If you spend enough in the various corners of the wellness world, it won’t be too long before you stumble upon mushroom coffee. This is a kind of coffee that combines traditional coffee beans with medicinal mushrooms like lion’s mane and chaga to bring benefits that (according to most mushroom coffee brands) you don’t get with regular coffee, such as increased mental clarity and physical energy. In a test of mushroom coffee, I—along with my husband and a friend who I roped into testing with me—tried a lot of options, including La Republica, Rasa, and Ryze. Our favorite ended up being one from the most popular brands in the (surprisingly competitive) caffeinated fungus drink market: Four Sigmatic’s Instant Mushroom Coffee with Lion’s Mane.
- What Is Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee?
- What Does Four Sigmatic Claim Its Lion’s Mane Coffee Can Do?
- What Does Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Coffee Actually Do?
- What We Like About Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Coffee
- What We Don’t Like About Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Coffee
- Is Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Coffee Worth It?
Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with Lion’s Mane
- Conains lion’s mane, chaga, and rhodiola
- Half the caffeine as a regular cup of coffee
- Comes with 10 single-serve packets
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- Delicious taste
- Easy to brew
- Variety of options available
- Doesn’t contain as many mushrooms as some other brands
What Is Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee?
Four Sigmatic first launched in Finland in 2012, and landed in the U.S (in L.A., obviously) in 2015. The brand’s founder was inspired by the stories of his grandparents brewing mushrooms during World War II when they couldn’t get coffee. A “sigma” refers to how far something is from the average, and Four Sigmatic aims to live up to this definition by focusing on products that contain the most nutrient-dense foods. The brand purports that everything it sells is “four degrees beyond average” when it comes to nutrition—a claim that’s tough to verify but is definitely an admirable goal.
Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffees are among the most highly rated mushroom brews you can buy. I tried (and loved) the Four Sigmatic Instant Mushroom Coffee with Lion’s Mane. I was able to name it best overall largely because it tastes really damn good, contains medicinal mushrooms that have solid nutritional benefits, and is easy to brew. (It’s instant coffee, so all you have to do is mix it with hot water.) It also checked off enough evidence-based boxes for us to classify it as “healthy,” especially for people who already drink coffee. It costs $15 for 10 servings or $12 for 10 servings with a monthly subscription.
I haven’t tested other Four Sigmatic brews, but you can buy them with other mushrooms like reishi, cordyceps, and chaga, plus an assortment of added vitamins. In addition to instant coffee, Four Sigmatic sells grounds that can be brewed in a French press or regular coffee maker. You can also opt for non-caffeinated protein and cacao drinks.
What Does Four Sigmatic Claim Its Lion’s Mane Coffee Can Do?
Four Sigmatic claims its Instant Mushroom Coffee with Lion’s Mane will wake you up and help you focus without the typical jitteriness of a standard cup of coffee. Each packet of instant coffee, which is enough for one cup, includes 250 milligrams of lion’s mane mushrooms and 250 milligrams of chaga mushrooms. In a 2013 study, researchers found that Antioxidants (Basel) “Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. Suppresses H2O2-Induced Oxidative Damage and LPS-Induced Inflammation in HT22 Hippocampal Neurons and BV2 Microglia” View Source has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that potentially reduce oxidative damage, which may protect you from developing neurodegenerative diseases. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center “Chaga Mushroom” View Source has been linked to improved immune function and reduced inflammation in studies done with mice. There’s also some NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health “Rhodiola” View Source in there (Four Sigmatic doesn’t say how much), which is a supplement that may Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment “Rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms: Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial” View Source and Complementary Medical Research “Rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms: Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial” View Source , though more research is needed to confirm these findings.
Each packet also contains 50 milligrams of caffeine, about half of the amount of a regular cup of coffee.
What Does Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Coffee Actually Do?
While testing this coffee, I found that the lion’s mane brew lived up to most of its purported benefits. Because it’s a half-caf option, we didn’t feel those typical jitters that come with a morning cup of Joe. And it tasted good, too, which isn’t the case with all mushroom coffees.
In addition to the potential benefits of chaga and lion’s mane, consuming moderate amounts of caffeine can be beneficial. An umbrella review of meta-analyses of the health impacts of coffee consumption found that it was BMJ “Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes” View Source —consumption was linked to a lower risk of some cancers and neurological, metabolic, and liver conditions. On the harmful side, coffee consumption was associated with lower birth weight and higher risk of pregnancy loss and bone fractures in women.
Studies have also shown a lower risk of American Heart Association Journals “Association Between Coffee Intake and Incident Heart Failure Risk” View Source in people who consume high amounts of caffeine, or about three to five cups a day. However, Mayo Clinic “Caffeine: How much is too much?” View Source (more than 400 milligrams a day, or about four cups) can also cause headaches, insomnia, muscle tremors, increased heart rate, and a sense of nervousness and irritability. Your own mileage may vary depending on your typical caffeine tolerance.
I wasn’t jittery, but I also didn’t feel extra focused (beyond my daily norm), despite the brand’s claims. There also isn’t much evidence that mushroom coffee provides energy or focus you can’t get in a regular cup of coffee—we found one study that cites BioMed Research International “Antifatigue Functions and Mechanisms of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms ” View Source , but more study is needed to say for sure. Instead, the Four Sigmatic coffee simply provided a way to maintain a normal coffee routine with fewer jitters and more potential immune benefits. I’ll take it.
