Fungi Phenomenon: How Mushrooms Can Make You Well and Pretty 

In terms of culinary trends, the New York Times dubbed mushrooms the ingredient of the year as they foretold what we’d gulp and swallow in 2022 for better health. Their article How Will Americans Eat in 2022 (January 10,2022) showcased the tendency for health nuts to turn to shrooms in food and drink, though mushrooms have been showing up in cosmetics and other aspects of the modern beauty industry for a few years. Long part of the East’s heath and wellness regimens, mushrooms have played a prodigious role for centuries in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Seen as alternative by some, they’ve now sprouted into the mainstream. Whether it’s haircare, face serums, coffee, brow boosters or body lotion, mushroom ingredients have become more than a splash of truffle oil over pasta or a sad grey slice atop a salad. They’re mushrooming…but why?

First of all, mushrooms brim with beta glucan: healing immune-boosters that have anti-oxidant and anti-aging properties. Each type of mushroom (and there may be as many as 14,000 species, not all of them good for you, some, in fact, are down right deadly) offers something a bit different. They can hydrate, can be anti-inflammatory, can help with focus and most boast nutritious vitamins and minerals, including potassium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, vitamins D and B and magnesium. With some protein, little fat and tons of fiber, they have a place in healthy diets. But most interesting, and a boon for those in search of mood management, many mushrooms are adaptogenic. But, what’s an adaptogen? It’s herb or plant that has the ability to (miraculously) reduce stress, adapting to your body—even adjusting to your needs, as if by magic. Adaptogens, long proved by science to work, used for centuries in the east, have a wholesome and healthy beneficial effect. Finally, let’s not bypass the latest trend of mushroom micro-dosing, wherein so-called actual magic mushrooms are being parsed out in tiny doses, purportedly to treat mental health issues from anxiety to depression.  Indeed, mushrooms are having a day. 

Interested in a fungi fling? Here are some mushrooms that you may want to incorporate into your diet or slather over your skin. 

Reishi Mushrooms

Long considered a way to nurture longevity, fan-shaped reishi mushrooms can reduce stress, combat depression and are believed to have anticancer properties. In skincare, they’ve been proved to soothe skin, fight wrinkles and moisturize the skin. 

Chaga Mushrooms

More potent than acai berries (chaga bowl, anyone?), chaga shrooms are abundant with anti-oxidants. Known to fight free radicals, they increase blood circulation and when in skincare products can even-out skin tone and plump the skin. 

Cordyceps Mushrooms

Looking like bunches of flailing fingers, pricy cordyceps have a well known medical history in the East. Anti-inflammatories, they’re used to treat a variety of ailments from respiratory disorders to anemia. Loaded with antioxidants, they strengthen the immune system. In skincare, they help hydrate and rebuild collagen. 

Shiitaki Mushrooms

You may have these better known mushrooms in your refrigerator already. Beloved by chefs, they impart a rich umami flavor in dishes. For skincare, their high levels of kojic acid render them ideal for fading dark spots on the skin and treating acne scars and hyperpigmentation.

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

A tried and true staple of East Asian medicine, Lion’s Mane grows on the the trunks of dead hardwood trees. In today’s adaptogenic supplements and drinks, Lion’s Mane reputedly increases mental focus, reduces anxiety and quells depression. 

Sidebar: Some Mushroom News

Apply a layer of Susanne Kaufmann’s mushroom enriched Moisturising Eye Fluidto the eye area to hydrate and improve skin elasticity. $

Eat in a Mushroom Cave. At  Soneva Kiri, the luxury eco-resort on Koh Kood island in Thailand, guests can enjoy a multi-course mushroom tasting menu for lunch (from mushrooms that are grown on site!), including desserts made from mushrooms.

Slather on Navinka Skincare’s mushroom rife Nightly Calibrator, a lightweight blend of elderberry, gentle acids and mushrooms to cklear dull complexions and diminish dark spots and scars without drying the skin. $53

Sip Wundeground, a mood enhancing and stress fighting adaptogenic mushroom coffee, made in Seattle. Chock full of funghi power, from chaga to lion’s mane, their house-roasted blends are made from coffee beans (and teas) purchased directly from smallholder farms. Try various varieties, such as  Brainchild for focus or Hocus Pocus for banishing anxiety.

Kypris uses silver ear mushroom, an enchanting funghi that holds hundreds of times its weight In water. In the various Kypris masks, soaks even the driest skin with a layer of intense moisture. $210