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

Author

Nootropedia provides research-driven and accessible nootropics information. Don’t be in the dark about nootropics.
  • 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!

      • David Stoner

        In China mycelium products are usually cultivated in liquid, meaning ZERO contamination by starch and other useless biomass. US producers are playing the nationalistic fiddle with claims such as ‘Contains NO chinese ingredients!!’ the subtext being ‘Chinese products are all bad’ to survive. Pathetic IMO.

        See this clear and pragmatic article about what to look for when purchasing a mushroom supplement: //oriveda.wordpress.com/what-you-should-know-before-buying-mushroom-supplements/

        NB – Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee contains zero carbs according to their label. Yet the active ingredients in mushrooms are beta-glucan (= carbs). So what is in there in terms of bioactive ingredients ? Can’t be much then.

        Also one sachet contains the equivalent of 1 or 2 capsules, but at ten times the price. I don’t think that’s a good buy…

    • Ralph Medrano

      One word: profits. A perfect example of why mycelium is worthless are psilocybin mushrooms. You could eat a pound of mycelium and wouldn’t feel a thing, the majority of the beneficial compounds produced by mushrooms are in the fruiting bodies. It takes more time, attention, and resources to bring the mushrooms from spores to fruit.

      • Mansal Denton

        Good point, Ralph!

    • David Stoner

      Organic mushrooms are mostly marketing, sorry to pop your bubble. They are untested for ‘natural’ contaminants, and usually non-extracted so indigestible. The selling point here is the ‘organic’ label only.

      To sum it up: an ‘organic’ mushroom is grown in a carefully monitored environment without using pesticides etc. Correct ?

      Yet heavy metals are a natural element of all soils and stones. And as you said – mushrooms accumulate these, it is part of their metabolism. Since ‘organic’ mushrooms are usually not exported there is no need to test them for safe levels of heavy metals. And to save money they are untested – ask a seller of such a product for a hygienic certificate (showing the levels of heavy metals) and you get nothing.

      In short, you have no clue if the mushroom product you consume is completely safe or has noteworthy bioactive ingredients, since nothing is tested to save money….

    • Nelson Gamache

      The reason is because you can’t grow mushrooms in North American for use in supplements. It is too expensive. You can grow the mycelium on a grain substrate because it is magnitudes cheaper. It is pure economics.

      Loni, you need to look at the mycelium research very closely. Almost all of it is based off pure mycelium made through liquid fermentation. Liquid fermentation grows the mycelium in a liquid so you can drain this liquid off at the end and obtain pure mycelium. Liquid fermentation is almost solely used in Asia.

      Mycelium grown on grain, aka solid state fermentation, does not produce pure mycelium. It produces myceliated grain because the grain cannot be separated from the mycelium. One of Stamets own patents said it is only 30-40% mycelium. While that may be shocking, the caveat here is that this is wet weight. Mycelium is 90%. Grain is 50% water. So when dried, the final ingredient ends up being around 8-12% mycelium.

      So when you point to pure mycelium research to back up mycelium on grain products, you are comparing apples to oranges. They are in no way consistent.

  • 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 🙂

    • HD

      Appreciate this post, Mansal. I was introduced into the mushroom kingdom reading a book and watching some seminars by Paul Stamets. If you’re really interested in exploring and validating the integrity of your content, I would highly encourage you to look into his extensive research and incorporate it into your posts and share with us.

      I have to agree with Jim here. You’ve taken a very binary approach to quality in this post, and discredited one of the premier thought-leaders of mycology and his own brands, Host Defense: //www.hostdefense.com/mushrooms/the-mushroom-renaissance

      I think you should include the caveat you’ve stated here about sustainably grown mycelium in the body of your post, and provide a sampling of products that do vs don’t instead of assuming all don’t.

      I haven’t tried Host Defense products yet, but I will be ordering some thanks to your post and Jim’s comments. Cheers!

      • David Stoner

        You’re free to waste your money dude. No levels of active ingredients and the base products are not even mushrooms…. you have literally no clue what you buy.

        My advise: choose something with a clear indication of what is in it (bioactives) and what is not in it (contaminants). Host Defense does not tell you this information – they rely on Stamets media persona… in other words: marketing.

      • Dag Johnsrud

        Host Defense is, without a doubt, a scam and an incredibly shameful one considering that the only reason it has legs is because Paul Stamets props it up on his reputation. Host Defense, and this is true, sells bottle of ground up rice, while claiming they are selling mushrooms. A study performed on two of his products to determine Beta-Glucan content and Starch found that the Host Defense products contained less than 2% Beta-Glucans, and over 70% starch! Guess what rice is made of?? Starch! Guess what Mushrooms aren’t made of?? Starch!! (or negligible amounts of starch anyway). Compare this to a reputable and legitimate Lion’s Mane product that will contain 20 to 30% Beta-Glucans. That’s 1,400% more Beta-Glucan (and mushroom) content than the bottles of rice Host Defense is selling. Furthermore, the only measure that Host Defense includes on their products is a Polysaccharide content. Polysaccharide content is COMPLETELY USELESS when determining the quality of a mushroom supplement, especially ones grown on rice. Because, guess what rice is made of?? Polysaccharides. Beta-Glucan content is needed, because this is specific to the mushroom content. So, this article is quite right in pointing out the complete lack of quality, or in fact mushroom content, in Host Defense products. It’s a scam, and if you don’t do your research to understand this, then you’re a fool for wasting your money, and supporting the fraud.

        • Get Bent

          Could you please link to this study?

  • David Stoner

    Indeed, sad as it is, he sells mainly non-extracted fungal products which are without exception biomass-based: mycelium contaminated with grains. His liquid products are 95% liquid and 5% -again- biomass mycelium. very little bang for the buck, and ZERO information about the amount of active ingredients present (like other products do). A consumer has literally NO clue what he is buying.