What We Like About Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Coffee
My fellow testers and I found that Four Sigmatic’s Instant Mushroom Coffee with Lion’s Mane had the best taste of all the coffees we tried. Some brands were too herbal, while others tasted oddly chemical. Four Sigmatic’s coffee tasted more robust than the other coffees I tested, and the taste has a chocolate-y quality. So while it’s less full-bodied than a typical cup of French press option, it still satisfies that coffee craving. Because this version is instant, it tastes a bit thin. (Think camping coffee, if you’ve ever been camping. If not, just imagine a decent, if slightly watery, cup of coffee.)
We also liked that compared to other brands, Four Sigmatic is transparent about the amount of caffeine and percentage of mushrooms present in its brews. And unlike some of the other options, which lacked in the area of providing clear brewing directions, Four Sigmatic’s instant coffee was as easy as adding grounds to hot water. Though pricier than a standard bag of coffee, its price is also much less expensive than buying a daily cup of coffee, and comparable to the other brands in the mushroom coffee space. Four Sigmatic’s variety appealed to me too. I like the idea of hopping around different mushroom options and brew styles while knowing the Lion’s Mane version is always safe bet, taste-wise.
Finally, all Four Sigmatic products are Fair Trade Certified “What does fair trade certification mean?” View Source , meaning its ingredients are sourced in a more ethical way than brands without the Fair Trade seal. (Only one other brand we tested, La Republica, also has Fair Trade certification.)
What We Don’t Like About Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Coffee
One thing gave me pause (a big one) about Four Sigmatic: the Proposition 65 warning label that appears on all its products. The label states: “Consuming this product could expose you to chemicals including lead which is known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
However, this label doesn’t mean that lead is definitely in the mushroom coffee. (Which would, needless to say, negate its purported immune benefits.) It’s a common, albeit alarming, label that does not always indicate high risk; lead exposure comes from many different sources. In Four Sigmatic’s case, some mushrooms may have been exposed to lead, but the risk is no higher than consuming other mushroom-based products. The warning label is a California state requirement, not an indication of a high-risk product. However, certain populations, like pregnant people, should be aware of these risks and take extra caution.
Finally, though we think Four Sigmatic’s Lion’s Mane coffee is generally healthy for most people, don’t go overboard with the stuff. We recommend letting your doctor know if you start taking it. As with most supplements, there’s no recommended daily allowance for lion’s mane or chaga from a federal regulatory organization such as the FDA or CDC, so it’s important to pay attention to how it makes you feel in combination with your usual diet and lifestyle (and stop your consumption if you notice any ill effects).
Journal of Korean Medical Science “Development of End Stage Renal Disease after Long-Term Ingestion of Chaga Mushroom: Case Report and Review of Literature” View Source , for instance, contains a high quantity of University of Michigan Health “Foods High in Oxalate” View Source , a natural compound found in a wide variety of foods that can lead to renal failure if consumed in excess. If you’re adding anything with chaga—including this Four Sigmatic coffee—into your diet, do it gradually and don’t drink more than the serving size, especially if you eat a lot of other oxalate-rich foods such as beans, nuts, chocolate, and spinach.
Is Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Coffee Worth It?
In my experience, buying and consuming Lion’s Mane Coffee from Four Sigmatic is, in fact, worthwhile. Good taste, good ethics, easy brewing, and beneficial mushrooms lead to a coffee experience that—while different from a typical cup of coffee—is no less satisfying, even in instant form. Research led us to conclude that mushroom coffee can be considered healthy for most people (especially those who already consume caffeine, and may be looking to reduce their intake). Preliminary research in peer-reviewed studies shows that some health benefits should come forth in the short term.
So if you’re in search of a new way to start your day (because, lord knows, we all need some good vibes), snag a packet of Four Sigmatic’s instant Lion’s Mane brew. You’ll get a bit of caffeine to support your daily routine with a side of potential health benefits. What’s not to love?
- Antioxidant properties of lion’s mane: Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. Suppresses H2O2-Induced Oxidative Damage and LPS-Induced Inflammation in HT22 Hippocampal Neurons and BV2 Microglia (Antioxidants [Basel], August 2019)
- Benefits of chaga: Chaga Mushrooms (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)
- Rhodiola may help with stress symptoms: “Multicenter, open-label, exploratory clinical trial with Rhodiola rosea extract in patients suffering from burnout symptoms” (Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, March 2017 )
- Rhodiola may help with chronic fatigue: “Rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms: Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial” (Complementary Medicine Research, 2017)
- Caffeine is more often associated with benefit than harm: “Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes” (BMJ, November 2017)
- High caffeine intake may lower the risk of heart failure: “Association Between Coffee Intake and Incident Heart Failure Risk” (American Heart Association Journals, February 2021)
- Medicinal mushrooms may help neural function: “Neuronal Health—Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help?” (Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine January-March 2013)
- Side effects of high caffeine consumption: Caffeine: How much is too much? (Mayo Clinic)
- Chaga contains high amounts of oxalate: Development of End Stage Renal Disease after Long-Term Ingestion of Chaga Mushroom: Case Report and Review of Literature (Journal of Korean Medical Science, May 2020)
- High-oxalate foods: Foods High in Oxalate (University of Michigan Health)
- Potential antifatigue function of medicinal mushrooms: “Antifatigue Functions and Mechanisms of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms” (BioMed Research International, August 2017)
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