Jane Wolfe unearths an independent retailer’s view of adaptogens with Apothecary 27’s Joe Jackson and gleans some wisdom from the expert speakers at the mushroom-focused session Shroom Me Up! held at NOPEX

According to Allied Market Research, in 2021 the global adaptogens market size was valued at $10.3 billion and is projected to reach $20.3 billion by 2031, with ashwagandha dominating the sector. It’s no surprise that this is a rising category as adaptogens’ most cited benefits are related to stress, anxiety and fatigue – issues that have become more prevalent, or at least more freely discussed, post-pandemic.

“If you asked our customers a few years ago what an adaptogen was, they probably wouldn’t have a clue, but now they’re becoming more and more popular,” Joe Jackson, CEO of Apothecary 27 in Haslemere, tells NPN. “We’re getting lots of people researching them and we’re also educating our customers – with no claims on the label, it’s up to us to teach people what they can be used for. Now adaptogens have become some of our top selling supplements.

“We’ve noticed since COVID and the cost of living crisis we’ve had more people coming in with stress, anxiety, low mood, depression. I think mental health is something we’ve all learned to talk about and be a bit more open about since COVID because people have been more vulnerable,” he says, adding that it’s predominantly for these concerns, as well as energy and hormonal issues, that customers are seeking adaptogens. 

“Our top seller is always ashwagandha. We sell Viridian Ashwagandha, and they also do a great complex called Enhanced Rhodiola Complex which contains other adaptogens like ashwagandha and liquorice. We’re also enjoying working with a company called Living Nutrition, which does a range of fermented adaptogens – they do a nice one called True Adaptogens which has got the ashwagandha, holy basil and rhodiola.”

The magic of mushrooms
Although the UK still lags way behind countries such as Spain and Italy, where doctors prescribe medicinal mushrooms, this category of adaptogens is starting to take off and become embedded in consumer consciousness.

“It’s funny because we’ve been saying for a couple of years that medicinal mushrooms were going to take off and they never quite did, but we’re noticing this year they’ve gone through the roof,” Jackson notes.

One reason for this is that, according to Eric Puro, CEO of KÄÄPÄ Biotech, post-COVID acted as a catalyst for many to ‘wake up’ and realize they had an immune system that needs taking care of. “All mushrooms contain beta glucans, and these compounds are adaptogenic – they help your immune system stay in homeostasis, so if it’s underactive they’re going to boost it a little bit, if it’s overactive they’re going to calm it down. And this is a story that’s been told in the US market for about 35 years – they’ve done a great job, that’s where this trend started. We’re just now starting to talk about this here in the UK.

“We’re more closely related to mushrooms than we are to plants … our DNA is more similar, our immune systems are more similar, we’re breathing out CO2, we’re breathing in oxygen, similar to fungi, they get some of the same viruses we get. So, at the end of the day, as a source of medicine – whether we’re going to look to solve future medical problems or just to keep ourselves in tip top order – I think fungi provide a lot of solutions.” 

Mind matters
Stress is a common focus within the mushroom category, but cognitive function is substantially driving interest too. “Cordyceps is a good one – we find that if people are a bit burnt out with low energy, quite stressed, it’s good for supporting the adrenals and boosting energy levels,” says Jackson, “But it’s lion’s mane in particular that people are just raving about, especially for focus, concentration and ADHD kind of symptoms. When people have taken lion’s mane they’re coming back and saying, ‘Wow it really works, I feel focused, my memory’s better’ – it’s a great cognitive one and it’s selling really well.”

London Nootropics co-founder Zain Peer has also discovered that his customers with ADHD are experiencing a positive effect with this particular mushroom: “Specifically with lion’s mane, we have a whole host of customers that are in this community, and they recommend to each other, ‘You’ve got to try lion’s mane, it’s incredible for ADHD’.”

