For thousands of years, in countries like China and Japan, mushrooms have been hailed for their health benefits. We’re not talking about your standard button or portobello, but rather functional varieties. Mushrooms like chaga, cordyceps, and lion’s mane, which, research suggests, may help to support our bodies in ways that stretch beyond basic nutrition.

Take chaga, for example. Studies have suggested that this particular mushroom, which often grows on birch trees, could be useful in preventing and slowing cancer growth. Lion’s mane, a tooth fungus that grows on hardwood trees, may even help improve cognitive ability and protect against dementia. 

Research is still limited and ongoing, but so far, it’s all looking pretty positive and promising for functional mushrooms. And two people who wholeheartedly believe in their healing powers are Stephanie Moyal and Jake Mellman—two cousins who recently founded their own mushroom gummy brand, called Troop.

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Troop, which claims to “put the fun in fungi,” makes three different types of gummies right now. There’s Lion’s Mane, as well as Super Troop, which is loaded with six different functional mushrooms, including chaga and lion’s mane, and is designed to “enhance focus and energy,” and Reishi. The latter, of course, contains extracts of reishi mushrooms, which studies have suggested, may be beneficial in helping people relax and sleep.

We spoke with Moyal to find out more about the rising interest in functional mushrooms, the misconceptions that still surround them, and the story behind Troop. Find our conversation below.

VegNews: Can you talk us through what is special and unique about functional mushrooms? What makes them different from your average chestnut mushroom, for example?

Stephanie Moyal: Regular mushrooms are typically valued for their taste and culinary uses, but functional mushrooms are sought after for their bioactive compounds and potential health-promoting properties. Some of these benefits include prebiotic and probiotic compounds, immune-boosting properties, and high levels of antioxidants, which may even shield the brain from the side effects of aging.

VN: There seems to be a growing interest in functional mushrooms right now, particularly amongst the health and wellness community. Why do you think that is?

SM: There’s been a shift. Consumers are turning to nature to help not only solve health issues but to potentially prevent them from happening. The pandemic, in particular, highlighted the importance of maintaining overall wellness and bolstering the immune system.

gummy cocktailTroop

VN: Worldwide, the pharmaceutical industry is nearing a worth of $1.48 trillion. Do you think a distrust of the industry has played a role in the shift toward natural remedies?

SM: A large movement of people are waking up to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry makes money off of us being sick. It’s not in the industry’s best interest to actually rid us of our problems—they don’t make any money when we’re healthy. As people lose trust in the industry, they’re turning to holistic doctors and functional medicines to help.

VN: How did you, personally, first become interested in the potential benefits of functional mushrooms?

SM: During the pandemic, I read a book about mushrooms that inspired me deeply. Excited by the possibilities, I asked my cousin Jake if he wanted to start growing mushrooms with me. As we delved into this process, we felt like we had uncovered an ancient secret that no one else was talking about [in the West]. We became completely obsessed with mushrooms.

Super TroopTroop

VN: Why did you decide to take that passion to the next level and start Troop?

SM: When we visited our local health food store, the only mushroom products available were pills, powders, and tinctures. None of these options appealed to us—they just ended up sitting unused because they weren’t enjoyable to take. We noticed a gap in the market: there were no mushroom gummies. So we decided to create our own.

VN: Did you notice a positive response to the brand right away?

SM: The results were incredible. Everyone loved the gummies. They were actually taking them because they tasted so good. Our community also started sharing incredible success stories about the benefits they experienced from the mushrooms. Encouraged by this feedback, we decided to expand our reach and share our product with even more people.

VN: Can you talk us through how you make your gummies—which utilize lion’s mane, reishi, chaga, maitake, cordyceps, and turkey tail—for Troop?

SM: We are determined to make the best gummies on the market. This means sourcing the highest quality mushroom extracts and ensuring we have the test results to prove it. Our gummies also have to meet strict criteria: they have to be vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and free from any artificial flavors, colors, or other additives. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, which affirms our belief that we have created something truly special.

Lion's Mane gummiesTroop

VN: There’s no doubt that functional mushrooms are becoming more popular, but some still have misconceptions about them. How do you address any skepticism about the mushrooms you use? 

SM: Many still confuse functional mushrooms with psychedelic varieties. Whenever I encounter these misunderstandings, I approach them with curiosity, seeking to understand the root of the skepticism. This skepticism often stems from widespread misinformation and propaganda about mushrooms in general. At Troop, our goal is to lead the way in education and continually showcase the incredible benefits of functional mushrooms. We aim to clear up any confusion and demonstrate the true power and potential of these remarkable fungi.

VN: Finally, can you tell us if Troop has any innovations or products in the pipeline that you’re excited about?

SM: There are millions of fungi species that have yet to be studied or utilized, and we are merely at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to harnessing nature’s power. Nature, especially mushrooms, holds many of the answers we seek for enhancing our health and well-being. At Troop, we are thrilled to be at the forefront of the mushroom revolution, exploring the vast potential these remarkable fungi offer. We’re committed to innovation and education and are so excited to continue to unlock the secrets of mushrooms and bring their incredible benefits to the world.

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