Choosing the Right Medicinal Mushroom Supplement: Pow's Comprehensive Guide
Hey there! So, you've decided to dive into the world of medicinal mushrooms? You're not alone!
This ancient tradition of using mushrooms for health is making a strong comeback, but boy, is it a confusing world out there. Don't worry; we've got your back.
What's on the Menu?
In this guide, we'll uncover the secrets behind medicinal mushroom supplements. Specifically we're looking at:
- The history of medicinal mushrooms
- The most common medicinal / functional mushroom that are used
- Exactly what you need to look for to find a high quality mushroom supplement
Some of this gets pretty technical, but it's important to know if you're diving into this world.
The Ancient Roots of Medicinal Mushrooms
The history of medicinal mushrooms dates back thousands of years, tracing its roots across various ancient cultures. The use of mushrooms for medicinal purposes has been documented in some of the world's oldest medical texts.
1. Ancient China
In China, the tradition of using mushrooms as medicine goes back over 2000 years. The most famous mushroom in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is Lingzhi, also known as Reishi.
Revered as the "Mushroom of Immortality," it was believed to promote longevity and overall well-being. Ancient Chinese pharmacopoeias listed Reishi for treating various ailments such as fatigue, respiratory diseases, and even as a tonic for the heart.
2. India and the Ayurvedic Tradition
India's Ayurvedic medicine also incorporated medicinal mushrooms, especially in the form of Chyawanprash, a herbal jam containing various ingredients, including mushrooms. Mushrooms were considered balancing agents that harmonized the body's energies or doshas.
3. Japan and Other Eastern Traditions
In Japan, Shiitake mushrooms were widely used for their therapeutic properties. The Japanese have a rich tradition of utilizing mushrooms like Maitake and Shiitake to boost immunity and combat diseases.
Let's take a closer look at some specific mushrooms that are commonly used today for everything from stress management to focus.
Overview of Popular Medicinal Mushrooms
There are many mushrooms which are used today, but these are a few that you'll commonly find in supplements, drinks, and more. For example, we use lion's mane mushroom in Wonder Matcha and Wonder MCT.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi, known as the "Mushroom of Immortality," has been used for over 2000 years, particularly in Chinese medicine. It's celebrated for its immune-boosting properties and potential support for cardiovascular health.
Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Famous for its neuroprotective effects, Lion's Mane may enhance cognitive function and protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)
Cordyceps is used in traditional Chinese medicine for increasing stamina and energy and is popular among modern athletes for boosting endurance.
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
Beyond its culinary use, Shiitake has been used traditionally in Japan and China to promote heart health and may lower cholesterol.
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
Turkey Tail is widely researched for its immune-enhancing properties and is sometimes used alongside traditional cancer treatments.
These popular medicinal mushrooms offer a range of health benefits, from boosting immunity to enhancing brain function, and continue to be a focus of scientific research.
Now let's look at exactly what you need to know when selecting a mushroom supplement. This is really the most important stuff!
What You Need To Look For In a High Quality Mushroom Supplement
There are a few important more technical aspects of medicinal mushrooms that are important to learn about when seeking out the right supplement.
In particular, we always suggest understanding these three aspects of mushroom supplements:
- The fruiting body vs mycelium debate (fruiting body is superior)
- Mushroom extracts vs mushroom powders (extracts are superior)
- And understanding the beneficial compounds within functional mushrooms, like beta-glucans, ergothioneine, and terpenoids.
Fruiting Body vs Mycelium
The fruiting body is what most people recognize as a mushroom — the part that grows above the ground. It contains a high concentration of active compounds, such as beta-glucans (see below), which have a range of health benefits.
Mycelium, on the other hand, is the root-like system of the mushroom that grows underground. Some supplements use mycelium grown on grain, which are likely to contain fewer active compounds than the fruiting body.
Because they are grown on grain, the end product always contains a substantial amount of grain filler.
Fruiting Body vs Mycelium
Fruiting body extracts are typically considered superior, as they usually contain more of the beneficial compounds. Mycelium-based products might be less expensive but are almost certainly less potent and will contain fillers like grain.
Mushroom Extract vs Mushroom Powder
Mushroom extracts are made by essentially boiling the mushroom in water and/or alcohol to pull out the active ingredients. This process concentrates the beneficial compounds and allows for better absorption by the body.
Most times, you'll find that mushroom extracts are made primarily of the fruiting body.
Mushroom powders are simply dried and ground mushrooms. While they retain the natural composition, they may be less concentrated and thus require larger quantities to achieve the desired effects.
Most times, you'll find that mushroom powders are made primarily from mycelium.
Mushroom Extracts vs Mushroom Powders
Extracts are usually preferred for medicinal purposes as they provide a more potent dose of the active compounds. Powders, while still beneficial, may be more suitable for strictly culinary uses or very mild supplementation.
Beneficial Compounds in Medicinal Mushrooms
Beta-glucans are polysaccharides found in the cell walls of mushrooms. They are known for their immune-boosting properties and have been studied for their potential anti-cancer effects.
Ergothioneine is an amino acid found in mushrooms that has powerful antioxidant properties. It helps protect cells from damage and has potential anti-aging effects.
Terpenoids are diverse compounds found in mushrooms that have various therapeutic properties, including anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects.
These beneficial compounds are what actually gives the mushroom the purported benefits like improved cognitive health, immunity, or reduced inflammation.
Frequently asked questions
Q: How Do I Determine the Right Dosage for My Mushroom Supplement?
A: The right dosage depends on the specific mushroom, its form (extract or powder), and your individual health goals or concerns. It's best to follow the manufacturer's recommendations or consult with a healthcare provider.
Q: Are There Any Side Effects or Interactions I Should Be Aware Of?
A: While generally considered safe, medicinal mushrooms can have side effects or interact with medications in some individuals. Always consult with a healthcare provider if you're pregnant, taking medications, or have underlying health issues.
Q: How Can I Verify the Quality and Purity of a Mushroom Supplement?
A: Look for products that are organic, lab-tested for contaminants, and transparent about their source and growing conditions. Some reputable companies provide certificates of analysis to verify the quality.
What mushroom supplements do we recommend?
So, we're a little biased here. But, we have a couple of recommendations.
All Pow products contain the highet quality, fruiting body mushroom extracts. No mycelium, no grain. Only the good stuff.
Wonder Matcha is a blend of ceremonial grade matcha with lion's mane mushroom to improve focus and cognitive health. This is our most popular product and the one that started it all for us.
Wonder MCT is a blend of organic coconut based MCT oil with lion's mane mushroom, reishi, and cordyceps. This is a great well rounded mushroom blend, perfect to keep you focused and balanced all day.
These are perfect because they're easy to work right into your existing routine. But if you prefer to add a supplement in another way, we like Real Mushrooms.
Please note: we are not doctors, so we certainly can't recommend you take any mushroom supplement at all.
You should always consult a physician when considering taking mushroom or any other herbal supplement.
Thank you so much for reading this. We really hope you learned something. And if you have any questions, please drop a comment or email us anytime.