The Rise of Adaptogens: How Functional Mushrooms Are Going Mainstream

The Rise of Adaptogens: How Functional Mushrooms Are Going Mainstream

Over many millennia, adaptogens have been valued as a natural way to support health and well-being. With the popularity of functional mushrooms and adaptogens continuing to grow in the wellness space, however, more knowledge is needed surrounding these unique supplements to ensure safe and effective consumption.

With an increased interest in the benefits of functional mushrooms over recent years, more and more wellness brands are incorporating these adaptogens into their wellness offerings, with the properties said to have a positive impact on the body and mind. Keep reading as we delve into the rise of mainstream adaptogen consumption and what products are available that may pique your interest in the benefits of functional mushrooms.

What are adaptogens? 

Adaptogens are natural substances that are considered to help the body better manage stress. They are made up of a group of plants and fungi that help to keep our bodies performing at their best. Adaptogens have been used in home remedies and traditional medicine for thousands of years, but have gained momentum in Western culture in recent years as a natural solution to alleviating the symptoms of many health problems such as stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression[5].

Some of the most well-known adaptogens are Ashwagandha, Ginger, Maca, Ginseng and Functional Mushrooms. These can be found in supplements, tinctures or even in drinks as a way to help balance your body and manage physical and mental stressors. There are three main qualities a plant must have in order to be considered an adaptogen:

  • It must be non-toxic when taken in normal doses.
  • It must help your body cope with stress.
  • It must allow your body to return to balance (homeostasis).

What are functional mushrooms?

Functional mushrooms are types of fungi that are known to have significant health benefits beyond their nutritional compositions. Considered to be a superfood, functional mushrooms are nutrient-dense and contain essential nutrients including selenium, vitamin D and magnesium. They are split up into two categories; medicinal mushrooms and adaptogenic mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms contain compounds that offer many health benefits due to their antioxidative and cytotoxic properties. These properties allow medicinal mushrooms to kill harmful cells and inhibit the damaging processes of oxidation. Medicinal mushrooms are recognised as a dietary supplement that can provide natural immune support, balance blood sugar and support brain health and are often found in food or drink products[5].

Adaptogenic mushrooms contain compounds that help our bodies adapt to and fight off any chemical, biological or physical stress. They are used to help regulate the body’s natural stress-response system and have been shown to improve the effects of anxiety, low mood and brain fog. 

The most commonly used functional mushrooms are:

  • Cordyceps - improves stress response and fatigue 
  • Lion’s Mane - aids in cognitive health and focus
  • Reishi - provides immune support and anti-aging properties
  • Chaga - packed with antioxidants
  • Turkey Tail - offers detoxifying properties and immune support

It’s important to note that not all medicinal mushrooms and adaptogenic mushrooms are the same. Most mushrooms possess some medicinal properties, however not all of them have been proven to have an adaptogenic effect on the body.

Image: Lion's Mane Mushroom

Are functional mushrooms safe?

Yes, functional mushrooms are safe to consume when taken in the recommended quantities, however, if you have any medical conditions you should consult with your doctor first before taking them, as you would with any other health supplement. We would like to stress that the safest way to consume these mushrooms is in the form of approved supplements and we advise against foraging for these mushrooms yourself as you cannot guarantee they are safe to consume. It’s also important to note that functional mushrooms are in no way the same as “magic” mushrooms and do not contain any hallucinogenic properties. 

Although functional mushrooms are safe to consume, there have been some recorded cases of side effects such as dizziness, headaches and nausea as a result of functional mushroom supplements. However, the reported cases are from supplements which contain multiple ingredients, some of which can cause side effects if used with other medication.

If you’re interested in trying functional mushrooms as a way to relieve stress, we would always recommend consulting a healthcare professional first and using these supplements in conjunction with other stress-relieving activities and a healthy, balanced diet. 

What are the benefits of functional mushrooms?

Research suggests that many types of functional mushrooms can have beneficial effects on the body’s response to stress, as well as provide anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties[1]. Different mushrooms possess various benefits to both mental and physical health, therefore depending on the desired effect you want, you must look into the benefits of each type.

