WELCOME TO THE
Welcome to the incredible, edible world of mushrooms!
From the mundane to the magical, mushrooms have a long and deep history with people and the planet.
Pictured right is an amazing mushroom I found while foraging in my hometown, Fomes Fomentarius, commonly known as horse hoof fungus.
Did You Know?
The largest known organism in the world is actually a mushroom!
Armillaria Ostoyae, also known as the Humongus Fungus (clearly a dad came up with that nickname), measures 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles in American) across and is located in Malheur National Forest in east Oregon. (1)
Mushrooms are actually composed of three main parts, along with some supporting cast members.
This is the part that you normally do not see. If you ever flip over a log and see white patches, that is often mycelium. Think of mycelium as you would the roots of a plant.
The spores are like the pollen of the mushroom world. They are released by the fruiting body. The spores then germinate and form mycelia. Then when two compatible mycelia find each other and grow together (the mushroom equivalent of marriage), they will sometimes grow a fruiting body, although not all mushrooms grow fruiting bodies.
The fruiting body
The fruiting body is what we commonly think of as mushrooms. This is the part that grows above ground. Think of it as the flower of the mushroom world.
Fruiting Body vs Mycelium
Many mushroom supplements that are sold actually contain no mushroom. They just grind up the mycelium and grain it is growing on and put it into a pill.
Products like this can often contain over 80% starch.
These products will not have any health benefits.
In 1976, the FDA issued a statement in its Compliance Policy Guide, Section 585.525: Mushroom Mycelium – Fitness for Food; Labeling. It states: “Any food in which mushroom mycelium [sic] is used should be labeled to state that fact. Labeling should not suggest or imply that the food contains mushrooms."
The vast majority of mushroom supplements sold are actually not mushroom supplements. Many companies sell 100% mycelium products but put pretty pictures of the fruiting body on the label, even though they contain none of the fruiting body. This is incredibly deceptive and hopefully, in the future, it will be cracked down on. If a product shows pictures of the fruiting body on the label or claims to be a mushroom supplement, it must actually contain the fruiting body.
The majority of mushroom supplement capsules on the market actually contain no mushroom.
To give an example, reishi mushroom is dark brown-reddish in color when ground. It has a bitter taste because of a class of compounds called triterpenoids. These compounds have a variety of health benefits.
However, if you open a capsule or a container of reishi mushroom mycelium it will be beige in color and taste sweet. This is because the product is almost entirely starch and sugar because it is mostly just ground up myceliated grain.
You will be getting little, if any, of the many beneficial compounds such as triterpenoids and beta-glucans.
Pictured right is a brick of mycelium growing on grains. Does that look like a mushroom to you?
While mycelium products are cheaper, more profitable, and easier to produce, they simply cannot match the benefits of real mushroom supplements.
Rooted Nutrition only sells 100% fruiting body extracts. We will never sell products made from the mycelium.
The Importance of Wood!
Wood contains a compound called lignin. Lignin is the favorite food of mushrooms. The mycelium uses lignin and other compounds as food for its continued growth as well as the formation of the fruiting body.
Different types of wood contain different nutrients and compounds not found in grains and starches, which can lead to fruiting bodies with different types and amounts of beneficial compounds.
Growing mushrooms on rice or tapioca starch can never replicate the effects of growing mushrooms on wood.
One exception to this rule is cordyceps, also known as caterpillar fungus, which naturally grows on caterpillars.
Pictured right are some Turkey Tail mushrooms growing on a fallen log, from one of my recent nighttime foraging trips.
Wild vs Cultivated Mushrooms
Nearly all mushroom supplements on the market are grown in greenhouses on grain or sterilized sawdust.
A very few are made from wild-harvested mushrooms.
When mushrooms are wild-harvested they will be rich in various compounds, at levels that simply cannot be duplicated in a greenhouse (if they are present at all).
In response to these environmental stressors, they produce various compounds, in the same way that many plants produce higher levels of beneficial compounds in response to pests.
While these compounds may be produced to protect the plants and mushrooms themselves, when we eat them we reap health benefits from these higher levels.
Terpenes have a wide variety of health benefits, so using mushroom supplements with higher levels of various terpenes will provide more health benefits than those with much lower levels.
Mushrooms grow in a greenhouse on sterilized mediums do not face these same pressures from the environment and will not produce many of these beneficial compounds or produce them in much smaller amounts.
Where do your mushroom supplements come from?
As with other supplements, it can be really difficult to know where they actually came from.