    There is this recent research article (2016) that tested 16 mushroom supplements (including 2 by Fungi Perfecti (=Stamets) for their beta-glucan content using the AOAC-validated lab method (which Stamets claims does not exist).

    The supplements are not named, but it is easy to compare the product descriptions to actual products, since they are verbatim copies of the producers label information.

    His two products were found to contain < 2% beta-glucan, which is not going to achieve noteworthy therapeutic effects.

    The research article is called "Measurement of β-Glucan in Mushrooms and Mycelial Products". Use Google and you can find and download it for free.

    • Mansal Denton

      Thanks for sharing, David! Super valuable

  • Loni Jean

    Some of the comments on here are just ridiculous! I tend to avoid feeding the trolls but for all you genuine people out there that are just trying to form your own opinion:

    //www.hostdefense.com/functional-food/benefits-of-mycelium

    Recent research shows that 25% more genetic material is active during the mycelial stage as compared to the fruitbody stage. Mycelium also produces novel compounds not found in the fruitbody. Mycelium and primordia (mushroom “sprouts”) allow for access to important compounds like enzymes, antioxidants, and prebiotics, and immune-balancing constituents like polysaccharides and triterpenoids. Mature fruitbodies contain up to 90% water, whereas mycelium and primordia are highly concentrated sources of viable compounds that are easy to access.

    Here is another great resource for peer reviewed scientific articles on Mycelium : //mushroomreferences.com/

    All of the nutrients and myriad compounds within and created from the fungal organism are beneficial to the immune system, and necessary for a whole foods approach to health. It is important to keep the mushroom’s natural chemical architectures intact rather than isolating any specific compounds and then adding them back into the supplement later.

    Here is a great article by Paul Stamets, regarding Beta Glucans –
    //www.fungi.com/blog/items/beta-glucan-analysis-and-the-seven-pillars-of-immunity.html

    It is definitely important to check for certain things when looking into mushroom products:

    1) Are they certified organic? – This ensures product purity and protection for the environment.

    2) Are they USA grown? – This ensures that you are supporting sustainable growers in the USA.

    3) Do they have Mycelium for optimal health support? – Mycelium is the immune system of the mushroom, and the most powerful part of the organism for supporting health.

    4) Do they have scientific studies demonstrating efficacy? – Can they demonstrate the value of their products for your health?

    5) Are they Non-GMO Project verified?- This preserves the wisdom of nature to benefit health and wellness.

    6) Heat-treated for safety and bioavailability? – To actually absorb the nutrients of mushrooms, they need to be heat treated.

    7) Do they have independent 3rd Party Quality Testing?- This verifies the identity, screens for pesticides, heavy metals and other contaminants to ensure purity.

    • Dag Johnsrud

      Host Defense is a scam and an incredibly shameful one considering that the only reason it has legs is because Paul Stamets props it up on his reputation. Host Defense, and this is true, sells bottle of ground up rice, while claiming they are selling mushrooms. A study performed on two of his products to determine Beta-Glucan content and Starch found that the Host Defense products contained less than 2% Beta-Glucans, and over 70% starch! Guess what rice is made of?? Starch! Guess what Mushrooms aren’t made of?? Starch!! (or negligible amounts of starch anyway). Compare this to a reputable and legitimate Lion’s Mane product that will contain 20 to 30% Beta-Glucans. That’s 1,400% more Beta-Glucan (and mushroom) content than the bottles of rice Host Defense is selling. Furthermore, the only measure that Host Defense includes on their products is a Polysaccharide content. Polysaccharide content is COMPLETELY USELESS when determining the quality of a mushroom supplement, especially ones grown on rice. Because, guess what rice is made of?? Polysaccharides. Beta-Glucan content is needed, because this is specific to the mushroom content. So, this article is quite right in pointing out the complete lack of quality, or in fact mushroom content, in Host Defense products. It’s a scam, and if you don’t do your research to understand this, then you’re a fool for wasting your money, and supporting the fraud.

    • Dag Johnsrud

      Host Defense and the other products using mycelium are NOT using mycelium, they are using myceliated rice, which actually contains negligible amounts of mycelium. The ONLY producer currently commercially selling a true Mycelium product is Oriveda, where they culture mycelium in a liquid, and extract it. Host Defense is a complete scam, but it is true that mycelium confers benefits that the fruiting body does not, such as a higher content of diterpenes and erinacines. So, if you are interested in getting the benefits out of the fruiting body and the mycelium of Lion’s Mane, I suggest you look at Oriveda’s offering.

    • Nelson Gamache

      Domain Name: MUSHROOMREFERENCES.COM
      Registrant Name: DOMAIN ADMIN
      Registrant Organization: FUNGI PERFECTI, LLC
      Registrant Street: PO BOX 7634
      Registrant City: OLYMPIA
      Registrant State/Province: WA
      Registrant Postal Code: 98507
      Registrant Country: US
      Registrant Phone: +1.3604269292
      Registrant Phone Ext:
      Registrant Fax: +1.3604269377
      Registrant Fax Ext:
      Registrant Email: WEB.GURU@FUNGI.COM

      Will this site be bias?

      “Mature fruitbodies contain up to 90% water”. So is mycelium and primordia.

      There are so many statements there that are conjecture and marketing with nothing to back them up.

  • Kelly

    What about Mushroom Wisdom (formerly Maitake Products, Inc.) ? A lot of studies have been conducted using these exact products (for T2D, Breast Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, etc.). I’m just finding out about this product through Mark Kaylor being on a few of the podcasts I subscribe to.