Mushrooms have become a buzzword in the last year or so. Whether it's from the tremendous movement to decriminalize them, wonderful documentaries like Fantastic Fungi, or just westerners catching up with ancient wisdom, mushrooms have started to weave their magic into our lives. In starting Umbo, a functional mushroom company, we've learned that even with all the buzz, the level of knowledge about mushrooms is still fairly low. When I offer someone any of our products, 95% of people ask, “But will they get me high?” says Jake Plummer, former NFL quarterback and Umbo co-founder. Just like with CBD, there is a lot of education still needed.
We here at Umbo offer a new way of thinking about the categories of the fungi kingdom. There are three categories: Gourmet, functional, and medicinal.
Of course, this is an over-simplification. No single mushroom is solely restricted to any given category. Mushrooms are some of the most complex organisms in the world. No one puts mushrooms in a corner — but we’re going to try to put them in the same dance room, at least.
Gourmet mushrooms are the mushrooms we cook with and eat regularly as food. Think mushroom pizza, portobello burger, or your basic button mushroom in the produce department of your favorite grocery store. While these may have made you cringe back in the day, cooking has evolved by leaps and bounds in the last twenty years! Chefs are incorporating all kinds of gourmet mushrooms into delectable dishes and the trend will only continue to grow. Mushrooms are the one of the best sources of complex vitamins and minerals, and are actually the only decent non-animal source of vitamin D, a vitamin many people are deficient in. Portobello, white button, and crimini are some common gourmet mushrooms
Umbo was founded to help people take their health back into their own hands. Functional mushrooms have been used since ancient times as a natural way to do exactly that. Cordyceps, for example, have been used in Asia for thousands of years, and are linked to respiratory and cardiovascular health. Lion's Mane holds promise for improving cognitive function. Turkey Tail is full of fiber, which supports probiotics and a healthy gut biome. Reishi, also known as the mushroom of immortality, has been used for relaxation and calming for centuries. These mushrooms tend to require an extraction method to break down the chitin (a fibrous substance that makes up fungi cell walls) to make the beneficial properties more available and usable by our bodies. Umbo's products are rich in these beneficial functional mushrooms. Lion's Mane, Reishi, Cordyceps, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail all fall in the category of functional mushrooms.
As the legal landscape evolves and conversations around psilocybin grow in volume, we believe psilocybin mushrooms should and will be referred to as medicinal mushrooms. While we live by the fact that food is medicine, and we certainly believe in the medicinal benefits of functional mushrooms, we also believe that mushrooms containing psilocybin will, in the future, be referred to as medicinal mushrooms in western culture. As people begin to learn more about the healing potential of psilocybin mushrooms and experience the benefits for themselves, it will revolutionize our medical system, fundamentally changing our conception of mushrooms as medicine.
These categories are never final, of course, especially since so many of these mushrooms can fall into more than one category. For example, Lion's Mane is phenomenal as a meat substitute (Rashad insists it tastes just like lobster, but better), contains compounds such as herinaciums that may prove to become prescribed medicine for diseases like Alzheimer or Parkinson disease, and work super well as a daily nutritional supplement! We hope these categories help steer conversation and education about mushrooms. And more than anything, we hope when people share mushroom products with friends and family, their knee-jerk reaction won’t be the question, "Will these get me high?"
If you want to introduce functional mushrooms into your diet. Check out our lineup.