So many health food trends seem only to enjoy 15 minutes of fame before they’re overshadowed by something bigger, brighter and “healthier”. While medicinal mushrooms are by no means a new discovery, or even a new trend really, there’s no question that they’ve entered the spotlight as of late, yet have managed to remain there — and for good reason. There are of course various types of mushrooms, each one with its own individual health benefits. Generally speaking, medicinal mushrooms are known to improve immune function, are anti-inflammatory, antiviral and have anti-cancer properties. Additionally, cordyceps for example, are great for increasing energy levels and endurance, and are often used by athletes; while reishi on the other hand is known to help reduce anxiety and improve sleep.
While North Americans seem to have only recently caught on to the mushroom phenomenon, they’ve been used in Asian cultures for thousands of years. I would equate this recent “shroom boom”, in large part, to a really cool company you may have heard of by now, called Four Sigmatic. Originally from Finland, now based out of LA, these guys are true mushroom experts and have made consuming medicinal mushrooms convenient and tasty (yes, even for people who hate mushrooms), with their coffee, cacao and superfood blends that you can add to smoothies, elixirs, or even just to hot water. They key to their success, and to the success of other health and wellness brands that have managed to cross over into the mainstream market, is that they’ve made something that may have once seemed foreign and strange, approachable and enticing. So while these guys are at the top of their game when it comes to all things mushrooms, there are also some pretty amazing, innovative Canadian companies that are doing great things to promote the powerful benefits of medicinal mushrooms. Here are a few:
This Canadian company is the definition of healthy meets delicious. Experts in all things wild harvested, direct and fairly traded superfoods and chocolate, Giddy Yoyo offers a “Chaga 79% Dark Chocolate Bar”, hand harvested from northern Quebec and Ontario. Chaga, known as the King of Mushrooms is incredibly high in antioxidants, is great for the immune system, and promising research has shown its potential to prevent cancer and slow cancer growth, and to help manage symptoms of Inflammatory Bowl Disease. Of course to reap most of these benefits you’d have to be taking chaga pretty regularly, but I’m still a fan of a superfood chocolate bar any day.
Liquid Gold Vegan Beauty Broth
Bone broth is also continuing to enjoy its time in the spotlight, but that’s not too helpful for vegans or vegetarians. To offer an alternative, companies like Ripe Nutrition have come up with immunity-boosting broths with the main ingredient being, you guessed it, mushrooms. The Liquid Gold Beauty Broth in particular uses shiitake, chaga, and reishi to offer health benefits like increased immunity, lowered inflammation and high levels of antioxidants, to name a few. Drinking your mushrooms has never tasted better. (You can find Liquid Gold Beauty Broth on the Ripe Nutrition website, otherwise Greenhouse Juice Co. in Toronto also conveniently serves it.)
This Vancouver Island company is Canada’s answer to Four Sigmatic. With the mission of sharing the healing powers of plant medicine, Harmonic Arts is a botanical dispensary that offers sustainable, organic, and wild-harvested herbs. While they have the basics like mushroom tinctures and powders covered, I particularly love their powdered blends like the 5 Mushroom Dual Extract Drinking Chocolate that you can add to hot water or nutmylk for a great alternative to coffee.
What I love most about Toronto’s Nutbar is that they’re reinventing the entire coffee shop experience by exposing people to alternatives like nutmylk, refined sugar free treats, and an array of superfoods, not yet on the radar of many of their customers. Their Nutbar Latte offers a simple introduction to medicinal mushrooms as they combine espresso, nutbar nutmylk and a chaga mushroom tincture to create a a delicious superfood drink. The health and wellness industry can be overwhelming to navigate at times, so I love how approachable Nutbar makes it, taking away the guess work for their customers.
Well Told Health
While Portobello mushrooms are not typically considered “medicinal mushrooms” per se, the way Toronto-based Well Told Health uses them is pretty innovative. Many people don’t realize that most Vitamin D capsules are actually made from lanolin derived from sheep’s wool. Wanting to offer a plant-based alternative, WTH did some research and found out that if you expose portobello mushrooms to the sun they can create Vitamin D2, which research has shown is just as effective for humans as conventional Vitamin D3, which is made by our skin when exposed to sunlight (or from the sheep’s lanolin supplements).