If you follow health and wellness trends, you probably have heard of medicinal mushrooms or mushroom coffee. With promises of immune support, improved skin, increased energy and metabolism, cancer-fighting properties, and cognitive enhancement, medicinal mushrooms have become the hottest new superfood and are making their way into the mainstream. The “mushroom market” is expected to reach 50 billion dollars by 2023.
But what is the actual science behind medicinal mushrooms and are they really worthy of all the hype? I wanted to find out.
I first came across medicinal mushrooms listening to The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim would often run advertisements for Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee and I was immediately intrigued by the reported benefits of increased productivity, focus, and mental clarity. Sign me up.
I started drinking it and in all honesty, I did love it. Placebo or not, it seemed to work for me. But I never really looked into any of the research behind it.
Then, through my network of yogi, biohacking, health friends, I heard about this guy named Shane. Shane is a mushroom hunter. Seriously, he actually trademarked the name "The Mushroom Hunter."
Shane forages for medicinal mushrooms in the wilderness. He is the founder of a company called Black Magic Alchemy, which makes a root beer flavored mushroom elixir that's supposed to boost immunity, clear brain fog, and "sexify" your skin. Black Magic's tonic is made from chaga mushrooms, one of the most popular of the medicinals.
After discovering all this, I needed to learn more. I finally started looking into the research behind medicinal mushrooms, and here's what I found.
The basic premise
Medicinal mushrooms are simply a type of wild mushroom used to improve health or treat health issues, usually available in the form of a supplement such as a capsule, powder, elixir, or coffee beverage. There are many different types of medicinal mushrooms, but the ones that seem to get the most attention are chaga, reishi, cordyceps, lion's mane, and turkey tail.
Cordyceps has the potential to boost energy levels and oxygen intake by up to 15 percent and lion’s mane could improve brain health by stimulating nerve growth factor (NGF) in the body. These conclusions come from double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials, which tends to be the gold standard when it comes to the significance of a study's findings.
However, the overall scientific consensus is that we need more controlled clinical trials to really draw conclusive evidence about the health benefits being claimed by these mushroom companies (and all the yogis and biohackers).
Turkey tail mushroom as a cancer fighter
The most promising research I found had to do with the mushroom turkey tail and its cancer-fighting potential. Turkey tail has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and as a cancer treatment in Japan since the 1970s. Turkey tail contains a protein called polysaccharide-K (PSK), which is the key to its immunotherapeutic benefits.
A meta-analysis conducted in 2007 looked at eight randomized controlled clinical trials where roughly half the patients were treated with just chemo, and the other half were treated with chemo and the use of PSK. The results showed that the group using PSK significantly improved survival.
"The OS hazard ratio was 0.88 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.79–0.98; P = .018), indicating improved survival with the addition of PSK, and with no significant heterogeneity between the treatment effects observed in the different studies," according to the National Cancer Institute.
Although we need more research to really prove some of the benefits that medicinal mushrooms could provide, it seems like we have a promising start.
It’s the beta-glucans in the mushrooms that are said to provide all of these health benefits. Every mushroom has a difference beta-glucan profile, thus creating different benefits mushroom to mushroom. However, in the medicinal mushroom industry, there have been concerns that many of the products on the market may not actually contain many of these beta-glucans at all. The reason is that many companies are using a lab-grown mycelium, rather than sourcing from real, wild mushrooms.
That's where Black Magic Alchemy comes back in. Shane and his team forage for the chaga they use to make the elixir in the woods of Northern Ontario. They harvest these mushrooms in a sustainable way and use a dual extraction method to ensure the elixir is of the highest quality possible.
I decided that I needed to try the Black Magic elixir for 30 days to see if it really did provide any of the benefits it claimed to. I also went to Big Sur, CA with Shane on a mushroom hunting expedition!
Watch to see what happens!
Although it took about two weeks to kick in, I really couldn't believe that I actually did feel more clear-minded and focused. My productivity did seem to improve and for the most part, I felt more uplifted and energized tha I normally do.
The craziest thing that happened was that it actually made my eyes bluer! I even had friends commenting that they'd never seen my eyes this blue before.
In addition, my skin was the clearest and brightest it has been in years, and my hair even got shinier! When Shane told me these were common benefits of the elixir, I did not believe him at all. I am still shocked that it actually worked. The reason why this is not an implausible result is because chaga has such a high dose of melanin, which is the pigment that gives our eyes, skin, and hair their color.
After learning all about medicinal mushrooms and giving them a real shot, I do believe that the benefits are the real thing. However, if you are not using a medicinal mushroom supplement that is sourcing from the wild, then you may not see many of these benefits at all. When choosing a medicinal mushroom supplement, be sure to do your research on where the company is sourcing from and the extraction process they use to create the product.
Happy mushroom hunting!
This article and video were not sponsored. This is my unbiased opinion of medicinal mushrooms and Black Magic Alchemy.