by Alyssa Leavy | Zoom Out Mycology
Why you should be sipping our carefully curated selection of teas all year long...
Image credit: Bashira Muhammad / Zoom Out Mycology
The fungus kingdom contains a wealth of diversity that humans have tapped into for thousands of years. The fruiting reproductive bodies of mycelium, i.e. mushrooms, serve many functions - as ingredients in our favorite dishes, as psychoactive substances, delicious tea, and medicine. However, the medicinal benefits of mushrooms are not exclusive to refined compounds found in pills and creams; you can improve your health by incorporating the right mushrooms into your diet. Whether or not you’re someone who brews a cuppa every chance you get (like yours truly), it could be time to make a routine of savoring these flavorful brews. Here at Zoom Out Mycology, we have four varieties of loose leaf teas that bring mushrooms into the mix, or nix tea leaves altogether. The result is earthy blends for every season with health incentives well worth the walk on the wild side.
Zoom Out has harnessed the power of three hearty mushrooms for our fungi fans. As Western research catches up to traditional Eastern medicine, more studies are backing beliefs about immunostimulation, antioxidant, anti aging and even anticancer properties (Researchgate). The potential health benefits of our teas are summarized in the table below. Read on to delve further into our blends and mycological heros, reishi, lion's mane, and maitake, to explore the magic within!
Image Credit: Alyssa Leavy / Zoom Out Mycology
Reishi Red & Reishi Rose
Photo Credits: Bashira Muhammad / Zoom Out Mycology
Meet the twins, Red and Rose, whose origin story begins with the red reishi (pr. rā·shē) mushroom. Both have zesty personalities (thanks to dried lemon peel) and being the feminine ladies they are, also feature floral notes; Red borrows from the hibiscus and Rose is flush with dried rose petals and rose hips. Ginger lends Red a serious zing, while Rose is the more mellow of the two. Let me weave you a tale about why these beauties are your perfect summer companions...
Photo Credit: Healthista
Red Reishi / Ganoderma lucidum / Ling Zhi aka “The Mushroom of Immortality”
Reishi, primarily hailed as an immune-booster, is used as a complement to conventional treatments for HIV and AIDS, infections, and cancer. As an anti-inflammatory it is used as a replacement for, or in conjunction with, medications for high blood pressure and to reduce inflammation (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center5). It has antioxidant properties and can also be used to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, asthma, and insomnia (GuerillaZen Fitness6, Green Blender7 & Organic Facts8). Studies have linked reishi mushrooms to liver regeneration and degenerative disorders like Alzheimer's (Green Blender7), making this is one kickass mushroom!
Research on reishi mushrooms is promising, but still ongoing. Based on the strength of current results, I suspect more research will be commissioned and continute to support the claims of traditional medicine. To get the most from these stubborn shrooms, the best way to consume them as a heady infusion or in powdered form (GuerillaZen Fitness5).
Lemon (Reishi Red & Reishi Rose)
Although reishi is the star, lemon peel brings more than just citrus flavor. Lemons peels contain vitamin C, which promotes the biosynthesis of collagen, an essential part of connective tissue. Healthy connective tissue supports the wound healing process and keeps us looking young.
Particularly vital with vegan and vegetarian diets, vitamin C improves the absorption of plant-based iron, protecting against anemia and scurvy. Lemon peels also contain calcium, which helps fight bone disorders, like osteoporosis and arthritis (Mind Body Green). Additional research is being done into whether vitamin C can bolster defenses against the development of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease (NIH). Pour me another cup!
Hibiscus (Reishi Red)
The hibiscus flower’s medicinal properties are not well established, but studies have shown a link between regularly consuming hibiscus tea and managing or lowering blood pressure in pre- or mildly hypertensive adults. It also lowers the LDL (low-density lipid) levels in the blood, cutting down bad cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease (Organic Facts).
Ginger (Reishi Red)
Ginger packs a punch with its piquant flavor and healing properties. This powerful root can be used to soothe an upset stomach, ease nausea, or induce sweating to lower the body’s temperature in fever conditions (BBC Good Food). As a diaphoretic, ginger tea is a reliable travel buddy in bitter winter months and adds to the versatility and seasonality of our Lady in Red.
Rose hips (Reishi Rose)
Consuming rose petals can aid weight loss, act as an aphrodisiac, and can soothe, soften and tone skin. Not to mention the smell of roses can ease depression and anxiety (The Health Site). So if you're not in the mood for a cup, just crack open the box to stop and smell the roses on a grey day.
Photo Credits (clockwise from top right): Lemon peel: FitLife, Ginger: Deliciously Plated, Rose: Fir0002 / Flagstaffotos, Rose hip: Frank Vincentz / Wikimedia, Hibiscus: Alyssa Leavy / Zoom Out Mycology at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
Photo Credit: Bashira Muhammad / Zoom Out Mycology
Welcome Berry to the bunch, the brains of this warm-hearted family. Our nerdy younger brother who harnesses the power of the lion’s mane, blueberries, elderberries, ginger, and hibiscus to promote overall brain health. This zippy infusion is a positive way to start your day!
Lion’s Mane / Hericium erinaceus / Hedgehog Mushroom
The lion’s mane mushroom has the ability to stimulate the synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF), which is necessary for nerve cell survival. Increased levels of NGF can protect the brain against degenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s (Herbs List). This kingly mushroom improves cognitive function, focus, attention, and memory and can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression (Health Benefits Times). Although I’m a little dubious about claims that it increases intelligence, I’m investigating a morning medley of Berry Brain.
