Mushrooms and their supplements have gained considerable attention for their potential nutritional benefits and therapeutic properties. We're delving into how to assess supplement quality and the role of third-party verifiers in ensuring the authenticity and effectiveness of these products.
Mushrooms have been enjoyed for ages, not just because they’re delicious, but also for their amazing health perks! Recent studies have shown that mushrooms are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and special compounds that are great for your overall health.
As people become more curious about these advantages, mushroom supplements have popped up as a handy way to tap into their potential, making it easier to reap the benefits without relying solely on eating them.
Nutritional Benefits of Mushrooms
We at Dirt to Dinner have tried a variety of mushroom powders and supplements. We love sources that have proven cognitive and immune benefits but we always want to know that our sources are the best.
Mushrooms are a natural source of essential nutrients such as B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid), minerals (potassium, copper, selenium), and dietary fiber. They also contain unique bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, β-glucans, ergosterol (a precursor of vitamin D), and various polyphenols. These compounds have been linked to immune system modulation, antioxidant activity, and potential anti-inflammatory effects.
Mushroom varieties like Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) have been extensively studied for their health-promoting properties. Shiitake, for instance, contains lentinan, a polysaccharide with immunomodulatory effects. Reishi mushrooms are known for their triterpenoids, which exhibit potential antitumor and anti-inflammatory activities.
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is another medicinal mushroom with a unique appearance, resembling cascading white icicles. Beyond its culinary uses, Lion’s Mane has gained attention for its potential health benefits, particularly in the realm of cognitive health and neurological well-being. It contains bioactive compounds, including erinacines and hericenones, that have shown neuroprotective effects and the ability to support brain health.
Lions Mane can also stimulate Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which contributes to nerve cell maintenance and repair. It can help form new neurons, combat cognitive decline, and enhance memory and attention—truly incredible cognitive benefits!
Mushroom Supplements & Benefits
Back in February of this year, market reports had some exciting news. The global functional mushroom market, which covers everything from mushroom-based foods and drinks to supplements, was valued at a whopping $50.3 billion! And guess what? It’s still on the rise!
Now, let’s talk about the real heroes here – mushroom supplements. They’re all the rage! There are lots of brands out there crafting these powerhouse formulations, making it super easy to bring the magic of mushrooms into your daily routine. They come in all sorts of forms like powders, extracts, capsules, and tinctures. It’s like a mushroom smorgasbord.
These supplement folks make a big deal about specific compounds like β-glucans, polysaccharides, or triterpenoids because they’re like the secret sauce behind the potential health perks. But here’s the real question: how can we be sure we’re getting a top-notch product? Is it just about the formulation or are there other considerations?
Here are some key factors to consider when assessing supplement quality and ensuring the authenticity:
- Reputable manufacturers should clearly list the mushroom species used and the active compounds present in their products. Generic terms like “mushroom extract” or “mushroom blend” without specifying the species should be approached with caution.
- Each mushroom species has a scientific name that consists of two parts: the genus and the species. For example, Lion’s Mane’s scientific name is Hericium erinaceus. Verify that the scientific names of the mushrooms are provided on the label to ensure accurate identification.
- Country origin should also be listed on their label, as some regions are known for producing high-quality mushrooms due to optimal growing conditions and cultivation practices- those include Japan, the U.S., Canada, Korea, Netherlands, Poland, and Germany.
Testing for Active Compounds:
- High-quality, reputable supplements undergo testing to verify the presence and concentration of specific bioactive compounds, such as beta-glucans or triterpenoids, which contribute to the mushroom’s health benefits.
- The label should indicate the concentration or standardized amount of these compounds. Avoid anything with “proprietary blends” as they may hide specific ingredients.
- There are three main third-party verifiers, The United States Pharmacopeia (USP), The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and ConsumerLab. Be sure to research the brand to ensure it has obtained certifications from one of these independent organizations that ensure potency, authenticity and quality.
- If you’re still uncertain about a product’s authenticity, consider consulting healthcare professionals or experts who specialize in herbal or nutritional supplements. They can provide guidance based on their expertise and knowledge.
What do the Experts Say?
We had a chance to talk to executives with MUD WTR, a mushroom coffee substitute brand that broke into the market and has gained a lot of attention. They had a lot to say about ‘shrooms!
