Increase your knowledge behind mushroom extracts here, including; What is a mushroom extract, where to buy it, what to look for, and why use it
Mushroom extracts are becoming more and more popular throughout the United States. Not all extracts are made the same. As this craze grows there are some important factors to consider before buying an extract.
What’s all the hype about? Are mushroom extracts really as good as they appear to be. Well there certainly are a lot of benefits they might provide as seen from all of these studies. Most people are amazed by the polysaccharides mushrooms produce and the potential support in immunomodulation they offer. Immunomodulation is the process of regulating the immune system either by toning a hyper active immune system down or boosting a weakened immune system. Mushrooms are generally considered proactive supplements, something you wouldn’t use to kick a cold but rather to help prevent a cold from appearing. In this post we go over what exactly a mushroom extract is, why people are using mushroom extracts, what to look for when buying a mushroom extract, and where exactly you can buy mushroom extracts.
What is in a mushroom extract
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi. The size, shape, color, and consistency can range widely from a hard wood like Chaga, to the soft, fleshy club tissue of cordyceps. Interestingly, some mushroom extracts do not use mushrooms at all but rather use mycelium. If you want to learn more about the difference between mycelium and fruiting bodies check out this post.
The efficacy between these two different anatomical parts of a fungus is hotly debated currently but it is important to know that some companies DO NOT USE FRUITING BODIES AT ALL. The biggest downside to using myceliated grain is the fungus cannot be separated from the rice so both end up in the final product. Paul Stamets states, “Growing on rice might have 30-40% conversion of rice to mycelium” meaning that up to 70% of the product could still be rice and not fungal tissue.
When buying a real mushroom extract that exclusively contains fruiting bodies, you can rest assured you are receiving 100% fungal tissue and no grain in the final product. Regardless of the anatomical part of the fungus that is used, a mushroom extract is extracted in two ways.
First, using hot water a tea is made, pulling the compounds stored in the mushroom out. Not all compounds found in fungi are water soluble so the liquid and mushroom are the separated and a second extraction method is used.
The second part of making a mushroom extract is soaking it in alcohol for 4-6 weeks to draw out any remaining compounds. Then the tea and water are combined to allow a final product that is about 25-35% alcohol. Smaller companies like Fungi Ally then bottle and offer the mushroom extract in liquid form. Larger companies that can afford to turn the extract into a powder will further process the liquid so you are left with a white powder to use in smoothies or capsules. At this point the compounds can easily be absorbed into the body.
Why use a mushroom extract
There are many different species of mushroom that are extracted and can be consumed. The most popular are
Chaga turns compounds found in the birch tree it grows on into betulinic acid, inotodiol, and many other compounds that have been studied. Chaga can be found growing almost exclusively on birch trees and likely needs the precursors of the tree to have a full spectrum of compounds. High quality Chaga mushroom extract has a birch like flavor and is bitter. Cass Ingram, MD, discusses chaga’s antioxidant properties in the Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing. “Chaga is known for its very high content of super-oxide dismutase (SOD), an important enzyme that functions as a powerful antioxidant.”
Reishi covers a wide range of species in the Ganoderma genus. It is also called lingzhi and it grows all over the world. In an article on health line.com the first of 6 benefits of Reishi listed is boost immune system.
There are several different species of cordyceps that are consumed as mushroom extracts. Cordyceps sinensis is extremely expensive and primarily sold in the raw form still attached to the caterpillar it grew from. To learn about the ecology of cordyceps watch this amazing bbc video.The other species of Cordyceps mushroom extract sold is cordyceps militaris. This one is much more affordable and is the more common species found in liquid and powder extracts.
Lion’s mane extract
Lion’s mane is a brain like looking mushroom that turns from pink to white. With such an incredible look and drastic change as it grows to maturity no wonder people are researching lion’s manes impact on the human brain. Probably not as powerful as psilocybin mushrooms
Shiitake is likely the most studied mushroom extract. Shiitake has compounds approved in both China and Japan to use in conjunction with chemotherapy. This mushroom is easy to get in any grocery store and could be consumed in quantities of about 1/4 a pound 3 times a week instead of using an extract.