their products “mushroom.” In most cases, mycelium is grown on grain or rice (think Tempeh) and then all ground up together and sold to you as a “mushroom” product.
The other big difference in this women-powered brand is that Earth & Star packs in much more mushroom than most. Every single can contains a “therapeutic dose” of 1,000 milligrams of mushrooms. This, according to Zoe & Erica, is on-track with the dosage usually studied in clinical research.
Some other brands—and we’re bound to see more and more popping up as this movement takes off—are only putting a cursory dusting of adaptogenic mushroom in their product in order to shout about it on the label.
The thing with adaptogens is that they need to be consumed regularly in order for them to work their magic. It’s not a one-and-done magic bullet, so daily use is highly recommended, which is exactly why Earth & Star put them into the products that we love to consume regularly: coffee, tea, dark chocolate, and more to come!
If you want a powerful, pure, and tasty way to adapt(ogen) the heck outta your stress, drink up!
A Trio of Damn Good Fun Guys from the Fun Gals at Earth & Star.
1. Cacao Super Latte
Immunity & Stress Relief
Ceremonial Green Tea & Oat Milk with Turkey Tail & Shiitake
2. Matcha Super Latte
Immunity & Anti-viral
The slow-release caffeine in matcha is uniquely different than that of coffee, creating a smoother energy boost without the crash or jitters. One cup of matcha provides the same antioxidants, L-theanine, Vitamin C, carotene, Vitamin B12 & Vitamin B6 as ten cups of regular green tea. Bonus: matcha also acts as a probiotic for your gut. Plus Turkey Tail & Shitake for an immune-supporting super-duo.
Golden Oat Milk with Turmeric & Maitake
3. Turmeric Super Latte
Immunity & Gut Health
Maitake, shown to help stabilize blood sugar & improve digestion, is paired with anti-inflammatory turmeric, antibacterial black pepper & digestion-soothing ginger to create the ultimate tummy-taming super drink.