What is a mushroom?

Here’s a phrase that might have sounded strange just a few years ago: I want a coffee with Reishi mushrooms inside this? Adaptive mushrooms have been a staple of traditional Chinese, Korean, and Japanese medicine for thousands of years, but we in the United States have been slow to adopt them into our wellness routines. This has changed significantly in recent years and we couldn’t be more proud.

But since this is such a new frontier for many of us, it’s only natural that there are questions. You may be asking: What is it? adaptogenic mushrooms? How do Chaga and Reishi help me relax? How can Lion’s Mane help my memory and how does Cordyceps improve my stamina? You’ve come to the right place, but first we’ll need to back up just a little bit. Let’s start with a simple question with a surprisingly complex answer.

What is a mushroom?

Each mushroom consists of two main parts: the mycelium and the fruiting body. The fruiting body is what we think of when we imagine a mushroom – some of them have stems, round caps, gills. That’s how it is the mushroom reproduces, sending out spores that land and create their own mushroom colonies. The backbone of these colonies is the mycelium. This is an intricate, delicate network of fungal fibers that stretch through the substrate—whatever the mushroom is growing on, which is usually underground. (Want to learn more about substrates? See our article here.)

Adaptive to Culinary Mushrooms

Human beings have long cultivated mushrooms for their delicious flavor and unique texture, and many of us regularly consume mushrooms as food—think roasted portabella, sautéed cremini, or hot pot enoki. The use of mushrooms for their medicinal or adaptogenic properties, however, is less common in the West, although this is changing as we speak.

What is an adaptogenic mushroom?

Adaptogens are chemicals that help the human body respond to a wide range of adverse stress-inducing conditions. At Wunderground, we source these adaptogens from organic mushrooms like Chaga, Reishi, Cordyceps, and Lion’s Mane (a delicious culinary mushroom in its own right). Again, these mushrooms have been part of traditional Chinese, Korean, and Japanese medicine for thousands of years, but only recently have scientists conducted peer-reviewed studies to see what these revered ingredients can do. The results are encouraging. Adaptive mushrooms have been shown to improve brain function, reduce stress and more help prevent cancer.

Chaga, for example, supports endurance, healthy digestion and reduced fatigue. Reishi has long been used to strengthen the immune system and improve rest, balance and relaxation. Cordyceps is highly valued for reducing stress, along with its anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. And Lion’s Mane helps improve memory, clarity and concentration.

Wait, how does a mushroom reduce my anxiety and improve my memory?

Adaptive mushrooms contain chemicals called beta-glucans and triterpenes, which can boost your immune system, help you cope with and reduce stress, sleep better and improve your concentration and creativity. How these chemicals work is its own amazing journey, which we will talk about in depth in our article on mushroom extraction and chemistry.

But before we get to that, we need to talk how mushrooms grow and where. You can learn more about this in our article on mushroom substrates.

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