Mushroom tea: A fungi new way to give your morning a boost

June 8, 2018 Providence Health Team

Chaga and reishi mushrooms may help boost your immune system.

Sipping your mushrooms may slow certain aspects of aging.

Mushroom tea may be good for your heart.

How do you take your mushrooms, with a slice of pizza or a spoonful of honey? You may be surprised to learn more and more people are drinking their mushrooms. Mushroom tea is the latest health trend you may have noticed popping up at your local health food store or cafe.

While this may be a new concept in Western culture, sipping fungi for health benefits dates back centuries. In fact, indigenous Siberians routinely add powdered chaga mushrooms to their stews and soups to give their health a boost. Though no extensive research has been conducted, Siberians are claimed to have longer life spans and appear to have lower rates of cancer than neighboring tribes who do not follow this practice.

What is mushroom tea?
Mushroom connoisseurs recommend making tea from certain mushroom varieties like chaga and reishi. These varieties are best known for their potential immune-boosting benefits, guarding against harmful bacteria, toxins, and viruses that can make you sick. These natural substances, sometimes called adaptogens, are often used in herbal medicines to help balance the body. The active components are made into a powder, which is then put into a tea bag or something similar for steeping.  

If you are a coffee aficionado, swapping out your morning cup of joe for a bit of fungus chai might be a hard thing to swallow—particularly considering its earthy taste and complete lack of caffeine. However, you may be missing out on the newest immune-boosting superfood.

What are the health benefits of mushroom tea?
Mushrooms provide many health benefits because they are packed with essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B, and calcium. The benefits of chaga mushroom, most often used for mushroom tea, include:

Decelerating the aging process — Chaga mushrooms are extremely high in antioxidants, which support cellular regeneration and protect against cellular damage and genetic mutation. Although no research has conclusively linked chaga mushrooms to anti-aging benefits, its effectiveness in fighting certain types of oxidative stress (an imbalance in our body that damages our cells) suggests that it could also fight aging.

Lowering cholesterol — Chaga mushrooms may help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the absorption of cholesterol from food. They are loaded with antioxidants that could be part of your plan to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.  

Helping prevent cancer — Studies have suggested that chaga mushrooms help slow the growth of cancer cells in Petri dishes and tumors in mice, and Lion’s Mane and Turkey Tail mushrooms are being studied for cancer-fighting potential. 

Promoting cardiovascular health — Oxidative stress-fighting antioxidants found in chaga may help lower blood pressure as well as your risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions.

Fighting inflammation — Chaga mushrooms help regulate cytokine production (molecules that help cells communicate in order to heal inflammation in the body), which may also help reduce inflammation.

Aiding in detoxification — Chaga contains high levels of superoxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant that detoxifies free radicals in the body and converts them to water and oxygen. This process helps protect and cleanse the liver.

Supporting digestive health — Chaga contains manganese, thiamin, and important digestive enzymes, which help stimulate the liver to create digestive bile—which is important for the proper breakdown and digestion of food, especially protein.

What are the health risks of drinking mushroom tea?
Most people can consume mushroom tea (chaga or reishi varieties) without adverse side effects; however, there have been no clinical trials to assess the mushroom’s safety, and it is important to understand a few potential risks. The main issue with chaga mushrooms is its possible interactions with other medications. There are cases in which chaga mushrooms may interact negatively with blood thinning medications (e.g., aspirin) as well as insulin. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid chaga mushrooms as they may interact with breast milk. Chaga is also known for activating the immune system, so those with autoimmune diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis should avoid chaga and reishi mushrooms in all forms. If you are being treated for these or similar health conditions, talk to your doctor before trying mushroom tea as it may interact with your treatment protocol.

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Recommended for you:

10 teas to soothe what ails you

Harvesting and Health: Understanding the Healing Power of Wild Foods

Combating the common cold: What herbals work?

Tea for Two? What You Should Know About Tea and Breastfeeding

 

 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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