We asked their take on third-party verifications, they noted that these can be prohibitively expense to obtain. Most reputable mushroom companies, with sound sources, transparency with their growth methods, and formulations are just as good as those who jumped through hoops to get the certifications.
That said, MUD WTR is committed to transparency, even working to add a nutrient label to their packaging so consumers know just how much of each nutrient they are getting! So, if you are looking for other great mushroom brands, if you don’t see a certification, be sure to look on their sites for transparency with sourcing and growing methods.
Other experts, Paul Stamets and Steve Farrar, two trailblazing mycologists in the fascinating world of mushrooms, have left an indelible mark and played a significant role in shaping the strategies of numerous mushroom brands. Their expertise and insights have been a guiding light for brands as they develop their mushroom-based products.
While Paul Stamets and Steve Farrar may have slightly differing perspectives on certain mushroom-related matters, there’s one critical point on which they find common ground: sourcing.
Stamets and Farrar’s resounding advice is to stick with mushrooms cultivated in the United States.
This approach not only supports local agriculture, but also prioritizes safety and product quality.
How are mushrooms grown?
Mushroom cultivation is a complex process that significantly influences their nutritional content. An intricate interplay of factors, such as the growing medium, ambient conditions, and light exposure, collectively shapes the mushrooms’ nutritional composition. Some mushroom species, such as reishi and shiitake, possess compounds with immune-enhancing attributes. Recognizing the nuances of cultivation practices empowers consumers to make informed choices about the mushrooms they consume. Debatably, the substrate in which they were grown is the most critical factor in their nutrient density.
Hence the importance of sourcing and transparency- to understand the conditions of which the mushrooms are grown. Reputable mushrooms brands will share their sourcing on their sites so you can check to make sure they are US grown. Most brands chose to grown their mushrooms on oats, as they provide the most nutrient density to the fruiting portion of the mushroom.
Check out these brands, who either hold the third-party certifications and/or are committed to transparency around sourcing and growing:
- OM Mushrooms: Sourced in the US, this brand also has the BRC AA Rating, a coveted food safety rating. About halfway down this page you will see the section- “Growth Medium Matters” where the brand details that these mushrooms are grown on oats!
- Host Defense: Host Defense is founded by Paul Stamets, a renowned mycologist. They produce a variety of mushroom supplements made from organically grown mushrooms. Their commitment to quality and sustainability is notable. Check out their R&D page, which details some of the 77 studies he has co-authored and applied sciences to his formulations.
- Four Sigmatic: Check out the video on this page– where they discuss using the fruiting body, meaning they use no mycelium or filler grains, they use third party labs to test for toxins like heavy metals and mycotoxins as I mentioned previously, which is a real concern.
- Pure Essence Labs: While not exclusively a mushroom supplement brand, Pure Essence Labs includes mushrooms in some of their formulations, emphasizing their health benefits alongside other nutrients. They explain at the bottom of the linked page what they are grown on—rice or barley!
Knowing how much mushroom product is in each of these supplements can be a challenge. Thankfully, Pure Essence Labs provides an example to calculate the volume of mushrooms present in your supplements:
Product A: MyPure™ Cordyceps – 500 mg of cordyceps 1:1 extract
- Multiply the first number of the extract ratio by 10. (e.g., 1 x 10 = 10)
- Multiply the amounts of each extract present by the numbers derived from step one. (e.g., 500 mg x 10 = 5,000 mg)
Product B: MyPure™ Cordyceps 4X – 300 mg of cordyceps 1:1 extract and 200 mg of 10:1 extract
- Multiply the first number of the extract ratio by 10. (e.g., 1 x 10 = 10 and 10 x 10 = 100)
- Multiply the amounts of each extract present by the numbers derived from step one. (e.g., [300 mg x 10 = 3,000 mg] + [200 mg x 100 = 20,000 mg] = 23,000 mg)
By following these steps and practicing due diligence, you can make more informed decisions when choosing mushroom supplements and ensure that you’re getting authentic and high-quality ingredients.
The Bottom Line
Mushroom products are gaining recognition for their nutritional richness and potential health benefits. They offer a diverse array of essential nutrients and bioactive compounds that can contribute to overall well-being. When considering supplements, choose those with transparent labeling, testing for active compounds, and third-party verification. Then we can confidently harness the potential benefits of mushroom supplements as a valuable addition to our wellness routines.