The not-so-humble mushroom is at the root of a new wellness trend
Gone are the days of the classic white button supermarket mushroom. The fungi industry is having a moment in the sun, with medicinal varieties cropping up unexpectedly in beauty treatments, wellness elixirs, coffee, teas and smoothies. When in 2018 US grocery chain Whole Foods Market added functional mushrooms to its top food trends, and the Global Wellness Summit also named it the year’s biggest trend, the writing was on the wall. In fact, the global market is set to reach US$50 billion within the next few years.
This wellness movement is anchored in centuries-old news from ancient China: Mushrooms offer an incredible array of health benefits. Along with plants like ginseng and ashwagandha, they’re part of a food group called adaptogens, lauded for their ability to boost immunity and help the body deal with physical and mental stress.
One of the most talked-about mushrooms is the reishi, which, along with the chaga, is an active ingredient in Origins Mega-Mushrooms, a range of skincare products that help reduce redness and sensitivity. The formulations were developed with celebrity doctor and holistic health advocate Dr. Andrew Weil. Another beauty brand, Kerstin Florian, offers a Correcting Brightening Facial Serum that contains the Chinese mushroom Cordyceps. At Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver, the serum is used in the Willow Stream Spa’s Brightening Facial, which aims to reduce hyperpigmentation and address premature aging concerns.
California has become a mushroom mecca of sorts. For all manner of stems and caps there’s Shroom Room in Venice Beach, a medicinal mushroom café established by Finnish entrepreneur Tero Isokauppila, who grew up foraging on the family farm. To bring mushroom coffee, tea and elixirs to the masses, he also founded online retailer Four Sigmatic. Over on Sunset Boulevard, try the Shroom Shake at Lifehouse Tonics & Elixirs. Their stylish smoothies will enhance both your health and your Instagram feed. LA-based cult brand Moon Juice is the place to go for a mushroom powder that’s said to boost concentration and balance your mood, thanks to lion’s mane mushrooms. The concoctions are even becoming a supplement for the stars; actress Shailene Woodley is reportedly a fan. Heading north of the border to Calgary, The Light Cellar—Canada’s biggest superfood store—gives workshops dedicated entirely to medicinal mushrooms.
Back at the source, mushrooms are still revered in modern-day Chinese cuisine. At Fairmont Beijing’s Lunar 8 restaurant, chefs put the adaptogens into dishes like Chinese cabbage and bean curd duck soup with Cordyceps or braised sea cucumber with ji song mushroom. And with only 5 percent of fungi species actually identified, new and quirky immunity boosters may start springing up at your corner juice shop very soon.
By Kelly Stock