In recent years, mushroom coffee has emerged as a fascinating fusion, blending the familiar energy boost of coffee with the purported health benefits of medicinal mushrooms. Despite its increasing popularity, specific safety studies dedicated to mushroom coffee remain scarce.
Nevertheless, existing research on the safety of medicinal mushrooms serves as a foundational reference point for understanding the safety implications of consuming mushroom coffee. We’ll cover the potential implications of mushroom coffee safety, plus safety studies for the most popular medicinal mushrooms.
Table of Contents
- Limited Research on Mushroom Coffee: Research specifically on mushroom coffee remains limited. However, broader studies on medicinal mushrooms generally affirm the safety of common functional mushrooms used in these supplements.
- Consult Professionals for Safety: Given potential allergies, interactions, and individual health considerations, consulting healthcare professionals before using mushroom supplements, including mushroom coffee, is essential.
- Emphasize Quality and Monitoring: Prioritize reputable brands, adhere to recommended dosages, and monitor for any adverse effects or changes in health while using mushroom supplements to ensure safety.
What is Mushroom Coffee?
Mushroom coffee presents a novel combination, incorporating extracts from various medicinal mushrooms into traditional coffee. This unique blend is advertised to offer not only the caffeine kick of regular coffee but also potential health advantages associated with these fungi. Enthusiasts suggest benefits like heightened focus, boosted immunity, and reduced caffeine jitters compared to standard coffee.
Existing Safety Research on Medicinal Mushrooms
Generally, mushrooms are regarded as a food and are not regulated as food additives or as supplements, so the FDA has yet to weigh in on mushroom safety.
However, comprehensive safety evaluations of medicinal mushrooms have yielded reassuring results. Notably, Wasser and Weis' thorough review in 1999 explored various species, including Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) and Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane), confirming their safety for human consumption. These studies consistently highlight the low toxicity and favorable safety profiles of these mushrooms, paving the way for their use in medicinal and dietary applications.
Other research has found certain mushrooms to not only be safe, but to be potentially beneficial for therapeutic use. For instance, various studies carried out in Japan and China have found Reishi and Turkey Tail to have potential benefits as a cancer adjuvant. These studies consistently cite low toxicity levels for both mushrooms, and both mushrooms have been used in this country’s medical practice for around a decade.
Of the therapeutic assessments conducted on medicinal mushrooms, most studies encompass diverse parameters, including acute and chronic toxicity, mutagenicity, and potential allergic reactions. Such studies have contributed significantly to understanding the potential risks associated with these mushrooms, ultimately affirming their safety for human consumption.
In the absence of toxicological reports, studies may use a different means of evaluation. One study, titled “Safety assessment of mushrooms in dietary supplements by combining analytical data with in silico toxicology evaluation” confirms that the safety of a medicinal mushroom can be determined by evaluating:
- the safety of the same mushrooms when consumed as a food item
- “in silico toxicology data,” or data generated by performing research using computer-generated models
Experts weigh in with equivalent opinions. Abbey Sharp, RD, registered dietician who is active on Youtube, supports the use of medicinal mushrooms, explaining that they have “adaptogenic properties and health benefits beyond that of their nutritional value.”
She also seems to stand by the opinion that most medicinal mushrooms are “generally safe and well-tolerated” noting only mild side effects like dizziness or headaches. She also reminds consumers that while most mushrooms are not particularly unsafe, they are “not advised for people who take medication to lower their blood pressure or those who are pregnant. Some people may also display allergic reactions.”
Research, Dosage, and Side Effects of Different Functional Mushrooms
Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is known for its potential cognitive benefits and is often used to support brain health. It is rich in compounds called erinacines and hericenones, which are believed to promote the growth of nerve cells and enhance cognitive function.
A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that lion's mane extract improved the function of hippocampal neurons, which play a crucial role in learning and memory. Lion's mane is also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can protect the brain from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. More evidence suggests that Lion’s Mane may help to stimulate nerve growth and speed brain recovery time after injury.
Thanks to its purported brain-boosting benefits, lion's mane coffee is becoming a popular alternative to traditional coffee beverages as the ultimate morning pick-me-up, but you can also find a variety of lion’s mane powders and capsules.
- The optimal dosage of lion's mane extract is not yet clear. However, most studies have used doses ranging from 500 to 3000 mg per day.
- Generally considered safe for most people when taken in recommended doses. Some individuals may experience mild symptoms like stomach discomfort, including diarrhea and nausea.
Tremella (Tremella fuciformis) is a white, jelly-like mushroom with potential benefits for skin health. It is rich in polysaccharides that may help improve hydration and elasticity, making it a popular ingredient in skincare products.
