The Beauty and Wellness Benefits of Mushrooms

Sara Kase
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The Beauty and Wellness Benefits of Mushrooms
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Photo: Allison Kahler/STYLECASTER.

Wellness in today’s busy world is all about finding new superfoods with incredible health benefits that pack a nutritional punch as efficiently as possible. Everyone from A-list celebs to holistic health enthusiasts are increasingly turning to the plant world to find natural ways to upgrade their wellbeing from the inside out. We can look to plants to de-stress, detoxify, give us a glowing complexion, strengthen our nails and hair and more. And whether you’re all read up on your latest wellness trends or new to the holistic health world, functional mushrooms should definitely be at the top of your list.

The Benefits

Featuring hundreds of different species, the fungal family is its own genre of superfood. In addition to delivering a variety of essential nutrients, mushrooms offer a host of healing properties, and you can target which types you incorporate into your daily life based on your body and mind’s needs. Culinary mushrooms should be incorporated into a healthy diet, but to tap all the benefits fungi have to offer, look too to adaptogenic (non-toxic) varieties, which have tons of antioxidants and can help restore balance to the body.

According to clinical nutritionist and renowned doctor of natural medicine Josh Axe, the beneficial compounds in adaptogenic mushrooms are great for our overall health, both mentally and physically. They can also support our body as it fights inflammation (injury or infection), as well as oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the free radicals that damage the body and the antioxidants that repair it.

The Types

If you’ve seen adaptogenic (or functional) mushroom products on the shelves of your local health food store or read some current wellness buzz, you may recognize the names Cordyceps, Reishi, Chaga and Lion’s Mane, four of the most prevalent and accessible superfood mushrooms out there. With one serving, each of these mushrooms can boost your daily nutrient intake in a big way.

Cordyceps

Chinese herbalists have used Cordyceps for thousands of years to fight signs of aging and boost energy. It’s thought to increase mental, physical and sexual performance, as well as support the immune system, balance hormones and combat weakness and fatigue. When you need a pick-me-up to help focus on a big presentation at work, get through a rigorous gym workout or to simply start your day with a sustainable level of energy, Cordyceps is your best bet. When mixed in with coffee (in powder form), it tastes smooth and savory.

Reishi

When you want to chill out, Reishi is the mushroom to turn to, as it helps the body de-stress and can help normalize sleep cycles. It’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and is a rare woody fungi originating from Asia. Known as the “King of Herbs,” Reishi is thought to support the immune system and fight viral and bacterial illnesses, thanks to its beta-glucans (immune system-boosting sugars). Studies even indicate that its compounds may help slow the spreading of cancer cells, although more human testing needs to be done to confirm its effectiveness.

According to holistic nutritionist Natasha Upensky, Reishi also helps to balance blood sugar, making it good for diabetic conditions and weight loss. However, since it has a strong, bitter taste, mushroom expert and Four Sigmatic founder Tero Isokauppila recommends mixing it in powder form with a with cacao or coconut drink to improve the taste. Adding Reishi to your bedtime routine can also have a nice relaxing effect.

Chaga

Chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees in freezing climates like Russia, Siberia, and Northern areas of North America. Indigenous people in these areas have used them in traditional practices for hundreds of years—in fact, Dr. Axe notes that the name “chaga” is Russian for mushroom. With a super high antioxidant count, Chaga is immune-boosting, cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory, stress-reducing, and can aid in digestion, he says. It has an earthy and smooth taste similar to coffee, which makes it a nice alternative to your normal cup of joe if you’re looking for a break from the caffeine with an all-around health-boosting elixir.

Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane, used in Japanese and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, is all about mental clarity. It’s known to boost cognitive function, and can therefore help combat anxiety, improve concentration, and support healthy energy levels and mood. While Lion’s Mane is also a culinary mushroom, even in its powdered drink form, it still tastes sweet and savory, almost like mushroom soup.

How to Use

All four of the above mushroom types have a huge range of physical, emotional, and mental benefits—but don’t pick just any type. “Quality is key,” nutritionist Natasha Upensky warns. “It’s important to find a reputable company (such as Four Sigmatic) that sources wild-harvested or organic mushrooms.” Traditionally, she explains, most mushrooms were boiled into tea or soup to preserve as many of their nutrients as possible.

However, in 2018, high-quality dried mushrooms are not so easy to find and not so pleasant to taste. Not to worry, though. Natasha says, “For more exotic medicinal mushrooms, liquid extractions or dried preparations (made using a hot water dual extraction method) in powder or capsule form are more convenient and can be as effective.” Dr. Axe also recommends capsules made of dried, organic, fermented mushrooms (the fermentation process helps break down the components of the mushrooms to improve absorption into the body), or mushroom coffee.

For daily coffee drinkers, mushroom coffee is a good gateway to mushroom supplementation and to reducing your caffeine intake. Mushroom coffee is easier to digest than regular coffee, according to Dr. Axe, as it has a lower level of acidity. Due to the reduced amount of caffeine, it can eradicate some of the negative effects of regular coffee intake, like anxiety and insomnia.

