You want to be healthy.
The problem is that there are thousands of supplements on the market today. Some work, and others have no scientific claims to back up their health benefits.
Luckily, mushroom supplements and extracts have been examined in-depth in clinical studies and many of their health benefits have been proven.
But not all mushroom supplements are created equal! In this article I'll show you what to look out for so that you know you're spending money on effective medicinal mushrooms.
I'll also explain why you may want to take mushroom supplements, discuss the different options available, and list a few of my favorite mushroom supplements.
This product ticks all the boxes that I discussed earlier in this article.
It's made from 100% mushrooms. It's certified organic. The manufacturer guarantees triterpenoid and beta glucan potency. And it comes with a guarantee that it's scientifically verified and doesn't contain added fillers.
This is an 8:1 extract which makes it super potent. If you're looking to take advantage of the health benefits that reishi has to offer, then I think this powder is the ideal way to go.
Just be aware that with that potency comes an extremely bitter taste! You might need to put it in a smoothie to mask some of the flavor.
Paul Stamets is one of the world's leading mycologists (mushroom scientists) and has a whole line of medicinal mushroom products to choose from.
I chose this one as it provides a blend of 7 of the most popular medicinal mushrooms to give you great overall coverage.
Each capsule contains royal sun blazei, cordyceps, reishi, maitake, lion's mane, chaga, and mesima.
Even though this product contains mycelium instead of 100% fruiting bodies, I trust that this product actually delivers on its health claims based on the company making it.
If you're a tea drinker, then I'd highly recommend this lion's mane product.
It tastes like a minty tea, not like mushrooms at all. You can either drink it as-is or mix it into your favorite coffee, tea, or smoothie.
Every packet contains 1500mg of lion's mane extract, as well as rose hips, organic mint, and rhodiola. It is sweetened with stevia and doesn't contain any added sugar.
Lion's mane has both long-term and short-term memory benefits. So try this beverage first thing in the morning to wake your brain up. Or during a study session or a period when you really need to focus and concentrate on your work.
This is another Four Sigmatic product, but with a more general purpose.
This product contains lion's mane, reishi, chaga, cordyceps, enokitake, maitake, shiitake, tremella, agaricus blazei, and meshima. With 10 different medicinal mushrooms, it's one of the most complete mushroom powders I've come across.
All of the mushrooms used are extracts of their fruiting body, with the exception of cordyceps which is a mycelium extract. In all of my research, I didn't find any products that actually contain cordyceps mushrooms.
Probably since they only grow on insects, which would make growing and harvesting the actual mushrooms much more difficult than getting the mycelium.
For a 60 gram container, this product is quite reasonably priced compared to other powdered extracts. It should last you for 30 servings, or about once per day for the whole month.
This powder has every benefit you're looking to get from medicinal mushrooms including a boost to your immune system, focus and creativity, and all the other advantages you'd expect.
This product listing contains very little nutritional information and doesn't show the back of the package. But the fact that it contains 100% wild harvested chaga mushroom rules out many of the usual concerns like mycelium on grain.
It looks more like a small company that hasn't uploaded multiple pictures of their product to Amazon, rather than a seller trying to intentionally misrepresent a product.
I did some research on the company that produces it and found their processing facility is FDA registered and they've been inspected and licensed by the state of Maine as a food manufacturer.
At 5 oz or about 140 grams, this package contains 300+ servings of chaga and for the price I think it's hard to beat.
Be aware that unlike reishi powder, chaga powder won't dissolve in liquid. So you can't just add it to a smoothie. (Well, you can, but it will taste pretty grainy.) Instead, this product needs to be steeped in boiling water like tea.
If you want a mushroom tonic, I think this one is a great choice. It contains a super concentrated extract of reishi, cordyceps, maitake, and shiitake.
The label says they're using actual mushrooms for their extracts, not mycelium. And that all of their extracts are made from wild harvested or organic mushrooms.
If you prefer taking tinctures over powders or capsules, then I think this is a great all-in-one product.
Check out more about medicinal mushrooms in this complete guide.
Here are some important reasons to consider adding mushroom supplements to your daily routine.
You need your immune system in proper working order to stay happy and healthy.
Your immune system is fighting off cancer cells and clearing waste from your body every second of every day. It's a very complex system of our body.
It's particularly an issue as you start to age, because your immune system can start to function less efficiently and wear down.
Taking mushroom supplements can help give your immune system the boost it needs.
Certain medicinal mushrooms are capable of increasing your number of white blood cells, red blood cells, bone marrow cells and many other important parts of your overall immune system. They also make your immune cells stronger and more effective at fighting potential infections.
