Mushroom elixirs: Can adaptogenic mushrooms transform your health? Know benefits | Health - Hindustan Times
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Magic of mushroom elixirs: Can adaptogenic mushrooms transform your health? Know benefits and ways to consume

By, New Delhi
Oct 22, 2023 11:34 AM IST

Mushroom elixirs are made from extracts of different kinds of mushrooms with medicinal benefits, which are also known as adaptogenic mushrooms.

Mushrooms, a type of fungus, find place in all kinds of menus across different cuisines. Apart from their unique and delicious flavour, the rich nutritional profile and low-calorie, cholesterol-free nature of these foods, make them an essential addition to the diet, especially for vegetarians who can derive high quality protein and substantial doses of Vitamin D from them. The world of mushroom is incredibly diverse having thousands of species with varied flavours, textures and culinary uses. Among them are adaptogenic mushrooms that can help reduce the effects of stress, anxiety, fatigue and boost overall well-being. Mushroom elixirs are made from extracts of different kinds of mushrooms with medicinal benefits, which are also known as adaptogenic mushrooms. Mushroom elixirs have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine and are said to have several benefits for wellness. (Also read: Small doses of mushrooms or microdosing may be helpful for mental illnesses, says study)

Mushroom elixirs have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine and are said to have several benefits for wellness.(Freepik)
Mushroom elixirs have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine and are said to have several benefits for wellness.(Freepik)

"Mushroom elixirs, also known as mushroom extracts or tinctures, are gaining popularity in the health and wellness community for their potential therapeutic properties. These elixirs are derived from various types of mushrooms, each with its unique set of health benefits. While mushroom elixirs can offer advantages, it's crucial to understand how they compare to consuming whole mushrooms and how to incorporate them into your diet for maximum health benefits," says Dietitian Vidhi Chawla, the Architect of Fisico Diet and Aesthetic Clinic.

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"In the ever-changing world of nutrition and diet trends, mushroom elixirs have gained popularity for their wide range of benefits. These elixirs have been widely used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicines and now have gained widespread popularity in the West. Mushroom elixirs are drinks that are made from extracts of different kinds of mushrooms with medicinal benefits, known as Adaptogenic Mushrooms. Since ancient times, medicinal mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine and are thought to have a number of health effects," says Clinical Dietician Kajal Aggarwal, PCOD expert and Founder of Dietician Kajal’s App.

"Mushrooms, long revered for their unique flavours and intriguing textures, have found a new identity in the world of wellness and nutrition – mushroom elixirs. These elixirs are not your typical fungi-based dishes; they are concentrated brews of mushroom extracts packed with health benefits," says Dr Archana Batra, Nutritionist, Physiotherapist, and Certified diabetes educator in Gurgaon.

What are adaptogenic mushrooms?

Adaptogenic mushrooms are those mushrooms which offer various benefits apart from their nutritional value. Their ability to support immune health, hormonal balance, manage stress, better focus and brain health makes them unique and different from other mushrooms.

"Mushrooms with the most adaptogenic properties are Shiitake, Reishi, Cordyceps and Chaga, with each mushroom having its own benefits and properties. Mushroom elixirs come in a wide range of types, each one made from a different kind of mushroom. These mushroom elixirs are not readily available everywhere, especially in India and might not be suitable for Indian gut and palate," says Dietitian Kajal.

Types of mushroom elixirs

A few popular types of mushroom elixirs with different health benefits according to Dietitian Vidhi are:

1. Chaga mushroom elixir: Chaga, often found on birch trees, is rich in antioxidants. Its elixir is believed to support the immune system and reduce inflammation. Chaga elixirs can be consumed as a tea or added to beverages for a nutritional boost.

2. Reishi mushroom elixir: Reishi mushrooms are referred to as the "mushroom of immortality" in traditional Chinese medicine. Elixirs derived from Reishi are known for their immune-boosting and stress-reducing properties. These elixirs can be incorporated into teas, coffee, or various recipes.

3. Lion's mane mushroom elixir: Lion's Mane is linked to cognitive enhancement and nerve health. Elixirs containing Lion's Mane extracts are often associated with improved focus, memory, and brain health. They can be added to coffee, smoothies, or used as a savoury addition to dishes.