In fact, Google data indicates that searches for specific mushroom types has increased markedly in the past five years, and those for lion’s mane almost tripled to 90 data points. Puro believes the hike in popularity is due to the positive effects lion’s mane has on the brain. “It specifically contains a compound called hericenones and this is crossing the blood brain barrier and increasing NGF, or nerve growth factor, up to four to eight times. NGF is very important because it’s flushing out amyloid beta plaque build-up, which is what’s going to cause dementia, but it’s also creating neurogenesis. So it’s restarting a bit of brain cell generation, it’s getting our brains working again. But if you take NGF orally it’s not going to cross the blood brain barrier to initiate your brain to generate NGF, so lion’s mane is a fantastic option. We are working with doctors in Spain and clinicians who have patients in late-stage dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and seeing a lot of really good results … on how lion’s mane is able to help.”

“It’s lion’s mane in particular that people are just raving about, especially for focus,
concentration and ADHD”

A recent review by Chinese researchers which looked at the potential beneficial effects of mushroom compounds on neurodegenerative diseases (NDs) including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), concluded: “Diverse mushrooms can be regarded as treasure troves of active compounds … Overall, many types of mushrooms have shown beneficial effects in alleviating AD, and these are attributed to their large number of constituents, such as polysaccharides, phenols, and peptides. The mechanisms involved in the anti-AD activities of mushroom metabolites include antioxidant and antineuro-inflammatory activity, apoptosis inhibition, and stimulation of neurite outgrowth, etcetera. The information collected in this review suggests that mushrooms and their metabolites have broad application prospects in the management of AD as well as NDs more widely.”

Keeping it social
Jackson says that supplements in capsule and powder form are popular, because they offer ‘quality amounts’, but he’s also seeing a lot of new foods and functional drinks with added adaptogens, which for some are more conducive to their daily routines.

Peer envisions mushrooms becoming a regular addition to people’s daily lives. He is witnessing ‘everyday, non-healthy’ people adopting the habit, and says the brand’s adaptogenic coffees – Zen, Mojo and Flow – are perfect for this. “It’s just another way you can incorporate mushrooms into your daily diet. There are really good synergies with caffeine and adaptogens. When we have coffee on its own, caffeine’s absorbed quickly, and we get a spike and then we get a crash. With adaptogens you tend to get a sustained energy level, so a lot of our customers say they went from having four or five regular coffees in a day to only needing one or two adaptogenic coffees.”

When Jackson initially stocked medicinal mushrooms, he says: “We started off with Mushrooms 4 Life capsules for the convenience of customers, but we now also do their mushroom coffees, turmeric lattes, hot chocolates. People also kept asking about a brand called DIRTEA, so we recently brought that in which is in a powder form, and it’s flying off the shelves – I think partly due to the fact they’ve got a great social media presence, so people know about the brand. You mix it with hot water or add it to coffee or hot chocolate.”

So, is social media presence from such brands playing a big part in driving the category? “I think so. We’re seeing a lot of medicinal mushrooms, especially on Instagram, people giving testimonials about how it’s helped their sleep or stress levels or whatever it may be, and I think DIRTEA are particularly great at doing that. They’re really getting the word out there.”

With EFSA regulations curbing claims, Puro finds social media an effective way to extol the benefits of mushrooms, but uses it as an indirect tool. “We can’t do anything on our company’s social media at all – no education whatsoever – so we work a lot with social media influencers and educate the educators. We host education events, seminars, and we also work with doctors and practitioners – we can share clinical trials with them because they are educators. In-house, our company has research analysts and I sit on the committee of the International Medicinal Mushroom Society so we see all the new papers that are released and can really effectively disseminate that information, just not through the company directly.”

Growing pains
Jackson anticipates the market will expand and notes that medicinal mushrooms are much more than a fad. “They’re not one of those things that people say works and then doesn’t. We’re actually seeing people getting great results from them, so I can’t imagine they’re going to go away anytime soon – I think we’re just going to see more.”

