Upon further inspection, I was pleasantly surprised by Four Sigmatic and their lineup of mushroom products. The Tim Ferriss Four Sigmatic recommendation obviously helped.
However, the medicinal mushroom industry is filled with poorly made products that will waste your money.
We decided to explore Four Sigma foods and their product line deeper to find out if they really have your best interests at heart or whether they’re over-hyped nonsense.
Mushroom Coffee: What Does it Do?
Mushroom coffee is about what you might expect from the name. It combines the focus and concentration benefits of coffee with the medicinal, anti-inflammatory benefits of medicinal mushrooms (such as chaga, reishi, and lion’s mane). We looked at the “Think” mushroom coffee mix.
The two main benefits of mushroom coffee are:
- Increased focus and concentration (caffeine, maybe rhodiola)
- Reduced inflammation, boosted immune health, improved nerve-growth, and cognition (medicinal mushrooms)
The first benefit of mushroom coffee is obviously caffeine, but the dosage matters (as with any supplement). With 40 mg of caffeine, the mushroom coffee has about 40 – 50% the caffeine of a cup of coffee.
Someone seeking caffeine in higher quantities might find this too low, but from our understanding, Four Sigmatic is trying to provide enough mental stimulation with caffeine without the anxiety, jitters, or crashing.
Most people would consider the caffeine to be a low dose, but if you are sensitive to caffeine (or have not used it in a while), it might be more stimulating.
In the video below (skip to 1:08 mark), Tim Ferriss mentions “If you want to light yourself up like a Christmas try…this will extremely impact your cognitive and mental state so I would suggest starting with a half-dose if you go for this…”
Either Tim Ferriss is over-stating the cognitive effects of Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee or he is truly that sensitive. We cannot stress enough that each person has unique biochemistry.
While the mushroom coffee mix from Four Sigmatic does include rhodiola root extract, there is no way to know the dosage. Furthermore, it is the last ingredient in a packet of 2500 mg so we do not suspect it is a high enough dose to produce mental stimulation (though there are other benefits).
The second component of the Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee are lion’s mane and chaga mushrooms. For those unfamiliar with the effects of these two mushroom extracts, there is ample scientific evidence and historical context.
Used for thousands of years, lion’s mane mushroom can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and depression according to a 4 week study on 30 participants . Most interestingly, lion’s mane research suggests benefits for preventing neurodegeneration and decline  and increase the expression of “nerve-growth factor” (NGF) in certain regions of the brain .
Chaga is more well-researched as a cancer-prevention and immune boosting medicinal mushroom. Chaga extract can reduce tumor cell growth  and reduce DNA damage by up to 40% (suggesting general anti-inflammatory and immune health) .
But there is one big caveat…
In order to reap the rewards of medicinal mushrooms, the extract must be made from fruiting bodies NOT mycelium.
Many brands claim to have all the medicinal mushrooms as Four Sigmatic, but use mycelium to create their extracts, which have little to no medicinal value. Let’s see how Four Sigmatic measures up.
Four Sigmatic: Fruiting Bodies vs. Mycelium
As a quick primer, every mushroom has multiple parts (think of them as body parts). Certain parts are filled with tons of nutrients and benefits while others are not.
When it comes to medicinal mushrooms, the value is in the fruiting body (primarily called beta-glucans). These are the little mushrooms we see on the trees, the ground, and they’re what we eat as well.
The mycelium is essentially the root of the mushroom buried within the tree or the ground. The picture is basic, but provides the essentials.
The problem is that 90% of medicinal mushroom products on the market are made from the mycelium rather than the fruiting bodies.
Here is “Amazon’s Choice” (i.e: one of the most popular sellers for lion’s mane). Note the ingredient deck:
And here’s the popular (and reputable) Now Foods brand with cordyceps mushroom:
The point is, even at the highest levels there is much confusion about these medicinal mushrooms. How does Four Sigmatic measure up?
From the Four Sigmatic website “We only use the fruiting bodies of Lion’s Mane, and they are grown on real wood…exactly as they would in the wild.”
It seems Four Sigmatic is one of the few medicinal mushroom companies that has a positive verdict when it comes to using the fruiting bodies as opposed to mycelium.
