Do you take your morning cold brew with a side of mushroom?
Medicinal mushrooms, not to be confused with culinary mushroom or psychedelic mushrooms, have been used throughout Eastern medicine for centuries. While shrooms in your morning Joe may sound daunting at first, medicinal mushrooms have a long history of reducing brain inflammation, boosting immune systems, and antioxidant powerhouses. From pre packaged powdered mushroom supplements to organic medicinal tinctures, the use of medicinal mushrooms is growing in popularity through the wellness market. I spoke with Kate Seiberlich, founder of Üphoric Urth, a science and research driven wellness company aiming to demystify the benefits of medicinal mushrooms, about the magic of medicinal mushrooms and her personal experience with the fungi.
Can you tell us about your personal relationship with medicinal mushrooms and why you started Üphoric Urth?
In 2015, I realized there was something off with my immune system. I was constantly getting sick. From strep throat to the flu, I knew there was a large underlying issue. I stress this point now because sometimes, one of the first signs of an autoimmune disorder presents itself as a higher susceptibility to other illnesses. Eventually, after a series of blood tests, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, of which the cause was unknown. Attacking my own platelets, any cut or injury would be life-threatening for my body.
At this point, I was given an array of invasive treatment options by medical professionals that included: steroids, blood transfusions, and removal of the spleen. At the age of twenty-five, I made an executive decision to not go ahead with the procedures. I was convinced there had to be another alternative to these invasive procedures. Against the wishes of my family and friends, I stopped going to the specialists and embarked on a solo holistic healing journey. I believed food was the medicine and that there must be something I was, or was not ingesting that may be causing the problem. For over a year and a half, I tested every holistic remedy, every superfood, diet, and wellness routine. While I felt healthier, my autoimmune disorder persisted. As I began to lose hope, I discovered medicinal mushrooms.
I first tried medicinal mushrooms in a powdered form, mixing with water to create a tea. Immediately, I recognized there was something my body loved about it, almost as if I was taking a sip of refreshing cold water on a hot summer day. After several months of continued exercise, a good diet, and the integration of medicinal mushroom tea two to three times a day, I felt rejuvenated. To the surprise of everyone, my autoimmune disorder had healed without the previously recommended invasive procedures. I surrendered to the mushrooms, thankful for the newfound health the mushrooms had granted me.
I was ravenous for more information. Reading everything I could find on the topic, I was astounded it took me so long into a holistic journey to discover medicinal mushrooms. While I never expected to start a business out of this experience, I felt it was incredibly important to share the benefits of mushrooms with others in a similar position. I started to develop a product for myself, family, and friends that would make it easier to consume throughout our busy lives. While I initially started my relationship with mushrooms in a powdered form, drinking tea throughout the day, you can imagine how cumbersome it can be to find all the required tools to make tea in a city or when you are running throughout your busy schedules. I felt it was a missed opportunity that mushroom tinctures were not as readily available as the powdered alternative.
After sharing my tinctures with those around me, I decided to place one of my products, Lion’s Mane, on Amazon. Without the ethos of the brand, marketing, or my story attached to the product, I could properly test the saleability of purely the tincture and decide if this entrepreneurial hobby was a viable business option. After successfully proving my concept on a platform without my personal story attached, I knew it was time to share my story with my customers, so, I launched my own website, Üphoric Urth. Focusing on bringing the highest quality product, ethically sourced, and communicated with full transparency, I began my journey of bringing medicinal mushrooms to the West.
For those of us unfamiliar with medicinal mushrooms, what differentiates those from the culinary mushrooms we commonly find within our kitchens?
The main difference between culinary mushrooms and functional/medicinal mushrooms are the compounds found within. Taking this a step further, one can examine the levels of immunomodulating polysaccharides such as beta-glucans, compounds that can contribute to an immense immune boost, are extremely potent within the medicinal mushroom category.
Along with the compositional differences between culinary and medicinal mushrooms, the exteriors of some functional mushrooms can be drastically different. Unlike culinary mushrooms, typically found in earth tones and are often soft to the touch, medicinal mushrooms can be alien-like in appearance. Some medicinal mushrooms, such as the Reishi mushroom, can tout an extra firm composition, making the mushroom hard to the touch and difficult to cut. A compound called “chitin” is an important polysaccharide which acts as a supporting material in the firm cell wall of fungi. Typically found in the shell of crustaceans or the exoskeleton of some insects, chitin cannot be naturally digested by our bodies. In order to break down the external layer found in the Reishi mushroom, known for its ability to manage inflammation, promote cardiovascular health, and reduce stress, all Üphoric Urth tinctures are processed through a double extraction method, breaking down the barrier and releasing the beneficial medicinal compounds.
