Real Mushrooms or Mycelia: Two Types of Mushroom Supplements: What You Should Know

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably heard that mushrooms are really healthy for you, and may even want try them. But before you invest in a bottle, we want to educate you on what to look for when choosing a mushroom supplement.

There are two types of mushroom supplements. One is produced from 100% pure mushrooms, and the other is cultivated from grains. The makers of both types will tell you they contain all the beneficial mushroom components you need. One of them is not telling you the whole truth.

Understanding the differences between the two kinds of mushroom supplements is important if you want to be sure to reap the most benefits from these fantastic fungi.

Here’s what you need to know:

Are Mushrooms Good for You?

Mushrooms have been revered since ancient times for their medicinal value. Our ancestors realized these fungi were helpful, even though scientific research into their benefits didn’t start until recently to back up many of their claims.

The term “medicinal mushrooms” is often used to describe any fungi that are used for the prevention and treatment of symptoms and diseases. Overall, mushrooms have been studied for their ability to enhance the immune system, support brain health, improve antioxidant activity, regulate blood sugar levels, and improve exercise performance.

These benefits are associated with several substances found in mushrooms. One of them is beta glucans, which has been shown to support the immune system and fight inflammation. They also contain lectins, which have anti-cancer abilities. The presence of an enzyme called aromatase may also protect against the development of hormone-related cancers, such as breast and prostate cancers.

Types of Mushrooms

Some of the most common medicinal mushrooms include:

Mushroom Types

  • Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) grows primarily on the bark of birch trees in cold climates in Russia, Siberia, Korea, Northern Canada, and Alaska. It is valued for its ability to enhance immune function.
  • Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) is used in traditional Chinese medicine for respiratory and pulmonary conditions. Because it’s found only in the high mountains in China, most supplements containing this mushroom are made in the laboratory.
  • Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) are round white mushrooms with long shaggy spikes. They have a moderate to high antioxidant content and can be helpful in fighting inflammation.
  • Maitake (Grifola frondosa) are native to China but also are grown in North America and Japan. They typically grow at the base of elm and oak trees. They’re valued for an ability to help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and restore overall balance.
  • Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a bracket fungi that likes to grow on hardwood, especially oaks. It’s been used for more than four millennia by traditional folk medicine practitioners for liver problems, high blood pressure, arthritis, bronchitis, asthma, and gastric ulcers.
  • Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is the second most cultivated mushroom in the world. It possesses lentinan and other polysaccharides that have shown antitumor activity. Shiitake is also said to fight off bacteria.

Two Types of Mushroom Supplements

If you want to enjoy the health benefits of mushroom supplements, then you need to choose genuine mushrooms products, which are derived from their natural growing environments, such as on the sides of hardwood trees or in nutrient-rich soils.

These are known as “Fruiting Body Mushrooms.” Many mushroom supplements, however, are the byproduct of an unnatural growing environment. These are grown in plastic bags on sterilized grains.

MyPure™ Mushrooms, are Non GMO, 100% Certified Organic Whole Mushroom Fruiting Body Extracts, and nothing else. They contain guaranteed levels of beta glucans and are rich in other factors that only whole mushrooms provide. Every lot is lab tested for identity, purity, potency, heavy metals and pesticides.

Our original products use only 1:1 hot water extracts. These provide maximum Beta- (1,3) (1,6) -D-glucan content. Our 4X formulas combine 1:1 hot water extracts with stronger extracts (4:1, 8:1, 10:1, depending on the mushroom species).

These stronger extracts also provide high levels of Beta-glucans but offer richer concentrations of ganoderic acids, cordycepin, diterpenes and other important nutrients.

Real vs Grain-Based Mushroom Supplements

A phrase you’ll often see when shopping for mushroom supplements is “full spectrum.” Many brands of mushroom proudly claim their products are full spectrum, when in fact they’re not.

The term “full spectrum” was borrowed from the herbal community and was intended to be a good thing. However, when it comes to mushrooms, this isn’t the case.

Let’s define the term “full spectrum.” According to Jeff Chilton, co-author of The Mushroom Cultivator and a mushroom supplement expert, “An accurate definition of Full Spectrum would be a product that has the full complement or complete range of typical or possible elements, as in nutritional and medicinal compounds.”

The only way to guarantee a product is indeed full spectrum is to ensure the end product has been derived from naturally grown, non-GMO, fruiting body mushrooms (organic is preferred).

