Are Mushrooms the New Multivitamin?
Spore aims to help with daily needs like energy, focus and a good night’s sleep
When most people think of mushrooms, their mind goes one of two ways: a delicious and varied food source that adds flavor and umami to any dish, or a psychedelic drug that adds flavor and umami to any experience.
But there’s a different use case that’s drawing more and more consumers toward the shroom: that of the health supplement. This isn’t exactly a novel, new method. Indigenous peoples from North America to East Asia have been harnessing the medicinal power of the mushroom for thousands of years. But in the contemporary Western world, its therapeutic use is relatively new beyond the hippies and alternative-medicine crowds you would assume to be taking mushroom supplements.
GQ wrote about it in 2018. In 2019, The Guardian took a look at the industry. Goop is obviously all over the trend. And they are all on to something — a track record thousands of years long can’t be all pseudoscience and hype. You may be familiar with Four Sigmatic, a startup that makes mushroom-based coffee to work the values of fungus into your daily routine. Another recently launched startup, Spore, is looking to do the same thing, but in capsule form.
None of this is particularly groundbreaking; if you search mushroom supplements on Amazon, you’ll be hit with an unending array of generic brands selling powders and pills derived from all the popular varieties: Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Ashwaganda, Cordyceps.
“The market is currently pretty cluttered with generic supplements and brands with one main ingredient. We really wanted to focus on the power of the ‘functional’ mushroom, and given that mushrooms have a diverse nutritional profile, each offers a range of benefits in complement with the others.” says Spore co-Founder Mike Zavet.
A serial entrepreneur involved in both the crypto and cannabis space in his native Canada, Zavet turned to mushrooms after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He set about searching for medicinal and holistic help and eventually found his way to the mushroom kingdom after watching the documentary Fantastic Fungi. He dove deep into researching and experimenting with functional mushrooms, and before long found combinations that gave him better relief than most other treatments he had been trying.
Zavet says his regimen helped him deal with some of the symptoms of MS he was experiencing, like fatigue, brain fog and trouble sleeping. They also helped him with his new immune vulnerability.
“I wanted to share them with the world, because I truly believe that mushrooms will help people. In addition to the growing movement of prevention over treatment, functional mushrooms are perfect for that person looking to live a healthy lifestyle” he says.
In 2019 Spore launched with five base products:
- Mike’s Mushroom Mix: A sort of everyday multivitamin
- Energy Performance: For increased and crashless energy
- Focus Performance: For cognitive support
- Protect + Defend: For immune support
- Chill Out: A relaxant and sleeping aid
One noticeable difference between Spore and most other available mushroom pills and powders is that they don’t offer products from individual strains of mushrooms (e.g., Lion’s Mane capsules or Chaga powder). Every product features a complex mix that was refined over many trials to get the perfect combination of functional mushrooms and other natural ingredients (green tea, chamomile, etc.). The purpose of this is twofold: it delivers, in Zavet’s opinion, the best and most functional product for consumers, and it also opens up the products to a larger market by telling consumers what the product does rather than what it is.
The main question, though, is do they work? The effects of offerings like Mike’s Mushroom Mix or Protect + Defend are tricky to suss out over the course of a month or two. Are you getting sick less because your immune system has improved from the mushrooms, or just because this is a two-month stretch where you haven’t gotten sick? Do you generally feel better because of the multivitamin-esque claims of Mike’s Mushroom Mix, or are there other factors involved (eating better, sleeping better, drinking less, etc.)? It’s a bit difficult to parse where placebo effect ends and legitimate benefits begin.
However, the other three pills – Energy, Focus, Chill – all made a noticeable difference in my day-to-day interactions with the world. Energy and Performance don’t feel all that different, but both offer a discernible boost after taking them. It’s a bit like taking a shot of espresso: you know when it kicks in, but it’s never overwhelming or jitter-inducing. The Chill Out product also works. Because it is meant to be soporific, its effects are more subtle. But it makes getting to sleep after a stressful day a little bit easier, offering that little nudge into a drowsier state we often take for granted.
“A lot of the ailments that we target we knew we could target, in that there were supporting claims for them,” Zavet tells me when I ask about the science behind the pills, and sure enough, a quick Google search on the efficacy of functional mushrooms turns up dozens of peer-reviewed studies. They can serve as a defensive health and immune booster for those looking to proactively prevent illness, a tool to help throttle up or slow down energy levels, and even a one-size-fits-all solution for people who have struggled to find reliable remedies for ongoing health issues.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that while some scientific studies done have shown mushrooms can have specific effects on the human body, that doesn’t always mean that will be the case for your body. Just like any other supplement or medicine, Spore will have a different impact on different people. It’s not a panacea, but it’s also not smoke and mirrors — there is real value to be had for most folks willing to give it a try.
Nota bene: InsideHook readers can currently get 15% off all Spore products by using the code INSIDEHOOK15 at checkout.
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