While each medicinal mushroom has their own unique composition beneficial to our health, the Chaga mushroom is specifically recognized for its high volume of antioxidants. While we commonly think of antioxidant-rich superfoods such as blueberries and pomegranates, Chaga has more antioxidants than almost any other naturally occurring ingredient on Earth. The ORAC scale, designed by the USDA, measures the antioxidant value of foods. In a study conducted by Tufts University’s Department of Health and Science, the Chaga mushroom was found to have an antioxidant rating of 3,655,700 per 100g / 3.5oz, while a Blueberry received 2,450 per 100g / 3.5oz, and a pomegranate extract received a rating of 3,370 per 100g / 3.5oz.
Medicinal mushrooms are this dense, antioxidant jam-packed superfood many of us are drastically unfamiliar with.
How often can one consume medicinal mushrooms?
Too much of anything is a bad thing. I am not a doctor nor am I a scientist . While I have a Bachelor Degree of Science in Agriculture Business, I recommend anyone introducing a new product into their routines discuss their doctor, herbalist, nutritionist, or whomever you consult. The beauty of this product is that it is designed for daily use. However, it is extremely potent tincture, and one dropper a day would be a reasonable dosage.
When I was healing, my equilibrium was not balanced, and I was consuming more medicinal mushrooms than I am now. It is important to consider your baseline, and if you are trying to heal or maintain health with the use of mushrooms. Each person will have a different experience with these tinctures and medicinal mushrooms in general. Unlike many of the herbs or medicines we use when feeling ill, medicinal mushrooms can be used throughout our daily routines, which can be surprising at first.
You mentioned you pride yourself on ethical sourcing of medicinal mushrooms. Can you speak a little on how you became connected with your current suppliers?
Within the wellness industry, people are very kind. I was introduced to my current supplier through someone else in the mushroom industry, which is a small community specifically within wellness. The family owned farm has been growing and harvesting mushrooms for decades up in Upstate New York. They are extremely ethical, practicing perma-culture, organically growing wild mushrooms without the use of greenhouses. Found within the farm, the mushrooms are inoculated onto logs or naturally occurring matter.
The best way to think about the benefits of naturally growing mushrooms versus lab grown mushrooms is to equate them to dogs. Think about the natural instincts that occur within a wild dog, and the inner drive to survive hunger, weather, and its surroundings, versus a domesticated dog. The wild dog is stronger because of the challenges it has to overcome. The same can be said for the mushroom that grew on a log in its natural environment versus the mushroom grown in a climate-controlled lab on a substrate such as rice. Not to say simulated mushrooms or other simulated products are weak or aren’t beneficial, however, I am suggesting that the naturally occurring mushrooms, grown in an outdoor environment will be more powerful.
Why, in your opinion, is this topic, medicinal mushrooms, so uncharted throughout Western Medicine?
In our culture, we are conditioned to seek instant gratification. From getting your Amazon package the next day, to wanting to cure your stomach ache with an antacid thirty minutes later, we have been trained to seek the fastest solution possible. For generations, we have been trained to simply ‘pop a pill’ and push on, rather than reconsider our choices.
It’s important to recognize that in many ways, this solution has saved countless lives. However, few institutions surrounding healthcare have gone out of their way to secure funding and labor for studies to investigate the benefits of a slower, more sustainable approach to health, often found in the East. The philosophy is completely different; taking a supplement daily, to sustain a healthy immune system, rather than a treatment to solve a quick problem. In my opinion, this is why we are a bit late to the game, it is just a cultural misconception on how we deal with our health. In Eastern culture, medicinal mushrooms are common and essential, and I truly believe we would all benefit from this mindset.
What should someone who is beginning their journey with medicinal mushrooms look for when purchasing products?
As someone who was once buying an incredible amount of mushrooms, I knew how expensive it could be to purchase products that weren’t what you asked for. There is a lot of opportunity for companies to take advantage of how little people know about mushrooms in the West by mislabelling mycelium-on-grain based products as the “mushroom” or fruiting body.
