Four Sigmatic Review – What Tim Ferriss Didn’t Say About Mushroom Coffee

As a mushroom lover of all kinds, hearing the term “mushroom coffee” for the first time was music to my ears.

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:

  1. Increased focus and concentration (caffeine, maybe rhodiola)
  2. 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 [1]. Most interestingly, lion’s mane research suggests benefits for preventing neurodegeneration and decline [2] and increase the expression of “nerve-growth factor” (NGF) in certain regions of the brain [3].

Chaga is more well-researched as a cancer-prevention and immune boosting medicinal mushroom. Chaga extract can reduce tumor cell growth [4] and reduce DNA damage by up to 40% (suggesting general anti-inflammatory and immune health) [5].

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:

four sigmatic

And here’s the popular (and reputable) Now Foods brand with cordyceps mushroom:

mushroom coffee

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.

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.

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.

For the same reason I enjoy a warm cup of lemon balm or kava tea, I also prefer a warm cup of mushroom coffee. The flavors, aromas, and social nature make it a cornerstone of any person’s routine.

References (Click to Expand)
  1. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20834180
  2. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18844328
  3. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18758067
  4. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22135889
  5. //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15630179

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  • Jim

    You wrote: “In order to reap the rewards of medicinal mushrooms, the extract must be made from fruiting bodies NOT mycelium.”

    Yet, Paul Stamets at Fungi Perfecti uses mycelium in his chaga and lion’s mane products.

    “Host Defense Chaga uses activated, freeze-dried, Certified Organic
    mycelium”

    “Host Defense Lion’s Mane uses activated, freeze-dried, Certified Organic mycelium”

    • Mansal Denton

      Hi Jim,

      Exactly! That’s the big problem of the industry 🙁 Even a lot of the great companies that produce other high quality ingredients have poor quality medicinal mushrooms.

      Good luck!

  • Loni Jean

    Why would 90% of the industry now use mycelium if it was worthless? This common miss information is perpetuated by companies that import frutbodies from Asia and now have serious competition since mycelium is much more sustainable and can be grown in clean labs on a much more local level. Mushrooms can hyper-accumulate toxins and radiation from the environment, organic sources are of upmost importance.

    There is abundant research on the beneficial properties of mycelium. I encourage you to use Google Scholar and or PubMed.gov if you’re interested in researching mycelium. Come to your own informed decision!

    //mushroomreferences.com/ is an excellent online resource with a wealth of information on mycelium!

    • Mansal Denton

      Hi Loni,

      Mycelium is not worthless, but it is a very small percentage beta-glucans compared with the fruiting bodies. The biggest problem is that most U.S. growers try to cut costs by using mycelium and then to make it worse, they grow on rice. The final product thus has rice byproducts that are unuseful and (some might say unhealthy).

      Regarding growing in China, there is no problem with another country especially when there are FDA regulated farms and factories. Quality is quality and due to globalization forces, the quality is the same from many Chinese manufacturers who have cheaper labor.

      Good reply and info!

  • Mansal Denton

    Hi Jim, let me specify. I think it was unclear from my post and my comment.

    The mycelium isn’t “bad” per se, but 9 out of 10 businesses are making many problems. I’m not knowledgeable enough to say Paul Stamets is wrong (and he probably is not).

    Mycelium has lower beta-glucans than the fruiting bodies. This usually means companies touting 500 mg of cordyceps (for example) aren’t providing much of the active ingredient.

    Second, the mycelium is usually grown on cheap grain, which leaves byproducts and is essentially laziness / cheapness on the producers part.

    All of that being said, mycelium grown in a sustainable way (not on grain) and provided in a high enough dose (so as to get the right beta-glucan amount) is probably of as good of a quality as any of the few fruiting body based companies.

    Hope that clarifies my meaning and with your thoughtful comments, I will be making some edits to my language in the article itself. Thanks for your input 🙂