If you are reading this post, then you may have noticed that medicinal mushrooms have been garnering much attention in the headlines as of late. This is for a good reason. Beyond their culinary uses, a wide variety of mushrooms contain compounds that are of benefit to human health. To many, this information is nothing new. There is extensive documentation of ancient Chinese, Greek, and Roman civilizations using them - in fact one of the oldest human mummies ever discovered, Otzi, was found carrying medicinal mushrooms to treat intestinal parasites!
Today, mushrooms are experiencing a revival. People across online forums and review boards are raving about (insert mushroom) to boost creativity, energy, focus, etc. You name the function and there is a mushroom for it. However, with all of this goodness, there is still some gray area and genuine ignorance about which companies are offering ‘authentic’ mushroom products. We feel strongly about spreading our knowledge to consumers on how to choose the highest quality mushroom products one possibly can. So, before you run to the store or go searching the web, check out these 4 rules for identifying and purchasing high quality mushroom products.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of mushroom products: ones that use pure fruiting bodies and ones that use fillers. Thankfully, it is pretty easy to identify the latter. If the nutrition or supplement panel of a mushroom product lists ingredients other than the mushroom species advertised, then the product is cut with filler. These fillers are typically listed in the ‘other ingredients’ section and will be the name of some type of grain (rice, oat, wheat, etc). Products labeled as containing mycelium tend to fall into this category.
Now, it should be noted that there are plenty of products, like ours, that use mushrooms in addition to other ingredients. In these cases it may be a bit harder to identify whether an added ingredient is a filler or an ingredient serving a functional purpose in the formulation. Here you may have to be a bit more scrupulous, but the answers can be surprisingly obvious (i.e. why would there be grain in a mushroom infused kombucha?).
Hard & Fast Rule: If the ingredient panel includes grain, then the mushroom is cut with filler.
Just as the old adage goes, “you are what you eat”. Mushrooms are no exception. Aside from a few outliers, most of the medicinal mushrooms we grow commercially were once wild species that grew naturally in the forests, feeding on decaying wood. In fact, many of the compounds we seek from mushrooms are actually nutrients they pull from decomposing timber. Unfortunately, this fundamental understanding of how mushrooms grow and thrive has not carried over to many mushroom purveyors who choose instead to grow their mushrooms on grain. You will not find medicinal mushrooms growing on grain naturally. Growing on grain is cheaper and more convenient for producing large biomasses of mycelium. Grain does not provide the same nutritional matrix as wood and therefore the mushrooms are less nutritious. If a company grows its mushrooms on wood you will know. Almost all companies will proudly display this on their label or on their website at the very least.
Hard & Fast Rule: Buy mushroom products grown on wood.
The beneficial compounds that we seek in mushrooms such as beta glucans, tripterpenes, and vitamins are locked in the cell walls of the mushroom. These walls are composed of a very tough material called “chitin” which is indigestible for humans. Fortunately, most of these beneficial compounds are water or ethanol soluble. By extracting mushrooms with hot water and in some cases, alcohol, these beneficial components are drawn out and made bio-available to us. If a mushroom product has been extracted, it will be mentioned on the ingredients panel. Many of the mushroom supplements you see on the market are using ground up mycelium that has not been extracted, which means that very little of the good stuff is made useful to you!
Hard & Fast Rule: Look for products that market extraction or heat treatment in the ingredients panel.
Last, check for the word “organic” or look for the USDA organic label. Many of you may already do this with other products that you purchase, but with fungi this is especially important. Mushrooms are very sensitive to environmental conditions. Due to their permeable flesh and far reaching mycelial networks, they tend to bioaccumulate particulates that are present in their surrounding environments. This may include toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, etc.
Hard & Fast Rule: Always buy organic!
Forget the fillers, look for pure fruiting body
Wood grown is the gold standard
Look for the words "extracted" or "heat treated"
Always buy organic!
*Full disclosure, we are a mushroom company that sells mushroom products. That being said, we do not claim to be the sole proprietors of ‘authentic’ mushroom products, but if you are looking for high quality products check out ourshop.