Mushrooms are having a moment. While they’ve been prized in Chinese culture for more than 2,000 years, they’ve recently found a new, younger fanbase in millenials and athletes, both here in Hong Kong and in the west. Mushrooms such as Reishi and Cordyceps are often referred to as adaptogens, meaning that they are consumed to restore the body to its optimal state. Benefits include reduced stress, improved immunity, or enhanced focus and energy. “There’s been a growing interest in medicinal mushrooms in the last few years, and we’ve seen medicinal mushrooms being included in many products from bottled beverages to skincare products,” says Wong Kwok-wing, Product Trainer Manager of Chinese herbal supplement brand, Eu Yang Sang.
Shelley Lee-Davies is the co-founder of TheStore.com.hk, a health food and supplements platform. The Store is the exclusive distributor of Four Sigmatic, a Finnish company that produces medicinal mushroom blends for the Western market. They first brought the mushroom blends to Hong Kong about five months ago and sold out of their first batch within two weeks. “We get a lot of athletes coming in to purchase the Cordyceps blend to help enhance their performance,” says Lee-Davies. “They want to improve their energy and stamina and they trust the brand, which is USDA certified organic and sourced in Asia under strict guidelines,” she adds.
Improved convenience and flavour are both major factors in mushrooms’ increased popularity. Traditional preparation methods include steeping in tea or soup, but the flavour was something to be endured, rather than relished. New formulas now mask the mushrooms’ challenging taste, while still allowing for maximum health benefits. For instance, Eu Yang Sang offers certified organic Lingzhi spores – the most potent part of the mushroom – in capsule form, while Four Sigmatic has various powdered blends such as coffee or cacao for a pleasant drink. Meanwhile, Alpha Dynamics, an Australia-based mushroom company that was conceived in Hong Kong, offers “Activate” and “Regenerate” blends in single-serve packets for extra convenience.
So what does a newbie need to look out for when shopping for ‘shrooms? “The seeds, cultivation site and sowing method all contribute to the mushroom’s potency,” says Wong. “For example, the active ingredients are highest when the Lingzhi is grown slowly in a nutrient-dense environment, on natural wood rather than grain. You should also look for products made from the fruiting body or – even better – the spores of the mushroom,” he adds.
If you want to boost up your blends even more, Lee-Davies recommends blending your mushrooms into your Bulletproof coffee for an even bigger natural energy boost. “Mixing it in a drink with coconut oil or cacao butter loads you up with good fats, increasing absorption and giving you a feel-good hit of focus and productivity to start your day.”