Blueberries, which are rich in the polyphenol anthocyanin, have the potential to fight cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, aging, and degeneration of nerve cells (Life Extension). These benefits have made blueberries of particular interest to scientists attempting to prevent, slow, and even reverse diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's. In terms of cranial gains, studies have found that the flavonoids in blueberries improve cognitive function, blood flow to the brain, activation of the brain during cognitive tests, and working memory (Science Daily).
Elderberries bring antioxidants, vitamins A, B, and C, and amino acids into the fold, charging your immune system. An extract in elderberries, Sambucol, might help treat cold and flu symptoms, making this fruity concoction a year-round staple. Elderberry may also aid in weight loss by lowering fat percentage and blood pressure (Natural Alternative Remedy).
Photo Credits (clockwise from top right): Hibiscus: Alyssa Leavy / Zoom Out Mycology at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Elderberry: Activist Post, Blueberry: The Educator's Spin On It, Lion’s Mane: Health Benefits Times, Ginger: Deliciously Plated
Ginger’s effect on the digestive system is well known, but a 2012 study revealed that daily doses of ginger lead to significant improvements in four key brain functions: power of attention, accuracy of attention, speed of memory, and quality of memory (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine).
In addition to the benefits mentioned previously, a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) concluded that Hibiscus rosa sinensis helps prevent oxidative stress and biochemical changes in the brain. The mechanism through which this occurs suggests hibiscus extract can protect the brain in states of cerebrovascular insufficiency and dementia (NCBI).
Click here to add Berry Brain to your morning routine!
Photo Credit: Bashira Muhammad / Zoom Out Mycology
Maitake Mint will make a vibrant addition to your brunch crew. This “powder keg” could balance blood sugar levels, preventing energy peaks (and troughs), promote digestion, leave your breath minty fresh, and give you a boost of energy with a dose of caffeine. Buon giorno!
Maitake / Grifola frandosa / Hen of the Woods
Maitake mushrooms contain a polysaccharide, D-Fraction, that stimulates a natural immune response through the activation of natural killer cells, which attack infected cells (Science Direct). By promoting our natural immune response, D-Fraction helps protect against infected and cancerous cells. Maitake also has alpha-glucosidase inhibitors. These inhibitors slow the breakdown of starch and simple sugars, slowing the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This property makes maitake a valuable tool in the fight against diabetes (Wild Foodism).
Gunpowder Green Tea
“Gunpowder” or pearl tea is created when tea leaves are rolled into small pellets that unfurl as they steep. This method improves storage time and flavor retention, although this tea is too tasty to sit on your shelf! Green tea contains antioxidants and can lower cholesterol and blood pressure and stabilize blood sugar. In addition, green tea helps prevent tooth decay and serves as a weight loss aid. (Learn About Tea).
Photo Credits (clockwise from top right): Maitake: Novo Herb, Fennel: Photography Blog, Gunpowder Green Tea: JK Tea Shop, Peppermint: Shutterstock
Peppermint is known to ease an upset digestive system, including irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, colic, and nausea. This herb can also mitigate respiratory issues like asthma and colds by acting as an expectorant and decongestant and reducing inflammation-causing chemicals. Peppermint even acts as a remedy for headaches, muscle pains, and stress (Mercola).
Fennel treats indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea; protects against heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure; improves brain function; and regulates menstruation. For readers enjoying a plant-based diet, it’s an excellent supplement to prevent anemia since it has iron and the amino acid histidine, which stimulates the production of hemoglobin (Organic Facts). Definitely a win-win!
Click here to stock up on this classic.
How to Enjoy Your Tea
For the warmer months, refreshing cold brews are the way to go; in chillier weather, there's nothing like a bracing cup of tea. For cold brew, you can small batch your tea by steeping it overnight in a French press. Keep your press in the fridge instead of on your counter to discourage any undesirable microbial growth; it gives off a distinctive, sour taste. If you’re frozen to the bone in an air-conditioned office, opt for a revitalizing, toasty elixir. Our teas should be brewed below boiling (between 200-215℉) for about an hour to obtain the full benefits. To avoid a lukewarm cup of tea, add enough water to cover your infuser, let your tea steep for an hour, and then top it off with hot water. Another option is to steep your tea in an insulated stainless steel bottle and strain it into your coolest mug.
Top Row Alyssa Leavy / Zoom Out Mycology, Bashira Muhammad / Zoom Out Mycology
Middle Row Adagio Teas, Bashira Muhammad / Zoom Out Mycology
Bottom Row Alyssa Leavy / Zoom Out Mycology, Bashira Muhammad / Zoom Out Mycology
Brewing in Style
Loose leaf tea is an eco-friendly way to enjoy your favorite beverage. We ship all goods in recycled boxes and nestle our tea into reusable metal tins. Since tea bags typically can’t be composted, sticking to loose leaf cuts back on unnecessary waste and maximizes your composting capabilities. If you need any more convincing, loose leaf tea is typically of higher quality since it doesn't hide pulverized, lackluster ingredients in an opaque bag. To brew your own loose leaf tea, just add a tablespoon (or a large pinch) to your infuser. You can go the practical route with a metal infuser or bring someone adorable home like Sam the Sloth.
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FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) DISCLOSURE - These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are for educational purposes only. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
And don’t forget, we love hearing from our readers! Please drop us a line about what you’re digging, what we can improve, and which blends you’d love to try.
About the Author
Alyssa Leavy graduated from Lehigh University's bioengineering program with a concentration in pharmaceuticals in 2012. Since then she has pursued her passion for renewable fuels at a biodiesel plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In her free time she enjoys gardening in her NYC apartment, acting as sous chef to her fiance, and speaking entirely in Simpsons quotes.
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