Pretty Mushroom Enhances Your Mind, Beauty, & Mood
It’s rare to come across a brand that so beautifully embodies the concept of holistic wellness, so we were over-the-moon when adaptogenic blend brand Pretty Mushroom popped up on our radar. You might be thinking, adapto-what? But stay with us here, because their fabulous co-founder Nadine Joseph, who not coincidentally happens to be a neuroscientist (!) gave us the 101 on these fantastic concoctions.
Mindful Feminism: Let’s start with the basics, for those who know nothing about adaptogenic blends, what are they?
Nadine Joseph: Adaptogens are a unique group of herbs and mushrooms that help balance your body’s reaction to stress. They do this by acting on the hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis, which is where the intricate conversation between your brain and your hormonal system takes place.
Think of it this way: your brain is always dancing with multiple glands at once. Your adrenal gland, gonadal gland, and thyroid gland need to be flawlessly in tune with your brain for your immune system, mood, and energy levels to be healthy. When a dance partner is out of sync - let’s say your cortisol levels are really high after a stressful month - then you may experience hormonal issues such as a low sex drive, adrenal fatigue, or thyroid issues.
This is where adaptogens come in to save the day. They improve adrenal function, protect you from disease, and enhance overall well-being. While they all work to balance your hormones without any side effects, some have extra health-boosting quirks. These unique ‘quirks’ can be anything from enhancing cognitive function to protecting the skin against UV damage. Cultural healing traditions such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have been reaping the benefits of these adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms for centuries, while in the western world we're just discovering them.
MF: What sparked your interest in this subject, and ultimately, why did you create Pretty Mushroom?
NJ: I was working at a lab studying the neuroscience of stress and became enthralled with the question of how the stressors of the modern world were affecting our bodies overall. While I was studying stress, I was also dealing with chronic stress and anxiety myself, so this question had personal roots to it. This launched me into months of dedicated personal research into stress and adaptogens. I started incorporating several adaptogens - like reishi mushroom and ashwagandha - into daily smoothies and tonics. It completely changed my life and healed my eczema and adrenal fatigue.
However, as I had a research background, I had very high standards for the herbs and mushrooms that I was sourcing. I wanted high purity/potency, as well as ingredients farmed with an eye towards sustainability/ethical practices. That’s a pretty hard thing to do, and it took me a very long time to find suppliers and farmers that I trusted. One day, I took a step back and looked at all the work I had put into this, and realized that I really wanted to share my findings and research with others. So, I decided to launch a line of adaptogenic blends - so that others could easily be introduced into the world of adaptogenic mushrooms and herbs.
MF: We’d love to hear more about your personal experience with these ingredients, how have they improved your life?
NJ: There was a period of 3 years, where I was living an unsustainably stressful life. Even after my life calmed down, I would still get stressed by the smallest things. And even though I would get plenty of sleep, I still felt fatigued throughout the day. This is classic adrenal fatigue - my adrenal glands couldn’t keep pace with the constant stress I was experiencing, and now they were functioning below the necessary level. When I started incorporating adaptogens into my daily routine, it was like a grey cloud lifted. My energy levels, brain fog, eczema, and overall well-being improved tenfold. I can’t even express in words how much of a relief this has been for me.
I also had pretty severe eczema all throughout my life. As I got older, it spread - it was all over my neck, eyelids, scalp, legs, just everywhere. Having these raw, itchy patches on my skin took a toll on my self-confidence and was invasive and painful in my everyday life. After experiencing the stress-balancing effects that adaptogens had for me, I decided to do some research into herbs and mushrooms that could alleviate the effects of my eczema. After months and months of experimenting, I finally settled on a combination of rose hips, astragalus, and turmeric - which would later become our Pretty Mushroom blend. It reduced the inflammation from my eczema by 90% - and completely eliminated it in some places.
MF: Can you talk a bit about your experience as a woman of color in the wellness industry? In your opinion, what steps should be taken to make this industry more inclusive?
NJ: One big problem with the wellness industry is that it exceedingly caters to Caucasian women with a disposable income. As a WOC in the wellness space, it is frustrating that minorities aren’t being represented in an industry that is supposed to be about self-care and mindfulness.
As a pre-teen, I remember going to a yoga class with my aunt. She had just done her big chop, and had a mini fro amongst a sea of blond ponytails - but my aunt had no hesitation. It didn’t matter that we were the only women of color in the room. She belonged there and had the courage to take care of herself in that way. She is a big reason why I have the courage to be in white spaces like the wellness industry. And why I want to be seen as a founder of this company - to show others like me that yes, wellness is for you too. One important step towards diversification is for people of color in the wellness space to be visible.
Another step towards diversification is really respecting the self-care practices and herbal medicines from the east that we are incorporating into western wellness. This starts with sourcing mindfully, ethically, and sustainably. Period. When we are talking about wellness, it is especially important to provide products that are produced and handled in a way that supports mental and physical well being, as well as the future of our earth. When we support the melanin-blessed people who produce our ingredients, we are helping them become more visible within this space.
MF: I see you’re making a big effort to respect the cultures and traditions that have used adaptogens for hundreds of years -why is this important to you? And what practices have you adopted within Pretty Mushroom to honor the background of these ingredients?
*This question was answered by Jeffery Sateurn, the co-founder of Pretty Mushroom. He’s a big reason why they’re making this important in their company.
JS: I personally feel deeply uncomfortable when I see a company taking ancient cultural knowledge and practices and using them in marketing messages for their products. Interpreting this discomfort has been a revelation to me that stems from my childhood as a first-generation Mien immigrant.
My parents lived in a small village in the mountains between Vietnam and Laos. During the Vietnam war, they were forced to flee to Thailand, then the USA as refugees. My dad is a shaman, and he as well as my mother carry the medicinal and spiritual knowledge of food and herbs. Even though we lived in California, my parents grew almost everything we ate from the garden in our backyard and foraged for the many mushrooms and herbs we consumed. Every time I got sick growing up, an herbal recipe and Mien chant was there to help me heal.
My parents gleaned their knowledge from living in the mountains between Vietnam and Laos, and from their ancestors that lived on that land. So it’s an interesting dichotomy to see some of that knowledge portrayed as a marketing message for large brands. This discomfort/contrast is why it’s important for us to state that we really do respect the cultures and traditions that have used these ingredients before they were incorporated into the western world. And why we exclusively source ethically and sustainably.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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