But as well as offering efficacious health solutions, this rapid and continued growth presents problems around quality. Tom Baxter, founder of The Bristol Fungarium – producer of the UK’s first organic certified medicinal mushrooms – explains: “The trouble is, even with organic certification, you don’t have to check the powder that you’re buying, you don’t have to do any DNA analysis, so no one actually knows if that powder is reishi, or lion’s mane, or whatever.” He cites a study by North American medicinal mushroom extract company Nammex which tested 19 different reishi mushroom products sold in the USA for the compounds that characterize the fruiting body of reishi, and found that only five of the samples could be verified as genuine.

“We’re lucky in that we work with the UWE Science Department and so we are able to get a lot of tests done – we test our products, we test other people’s products. It’s all about knowledge. It’s provenance. If you know that someone’s … doing everything on site themselves, you can have some confidence that they’re doing a good job, but it’s hard.”

And it probably won’t get any easier in future as more potential varieties are discovered to have healing properties. “I’ve spent a lot of time foraging and there are a lot of mushrooms in the UK and Northern Europe that have very similar compounds to the mushrooms used in traditional Chinese medicine,” says Baxter. “We need to open our eyes and see what’s around us. In the UK there are over 13,000 currently identified types of fungi, so there’s plenty to work with.”

Puro agrees, saying that although his company is currently focused on growing the seven most well-known species of mushroom, there are more species of mushrooms than there are plants, so he believes we are only just ‘at the tip of the iceberg’ and that ten years from now we’ll be utilizing compounds from hundreds of species of fungi to improve our lives. 

The last word goes to Baxter: “I think there’s a lot going on outside of our bodies which is pretty dysfunctional at the moment, and I think mushrooms are filling the belief space. Mushrooms are fulfilling a societal need … we need hope, and mushrooms are giving us hope.”

Quotes from Zain Peer, Tom Baxter and Eric Puro are taken from the ‘Shroom me up! – the rise of functional mushrooms’ seminar at NOPEX in April


Freedom and Harmony

Adaptogenic Apothecary

Ground-breaking adaptogenic therapy clinically proven to ease symptoms of peri /menopause.
Harmony is the world’s first 4-phase supplement for women who have natural cycles. Targeted adaptogens, Affron® and medicinal mushrooms support the changing needs throughout the menstruation, follicular, ovulation and luteal phases.
Freedom is a natural support for women who don’t have regular cycles anymore and/or in menopause. Formulated to ease menopausal symptoms it can be taken instead of, or alongside HRT. Synergistic adaptogens, medicinal mushrooms and Affron® restore endocrine balance, support the cardiovascular system, bone health, regulate blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and support sleep, improving energy and vitality.


Evopure Reishi Mushroom Powder with Cacao

E-mail:  [email protected]

Introducing Evopure’s Reishi Mushroom Powder with Cacao—a soothing blend designed to promote relaxation and support a healthy sleep cycle. This unique product combines the adaptogenic properties of Reishi mushroom and Maca root, renowned for their stress-reducing benefits. Infused with natural ingredients such as cacao and cinnamon, this delicious blend is rich in essential antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, Evopure Reishi Cacao offers a healthy alternative to caffeinated teas. Simply mix with hot water, milk, or a milk alternative to enjoy its comforting sweetness and warming spice. Embrace tranquillity and experience a restful night’s sleep with Evopure Reishi Mushroom Powder with Cacao.


Rosemary Natural Soap Bar

Friendly Soap
Tel: 01422 400282
E-mail: [email protected]

Rosemary is an adaptogen and can help the body find balance. This rosemary soap bar is the ideal selection for those in pursuit of a gentle, cleansing experience. Containing only the finest ingredients including olive oil, shea butter and rosemary essential oil.
Centuries of folk medicine have relied on rosemary for its therapeutic, calming and soothing features. Integrate the bar into a daily skincare regimen and experience next level luxury.
Free from preservatives, plastic, sulfates and cruelty.
Friendly Soap is a living wage employer, registered with The Vegan Society & Cruelty Free International.



