What It Is, Benefits, and Downsides

What It Is, Benefits, and Downsides

  • May 13, 2021

Mushroom coffee is lauded as a healthier alternative to regular coffee, boasting medicinal mushroom extracts and added health benefits.

Although it’s currently a trending coffee blend, this concept is far from new.

According to online sources, mushrooms were used as a coffee substitute in Finland during World War II, when coffee beans weren’t available. There’s also an extensive history of culinary and medicinal use of mushrooms in Asian countries, specifically for Chinese medicine, for their nutritional and health benefits (1, 2, 3).

This article looks at the evidence on mushroom coffee and provides an expert assessment of its alleged health benefits.

If you visualize a cup of joe with mushrooms floating at the top — take a sigh of relief. That is not what this is.

Mushroom coffee is a delicate blend of ground mushrooms and coffee beans combined to brew a dark, smooth, and nutty coffee.

Mushroom coffee generally uses medicinal mushroom extracts rather than culinary mushrooms like shiitake and portobello. Common medicinal mushrooms used to make this trendy coffee include:

Several consumer reviews indicate that the flavor profile of mushroom coffee isn’t so different from that of regular coffee.

However, the proposed health benefits of mushroom coffee, including reduced anxiety and improved immunity, give it a marketing edge.

Summary

Mushroom coffee is a trending coffee brew made with ground medicinal mushrooms and coffee beans. Common types of mushrooms used include Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s mane, Reishi, and Turkey’s tail.

To make mushroom coffee, the fruiting bodies of the mushrooms are extracted and made into an organic powder that’s free from fillers, carriers, and other additives.

Through a dual extraction process, the mushrooms are then dehydrated, ground into a fine powder, and mixed into ground coffee beans. This is usually done in a 1-to-1 ratio.

You can purchase mushroom coffee as:

  • instant coffee packets
  • ground coffee blends
  • coffee pods

Mushroom coffee can be prepared using the same methods as regular coffee to make delicious mochas, lattes, or black coffee drinks.

Summary

Medicinal mushrooms are dehydrated, ground into a fine powder, and mixed with ground coffee beans to produce mushroom coffee. It’s then prepared in the same way as regular coffee.

Mushroom coffee blends are marketed as being lower in caffeine than regular coffee.

Caffeine is a psychoactive substance naturally found in some foods like coffee beans, cocoa beans, and tea leaves, but it is also added in a synthetic form to other foods and beverages (4, 5).

People who are pregnant or lactating, children, and individuals with underlying heart issues have a higher risk of experiencing the negative side effects of caffeine consumption and should be cautious of their intake (5).

Although drinking up to 400 mg of caffeine daily isn’t associated with adverse effects, this may be different for people with sensitivity to caffeine. In this case, you may experience anxiety, rapid heart rate, upset stomach, and other side effects even with lower caffeine intakes (5).

As mentioned, with mushroom coffee, an amount of mushroom powder is usually combined with an equal amount of ground coffee beans. Because the mushroom powder doesn’t contain caffeine, it cuts the caffeine content of the final product in half, compared with regular coffee.

However, this may not be true for all brands of mushroom coffee. The caffeine content is often not listed on the products’ packages.

Below is a comparison of the caffeine content in 1 cup (approximately 180 ml) of three types of mushroom coffee, regular coffee, and decaffeinated coffee.

So, mushroom coffee drinks have about half the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee but significantly more caffeine than decaffeinated coffee.

Summary

Mushroom coffee blends are lower in caffeine than regular coffee due to fewer ground coffee beans used in each coffee blend. However, they contain significantly more caffeine than decaffeinated coffee.

Medicinal mushrooms have been commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years (1, 2, 3, 6).

The compounds extracted from medicinal mushrooms are called adaptogens, which may improve the body’s response to stress (2, 7).

Since the 1970s, researchers have been interested in the adaptogens from medicinal mushrooms for their potential health benefits (2, 6, 8).

However, it’s important to note that most studies on medicinal mushrooms are based on animals or done in a lab, with few well-designed clinical trials including humans. This means that we can’t simply apply the results of these studies to humans or human diseases.

Plus, these studies aren’t specific to mushroom coffee — and it’s unclear whether there are combined positive or negative health effects of mixing mushrooms and coffee beans.

It’s safe to say that although medicinal mushrooms and coffee have some established benefits on their own, there are numerous unverified health claims about the benefits of mushroom coffee.

Below are some scientific findings for alleged health benefits of medicinal mushrooms:

  • Improved immunity. In test tube studies, Turkey’s tail and its fermented substrates have demonstrated some immune-boosting properties (11).
  • Potential for cancer prevention. Studies have indicated some potential of Lion’s mane, Reishi, Turkey’s tail, Chaga, and Cordyceps as supportive therapies for cancer patients, such as helping fight nausea and vomiting (3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15).
  • Antiulcer. Studies done in rats showed that Chaga mushrooms may help fight ulcers (16).
  • Anti-allergenic (food allergies). In test-tube studies, Chaga mushroom has shown evidence of suppressing the activity of immune cells responsible for an allergic response to some foods (9).
  • Heart disease. Reishi extracts show potential for reducing blood cholesterol levels and in turn reducing the risk of heart disease (3, 13, 14).

Although there’s some promising evidence available, more research including humans is needed to verify those health effects, especially in mushroom coffee blends.

Summary

Medicinal mushrooms have been the interest of science since the 1970s and have been revered for numerous health claims. Many of these claims are unsubstantiated, and more rigorous clinical trials including humans are needed.

Although mushroom coffee may be an exciting thing to try, there are some downsides to consider.

The main downside is that human studies on its health effects are currently lacking. Most research studies have been conducted in test tubes or animals, and human research is needed to verify those health claims.

This means that information regarding safe dosage, who would benefit from this product, who may need to avoid it, and whether medicinal mushrooms interact with medications is largely unknown — and this may raise some safety concerns.

Plus, mushroom coffee is costly. It often costs double the price of regular coffee for a 12 oz (340 g) bag.

A potential cause for the higher price point is that medicinal mushrooms are grown in their natural habitats and are generally not commercially farmed. This means they may be hard to come by.

Summary

The main downsides of mushroom coffee is that human studies are lacking to support health claims and verify safety of intake and potential interactions. It’s also more expensive than regular coffee.

Mushroom coffee is a trending coffee brew made from blends of regular coffee and extracts of medicinal mushrooms, including Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi, Lion’s mane, and Turkey’s tail.

Although there are several health claims regarding the use of mushrooms and mushroom coffee for various health conditions, most of them are unverified at this moment, and more human research is needed.

Although it may be safe to try for most people, you should always discuss it with your healthcare provider if you’re taking medication or have a preexisting health condition.

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