4. Cordyceps mushroom elixir: Cordyceps are renowned for their potential to increase energy and exercise performance. Cordyceps elixirs are commonly used as pre-workout drinks or for an energy boost in the morning.

5. Maitake mushroom elixir: Maitake mushrooms are believed to support the immune system and reduce inflammation. These elixirs can be added to broths, soups, or other recipes for a delicious and nutritious flavour.

Ways to add mushroom elixirs to diet

Mushroom elixirs can be added to diet in many ways, as many companies offer the goodness of these adaptogenic mushrooms in many forms like powders or energy drinks, says Dietitian Kajal. To add these mushroom elixirs in your diet, you can simply:

Buy commercial products: Many companies offer a wide range of mushroom elixir products in the form of powders or liquid extracts, or in form energy drinks.

Make homemade elixirs: You can purchase dried mushroom slices or powders and brew your own mushroom elixirs by steeping them in hot water, just like making tea. You can add sweeteners, milk or mix with your coffee.

Incorporate into recipes: You can also add mushroom elixirs or mushroom powders to various recipes, such as smoothies, soups, and baked goods.

Benefits of mushroom elixirs

Convenience: Mushroom elixirs offer a convenient way to access the health benefits of mushrooms. They are available in various forms, including powders and tinctures, making them easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

Concentration: Elixirs are often more concentrated than consuming whole mushrooms, which can be advantageous when seeking specific health benefits. The extraction process concentrates the bioactive compounds present in the mushrooms.

Digestibility: Some people find mushroom elixirs easier to digest than whole mushrooms, particularly if they have digestive sensitivities.

Dietitian Vidhi shares more ways to add mushroom elixirs to your diet:

1. Beverages: Many mushroom elixirs come in powder or liquid form and can be mixed with hot water to make a soothing tea. You can also add them to coffee or herbal teas.

2. Smoothies: Mushroom elixir powders can be seamlessly blended into your morning smoothie, enhancing its nutritional content without altering the taste significantly.

3. Cooking: Elixirs with milder flavours can be integrated into your cooking. They can be added to soups, stews, sauces, or even salad dressings for an extra health boost.

4. Capsules or pills: For those who prefer a convenient, pill-based approach, mushroom elixirs are available in capsule or tablet form.

Mushroom elixirs vs. whole mushrooms

"Mushrooms, whether they are button mushrooms, shiitakes, or more exotic varieties like reishi and chaga, offer an array of health benefits. They're rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them an excellent addition to any diet. However, mushroom elixirs take things to the next level. These elixirs are concentrated extracts of specific mushroom species, designed to provide a potent dose of their health-enhancing compounds," says Dr Archana Batra.

"The key advantage of mushroom elixirs lies in their potency and ease of consumption. Extracting the active compounds allows you to consume a higher concentration of beneficial substances, such as beta-glucans, polysaccharides, and triterpenoids, in a more easily digestible form. This can be especially helpful for those who may not enjoy the taste or texture of whole mushrooms, adds Dr Batra.

"Mushroom elixirs offer a concentrated dose of the health benefits found in whole mushrooms, providing an easy and versatile way to incorporate these fungi into your diet. While they may not necessarily be superior to whole mushrooms, they can complement your nutritional intake and offer unique advantages. Experiment with different elixirs to find the one that suits your tastes and health goals best, and embrace the magic of mushrooms in this exciting, modern form," concludes Dr Batra.

"Mushroom elixirs have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and now are gaining popularity in the West too. Though these elixirs are known for their multiple health benefits, there’s little or no research on their effects on humans, their dosage and side effects. Therefore, it's advisable to contact a healthcare provider before adding them to diet, as it may have side effects specially for those with allergies," says Dietitian Kajal.

"Mushroom elixirs offer a convenient and concentrated way to enjoy the potential health benefits of various mushrooms. While they can be more concentrated than consuming whole mushrooms, they are not a replacement for a balanced diet. When incorporating mushroom elixirs into your diet, consult with a healthcare professional and purchase products from reputable sources to ensure their quality and purity. By doing so, you can explore the potential health benefits of these elixirs and enhance your overall well-being," says Dietitian Vidhi.

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