Mushrooms are the little fungi that could. Not only are they delicious when stuffed, chopped up in soups and sliced into pasta, but they’re nutritious enough to earn the superfood label in some circles thanks to their high concentrations of vitamin-D, antioxidants and fiber. Mushrooms are having a moment in the wellness space, too, but we’re not talking about the creminis at the grocery store.
Mushroom varieties like Chagas (touted for their supposed ability to boost your energy and improve your mood), Cordyceps (which are said to heighten vitality and increase endurance), lion’s mane (which purportedly improve brain function) and reishi (which allegedly fight off tumors and cancer) are being dried and ground into powders by supplement companies, promising these and many other health benefits. But are they for real? We reached out to nutritionist Lisa Young, Ph.D., for her expert advice and opinion on the ‘shrooms.
1. So, what is mushroom water exactly?
Initially, we pictured some mushroom caps steeping in a mug of hot water like a tea bag. Nope, not accurate. Instead, the mushrooms are dried, ground into a powder, sometimes flavored and often blended with other ingredients like organic oats, powdered fruit extracts and probiotics to create a supplement. It’s typically packaged into individual packets or poured into a tall, sleek cylinder. You empty the packet or spoon the powder into 12 ounces of water, shake or stir it up and sip your way to healthier skin, hair and nails, a better immune system, greater focus and less anxiety.
“The idea behind it is that mushrooms themselves offer a lot of health benefits,” Young tells us. “So these powders made from different mushrooms can improve your life in various ways. Depending on the mushroom, the supplement can supposedly reduce stress or even act as an adaptogen—a plant or herbal substance that is marketed as a way to avoid disease—that can manage hormones and reduce chronic illnesses. This is the claim, but the actual research behind it has not yet happened.” So, great in theory, but in practice? Not so much.
2. There are tons of mushroom supplements out there. How do I know which brands are legit and which are B.S.?
One popular brand, Om Mushrooms, claims its $25 powders have “anti-aging properties to retain your youthful vibrance” and “harmonize your longevity, energy and spirit.” Hmm, sounds...mystical. Om’s powders are also gluten-free, vegan, keto-friendly and paleo.
Barneys New York sells another popular powder called Brain Dust for $38. Its parent company, Moon Juice, says that the powdered blend contains “super herbs and super mushrooms that help combat the effects of stress.” It contains ingredients that “help sharpen focus and concentration, increase mental stamina and promote a positive mind and mood.”
While both supplements have picked up lots of traction on social media, Young says to take these promises with a grain of salt while trying them out for yourself.
3. I want to try it. What do I need to know?
“Consult with your doctor first,” says Young. “In my opinion, they’re certainly not going to harm you, but there isn’t sufficient research to prove that they actually do the things they claim.”
Reviewers have claimed that mushroom water has helped them, and maybe it has, but as Young notes, “Since we’re dealing with a supplement that has not been tested by the FDA, we don’t know if this is true or if it’s simply the placebo effect. Does mushroom water help calm nerves or reduce anxiety because you think it does or because it actually does? It’s probably fine to try it out for yourself, but we just don’t explicitly know yet if it works.”
Young’s clients have said that mushroom water makes them feel more alert and that they don’t need their standard two cups of coffee per day anymore. Others have insisted that it has antioxidant properties that keep them healthy. But do these anecdotes translate into actual proven results? Not yet.
There’s nothing wrong with adding mushroom water to your already healthy diet and exercise routine, Young says, but the key is to remember that your best bet to feeling healthy and having more energy is to eat a nutritious, varied diet. If your doctor is cool with it, incorporating supplements is fine, but they can’t make up for a lifestyle that’s shiitake. (Sorry.)