Mushroom Magic: Riding The Fungi Revolution
Mushrooms have been used as medicine for thousands of years, and the West is finally catching up, as food writer Richard Cornish speaks to Ritua founder.
Practitioners of Chinese traditional medicine have prescribed teas and powders made from forest fungus for millennia. They understand the extracts from reishi, shiitake and cordyceps have positive effects on the human body.
Now people wanting a healthy, happy body and mind are turning to these ancient medicines to treat conditions, from stress and anxiety to poor sleep and lack of concentration.
One proponent of mushroom supplements is food scientist and nutritionist Jasmine Meagher, who is about to launch a new range of fungi-based ethical health products called Ritua.
“Mushrooms are a proven, effective way to improve our wellbeing, and they provide benefits in a variety of ways, from better sleep to brain health,” Jasmine says.
“I noticed during the Covid-19 lockdowns that people, especially younger people, were becoming more conscious about their health. They were also conscious of the quality of their health products and the ethics of what they were putting into their bodies.”
Jasmine also discovered that men, in particular, were looking for healthy supplements from natural and ethical sources.
Some of the most sought-after mushroom supplements come from a bracket fungus called reishi, a native of North Asian maple forests growing at the base of mature trees. It contains a series of potent compounds called triterpenes. These compounds have some profound effects on inflammation, blood sugar levels and sleep quality.
Then there are the amazing cordyceps, mushrooms that grow inside their insect host and shoot out when ready to spore. Cordyceps contain compounds that are anti-viral and anti-free radical, which can cause a decrease in the risk of some cancers.
A more commonly known kitchen variety of mushrooms is shitake. That is the Japanese name for this forest mushroom that lives on deadwood on the forest floor but is now grown in sheds on wood shavings. Delicious in a stir fry, it contains compounds that can be concentrated into powdered form and can help the immune system and help guard against some cancers.
For Jasmine to put these concentrated powders into capsules alongside other herbal supplements and claim they were good for you, she had to go to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This is the federal body that approves medicines for human use in Australia.
Her new Ritua line of mushroom-based supplements has been registered with the TGA.
She launches the first of her Ritua range at Naturally Good in Sydney on June 5-6. Named Sleep, the supplement is based on reishi mushrooms and has been developed to relieve tiredness, fatigue, feelings of weakness, and sleeplessness.
“Young working professionals are facing a lack of sleep, and that’s where my product idea sprouted from,” Jasmine says.
“A recent study by the Sleep Health Foundation found over 80 percent of young adults report poor sleep quality, with one in four suffering from chronic insomnias. Our first formula, named Sleep, will help busy people sleep better, deeper, and more effortlessly.”
After launching Sleep at Naturally Good, Jasmine will roll out two more mushroom-based functional supplements eight weeks later.
“One is called Focus and another is called Stress, both using reishi mushrooms and other herbs and extracts,” she says. “I am so excited about what help these products will bring to people.”
Mushroom supplements were valued at US$27 billion last year, and that figure is expected to more than double by the end of the decade.