Companies can often obfuscate and use fancy packaging or marketing tricks to make it appear that they come from small farmers or a little mom and pop operation, when in fact they might come from a massive corporation or a supplier with serious ethical issues.
Where do most mushroom supplements come from?
The vast majority of mushroom supplements use raw materials produced in the United States or China, with small amounts coming from other areas.
There are two main sources of raw materials used in mushroom supplements.
The first is mycelium grown on grain in greenhouses.
The largest supplier of these raw materials is located in the United States.
These mycelium powders are not grown on wood but instead are grown on starches such as rice, tapioca, or barley.
There is a serious ethical issue that arises from the use of these materials.
Since there is no actual mushroom in these ground-up powders, just partially digested grain with some mycelium, these products will have no efficacy. This is incredibly dishonest and downright disgusting.
Some companies claim that the mycelium contains beneficial compounds not found in the fruiting body. While there may be trace amounts of some compounds found in the mycelium and not in the fruiting body, these amounts would be extremely low, as these products are almost entirely ground-up grain and very little of the actual mycelium is present. If a compound is beneficial, amounts of it need to be present in amounts that have been shown to be effective. Just having a trace of it or showing it is present is not the same thing as showing it will actually do something.
The funny thing about this is that arabinoxylan does not actually occur in mushrooms, but is present in grains.
They are touting compounds from the ground up grains as being a feature in their mushroom supplements.
Are they selling grain supplements or mushroom supplements?
The answer is they are selling grain supplements.
Where do most mushroom supplements come from?
The second most common raw materials are fruiting body and mycelium extract powders that have been grown on sterilized sawdust or grain in greenhouses.
These extracts are produced in a variety of ways, depending on the supplier.
The vast majority of these raw materials come from China.
In addition to the fact that these growth mediums cannot replicate the amazing diversity of compounds found in a wide variety of trees that are found in the woods, it comes with the huge ethical and quality control issues surrounding ingredients from China.
A few, but certainly not all of the ethical issues with mushrooms and other raw materials from China:
Rooted Nutrition will never sell mushroom supplements from China. If a company we are using ever switches to a Chinese supplier we will discontinue them without hesitation. Doing the right thing must always come first.
Click the link below to read about why Rooted Nutrition does not sell products that contain ingredients from China.
Pictured at right are cordyceps mushrooms with lead wires and twigs inserted in them.
Different mushrooms grow better in different areas, so our mushrooms come from different places.
All of the mushrooms are ethically wild-harvested by hand, no greenhouse or lab-grown mushrooms are used.
Our harvesters use sustainable methods, in order to ensure the health of the local ecosystem.
Here are the regions they are harvested from:
Agarikon - West Coast Rainforest on Vancouver Island in Canada.
Chaga - Northern California
Cordyceps - Andes Mountains in Peru
Lion's Mane - Northern California
Maitake - Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania
Reishi - Northern California
Turkey Tail - Northern California
We are working to source more species of mushrooms such as Agaricus, Mesima, and Tremella.
Pictured at right is this year's Maitake mushroom being harvested.
Where do Rooted Nutrition mushroom extracts come from?
The mushrooms are harvested and then taken to the facility where they are inspected and cleaned thoroughly with filtered spring water to remove all dirt and debris.
Next, the mushrooms are dried at a low temperature and humidity in order to get ready for the manufacturing process and to avoid bacterial and fungal contamination.
Mushrooms are made of a material called chitin. This is similar to the material that lobster shells are made of.
As you can imagine this is not very digestible. In order to get the incredible benefits of mushrooms, this chitin must be broken down. It is not enough to grind up the mushrooms as the beneficial compounds are trapped inside the cell walls.
In order to liberate these beneficial compounds, the mushrooms must be put through an extraction process. Different compounds require different extraction methods and temperatures to ensure the full spectrum of compounds are extracted. In addition, some compounds can be damaged from certain methods or heat, so it is important to use the correct method for the different compounds.
All of our mushroom extracts are produced using a dual extraction method.
The mushrooms start with a cold alcohol extraction. This cold alcohol extraction process extracts and protects temperature-sensitive compounds such as terpenes, fatty acids, and many others.
After the alcohol extraction, the mushrooms are then put through a hot water extraction process which extracts other compounds such as beta-glucans that require heat in order to be extracted.
These two extracts are then blended together to ensure a true full-spectrum product, with all the benefits that mushrooms have to offer.
Mushroom extracts should be packaged in dark glass bottles in order to avoid the damaging effects of light on extracts.
Crude ground-up mushroom products will never produce results because the beneficial compounds are tapped inside the chitin.