Brands that state on the label that their products contain “mycelium,” “mycelia,” “myceliated rice,” or any type of grain in either the supplements facts or “other ingredient” label sections contain myceliated grain mushrooms. Myceliated grain mushrooms are grown in plastic containers on cooked, sterilized cereal grains, such as oats, rice, milo or sorghum, (instead of on real tree trunks and rich soils.)

When mushrooms are grown this way, the mycelium fibers become deeply enmeshed with the grains and can’t be effectively separated from them. The result is a product that’s high in starch because of the grains, rather than nutrient-rich properties found in real, full spectrum fruiting body mushrooms.

The main reason companies grow mycelia on grain is because they’re easier and cheaper to grow and produce versus real, fruiting body mushrooms. One is manufactured in a lab, while the other grows naturally in nature.

Fruiting Body Mushrooms vs. Myceliated Mushrooms.

To better understand the difference between these two mushrooms, we’ve broken down these mushrooms based on results from testing. As you’ll see, there is a huge difference when it comes to each of their health benefits:

  • Beta glucans: These are one of the three main good guys you want in your mushroom supplement. Beta glucans are sugars found in the cell walls of fungi, bacteria, yeasts, and some plants. They’re used to manage cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, and to enhance the immune system. Real mushroom supplements (fruiting body mushrooms) contain up to 10 times the amount of beta glucans vs. grain-based supplements. That’s a major difference!
  • Ergosterol: This is another key compound you want in your mushroom supplement. Ergosterol is a sterol found in the cell walls of fungi and protozoa. It’s converted into vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun. Testing has shown that myceliated mushrooms grown on grain have as little as one tenth the ergosterol as real mushrooms.
  • Di- & Triterpenoids: These chemicals are produced by animals, plants, and fungi. They’re being studied extensively for their ability to fight cancer, enhance brain function, etc. The Fruiting body mushrooms contain much higher amounts than the myceliated grain-grown mushrooms do.
  • Starch: Real fruiting body mushrooms contain almost no starch. On the other hand, mycelia grown on grain contain high levels. In fact, powdered mushroom supplements are 60% to 70% starch.

Don’t misunderstand. Mycelia grown on grain are not worthless. They do contain valuable nutrients. But capsule per capsule, whole fruiting bodies provide from 10-15x  more mushroom nutrition at the same cost. So, conclusively it’s about both nutritional and economic value.

The bottom line

The take-home message is that when shopping for mushroom supplements, look on the bottle and make sure the label states: 100% mushroom extract or 100% full spectrum mushroom fruiting body extract.

Mycelia, myceliated grain or grain as an “other ingredient” means you’re getting a supplement that is up to 70% starch—these are the brands you want to stay away from. Mushroom supplements that originate in nature will contain high levels of beta glucans and ergosterol and are free of starch.

Those grown from grains will contain high levels of starch and alpha glucans and very low amounts of the important beta glucans and ergosterol.

If you want to be completely certain about what a “mushroom” supplement contains, just  conduct this simple test at home:

  1. Combine one gram of product (2 emptied capsules of 500 mg each or one-half teaspoon of powder) with three tablespoons of water.
  2. Mix thoroughly to dissolve the powder as completely as possible.
  3. Add 10 drops of standard iodine tincture (available at any pharmacy).

Results: If a product is mycelia grown on grain, your solution will turn dark purplish or black. Real mushroom powder will retain its original color or darken only very slightly.

MyPure™ Mushrooms, are Non GMO, 100% Certified Organic Whole Mushroom Fruiting Body Extracts, and nothing else. They contain guaranteed levels of beta glucans and are rich in other factors that only whole mushrooms provide. Every lot is lab tested for identity, purity, potency, heavy metals and pesticides.

Sources

Fuhrman J MD. Mighty mushrooms: boost immune function and guard against cancer. Dr. Fuhrman 2017 May 31
Fuhrman J MD. The real story on lectins. Dr. Fuhrman 2017 Aug 1
Leonard J. What are the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms? Medical News Today 2018 Oct 22
Link R. Maitake mushroom benefits blood sugar, cholesterol, immunity & more. Dr. Axe Food is Medicine 2018 Jun 24
Redefining medicinal mushrooms. Nammex
Triterpenoid. ScienceDirect
University of Hawaii. Medicinal mushrooms
WebMD. Beta glucans