Pretty Mushroom: A Fun Brand That Makes Herbal Blends & Holistic Tonics Using Potent Medicinal Ingredients From Ancient Indigenous Cultures.
After featuring wellness brands such as GOLDE Turmeric and Golden Flourish, we have always been even more eager to find MelaninASS wellness brands that align with our values. So we found a fun brand called PRETTY MUSHROOM, that makes herbal blends and holistic tonics using potent medicinal ingredients from ancient indigenous cultures.
Check out this interview:
When and why did you start Pretty Mushroom? What inspired the name?
When I went to school, I was a pre-med at Johns Hopkins. I was really into the idea of holistic health and nutrition and wanted to incorporate that into my practice as a physician. At the time, my mom was suffering from severe eczema and headaches. She went to see a naturopathic doctor and, although it helped, it was so, so expensive. It made me think: do I really want to become a holistic practitioner to help just a select group of people?
With the realization that I didn’t want to go into that direction, I started looking for ways to make holistic wellness approachable and inclusive to everyone. I have always been entrepreneurial and in 2018 my co-founder and I started Pretty Mushroom. Our name comes from our signature product.
How do you define sustainability?
Sustainability in all aspects of business is when a product is produced and handled in a way that supports human mental and physical wellbeing, as well as the earth’s future. With respect to Pretty Mushroom, I interpret sustainability in our business as bio-regional herbalism — ensuring that the plants are sourced from their native region and/or directly traded with the farmers.
Sustainability is also about being flexible as new knowledge about our world and how we are impacting it becomes available. Each of our blends is created and continuously edited with this in mind. For example, Cordyceps (in our Genius Mushroom Blend) growth is currently declining due to climate change and over-harvesting. We are deciding to remove Cordyceps from our next production batch so that we don’t contribute to this problem.
Where do you source your ingredients?
When first starting out, it was extremely important for us to source from farms and suppliers that were just as obsessed with purity, potency, environmental sustainability, and ethical practices as we are. That’s a pretty tall order, especially considering we have 18+ adaptogens or mushrooms in our blends. Each plant is unique and has to be harvested at their peak potency and seasonal timing.
Keeping all of these things in mind, we decided to source all of our mushroom powders like Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and Tremella from a small organic farm in Washington. They ensure that the mushroom powders are in the most bioavailable form by freeing the 1,3-beta glucan from the chitin of the mushrooms through a process called steam distillation. They go through two rounds of third-party lab testing, which certifies that they are rich in antioxidants and all the good stuff. :)
We source the turmeric for our Pretty Mushroom blend from a company called Diaspora Co. They are all about the decolonization of Indian spices — giving the equity, power, and equality back to indigenous farmers. We purchase heirloom variety turmeric from a same-year harvest that has about twice the curcumin content then regular turmeric. It is grown at a 4th generation family-owned farm in Vijayawada and Diaspora Co. pays 6x the commodity price in order to ensure fair wages. We’ve so far been impressed with their transparency and mission to decolonize an outdated commodity spice trading system.
I could go on - our cocoa is from the Equal Exchange Coop, our rosehips from a women’s coop in Lesotho — but this would be a very long list! Keep an eye on our website, as we are currently working on listing out all of our suppliers so people can know exactly where our herbs and mushrooms come from. Complete transparency is the goal. Where did the ingredients come from? Who handled them along the way?
Does being a Black woman / WOC influence your brand? If so, how?
I remember going to a yoga class at the YMCA, lifting up from a downward dog, and realizing — all at once— that I was the only non-white person in the room. In a flash, I felt uncomfortable. Growing up in a predominately white, middle class town, I was no stranger to these feelings. But still, they were there. Years later, I went to a college that was located within the beautiful diversity of Baltimore. Opting for off-campus classes, I landed at a studio that just happened to have a WOC yoga instructor. The class was also more diverse, and it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I noticed that the discomfort I had experienced in my hometown yoga studio was absent and instead was a feeling of welcome.
This wellness movement has been exceedingly ‘white-centric’ and and it is up to us to create that feeling of welcome in a space where it seems like we are unwelcome. Plus - many brands would not be in existence without women of color. For us, they are the women fighting the invasive reship plants in Lesotho and the women who are decolonizing indian spices by building ethical relationships with farmers. Why shouldn’t they be represented and visible in the end product when they helped to create it?
Why are your wellness blends important and how are they unique & healthy for you?
Let’s face it: the modern world isn’t exactly friendly to our bodies. Our brains aren’t used to the constant stimuli that technology provides, not to mention that we live in a very fast paced culture. Our bodies stress response to this has manifested into various diseases and illnesses. In our blends, we use adaptogens to help the body adapt to stress and promote long-term resilience. We also use mushrooms to enhance beauty, mood, and mind.
For me, our blends are a part of my daily wellness rituals — a mindful cup of coffee in the morning, a refreshing green smoothie before a workout, a luscious cocoa nut milk latte before bed. Taking a conscious pause with these wellness practices encourages mindfulness everyday.
What does wellness mean for you on a daily basis?
The word ‘wellness’ has been used as a buzzword in so many company marketing campaigns that it can be difficult to separate out what it means for you, personally, from what you are being told it should mean for you. Wellness is dynamic and unique to everyone -- it’s not just about doing a face mask or painting your nails. It is about creating routines and habits that help you become the most efficient and fulfilled version of yourself. For me, creating to do lists is essential. Lists give me authority over my day where otherwise I might proceed with anxiety or confusion. Especially because, as a small business owner, I wear a lot of hats and that can be stressful. When I write something down on my list, there’s a satisfaction in knowing that things will get done, and it releases me from thinking about it.
Another self-care ritual I do on a daily basis is incorporating a little plant magic into my day. This doesn’t just mean eating your fruits and veggies, though I love my morning medicinal Happy Mushroom smoothie. Each morning and evening, I take a 20 minute walk throughout the nature surrounding my house. Taking in the lovely greenery around me always has a rejuvenating and restorative effect. I like to think of it as a time for me to prepare myself for a day of work or wind down after a long day. For lunch, I’ll usually pair a Pretty Mushroom lemon tonic with whatever salad I can throw together. I always feel better when I’m surrounded by plants, so many of the wellness habits I cultivate are about incorporating plants or nature into my diet, home, and overall lifestyle. I’ve been called “crazy plant lady” on more than one occasion. :)