What to look for in mushroom supplements

What to look for in mushroom supplements

Whenever something grows in popularity, you can bet that more businesses will spring up to meet demand. Obviously, we can't blame them, we're also a business based on the awesome benefits of mushrooms and adaptogens!

On the other hand, it can also create incentives to look for cheaper ways of creating products, oftentimes decreasing quality. 

At Pow, we are laser focused on high quality ingredients that will actually make a difference in your life. So whether you're getting your mushroom fix from us or from somewhere else, here is what to look out for. 

Disclaimer: we're not doctors and can't advise you on how to take any supplement, always consult your doctor when looking to incorporate a new supplement. This is for purely informational purposes.

what to look for in mushroom supplements

Overview

We're going to cover these five categories in greater detail below, but here is a very quick overview. 

1. Growing techniques: look for wood grown mushrooms. This growing technique puts the mushroom in its natural environment and is superior to lab grown mushrooms. Many mushroom products out there are grown on grain which is then often found in the end product. 

2. Fruiting body vs mycelium: Fruiting body is the only way to go when purchasing a mushroom supplement. Mycelium is cheaper and more abundant, however it is less effective and lower quality than fruiting body. 

3. Extracts vs powder: You want to look for an 'extract powder'. Extract powders are more potent, and undergo a process of extracting the active ingredients from the mushroom. If you are consuming just a 'powder' it is likely that the mushroom was simply ground up into a powder.

4. Organic vs conventional: Of course, always look for organic products. Conventional products will have been sprayed with chemicals that you just don't want to be ingesting. 

5. Dosage: Pay attention to the dosing. Dosage is very complex when it comes to mushroom products as there is no standard. A rule of thumb that we use here is 1g - 2g of a 1:1 mushroom extract per serving. When using a higher extract, like an 8:1 extract, you can reduce the serving accordingly. 

Ok, if you want, feel free to stop there! Otherwise, continue reading for a more in-depth explanation. 

Growing techniques

I think that the closer we get to nature, the better off we're going to be. When it comes to growing our food this couldn't be more true. 

You'll catch me eating skittles here and there, but I'm about to throw them under the bus. On a spectrum from "Foraged on untouched land" to "Skittles" we want to be closer to the former. 

So, when it comes to mushroom growing techniques, you should look for mushrooms that are grown as close to it's natural habitat as possible. Sometimes you can even get mushroom supplements that are wild-crafted (most of the time you can't get this close).

Many mushroom supplements are grown on rice and other grains. Oftentimes they're grown in a lab. When tested you'll often find grain in the end product instead of being a pure mushroom product. 

The best mushroom supplements are not grown this way. In fact, many of the mushroom grown in the US are grown this way, while in China you can find higher quality mushrooms grown on wood and sawdust. 

One of the main reasons why China is such a good source for medicinal mushrooms is because of their long history of using mushrooms in traditional medicine. They have a deep knowledge of how to cultivate mushrooms in accordance with nature. 

Our ideal: Find mushrooms where grown on wood or are wildcrafted.

Fruiting body vs mycelium

fruiting body vs mycelium mushroom supplements

photo credit: yourmultiverse.com

This is a hot topic in the mushroom supplements world. Mostly this is because using mycelium in your product is one of the easiest ways to reduce the cost. That's all well and good, but not if it impacts the efficacy of the product. 

The major reason that functional mushrooms have so many benefits is because of an active compound; a polysaccharide known as beta-glucans. 

Research has shown beta-glucans to be effective in boosting your immune system, supporting the treatment of inflammation and even cancer. Some of these have even been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and improve cognition (like in lion's mane mushroom). 

So why does it matter where I get these from?

Here's a little background...

Fungi have three primary parts: 

  1. Fruiting body
  2. Mycelium
  3. Spores

You may be more familiar with trees, so you can think of it like this:

  1. Fruiting body --> Trunk, branches, leaves
  2. Mycelium --> Roots
  3. Spores --> Seeds

The fruiting body is really what people tend to think of as the "mushroom". That's the part you're mostly eating and finding in your supermarket. 

However, under the majority of the fungi is really it's mycelium. The root system. 

The fruiting body can contain over 30x the beta-glucans of mycelium.

At the end of the day, that's why we focus on fruiting body, and why the best brands out there do the same. At Pow products use fruiting body exclusively.

Our ideal: Find mushroom products using fruiting-body only. 

Extracts vs powders

We introduced the concept of beta-glucans in the last section. They come in again here. 

Let's define each:

  • Extract powder: these are made by using either water, alcohol, or both to extract the active compounds (like beta-glucans) from the functional mushroom. After extracting them, they are then spray dried to turn them back into a powder. Extraction allows you to get a higher concentration of beta-glucans. We'll touch on this a little bit more in the dosage section.
  • Powder: Powders are often just that. A powdered mushroom. This is great if you're using it purely in a culinary sense, however for a functional product they are virtually useless.

The label should say "extract powder" or "extract. 

Our ideal: That's that. Make sure you're receiving an extract powder. 

Organic vs conventional

Always seek organic functional mushroom products. You don't want to be consuming pesticides and other chemicals.

Our ideal: Let's go au naturale.

Dosage

This is a bit of a gray area. There aren't really conventions in the industry when it comes to dosage. You can use the studies and traditional medicine to guide you.

When looking at dosage there are two things to know:

  • The extract concentration
  • The weight (in grams/mg)

The extract concentration

A mushroom extract can come in different concentrations. You'll commonly see extracts like this:

  • 1:1
  • 4:1
  • 8:1

This is how to read that:

  • Weight of mushrooms : weight of end powder

So in an 8:1 extract, you have 8 times as much mushroom to get the same amount of powder in a 1:1 extract. This essentially makes it 8x as potent. 

Using higher extracts like 8:1 and even 20:1 allows companies to use a relatively small amount while still getting the same effect.

At Pow, we are experimenting with all of the above. Currently, our primary product is made using a 1:1 extract, however we are beginning to test the 8:1.

The weight (in grams/mg)

Now, comes the actual weight. Again, there is not really convention here, but after a lot of research we adhere to about 1g - 2g per serving of a 1:1 mushroom extract. 

That means that if you're getting a higher concentrate like an 8:1 you can reduce it accordingly. 

This is where we've found a dosage to have a real therapeutic effect, but we're always learning and experimenting.  

Summary

That just about covers it. We'll be writing more and more on this topic over time, but this was a great starting point. 

Have questions? Drop a comment!

This making you thirsty? Buy some Wonder Matcha.

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Further reading

Disclaimer: we're not doctors and can't advise you on how to take any supplement, always consult your doctor when looking to incorporate a new supplement. This is for purely informational purposes. 

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