I’m drawn to things that have been used by people for hundreds of years, and thousands in some instances. I mean, if people have been using something since time immemorial, then there must be something to it.
Enter: Medicinal Mushrooms 🍄
Medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs, most notably from Asia, are reputed to have healing benefits of all kinds and have been used for thousands of years for healing… some of the more common ones being ginseng, reishi, and perhaps chaga. There’s good reason, too. They can work.
I first became interested in them a few years ago. I immersed myself, as I’m well known to do, and I started buying and trying all sorts of them… too many to count and name. At the time I was interested in energy, fertility, longevity, happiness, relaxation, and immune health. Within each of those categories there were many options and I couldn’t help myself. I felt like a kid in a candy store (or a health food nut in a new health food store).
I quickly learned a lesson: Quality is everything.
Medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs oftentimes hail from China. Sadly, there are questions as to the quality of some of those products because of contaminants in them.
When I learned that I might’ve been flooding my body with medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs that might’ve been laced with heavy metals and/or contaminants I pretty much tossed everything in a haste, much like a drug user flushes drugs down the toilet when the police knock on the door.
What a waste of money I thought. Truth be told, I’d like to think I was buying only the highest quality, top of the line brands. But still. It freaked me out. Scared me enough to just wash my hands of tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms. Not to mention, they don’t usually taste very good. Of course you can take capsules. We were taking a lot of capsules and drinking a lot of weird concoctions.
Fast forward a couple years later and I was opening my mind to medicinal mushrooms again. I had been reading an article by Health Ranger of Natural News (he’s a bit of an alarmist on some things, but I do find gems of information in his work). He has a lab where he analyzes the quality of products. He’s also a fan of medicinal mushrooms but quickly recognizes that there are problems with quality with much of what comes from China.
Long story short, he had a yummy sounding product on his site that he claimed was clean. I looked it up on Amazon for more research and reviews and I was excited to try it because I wanted to find a way to get some good clean tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms into my family’s diet. It was Cocoa Mojo.
One day I recalled that my friend, Lauren, might have mentioned Cocoa Mojo in the past so I texted a picture of it to her and asked if she had tried it before and what she thought about it. She replied that she had tried it, but also that she had been consuming Four Sigma Foods medicinal mushrooms lately.
Seeing as I’d been out of the loop of medicinal mushrooms for a while, I hadn’t heard of those. I jumped online to learn more since Lauren is a trusted source and she knows I’m a freak about quality products – she wouldn’t recommend something to me that wasn’t good.
My world changed.
Where do I begin?
For starters, my initial attraction was that the little packets of the medicinal mushrooms were love at first site. I love little packets of things. Not really sure why. Maybe because they seem more fresh. Maybe because they’re cute. Maybe because they seem like a better product? Maybe all of the above.
So, it began with my loving the fact that Four Sigma Foods came in cute n fresh little packets.
I was equally impressed with their website… it was clean, organized, and appeared to offer quality products.
The next thing I did was write to them requesting review samples, but I’m a wee bit impatient with things like that, so while I awaited a response, I went on to Amazon and bought some with Prime Shipping. Phew. I’d have them in 2-days or less. Shortly after my request went to them, they wrote back and agreed to send me some goodies.
By the time they arrived, I had been trying the ones I bought on Amazon (like the Sport Herbs and Mind Herbs shown above). I’ve quite the collection now.
I was impressed with the products… in the way they tasted and their packaging. It’s hard to say how you feel with tonic herbs or medicinal mushrooms, when just starting them, because they take a bit of time to notice a difference.
Even more impressive is the way they combined ingredients and the way they processed those ingredients. These are two more areas where Four Sigma Foods stands out from the competition. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Chaga for boosting immunity through the flu season (oh the Reishi, too, for immune strength and getting my body to feel all chilled out).