Four Sigmatic Mushroom Extraction
Some natural nootropics are extracted via unsafe chemical compounds (for financial gain). It would make sense that the more a company can extract (using whatever chemical they can), the more money they’ll make. Unfortunately, many of these extractions leave chemical residue in the product.
Four Sigmatic also goes to great lengths with their dual extraction process. While they aren’t the only brand in the world using dual-extraction, their methodology is sound. They simply extract the beta-glucans via water and alcohol and provide consumers with a safer product.
Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee vs. Extract Capsules
While Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee is made with real fruiting bodies, another hurdle as a consumer is whether the product is filled with adequate doses.
The mushroom coffee box has no nutrition facts, but online shows 250 mg Siberian chaga mushroom and 250 mg of lion’s mane mushroom. At around 15% beta-glucans, this dose is somewhat low.
Consider that 500 – 1000 mg of lion’s mane mushroom with 20% beta-glucans is an adequate dose, the mushroom coffee mix falls short.
In contrast, the Four Sigmatic lion’s mane elixir includes 1500 mg of lion’s mane extract at 15% beta-glucans, which is right on point (adequate dosage).
While a Four Sigmatic review suggests some products are lacking in medicinal mushroom dosage, it is within an acceptable range.
Price wise, the Four Sigmatic products are a little more expensive, but they have developed some brilliant tasting products that are as pleasurable as they are helpful for your health.
Mushroom Coffee: How Does it Taste?
Be honest. If you’ve never tried mushroom coffee or medicinal mushrooms, it probably doesn’t sound appealing to taste.
My girlfriend and I had a surprisingly positive experience. Not only does Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee form the base of her Bulletproof coffee, but she drinks it routinely and often finishes the box (much to my dismay).
The taste is unique. We have both likened the taste to burnt toast, which does not sound appealing, but is actually quite delicious. If you’re hesitant because of the taste, I’d bet you will like it if you take the plunge. Alternatively, there are better tasting nootropic drinks to choose from.
Other Four Sigmatic Products
There are a wide range of Four Sigmatic products and many have their own merits. As we have mentioned above, while the mushroom coffee may have had smaller doses of medicinal mushrooms than we would have liked, the Lion’s Mane Elixir was spot on.
The other two products we have had the privilege of trying include this Lion’s Mane Elixir and the mushroom lemonade mix.
Despite an aromatic and savory smell, the Lion’s Mane Elixir is delicious (especially when fasting!). We were not huge fans of the lemonade mix, but a few tweaks might make that a refreshingly tart, healthy beverage.
What to Combine with Mushroom Coffee
The Four Sigmatic products are great stand alone options that promote modest stimulation and other cognitive benefits. The point of taking these drinks is definitely not to create a high productivity working state unless you add it with other products. Some people may experience everything they need from mushroom blends, but most will not.
For people that utilize natural nootropic options (one reason people love medicinal mushrooms so much), there are Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese herbs that can go alongside Four Sigmatic products. These include things like bacopa, holy basil, gotu kola, and ashwagandha. People willing to get a little more outside the box can opt for piracetam (the one that started the nootropic craze in the 1960s) or the cousin drugs aniracetam, oxiracetam, and phenylpiracetam.
There is little risk involved if you are taking unique blends like Qualia, Mind Lab Pro, or OptiMind, but be conscious that some of these products already use medicinal mushrooms of some sort. Stimulants like modafinil (and cousins adrafinil and armodafinil) may end up being overly stimulating, but if you like the taste of Four Sigmatic products and want some other nootropics for stimulant purposes, those are fine.
The Final Verdict: Four Sigmatic
Beyond the product itself, it’s worthwhile to zoom out and review Four Sigmatic as a whole. The founders hail from Finland where medicinal mushrooms are a traditional part of culture and ubiquitous in that part of the world.
The Finnish “funguys” (ha) have even created the “Mushroom Academy” to allow beginners to learn more about medicinal mushrooms and their effects.
For any nootropic enthusiast or biohacker interested in cognitive enhancement, Four Sigmatic products are well worth it. They may not be cutting edge or Limitless pills, but they are both mentally stimulating and (more importantly) highly pleasurable.
Nootropedia Disclaimer: While we support psychedelic science and support usage of entheogens like ayahuasca (DMT) and psilocybin, it is recommended to avoid using other substances such as medicinal mushrooms alongside them. We do not recommend using them together.