According to some sources, the mushroom contains high levels of hyaluronic acid, which is a compound that helps the skin retain moisture and stay hydrated. A 2000 study in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms also reports that Tremella has strong anti-inflammatory effects and many other potential benefits.
A 2018 study showed similar results, stating that Tremella prevented the development and spread of inflammation in the body. According to this study, that may make it a useful treatment option for inflammatory conditions like heart disease, obesity, and more, and some researchers theorize that this could add to its anti-aging benefits.
- The optimal dosage of tremella extract is not yet clear. However, most studies have used doses ranging from 1 to 3 grams per day.
- Tremella is well-tolerated by most individuals. However, there might be a risk of an allergic reaction in some people. Always start with smaller doses if trying it for the first time to check for any adverse reactions.
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) mushrooms are highly valued in Asian cuisine for their unique taste and potential health benefits. They contain compounds like lentinan, which has been studied for its immune-boosting properties. Among potential cancer fighting and cardiovascular benefits, shiitake mushrooms also have multiple direct links to improved gut health.
For instance, a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition followed 52 healthy males and females between the ages of 21–41 years through a four week trial to determine if daily consumption of shiitake would improve immune function. The study concluded that consuming shiitake regularly improved gut immunity and cell effector function, or the ability of cells to respond to immune stimuli. There was also a notable reduction of inflammation due to shiitake mushroom consumption.
- Most sources suggest taking 1,000 milligrams of shiitake extract daily. However, when shiitake is used for gut-supporting purposes, 2-3 whole shiitake mushrooms daily may be the better choice.
- Shiitake mushrooms are safe for most people when consumed in food amounts. However, shiitake extracts might cause an upset stomach, skin irritation, or an allergic reaction in some individuals.
- It's recommended to avoid consuming raw or undercooked shiitake mushrooms due to a compound called lentinan, which might cause digestive upset in some people.
Maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms are often called "Hen of the Woods" due to their feather-like appearance. They are believed to have immune-supporting properties and are rich in beta-glucans, polysaccharides known for their potential health benefits.
Research suggests that these polysaccharides may support cellular immunity to help prevent illness and infections. A study published in 2009 confirmed similar results on breast cancer patients. In fact, one study published in 2012 found that there may be a duality to Maitake’s immunity enhancing effects–Maitake extract was found to be effective in killing human cancer cells and also increasing the effectiveness of cancer-fighting proteins taken at the same time.
- The optimal dosage of maitake extract is not yet clear. However, most studies have used doses ranging from 1 to 9 grams of extract per day.
- Maitake is generally safe when taken in recommended doses. However, some individuals may experience mild side effects such as stomach discomfort, diarrhea, or allergic reactions in rare cases.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a woody mushroom that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It is often referred to as the "mushroom of immortality" and is believed to promote overall well-being, support the immune system, and reduce stress. Some cultures today use Reishi as an immune system stimulant for patients with certain immune-system disorders, like HIV or cancer.
A 2014 study highlighted Reishi as one of four functional mushrooms with prominent immune stimulating effects. Another study highlights Reishi’s potential adaptogenic effects, suggesting that it may improve the pain and mood changes surrounding a condition caused by chronic exhaustion. In a survey of nutritional habits, those who regularly consumed mushrooms, including reishi, reported significantly lower rates of depression.
Various smaller trials have verified similar results, claiming that consuming more mushrooms in general may help reduce both depression and anxiety.
- The optimal dosage of reishi extract is not yet clear. However, most studies have used doses ranging from 1 to 9 grams per day.
- Reishi is considered safe for most people when taken orally in appropriate amounts. However, some individuals may experience dryness of the mouth, throat, and nasal passages, as well as stomach upset and skin irritation in certain cases.
- Reishi might also interact with certain medications, so it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional before use, especially for those on medications or with underlying health conditions.
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a mushroom that has been traditionally used in Russian and Chinese folk medicine for its anti-cancer properties. This mushroom contains betulinic acid, which is a compound that has been shown to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells.
One animal study found that Chaga supplementation reduced tumor size by 60%. Another study found that Chaga tea could prevent and slow the proliferation of human colon cancer cells. In a test-tube study, chaga extract prevented cancer growth in human liver cells. Various other studies have observed Chaga’s potential to kill other types of cancer cells, like lung, skin, colon, and prostate cancer cells.
Chaga research is limited and more evidence is needed to fully understand chaga’s immune-enhancing and cancer-fighting potential, but many people use it in their illness-prevention regimen with positive results.
- The optimal dosage of chaga extract is not yet clear. However, most studies have used doses ranging from 1 to 9 grams per day.
- Chaga is typically safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts. However, there isn't enough reliable information about its safety in higher doses or long-term use.