Reishi and chaga mushrooms are both great for your immune system. They've been shown in mice to increase the number of macrophages in your body. These are a special "hunter" type of white blood cell that surrounds and eats cancer cells, bacteria and other microbes, or any other debris that it deems unhealthy for your body.
Even shiitake mushrooms that we think of more as food than medicine can have a positive impact on your immune system.
Science tells us that our bodies are full of free radicals, which are particles that bounce around and cause damage to our cells and DNA.
This damage causes health problems like inflammation and also contributes to aging. So we want to decrease the amount of free radicals in our bodies, as it can have major benefits for our health.
The easy way to inactivate or remove free radicals from your body is by increasing the amount of antioxidants you consume, either from food or supplements.
Many kinds of mushrooms are high in a wide variety of antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, selenium, and others. As well as special ingredients called polysaccharides that have been shown to neutralize free radicals and are only found in mushrooms.
Cordyceps mushrooms are especially good when it comes to antioxidants. They don't just contain antioxidants themselves, but they also enhance your body's natural antioxidant systems.
Speaking of cordyceps mushrooms, they also contain compounds that have hypoglycemic effects. That means they quickly lower your blood sugar back to normal levels.
Diabetic nephropathy is one of the most damaging complications of the disease. It causes your kidneys to malfunction over time and eventually fail. Cordyceps has been shown to also preserve renal (kidney) function in mice and lower the amount of kidney breakdown markers in the blood.
This kidney-saving effect has only been demonstrated in mice so far, but it may be a crucial tool for diabetics to keep their kidneys functioning properly into old age.
Even regular white button mushrooms act as a prebiotic and can modify the microorganisms in your gut to improve blood sugar control. They also add extra fiber which can help prevent large blood sugar spikes after a meal.
Other mushrooms have been shown to increase your body's natural production of insulin.
Mushrooms can be powerful tools when it comes to managing your blood sugar levels if you've got diabetes.
Of course, be sure to consult with your doctor before you start consuming large amounts of mushrooms or supplements.
Even if you're healthy and active, mushroom supplements and extracts can still benefit you.
They don't just help older people to live longer. They can help athletes and other people in their prime to be stronger and healthier too.
Studies of cordyceps shows that it can dilate the arteries in your body to increase oxygenated blood flow throughout your circulatory system by up to 40%! That greatly increases your endurance during high-intensity exercises like sprinting.
One Japanese study showed that taking mushroom supplements could improve the performance of long-distance runners by more than 70%.
Many other compounds in mushrooms can reduce fatigue and improve stamina.
Mushrooms can boost your memory, mood, and other aspects of your brain.
Lion's mane mushrooms are particularly interesting when it comes to their brain benefits. They've been shown to trigger a process called re-mylenation that helps to keep the neurons in your brain healthy and pass electrical signals between each other correctly.
They also contain something called "nerve growth factor" that is crucial for the survival, maintenance, and growth of neurons in your brain.
Studies done with lion's mane show increases in cognitive function, and especially short term memory.
Taking lion's mane may also have brain protective effects to help prevent the onset of conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
The health benefits mushrooms have to offer are really too many to list here.
Not all mushroom supplements are created equal. Here are some important things to look for.
The front of your bottle of supplements might say the word mushroom, but you also need to check the fine print on the nutritional facts label on the back of it.
Some products will say they contain mushroom. Others just contain mycelium. Some manufacturers will intentionally make it vague and simply list the Latin name Ganoderma lucidum without saying one way or the other. In the last case, I would always assume it contains mycelium.
Mycelium has a much lower potency than actual mushrooms (also known as fruiting bodies.) It's also much cheaper for companies to produce. Which is why so many supplement sellers may have the word "mushroom" all over their product label and website to hide the fact that they're actually selling a low potency mycelium product.
If a company is honest, they'll list grain or myceliated grain in the "other ingredients" section of the label. It's an FDA requirement that herbal products and supplements specifically say what part of the plant it's made from, as well as any other unrelated materials that are also included.
Mycelium On Grain (MOG) is what commercial mushroom growers refer to as grain spawn.
Mycelium is the vegetative state of the fungi before it establishes itself and gets enough nutrients to actually start producing mushrooms.
MOG is cheap and easy to produce. And it takes less time than waiting weeks or months for actual mushroom fruit bodies to grow. The downside is that mycelium on grain contains little or no beneficial compounds that you want to consume mushrooms to get in the first place.
Some supplement or extract companies will try to use the fact that their product contains both mushrooms and mycelium as a selling point. They might make claims that their product contains all stages of the mushroom life cycle, and therefore is more "full spectrum."
