By Hilary Sheinbaum
Even if you’re a master chef or an avid mushroom consumer — who can name every grocery-store variety — it’s likely you can’t identify the majority of mushrooms in existence.
The truth is: the mushroom world is vast. (Case in point: there are more than 50,000 kinds of mushrooms worldwide.)
Within this species range: some mushrooms should never be consumed (read: they’re poisonous), while others contribute to psychedelic vibes, physical benefits, and/or performance enhancements.
But, regardless of whether you’re eating mushrooms at every meal or avoiding the addition to your plate indefinitely: there are functional mushrooms that you can sip, stir and consume without much — if any — prep (which is especially helpful for those who want to absorb benefits without sautéing a serving).
What’s more impressive is that specific mushrooms can amp up your skin, hair, sleep, energy, memory and more.
Here are four mushrooms that will change the way you look at fungi — and possibly the way you consume it, too.
Growing on Birch trees in frigid climates (for example: British Columbia, Canada or Siberia), Chaga mushrooms contain a naturally high source of antioxidants— which have anti-inflammatory effects, boost longevity and healing, support cellular regeneration, and protect against cellular damage.
Chaga also has a high source of melanin, says Brandon Mizrahie, CEO of ReNude, a mushroom-based adaptogenic coffee boost brand.
“Chaga can naturally help protect the skin and hair from UV damage from the inside out.”
He adds, “In particular, Chaga is rich in vitamin D and melanin, two nutrients that are crucial for hair health, preventing age spots, and increasing overall radiance and glow.”
Mizrahie says other benefits include long lasting energy without caffeine, stress relief, and increasing brain function via Acetylcholine (ACh, a neurotransmitter linked to memory and learning).
Admittedly, we’re all a bit more stressed these days. And, a lot of us aren’t sleeping like we used to (whether that currently involves tossing and turning or getting as many hours of shut-eye as we’d like).
Found on hardwood, Reishi is an adaptogenic mushroom, says Justin Matoesian, founder of TerraVita. “It is most commonly used to support healthy, restful sleep and manage stress and anxiety,” he says. It’s also known for boosting the immune system.
Instead of counting sheep, you’ll be calmer and catching Zs in no time.
for cognitive function, memory and energy
When you’re feeling like your energy is at an all time low (relatable), or you’re having trouble concentrating or retaining information on a daily basis, another hardwood-born mushroom, Lion’s Mane, boosts cognitive function, helps with memory and increases energy, says Matoesian.
“It contains two special compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines.” The result? Increased focus.
Whether you’re head-down at work, entertaining your kids — or all of the above — this shroom is bound to offer relief.
for stamina and endurance
The way this mushroom traditionally grows — out of a host insect such as a mealworm — isn’t chic. (But have no fear, there are other ways it comes into existance. TerraVita, for example, cultivates their vegan Cordyceps by growing it out of rice.)
In the end, the natural origin (or the modified version) is worth it. According to Matoesian, Cordyceps is an adaptogen that helps improve stamina and can be used for endurance training, as it increases the body’s production of ATP (the principal molecule for storing and transferring energy in cells).
This mushroom can be super helpful if you’re looking to step up your workout routine, or last another 30 minutes on a Zoom call.
Not looking to forage through freezing cold forests to forage for mushrooms? (Us either.) Thankfully, there are supplements and other products that provide these magic mushrooms.
ReNude’s Chagaccino is a sugar-free, vegan, gluten-free, keto-friendly Chagga-filled powder that can be poured into your morning coffee for a boost.
Like Chaga: Reishi, Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps can be consumed in powder form. TerriVita also makes Shrooms capsules that can be taken once daily and sometimes, these special shrooms appear in teas and chocolates, too.