Mushroom Boom

Earth & Star founders Erica Huss and Zoë Sakoutis discuss the power of functional mushrooms and the brand’s new line of adaptogen-packed treats with Cristina Cuomo
Erica Huss and Zoë Sakoutis; photo courtesy of Earth & Star

Cristina Cuomo: Earth & Star is a functional mushroom company that brings the immune-supporting benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms into the daily routines of consumers through a full range of products like ground coffee (and delicious, ready-to-drink lattes), gummies and tinctures. Can you describe the process, so people understand why adaptogens are so important to our energy levels, and the other benefits?

Erica Huss: Essentially, they help you adapt. We put them into everyday products, so it’s as easy as possible to have them in your system every day. Your body works in tandem with these ingredients to understand where you’re in need of support.

CC: Can you break down the key benefits of these specific functional mushrooms that you incorporated as ingredients into your products?

Zoë Sakoutis: There are 15 or so functional mushrooms that have been identified to have specific properties, which all have their own unique superpowers. Across the board, all of these functional mushrooms have one thing in common: They are immunomodulators. A lot of people have an overactive immune system, and they need to calm it down, and a lot of people have an underactive immune system, which can be dangerous with COVID still around. Lion’s mane, which got its name because it looks like a bushy white lion’s mane, helps cognitive function, focus and memory. Research shows that it may be able to help protect against dementia. Chaga, which typically grows on a birch tree, is insanely powerful when it comes to immune support. It’s said to have a thousand times more antioxidants than pomegranates and blueberries combined, so it really is a superfood. Reishi has very calming effects, which makes it ideal for when you’re struggling to chill or sleep; it’s also a great liver detoxifier, and it’s wonderful to take in the evening, because that’s when your liver detoxifies. Cordyceps are these long, stringy, orange, caterpillar-shaped mushrooms. They are associated with performance—a lot of athletes take it—and libido. Tremella looks like a loofah sponge. It’s this white, kind-of-squiggly mushroom that’s incredible for your skin, hair and nails. It’s great for hydration. Shiitake is pretty much in the same camp; that’s why we combined them in the beauty tincture.

Earth & Star’s adaptogen-infused Colombian coffee

CC: What makes Earth & Star different from other brands using adaptogens?

ZS: The one thing a consumer really needs to be aware of and always look for on packaging is whether or not the mushroom extracts they are consuming are actual mushrooms. That’s also known as the fruiting body: the part of the mushroom that you see as the mushroom, as opposed to the mycelium, the root structure. Mycelium is great for many other things that usually have to do with environmental factors and textiles, like replacing leather and plastic. But when it comes to functional mushrooms and actually getting the polysaccharides, the beta-glucans—which is what gives you this great functionality that we’re talking about—that’s all concentrated from the actual mushroom.

These mushroom gummies are strictly made with fruiting bodies.

CC: The ingredients are really refined in your product line. The chocolate doesn’t have any added sugar. You have coconut sugar, coffee beans, cacao, and then the adaptogens. And everything’s organic. What was the process of selecting ingredients?

ZS: First and foremost, you have to have a clean label. Everything took a very long time to develop and get the formulation down. We use plant-based oat milk, formulated from scratch. We don’t use any seed oils, gums or fillers. Everything is vegan. Across the board, our standards for everything we put into our products is super high.

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