Products that use a single extraction method will never provide a true full-spectrum product because many of the beneficial compounds will not be extracted or will be damaged or destroyed in the process.
Rooted Nutrition only utilizes dual-extracted mushroom products to ensure you experience the full potential that mushrooms have to offer.
When the mushrooms first arrive at the facility they should be cleaned and quarantined apart from the other raw materials to avoid contamination.
Next, the mushrooms should be identified using organoleptic testing to ensure it is the correct mushroom being used.
Organoleptic testing is the use of the senses: sight, taste, touch, and smell.
Now if a company is not harvesting the mushroom themselves but instead getting barrels of powdered or liquid mushrooms then they would need to perform more sophisticated testing methods, such as HPLC and others, in order to ensure that the raw material is what it is claimed to be.
At this stage the mushrooms should be tested for things such as, but not limited to:
1. Harmful bacteria such as salmonella, bacillus, and many others.
2.Harmful fungus, molds, and yeasts such as aspergillus, aflatoxin, green mold, and many others.
This testing is usually performed using a variety of plating methods, you can read more about that here:
2. Herbicides, Pesticides, and Fungicides
Harvesting Mushrooms deep in the woods means there is less risk of contamination from these, but they still should be tested.
Here are the USP guidelines for testing:
3. Heavy metals such as, but not limited to lead, cadmium and arsenic.
Here are the USP guidelines for heavy metal testing:
Polysaccharides and Beta Glucans
Polysaccharides are carbohydrates (e.g. starch, cellulose, or glycogen) whose molecules consist of a number of sugar molecules bonded together.
There are a variety of polysaccharides found in mushrooms. Some have health benefits, such as certain beta-glucans, and others do not.
For this reason, a product telling you the total polysaccharide content of the finished product is pretty meaningless. You do not know what percentage of these are beneficial and which are of no benefit.
A product listing 50% polysaccharides could contain 1% beneficial and 49% could be inert.
It is just a marketing gimmick because people tend to see a higher amount and think it is better.
Some companies list the levels of beta-glucans on the label but do not put which ones they are. Not all beta-glucans offer the same benefits.
Much of the polysaccharide testing methods currently available for mushroom supplements are easily cheated and can be very inaccurate.
This can make it hard to tell whether the polysaccharides are coming from grain in mushroom.
For these reasons and more, you should not rely on the polysaccharide content of a mushroom supplement to determine its effectiveness or potency.
Secondary Compounds Found in Mushrooms
While Beta-D-Glucan (the compound thought to have the biggest role in mushrooms ability to support immune function) and a few other compounds are considered the "active ingredients" and occur in most mushrooms, different species contain other unique compounds that have their own set of benefits.
Here are just a few of the unique beneficial compounds found in different mushroom species.
Agarikon - Unique coumarin compounds not found in other mushrooms that help support the immune system in a very unique way.
Chaga - Contains potent antioxidants as well as betulinic acid which is formed when Chaga converts the betulin found in birch trees into betulinic acid. So if your Chaga supplement is growing on grain or normal sawdust it will not be rich in this. It must be grown on birch trees to produce high levels of this compound. This triterpenoid has a wide variety of health-promoting effects.
Cordyceps - Contains cordycepic acid, cordycepin, and adenosine. These valuable compounds help support adrenal, kidney, and lung health.
Lion's Mane - Contains NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) which helps to support a healthy nervous system. As well as hericenones and erinacines which support brain health.
Maitake - Contains a glycoprotein that supports healthy blood sugar levels.
Reishi - Contains ganoderic acids (triterpenoids) that have unique immune-supportive effects as well as beneficial effects for liver health and healthy lipid levels.
Turkey Tail (Coriolus Versicolor) - Contains PSK (polysaccharide K) and PSP (a unique protein-bound polysaccharide). These compounds are some of the most well-known and well-researched compounds. These compounds are wonderful for supporting a healthy immune system.
These compounds show the importance of using a properly extracted, full-spectrum product, to ensure you are getting all of the beneficial compounds present in mushrooms and not just a few of them.
How Should Mushroom Extracts be Taken?
Mushroom extracts should be taken on an empty stomach, at least forty-five minutes before food or two hours after eating.
This will ensure you get the most benefits from your mushrooms.
You can drop the extract under the tongue or mix it with water and swallow.
It is generally best to divide your daily dosage up and take it two-three times a day, rather than all at once.
To achieve the full benefits of mushrooms, please keep in mind that it can take several months to achieve the full effects. Think of them as health tonics.
So make sure to take them every day for maximum effectiveness.