Take a step into your local vitamin store, and you will find something quite striking about most medicinal mushroom products on the market. These so-called ‘mushroom products’ aren’t even true mushroom products. You are probably asking yourself how is this possible? Let me help you to decipher through all this confusion surrounding mushroom products. But first, I want to provide you with some juicy bits on the mushroom industry.
Did you know that the mushroom supplement industry is an $18 billion dollar industry and growing? It is becoming more important to be transparent with ingredients contained in mushroom products. First, why is there such amass confusion surrounding mushroom product labeling, to begin with? Well, a lot can be traced back to the debate between mycelium and the mushroom. Many consumers don’t realize the difference between the two. This is why consumers don’t know what to look for, resorting to the most attractive packaging, and most certified mushroom product. It’s important to realize that just because a mushroom product has many certifications and verifications, this doesn’t necessarily prove it’s efficacy and legitimacy. It is much more complex than that. Next, I want to provide you with some solid understanding of the fungi organism.
The mycelium is a threadlike network that grows underground. Mycelium is responsible for breaking down complex compounds, such as cellulose or lignans in trees, logs, and dead wood/stumps. It absorbs food from these compounds. The mushroom itself is referred to as the fruiting body. This is the part of fungi that we see protruding out of the ground and/or extending from dead, decaying wood and logs. The mycelium (underground part) is vital to the plant kingdom, whereas the mushroom is vital to supporting human health.
Fungal ingredients for deciphering a medicinal mushroom extract supplement
“Hypha” or “Hyphae” is the structure of a fungal organism that essentially makes up the mycelium.
“Mycelium”is the vegetative area of the fungal organism composed of a mass of hyphae. It also goes by the name of “mycelia.”
“Fruit Body” or “Fruiting Body” is the part of the fungal organism that protrudes out of the growing substrate. It’s the fleshy, reproductive stage that produces and releases spores into the environment. Releasing millions and millions over its lifespan.
“Primordium” or “Primordia” is the part of the fungal organism where you see a glimpse of the early signs of the mushroom-forming and protruding out of the growing substrate whether it be deadwood, log or ground.
“Sclerotium” or “Sclerotia” is a dense, compact mass of toughened mycelium.
“Spores”: are the reproductive unit of the fungus that is capable of germinating to produce a new hyphae.
“Substrate” is the surface on which the fungi organism grows or inhabits its nutrients from.
“A mushroom is a part of the fungus called reishi or Ganoderma lucidum and vice versa would be that the mycelium is part of the fungus called shiitake or Lentinula edodes.”
Do you see the difference between the two? Mushroom and mycelium are two key, separate integral parts of the fungi organism. Please keep this mind as we continue along this article. This will help you to establish the differences and allow you to decipher between various mushroom product labels on the market today.
“Any food in which mushroom mycelium is used should be labeled to state that fact. Labeling should not suggest or imply that the food contains mushrooms.”
What to avoid when looking for a Medicinal Mushroom product
Mycelium on grain product
Once you can distinguish between the differences of the mycelium and mushroom, things will be a lot more clear for you. To start, let’s explore what to avoid when walking down the aisles of your nearest Whole Foods, or local vitamin shop. When you see a mushroom product that expresses on the packaging that it contains “cordyceps mycelium on grain like oats or rice.” Right off the bat, it says you are getting “certified 100% Organic Mushroom.”
“Mushroom mycelium has an identity different from mushrooms, and food products in which it is used should be labeled to clearly indicate that they contain mushroom mycelium.” – FDA.gov
Remember what was stated above. Mushroom and mycelium are two separate, key integral parts of the fungi. When you bring these two terms together as one in a product,t confuses the consumer. You are not getting any part of the fruiting body at all. You are only getting the mycelium on grain.. Did you know that any cordyceps grown in the United States is mycelium on grain? In theory, you are getting little to no actual authentic cordyceps mushroom (fruiting body). To prove the validity and efficacy of this statement, I would encourage you to do an iodine starch test.
Key properties in mushroom products to strive for:
Make sure it contains the mushroom (fruiting body) as the main ingredient.
Does the supplement brand source organic certified mushrooms that are free of heavy metals, pesticides, and other microbiological agents?
Make sure there are no added fillers, binders and preservatives present in the mushroom product. A prime example here would be Reishi. Reishi is known for its bitterness. An essential predictor of the potency of a reishi supplement extract is its bitterness factor.
Make sure the mushroom (fruiting body) extract is hot water extracted. The mushroom fiber is still present so nothing is lost in the extraction process. All of the non-water soluble components are still active and present even though it is a hot water extraction.
Does the mushroom product contain high amounts of beta-glucans rather than just displaying high polysaccharides count? Remember, high polysaccharides numbers don’t always indicate high mushroom quality, purity, and efficacy. The mushroom product should quantify the beta glucans.
USA grown mushrooms don’t necessarily indicate a high-quality mushroom extract, no matter how eye-catching the packaging is or how many stamps/certifications it has on the label. Most US grown mushrooms are grown on grain and are not made from mushrooms, but from the mycelium instead.
I hope this information serves you well when you are in the market for a mushroom supplement. This is a complex subject with many layers. I hope this gives you sound information to seek out the very best mushroom extracts that fit you and your health goals.
- 22 May 2018
- Optimized Nutrition