Here’s the dirt on mushrooms: This superfood and nutrient-rich staple is anything but garden variety. Packed with fiber, antioxidants, vitamin B and copper, mushrooms are a high-performing ingredient that deserves to be part of a regular diet, both at home and in the spa. “Mushrooms will be one of the biggest trends in skin care and wellness for the next decade,” says Vivianne Garcia-Tunon, vice president of development at THE WELL, with locations in New York, Washington and Connecticut.
Classified not as an animal, plant or bacteria, mushrooms fall into the fungi category, which are defined as a group of spore-producing organisms that feed on organic matter. Mushroom extractions typically concentrate on two key parts: the mycelium, or the primary plant portion, and the fruit body, which is the dome-shaped cap that is most recognizable.
Whether organic log-grown or wild-harvested, mushrooms have been heralded for their medicinal power in cultures around the world. Among the 10,000 recorded mushroom species are shiitakes, which can be traced back to the Song Dynasty (960-1127 A.D.); reishi, typically grown in hot and humid Asian climates; and chaga, which have been part of Nordic folk medicine for hundreds of years.
Regardless of variety, mushrooms across the board boast immunity-boosting qualities. “All functional mushrooms have been used as tonics of longevity, vitality and immune support for thousands of years,” says Danielle Ryan Broida, RH (AHG), national educator at Four Sigmatic, a nutrition brand based around mushrooms’ health benefits.
Broida notes that each mushroom type offers select health advantages. Chaga boasts antioxidant properties, while lion’s mane mushroom is best known for its cognitive and focus-supporting properties. She also praises reishi, otherwise known as the “Queen of Mushrooms,” which supports the body’s response to stress. “Reishi has been revered as a miracle elixir since the days when it was reserved for use only by emperors and other royalty in ancient China,” says Broida.
Pamela Brill is a writer based in Northport, New York.