"Full spectrum" might sound like a really powerful claim, like it contains a wide range of everything you need! But what does it really mean? Just that their product contains all different components of the mushroom like caps, stems, and mycelium.
By definition, mycelium grown on rice or grain can't be full spectrum. So you know a product making this claim at least isn't pure MOG. But some products that claim to be full spectrum may only actually use 10% mushroom or less in their products!
So in my opinion, products that claim to be full spectrum or contain a unique blend of mushrooms and mycelium are simply trying to market an inferior product. What you really want is just the mushrooms, and they're cutting their product with grains and mycelium which offer little to no health benefits.
Honest companies with high-quality products will tell you exactly what you're going to get from your products.
They'll give you guaranteed potency that confirms their product contains a certain percentage of beta glucans, triterpenoids, and other important compounds that you're looking for.
Make sure the company you buy your product from can back their numbers up with actual testing documentation. There's a difference between listed or quantified compounds, and some companies may simply list the active compounds of a mushroom without actually doing any testing on their own product.
Don't be fooled by the generic word "polysaccharide" on your label. While beta glucans and other important mushroom ingredients are polysaccharides, there are plenty of other polysaccharides that could be included that don't have any benefit.
For example, starch is a polysaccharide and is a major ingredient in grain. So even MOG powders can claim to be high in polysaccharides. It's a very general statement that doesn't really mean anything.
An authentic mushroom powder is still vastly superior to a mycelium on grain powder and you will get some health benefits. But it's much less potent than a concentrated mushroom extract, which can be 8x or more potent.
Extracts have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Making tea is a simple hot water extract where the beneficial ingredients are drawn out of the mushroom so that you don't have to consume all the fiber and other content along with it.
Today hot water extracts are still used in preparing supplements, but alcohol extracts are also used to draw out important compounds like triterpenoids that aren't water soluble.
If you're putting anything highly concentrated into your body, it's a good idea to make sure it has been certified organic. Just because a label says that a product is natural doesn't mean it's organic and they may have used all kinds of pesticides and other ingredients while growing it.
Look for a USDA or NOP logo, or organic certification from another reputable organization.
Very few mushroom supplements and extracts use products that were actually grown in North America. It's often just too labor intensive and costly.
The majority of medicinal mushrooms grown today come from Asia, and especially China. China actually produces about 85% of all the mushrooms in the world today. Even Japan imports far more mushrooms from China than it actually produces within its own borders.
Don't be fooled if your product says "Made in USA" or "Packaged in the UK." Products are allowed to make this claim if they put the mushroom powder into their capsules in a particular country, even if they're using product originally sourced from China.
So when it comes to mushroom supplements and extracts, getting Chinese-grown mushrooms may be unavoidable. Even in high-quality products.
But can you trust Chinese mushrooms? It seems that all we ever hear is stories about how polluted China is and about all the products being recalled for containing things they shouldn't.
Chinese mushrooms can be perfectly safe, as long as they're sourced from a reputable seller. Chinese companies selling mushrooms or any herbal products will run a detailed analysis on their products to see if they contain any heavy metals, as well as checking for microbial contamination and agricultural chemicals like pesticides.
If your Chinese mushrooms are grown deep in the mountains and far away from industrial pollution and go through extensive testing, there's no reason not to trust them.
If you're unsure, you can always call or email a company and ask to see the standards and testing for their mushrooms. A reputable mushroom supplement seller will have this information on hand and be happy to provide it for any prospective customer.
Reishi is a medicinal mushroom that is especially potent and in high demand. But it can also be a difficult and lengthy process to grow the mushroom. So many producers may try to cut corners wherever possible.
One study by Nature, a respected scientific journal, showed that 74% of reishi supplements don't actually deliver what they promise on their label!
They tested 19 different supplements and found that only 5 of them (26%) actually lived up to the claims presented on the products.
They determined that the overall quality of reishi supplements in the US market was very poor and needed to be investigated carefully.
So it's really up to you as the consumer to do your due diligence and make sure the company you're buying supplements from has the paperwork and studies to back up their claims.
One of the best ways to tell if a reishi supplement is the real deal is to see how bitter it tastes.
The bitterness of reishi comes from the triterpene compounds it contains.
Many reishi products don't taste bitter, which is a clear indication that they're missing the medicinally beneficial triterpene compounds.
In fact, in the study I mentioned above, 58% of the samples didn't have triterpenes in them. Probably because a more expensive and complicated alcohol extract needs to be used in making the supplements since triterpenes aren't water soluble.