Mushrooms are also a secret weapon in the beauty world. Your overall health directly affects the quality of your skin, so supplementing in mushrooms to reduce stress, improve gut health, and balance hormones (three of the biggest culprits of breakouts and skin irritation) will ultimately support healthy, clear skin. “The same characteristics (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial) that make mushrooms so potent as a food or supplement extend to their use in skincare,” says Natasha Upensky. “Different mushrooms have different skincare benefits: chaga is brightening and anti-inflammatory; Reishi is anti-microbial and anti-aging; and Cordyceps is great for hydration and dermatitis.”

If you’re game to try one or all four of these functional fungi, get started with these 10 top-rated mushroom-infused products.

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STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with Cordyceps
Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with Cordyceps

Four Sigmatic founder Tero Isokauppila says, “we use the actual real fruiting bodies of the mushrooms, and not lab-grown ingredients. The mushrooms are dual-extracted for optimal bioavailability.” This particular mix tastes like coffee, but has the added benefit of immune-boosting Chaga and cellular level energy-supporting Cordyceps to provide a more stable and longer-lasting stimulation than plain caffeine would.

$15 at Four Sigmatic

Photo: Four Sigmatic
STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Plantioxidants Chaga & Ginseng Reparative Serum
Plantioxidants Chaga & Ginseng Reparative Serum

This all-natural, organic, 100% plant-based reparative serum contains highly concentrated chaga to heal and restore and ginseng to boost collagen production for brighter, smoother skin.

$110 at Plantioxidants

Photo: Plantioxidants
STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Youth to the People Adaptogen Deep Moisturizing Cream
Youth to the People Adaptogen Deep Moisturizing Cream

Looking for a hydrating, calming, anti-aging facial moisturizer? Try Youth to the People’s Adaptogen Deep Moisturizing Cream, which incorporates the all-powerful Reishi as well as other adaptogenic herbs to calm the skin in a clean, natural way.

$58 at Sephora

Photo: Youth to the People
STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Soothing Face Cream
Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Soothing Face Cream

Created by doctor of Integrative Medicine and mushroom expert Dr. Andrew Weil, this ultra-hydrating skin cream combines cordyceps, reishi, lion’s mane, and other mushrooms in an anti-inflammatory blend to reduce redness and calm the skin.

$68 at Origins

Photo: Origins
STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Dr. Alkalitis Organic Beautifying Mask
Dr. Alkalitis Organic Beautifying Mask

Using the detoxifying properties of Reishi as well as three other immune-supporting and collagen-boosting forest mushrooms, this mask will leave your skin feeling rejuvenated and moisturized, healing it from the cellular level.

$41 at Dr. Alkalitis

Photo: Dr. Alkalitis
STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | The Plant Base Time-Stop Collagen Ampoule
The Plant Base Time-Stop Collagen Ampoule

With 76.52% mushroom extract as well as other healing botanical ingredients, this paraben-free formula soothes, hydrates, and reduces wrinkles and fine lines.

$29 at Soko Glam

Photo: The Plant Base
STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Om Mushroom Beauty Powder
Om Mushroom Beauty Powder

With a 100% certified organic proprietary blend of Cordyceps, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, and several other powerful mushrooms, this powder is especially targeted toward strengthening your hair, skin and nails through daily consumption.

$24.99 at Om Mushroom

Photo: Om Mushroom
STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Four Sigmatic Hot Cacao with Reishi
Four Sigmatic Hot Cacao with Reishi

Wind down after a long day with a cozy cup of hot cocoa minus any chemical fillers or artificial sugar, plus the amazing benefits of Reishi and its beta-glucans (some processed forms of Reishi do not contain as high of a percentage of this key component).

$20 at Four Sigmatic

Photo: Four Sigmatic
STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Ancient Apothecary Mushroom Supplements
Ancient Apothecary Mushroom Supplements

Comprised of 100% organic mushrooms, herbs, and spices, Dr. Axe’s own line of high-quality capsules have undergone fermentation to make them easier to digest, which is key to proper nutrient absorption. He also carries Cordyceps, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, and more.

$34.95 at Dr. Axe

Photo: Ancient Apothecary
STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Om Mushroom Lion's Mane Powder
Om Mushroom Lion's Mane Powder

Add just a teaspoon of this high-quality, 100% certified organic mushroom powder (the company carries powders of nine different healing mushroom types) to your tea, smoothie, or meal to receive the many benefits of each mushroom.

$24.99 at Om Lion

Photo: Om Mushroom

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Essential Back-to-School Beauty Products to Kick-Start Your Semester

Essential Back-to-School
Beauty Products to Kick-Start Your Semester
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with Cordyceps
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Plantioxidants Chaga & Ginseng Reparative Serum
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Youth to the People Adaptogen Deep Moisturizing Cream
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Soothing Face Cream
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Dr. Alkalitis Organic Beautifying Mask
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | The Plant Base Time-Stop Collagen Ampoule
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Om Mushroom Beauty Powder
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Four Sigmatic Hot Cacao with Reishi
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Ancient Apothecary Mushroom Supplements
  • STYLECASTER | Mushroom Beauty and Wellness Products | Om Mushroom Lion's Mane Powder

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