With that being said, what we think of as a “mushroom” today is actually known as the “fruiting body” within the mushroom community. Mycelium, or essentially, a weblike system of roots attached to the bottom of the fruiting body, is often used within medicinal mushroom products, however, many experts in the industry will agree that the fruiting body has a higher content of medicinal properties than mycelium grown on grain. In other words, the fruiting body is analogous to an apple on an apple tree, and the mycelium is analogous to the roots of the apple tree. There is confusion when a mycelium-based product labels itself as a “mushroom” product.
Along with the reduced health benefits, it is important to note that more often than not, mycelium is grown on a substrate such as a bag of rice. The mycelium grows throughout the substrate, with its web-like root system becoming entangled in the grain, unable to be separated and is eventually included in the end product. Medicinal Mushroom products that are composed of mycelium may have partial filler, partial grain, and partial mycelium, reducing the overall potency and medicinal value of the product. It is unfair to the customer to label that as a ‘mushroom’ product, when that customer may have never heard of mycelium previously.
To avoid this common misconception, I encourage all mushroom users and enthusiasts to examine the ingredients on the label; if the label does not say ‘fruiting body’ chances are the product does not contain that part of the fungus. This often plays a role in the variations of pricing of products within the medicinal mushroom market; generally with mycelium-based products costing less than products made exclusively from the fruiting bodies. If you are spending a lot of money on your health, you want and deserve the product with the highest potency factor. For example, imagine you are seeking to purchase a product targeting your immunity levels, one could look for Reishi (aka Ganoderma lucidum) Fruiting Body’ in the ingredients list, rather than simply the ‘Reishi mushroom’.
If you could recommend only one tincture, which would you suggest for a first-time customer?
I want to reiterate that ever body is different and we each have our own needs. With that being said, I have two recommendations. If you are someone in need of a deep healing, I would recommend you choose a product with super immune-boosting abilities such as the Reishi mushroom, dubbed ‘Immunity’ within the Üphoric Urth product assortment.
With that being said, my overall recommendation and personal favorite would be to choose a tincture that features the Lion’s Mane mushroom, such as our ‘Focus’ tincture within the Uphoric Urth line. Supporting the immune system, the Lion’s Mane mushroom is currently garnering a lot of attention within the scientific community for its cognitive and brain-boosting benefits as well as the mushroom’s potential aid in treating depression. As the Lion’s Mane decreases inflammation in the brain, it increases the blood flow and oxygen levels to the brain. This mushroom has been known to allow for clearer thinking, and to increase creative cognition, which can allow for clearer thinking and an improvement in moods. The Lion’s Mane mushroom can have overall drastic long term effects on our mental health, and is a fantastic option for a first-time medicinal mushroom experience.
What is one thing you would want the world to know about your journey, your product, or medicinal mushrooms?
Every individual is different. Because no one body is exactly like the other, it is extremely important that everyone listen to their own intuition. If you are trying something new, whether that be a food, a diet plan, or a new supplement, write it down and record how your body felt after that introduction of a change. Was it a good experience? Was it a bad experience?
You should be your own guiding light. While it is very important to speak with a doctor and a nutritionist when making changes to your health, it is also important to listen to your own body throughout a journey and act as your own guiding light. We are intuitive and we can figure out a lot about our own bodies if we allow ourselves to act as our own detectives. Find what is right for you. Investigate labels and the ingredients in the products you are purchasing. Do not be afraid to ask questions. If you consider the responsibility of wellness companies out there, it is our job to share the truth, our sourcing, and our process. Educate yourself on what you are consuming and fueling your individual body.
There is no one universal answer to health.
So what’s the takeaway?
Medicinal mushrooms are by no means, a universal cure all. For some, these shrooms may be the exact ingredient you are missing from your diet to change your life. For others, a dropper full may be that extra spark of creativity you are craving. Everybody is unique, and because of that, it is imperative to speak with a medical professional before becoming the next mushroom fanatic. Too much of a good thing, is never beneficial. Listen to your intuition, reconsider your approach to long term and short term health remedies, and be your own detective. Read labels, do your research, and ask questions. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be open to adding a drop of mushroom in tomorrow’s latte.