So taste your reishi extract. If it's bitter, then you can be fairly sure that you've got the real thing.
Starch is commonly used in supplements as a filler. It's another way for shady companies to cut their costs and give you less of the ingredient that you're looking for.
Starch isn't something that's naturally found in high amounts in most mushrooms. So reputable mushroom extract and supplement sellers should list starch on their labels.
Look for a starch content of less than 5% in your product. And be suspicious if you're looking at a product that doesn't list its starch content, as it may contain as much as 70% fillers!
It depends on what your diet is like.
If you eat a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables and fresh mushrooms every day, then you're probably already on the right track.
But if not, you might want to consider adding a mushroom supplement to your diet to get some of the nutrients and compounds that you might be missing out on.
If you feel sluggish, stressed out, like your body has a lot of inflammation, or if you're constantly getting sick, then it might be worth giving mushroom supplements a try.
If you're currently taking medication, then you probably want to consult with your doctor before you begin taking mushroom supplements. But the health benefits of mushrooms have been proven in literally hundreds of studies, and they're generally considered safe with few side-effects.
There are extracts, powders, tinctures, and pills. So what kind of medicinal mushroom product should you get?
Or should you just eat fresh or dried mushrooms instead of taking supplements?
Fresh isn't always better! Dried and raw mushrooms are basically non-digestible for humans until they go through an extraction process to draw out all their beneficial compounds in a form our body can actually use.
The majority of mushrooms are made out of chitin, which is the same stuff that makes up the shells of crabs, lobsters, and insects.
Our bodies can't break down chitin to get to the medicinal ingredients inside, so we need to boil or use an alcohol extraction to remove the compounds from the mushroom.
If you were to just eat reishi mushrooms, the bioavailability of their ingredients would be too low to get any real benefits. Plus it wouldn't be a very pleasant experience.
Whole mushrooms also contain a lot of fiber, so you'd need to eat a pretty big amount to get the medicinal benefits you're looking for. Compared to just drinking a cup of coffee or tea made from an extract.
If you're just taking mushrooms for general health benefits, then 2 or 3 grams of mushroom powder per day should be plenty. But it will depend on what kind of mushroom you're consuming and how they've been processed. If you're using an extract, you might need as little as half a teaspoon.
It's best to follow the instructions on your particular product or consult with a qualified health professional who can take your needs and specific conditions into account.
You can take mushrooms any time of the day. But some mushrooms might be better to take at certain times than others.
Cordyceps mushrooms have energy boosting effects, so it's better to take them before a workout or in the morning. They might make you unable to sleep if you take them right before bed.
Contrast that with reishi, which has more of a sedative and sleep-promoting effect. So it's best to take before bed.
Some people are more sensitive to these compounds than others, so you might not find any problem with taking reishi first thing in the morning. Other people prone to upset stomachs might want to take their mushroom supplements with a meal to prevent nausea.
Mushroom tinctures are liquid extracts. The medicinal compounds of mushrooms are extracted and usually stored in alcohol. You take a tincture by mouth, usually just a few drops at a time.
Triterpenoids (an anti-inflammatory compound found in reishi) for example isn't water soluble, so a tincture is one way to make sure that all of the ingredients you're looking for are thoroughly extracted and made available.
Mushroom tinctures can be a great way to take mushrooms quickly and conveniently if you're on the go, or if you have trouble swallowing pills and capsules.
Just be aware that since tinctures are pure alcohol, they likely don't contain the water-soluble ingredients in mushrooms like beta glucans. It can also be harder to measure the right dose, so it won't be as accurate as taking powder or a capsule. You also lose the natural mushroom fiber found in other products.
If you have no problems swallowing pills, then capsules can be a great way to get your mushrooms. Especially if you don't have time in the morning to make a tea or smoothie.
Capsules contain powdered mushrooms or extracts, usually in a casing made of gelatin. It's possible for capsules to contain other fillers besides just mushrooms, so it's important to read the label carefully.
One big benefit of capsules is that they hide the taste of mushrooms. So particularly with bitter tasting mushrooms like reishi, it can be a good way to mask the taste if you've got a sensitive palate.
Powders are a very versatile way to consume mushrooms. You can add them to teas, coffees, smoothies, or even bake them into cookies or bars.
It's also easy to measure out powders and they often come with a scoop specifically to measure single servings.
Powders also allow you to combine several different mushroom extracts in whatever quantities you desire.
They can be a bit more work than taking a capsule or tincture, but I think their versatility makes up for it. Which is why powdered extracts are my preferred way to consume medicinal mushrooms.