- Some individuals might experience mild side effects such as an upset stomach or allergic reactions.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) is a fungus that grows on caterpillar larvae in the high-altitude regions of China, Tibet, and Nepal. This mushroom has been traditionally used as an energy booster and is often classified as a nootropic mushroom, and recent research has confirmed its ability to increase energy and reduce fatigue.
In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, participants who consumed cordyceps extract for 12 weeks reported a significant improvement in their exercise performance and endurance compared to the placebo group. Another study published in 2017 echoed these results. Participants experienced an increase in tolerance to high-intensity workouts after supplementing with Cordyceps for only one and three weeks.
Cordyceps also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help reduce muscle damage and promote recovery after exercise.
- The optimal dosage of cordyceps extract is not yet clear. However, most studies have used doses ranging from 1 to 3 grams per day of cordyceps extract.
- Cordyceps is generally safe when taken in recommended doses. However, some individuals may experience mild symptoms like diarrhea, stomach discomfort, and nausea.
- There might be a risk of allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, so caution is advised, especially when trying it for the first time.
- Side effects are typically rare and mild but it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you have existing health conditions or are taking medications.
Translating Medicinal Mushroom Safety to Mushroom Coffee
While direct mushroom coffee safety studies are lacking, it's easy to draw parallels between the mushrooms used in medicinal studies and those infused into mushroom coffee. The extraction methods and concentrations might vary, but the fundamental safety assessments of the mushrooms remain relevant. This correlation allows for an inferred level of safety, although cautious interpretation is warranted due to differences in consumption and potential interactions with coffee compounds.
In other words, if the medicinal mushrooms used in a coffee product are safe, we can infer that the product is likely safe. However, we still need to consider factors like drug interactions, allergies, and interactions between the different mushrooms and supplements used in each product.
Factors to Consider and Recommendations
Consumers intrigued by the concept of mushroom coffee should approach its consumption prudently. While anecdotal evidence suggests minimal adverse effects, several factors should be taken into account before integrating them into daily routines or for individuals with specific health conditions.
- Consult a Healthcare Professionals: Individuals with mushroom allergies or certain health conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, pregnant or nursing women, or those on medications, should consult healthcare professionals before using mushroom coffee supplements. This is particularly crucial due to potential interactions with medications or underlying health conditions.
- Be Aware of Potential Allergies and Sensitivities: Mushroom allergies can trigger adverse reactions in susceptible individuals. Prior to consuming mushroom coffee, individuals should be aware of any allergic reactions they may have to specific types of mushrooms. Moreover, those sensitive to fungi or with existing sensitivities should proceed cautiously.
- Consider Drug Interactions: Different mushrooms used in supplements may interact with medications, either diminishing or intensifying their effects. Healthcare professionals can offer guidance on potential interactions between mushroom supplements and medications, ensuring safety and efficacy.
- Check Quality and Purity of Supplements: Opt for reputable brands known for their quality and purity in sourcing and manufacturing mushroom supplements. Ensuring the product is free from contaminants and properly labeled for authenticity can mitigate potential risks. Read “Benefits of Mushroom Coffee (& Quality Standards That Matter)” to learn more.
- Dosage and Adherence to Recommendations: Adhering to recommended dosage guidelines is crucial. Overconsumption of mushroom supplements, including those found in mushroom coffee, can lead to unintended side effects or toxicity.
- Monitoring for Adverse Effects: While mushroom coffee is generally well-tolerated, individuals should monitor themselves for any adverse effects or unusual reactions, especially when starting a new supplement regimen. This includes paying attention to digestive discomfort, allergic reactions, or any unexpected health changes.
Taking these factors into consideration and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals can ensure safe and informed use of mushroom coffee supplements, minimizing potential risks and maximizing benefits.
Conclusion: Is Mushroom Coffee Safe?
In the absence of dedicated safety studies on mushroom coffee, the existing body of research on the safety of medicinal mushrooms offers a reasonable framework to consider mushroom coffee as potentially safe.
However, more research is needed to expand our understanding of mushroom coffee benefits, safety, and side effects, and there are still multiple factors to consider. Be sure to choose a high-quality, lab-tested mushroom coffee product. Also be aware of the potential benefits, side effects, and drug interactions of each individual mushroom used in the particular coffee blend.
If you want to take full advantage of the "functional" side of functional mushrooms, consider a mushroom super-blend like our Lucid Coffee, Chai, or Matcha powders. It takes full advantage of the benefits of these superfood mushrooms by pairing Cordyceps, Maitake, Tremella, and Lion's Mane, plus powerful nootropics, like BCAA's, L-Theanine, Alpha-GPC, and more.
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