From star skincare ingredient to mind-expanding wellness retreat, mushrooms are having something of a moment in the spa industry, says Savant Spy
According to our sources, well-heeled spa-istas are flocking to luxury psychedelic retreats across the globe to sip psilocybin soups in search of shroom-induced enlightenment. And while you can’t legally trip in the UK (psilocybin use is strictly under the radar here), you can buy ‘Super Nootripic’ mushroom coffee and Lions Mane capsules (both said to enhance brain function and creativity) on sites like mushies.co.uk.
Forest Bathing retreats often come with a dash of mushroom foraging these days, too – the new self-care pastime du jour - as well as enlightenment about the vast underground mycelium networks connecting and feeding all the trees around us (cleverly dubbed The Wood Wide Web).
While mainly served on toast or in stroganoff with little or no ceremony, the humble shroom has long been used for medicinal purposes. Classified as a fungi rather than a plant or an animal, mushrooms produce reproductive spores that travel by air and water.
Ancient Egyptians believed mushrooms to be magical; Romans revered them as a culinary delicacy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine used them in healing supplements and tinctures. Dried mushrooms were even found among the possessions of Ötzi the “Iceman,” a well-preserved mummy from 3300 B.C.
The medicinal properties of psilocybin are now seeing a revival, particularly in mental health. In 2016 two studies at NYU and John Hopkins administered psilocybin alongside a course of psychotherapy to patients suffering from anxiety, depression and existential distress following diagnosis from terminal cancer. After a single dose 80 per cent of patients showed substantial reduction in symptoms, which persisted at least six months after the dose.
Brain scans also reveal that mushroom compounds can decrease activity in the Default Mode Network (DMN) – the executive control centre or manager part of our brains. It works by opening our minds to new ways of thinking, breaking down mental models, including the traditional concept of self as a separate individual. Enthusiasts report feelings of awe as well as belonging, increased spiritual wellbeing, bliss, love, joy and improved connection from isolation.
The craze for fungi isn’t just found in the spa industry. On Netflix we have Michael Pollan’s series How to Change Your Mind and the film Fantastic Fungi, both exploring the health benefits of mushrooms and psilocybin, the main ingredient in LSD. Stella McCartney, vegan and animal rights activists, recently co-developed mushroom leather Mylo. Meanwhile, mushrooms have been used to reduce toxic ash from California’s wildfires and break down oil spillage and other toxic waste.
As a superfood, mushrooms, the fruits of mycelium, are also packed with vitamins, minerals, pre-biotics and antioxidants as well as a type of soluble fibre that activates parts of your immune system.
Brands such as Natura Bissé and Temple Spa have long promoted the miraculous benefits of the fungi family in their skincare ingredients - from black truffles to shitake mushrooms - with their powerful hydrating, plumping and antioxidant properties.
There’s even talk of mushrooms being the new CBD. Now that is food for thought…
Before you go down to the woods remember that some mushrooms can kill you – including the Death Cap which looks like an unremarkable, ordinary mushroom; don’t forage without an expert on hand