Lion’s Mane is the most commonly found functional mushroom taking over mainstream health and wellness trends at the moment. Having been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, this mushroom is rich in vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. It is also a great source of essential minerals such as magnesium and zinc. It possesses both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which can have many beneficial effects on the brain, heart, and gut. Many common health conditions such as arthritis are due to chronic inflammation, therefore the anti-inflammatory properties of Lion’s Mane may help to reduce the symptoms of these conditions.

Lion’s mane mushrooms are also rich in erinacines and hericenones which are essential for stimulating cognitive and neuronal health. This functional mushroom is thought to be both an adaptogenic and a nootropic due to its ability to improve cognitive function and reduce stress. Due to its Nerve Growth Factor, Lion’s Mane is thought to be a great solution to clearing brain fog, improving concentration and promoting mental clarity. Repeated studies in mice have shown that Lion’s Mane can have positive antidepressant and hormone-regulating effects due to these naturally occurring mycelium properties[4]. Although humans are different to mice, their brains have been proven to work in similar ways.

Reishi mushrooms are another fungi known to have adaptogenic properties and are thought to help support the function of the adrenal glands. Adaptogens such as functional mushrooms can increase the effectiveness of adrenal gland secretion, thereby abolishing excess hormone production and helping the body respond better to stress[2]

It’s important to remember that although adaptogens can be beneficial to our health, they simply work as a temporary way to manage your problems but are not a solution to long-term stress. Additionally, while there appear to be many advantages to consuming various forms of functional mushrooms, you should keep in mind that there is a lot of research still being done to find more evidence of the exact benefits for humans. 

What are the best functional mushroom supplements?

Although some functional mushrooms can be consumed in fresh or dried forms, the most common and easiest way to take these adaptogens is through concentrated supplements. Concentrated extracts of functional mushrooms are highly soluble and bioavailable, with earthy, bitter taste profiles, making them perfect to put in drinks such as coffee, tea and other brewed beverages. Whether you choose to take it in the form of a tablet, powder or drink, we’ve got a wide range of functional mushroom products to choose from.

DIRTEA Reishi Mushroom Powder £39.99 and Mushrooms For Life Organic Lion's Mane Focus Optimised Blend Capsules £21.99 

DIRTEA are home to a wide variety of adaptogen products, designed to support your health, including this 100% Organic DIRTEA Reishi Mushroom Powder. Made from pure and potent Reishi mushrooms, this adaptogen powder contains bio-available ganodermic acid and is used as a way to help enhance your immune system, reduce stress and improve your quality of sleep. Simply add 1 teaspoon of this powder to hot water or add to your smoothie or coffee to enjoy your favourite beverage with the adaptogen benefits.

Lion’s Mane is regarded as the ‘mushroom for the mind’ due to its long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine where it is believed to nourish the spirit. These Mushrooms For Life Lion's Mane Capsules use the whole of the mushroom, including the fruiting body and hyphae to provide a superior nutrient profile equivalent to wild-grown lion’s mane. This allows you to reap the benefits of a full spectrum of nutrients in an easy-to-take capsule that can be taken up to 3 times daily to help improve focus.

Rheal Shroom Coffee Superfood Blend £35 and Organic Bone Broth Collagen Protein - Ancient Mushroom

For coffee lovers who want an additional boost to their morning brew, this Rheal Shroom Coffee Superfood Blend is the perfect way to start the day. Made with Organic Arabica Coffee, 250mg of Lion's Mane Mushroom Extract and KSM-66 Ashwagandha Extract, this coffee helps to promote calmer energy and better focus with every sip.

If you’re looking to get extra protein into your diet as well as improve your mental well-being, this Organic Bone Broth Collagen Protein with Ancient Mushrooms is great. Bone broth has been a staple part of the human diet for millions of years and is hailed for its great source of nutrients and protein. This particular bone broth has been blended with key functional mushrooms including cordyceps, lion's mane and shiitake and reishi extract to offer a potent yet gentle support for your defences. Whether you choose to enjoy it on its own as an alternative to tea or use it to enrich recipes including soups and sauces, this mushroom bone broth can help build overall wellness. 

Find the right adaptogen to benefit you at Planet Organic

If you think functional mushrooms could give you the nutritional boost you need, browse through our full collection of mushroom supplements and adaptogenic mushrooms to find the right form of adaptogen to suit your lifestyle.