I’ve learned in my research of herbs that some have a synergistic effect where they enhance the absorption and nutrition of other herbs when combined. Licorice root is a prime example of this. Imagine my delight when, low and behold, Four Sigma Foods includes licorice root in some of their blends. Vitamin C is another example where some research suggests that taking vitamin C with medicinal mushrooms can increase the effectiveness of the medicinal mushroom. What do you know? Four Sigma Foods includes vitamin C-rich rose hips in some of their formulations. I’m starting to get butterflies in my stomach over the excitement.
But, that’s not all.
There’s a whole issue of the way medicinal mushrooms are processed in order to get all of the benefits. There are alcohol extracted nutrients and water extracted nutrients. Most often you find a product on the market that is one or the other, but not both.
Can you guess what Four Sigma Foods does? Yup. They use a dual extraction that goes through the water extracted process and the alcohol extracted process to give you the best of both worlds.
Then, there’s the simple measure of quality. Are the products contaminated? Are they from reputable farmers and sources? Again, Four Sigma Foods hits it out of the park on this count, too, and I’ll detail that more in a bit. (Spoiler Alert: They test their products for nasty stuff to ensure it doesn’t have it.)
So. I mean, like, wow, these guys are speaking my language. I knew all of this stuff before looking at Four Sigma Foods and all of those reasons were reasons I found myself not bothering with tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms anymore. I couldn’t find a product that stood up to my high standards. That is, until these guys came along.
Over the following months I bought more of their products on Amazon and directly from them (I’m a fan of the bundle they sell on their site – it gives a very good deal). I got mom hooked and another friend buys from them as well now.
The timing was great, too, because I was able to religiously take the products for at least a couple of months before flu season reared its head. I’m a strong believer that these medicinal mushrooms were part of the reason I didn’t succumb to anything bad.
So, here are some of the ways that I use Four Sigma Foods (now Four Sigmatic) medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs:
Taking my Bulletproof Coffee a step further with medicinal mushrooms. Or is it “farther?” Dammit.
At this point, you know I like coffee. This particular blend is one of my faves! Winning X <- powerful stuff.
ow about some non coffee options? Well, for starters, it can make a coffee-like beverage without coffee. Just add a packet (or two or three) to a cup of hot water and stir it up. I also keep some in my purse for enjoying when I’m on the road or at a restaurant.
Or, try their hot chocolate-like option… so satisfying.
Greg likes to simply open a packet, dump it in his mouth, and swallow the granules with water (he’s a badass). I load him up with extra Lion’s Mane to boost his brain power since he’s the main bread winner in our family.
I’ll admit, it’s easy to just chug ’em down like that, but I still love me a hot mug o’ chaga or reishi or cordyceps (great for active peeps and lungs) or all of the above.
But there are other options.
You can add them to food. I bake gluten-free cookies with them, and I add them to soups (bone broth, anyone?) and stews (like the one pictured at the top of the page and this one below). I also shared how I kick up the nutrition of boxed (or canned) soup here which features these great little packets, too. Shiitake found here. And don’t forget about my Big-Ass Brisket – I use them in that, too.
How about a protein shake that can help boost everything in your life?
As you can see, I have found many ways to enjoy them which makes them even that much more exciting. But, I’ll tell ya… my favorite way? I simply love having them plain in hot water. Each sip sends healing vibes through me.
The beauty of medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs is that you can take them from here on out. The rule is they can be taken as much as needed for as long as needed. Some days I need and want a lot. Some times I take a break. It’s all about doing what feels right for you.
That written, I’d be remiss not to help set the right expectations for medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs. It’s not like having a headache and taking an aspirin to immediately relieve the pain. These can take time to work their magic and build your body with a better immune system or brain power or stronger lungs, etc. I feel their benefits subtly over time and have confidence that they’re building a stronger body each day. (Though a cup of Instant Reishi sure seems to calm me right down when I need it most.)
Oh yeah, I wanted to share more about Four Sigma Foods’ quality.
Basically this… I drilled them with questions. I was excited about their product but skeptical because I thought, how could anything be so ideal? Well, turns out they know what they’re doing.
