Arden Fanning Andrews @ardenparty for T The New York Times Style Magazine
Even before the onset of the pandemic, which has increased the demand for all manner of so-called organic immunity elixirs, wellness-minded Americans were warming to mushrooms. To be clear, mushrooms don’t cure Covid-19, but they are thought to provide a host of other benefits, from serving as an aphrodisiac to bolstering one’s defenses to toxins. As Ligaya Mishan explains in her essay for T’s Fall Men’s issue, Eastern cultures have long been enthusiastic about edible fungi, both in culinary and health contexts — mushrooms are rich in umami, the Japanese “fifth taste” that denotes savoriness, and woody species such as reishi are often prescribed in traditional Chinese medicine — while the West has been more ambivalent. Today, though, American cooks and diners delight in foraged morels and matsutakes, while others mix mushroom-based powders into shakes and teas. In an article published in 2014 — over 80 years after the British scientist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the powerful group of antibiotics derived from the fungus Penicillium — the mycologist Paul Stamets, best known for the TED Talk “6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World,” described mushrooms as “nature’s miniature pharmaceutical factories.”
Kamu Lab’s Dream nightly sleep drops ($60), which enhance the mushroom’s calming effects with those of CBD and California poppy. It’s no wonder emperors of the Qing dynasty were said to exchange gifts of ceremonial ruyi scepters sculpted to resemble reishi, the so-called mushroom of immortality.
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