Fungtn. The Fungtional Brew Company
E-mail:  [email protected]

Award winning alcohol free craft beer brewed with functional mushrooms. Harnessing the power of fungi for a more mindful beer. Using Lions Mane, Reishi and Shiitake mushrooms to complement hop profiles in three well-loved craft beer styles. The only functional alcohol craft beer to brew with mycoadaptogens, bringing more mindful drinking into the mainstream. Vegan, gluten free and always hangover free!


NutraRelax – Adaptogenic Mental Wellness Tea

Tel: 020 3146 7150
E-mail:  [email protected]

NutraRelax® by NutraTea® is 1 of 24 functional herbal teas that has been expertly blended by pharmacists and herbalists to support optimal relaxation and the maintenance of a mental calm. Containing 100% active, sustainably sourced botanicals, this comprehensive herbal blend contains numerous adaptogens including Passionflower, Lemon Balm & Chamomile to help support your mental wellbeing in cases of tension and stress. Each biodegradable tea bag contains no flavourings, oils or excipients allowing it to be reused throughout the day, offering a tasty way to help cope calmly with the stress of a busy lifestyle and support mental wellbeing.


Mindscopic Range

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]

Mindscopic develops the purest quality science-based nootropic supplements to support both mind and body, allowing a healthy and energetic lifestyle for everyone. Popular amongst the biohacking movement, the range includes Clear Focus™ (available with or without caffeine) to aid memory function, learning performance and concentration, Moodmaster™ to support the mood by reducing the sense of stress and anxiety, and Vive Vitae™, the world’s first Longevity Spray. Mindscopic offers science-based formulas manufactured in a GMP-certified production facility and created with premium ingredients in meaningful doses. GMO-free, 100% vegan capsules and no artificial flavours or colours. www.kinetic4health.co.uk


R.Y.M. Nutrition 

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]

R.Y.M. Nutrition provides a range of Nootropic food supplements combining the best well-researched ingredients to create products that fuel the brain in five different ways: support sleep, memory, energy, concentration, and mood. R.Y.M. stands for Rejuvenate Your Mind, which represents the founders’ vision of a lifestyle brand truly focused on cognitive health and mental well-being. Products are created with science-backed nutritional ingredients and botanical extracts, developed and manufactured in GMP-certified premises in the UK, and the whole range is vegan, dairy-, gluten-, yeast- and soy-free with no artificial flavours or colours, preservatives, sweeteners, synthetic fillers or binders. www.kinetic4health.co.uk


Puresport: Lion’s Mane and more

Tel: 07795 190479
E-mail: [email protected]

Having expanded the offering from CBD & Nootropics, Puresport’s range of adaptogenic supplements (Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Reishi, Mushroom Complex, Ashwagandha) are arguably the most trusted and effective on the market. They carry with them thousands of glowing reviews, an Informed Sport Certification and a large and fast-growing community, which includes a roster of world renowned athletes, wellness experts and key opinion leaders. If that wasn’t enough, their recent mushroom reformulation boasts more optimal dosages for higher efficacy, as well as an Organic Certification. Having recently launched into retail, now is the perfect time to add these products to your offering!


Himalayan Shilajit

Feel Supreme
Tel: 0333 050 1553
E-mail: [email protected]

Serving spoon included | Available in resin or capsule form
Himalayan Shilajit is the result of a centuries long process of decomposing organic plant matter and minerals.
It is extremely rich in fulvic acid and humid acid. Fulvic acid has many proven benefits such as improving gut health and keeping your skin healthy. Himalayan Shilajit is also extremely rich in trace minerals such as magnesium, zinc and potassium to name just a few. Benefits of these minerals include;
Improved stamina and performance (iron, copper & nickel) The USSR military, Olympic, and space teams officially supplemented with shilajit. It acts as a natural recovery aid and has been used to reduce physical weakness and improve stamina. Iron, copper and nickel help to carry more oxygen in the blood, which enhances energy production. Vitamin B12 is another well-known energy booster which is present in shilajit. Fulvic Acid and B12 both have the ability to deliver oxygen directly to the muscle cells, which may help to reduce lactic acid and CO2 build up.