Here’s an exchange between us…
My email to them while waiting for their samples to arrive:
I do have an initial question. Could you please tell me the source of your mushrooms? I don’t mean specifically but the general source/process/procurement. For example do you get these from China or other parts of the world… or do you have special relationships with someone in China that you obviously feel comfortable using… or do you grow these yourself in the United States … are they mycelium or wild? My same question applies to the other ingredients you use like goji. I have legitimate concerns about products coming from China although I understand some companies still have a solid reputation for sourcing in China. In my search for high-quality tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms, I am looking at your company as well as dragon herbs and Jing herbs. I am trying to figure out what sets you apart. My initial conclusion is that you process/extract the mushrooms with water and alcohol … and then I don’t know what your next step is but the end product is a result of using water and alcohol extraction versus perhaps the other companies simply grow the mushrooms and make them into a powder? Can you comment on that?I guess what I’m trying to understand in the end is whether your product, which appears to be alcohol and water extracted, is different than a product that is simply ground-up mycelium or wild grown mushroom. I presume it is different and more beneficial with your product but I’m looking for confirmation. And then curious of the source of your products.Oh… Do you have any plans to offer the powders in a canister sans individual packets so one could just use a spoon? Perhaps the cost would be cheaper or you’d offer more product since packaging would be less? I adore the packets and see their extreme usefulness but I’d also love the option to source the product at a cheaper cost.
Four Sigma Foods’ response:
Definitely great questions and I am happy to answer all of them as completely as possible.Extraction and the bioavailabilityIn a nutshell – dual-extraction of the fruiting bodies is the most ancient and time-tested way to consume all medicinal mushrooms. Let me explain why:As you mentioned, some companies are just growing the mushroom mycelium in a laboratory in sawdust or rice grains. Even after a complete incubation there is still about 50-70% of the growing medium left, so it is easy just to grind it all up and put into capsules. This means that the customer is paying almost half of the product as rice or sawdust. Also the mushroom hasn’t been able yet to develop the fruiting bodies and concentrate all the energy and beneficial compounds into the fruiting bodies. This method is the easiest, fastest and cheapest.Another method is to take the fruiting bodies (grown or wildcrafted) and grind them up. This is already more “authentic” way but still has some drawbacks. The medicinal mushroom fruiting bodies have cell walls made of chitin, a compound harder than cellulose. Humans lack the enzyme to break down chitin so basically all that you ingest comes out undigested from the other end. All the beneficial compounds are inside those chitin cell walls so if one is looking for the effects, it is essential that one does a decoction (boiling) or a tincture (in alcohol) to the mushrooms.Our sourceWe have been sourcing the best ingredients from China and doing business with our partners there for almost four years now. Personally I’ve done several visits there as well, and we have a close relationship with our current growers, suppliers and contract manufacturer there. I know many people have concerns about China, but it is a fact that some of the best quality products come from there as well. I’ve sampled mushroom products from all over the world and to be honest, none have come close to the quality that the Chinese produce. Our main priority is quality and cleanliness so we do constant laboratory testing for all our products – for heavy metals, aflatoxins, microbial quality and pesticides.Our Chaga comes wildcrafted from Siberian forests. Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake and Lion’s mane are grown in logs and cordyceps is fermented as the most studied CS-4 strain. All the mushrooms are then dual-extracted in both hot water and alcohol, concentrated, spray-dried and mixed with the herbs to be packed into the moisture-retaining individual packets that allow the product to be without any fillers or preservatives.About offering the products in a canister. We get that question every now and then and we will keep planning about it, but currently the products work the best in the way they are now. One big reason is the one I mentioned above, we’d have to keep the moisture out in some other way then. Also our goal is to offer people easy-to-use products. However we do offer some bulk-mushroom and -herbal mixes in 50gram bags – check them on our web store.Hope this information clarified some things! Let me know if any other questions come to mind.
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Update! Use code KRISTENSRAW for 10% off with Four Sigma (now known as Four Sigmatic).