First off, if a brand doesn’t disclose what their supplement is made from, stop right there.
In Short: Make sure your supplement is made from mushroom (sometimes referred to as the fruiting body), not the root-like filaments of mycelium grown in a lab on grain, which do not provide the full spectrum of medicinal compounds and in which starches make up a large part of the ingredients. On the one hand, mushroom provides a full spectrum of medicinal compounds, including a rich content of the well-researched therapeutic constituent known as beta-d glucans. On the other hand, however, mycelium is cheap to produce, does not offer a broad spectrum of constituents, and is very low in beta glucans. Don’t be misled by “efficacy” claims associated with % of polysacchrides. Starches (from myceliated grain), as well as beta glucans, are all polysacchrides, the difference being that starches have no medicinal value. So it is critical to look for the % of beta-d glucans as one of the main indicators of medicinal benefit.
St Francis Herb Farm medicinal mushrooms are 100% pure organic mushroom and are rich in 3rd-party-tested beta-d glucans, the highly researched immune supportive compound, for which the specifics are communicated on the product pages. In keeping with our philosophy, we bridge the gap between traditional and modern methods to provide the highest quality, most effective plant medicine possible… without cutting corners.
In Detail: Mycelium refers to the underground root-like filaments that the mushroom (fruiting body) springs forth from, but it is not the mushroom itself. In North America, mycelium for commercial use is grown in a lab, on grain. It therefore contains significant amounts of grains/starches in the final product. The process of creating myceliated grain involves fermentation – but to discuss such benefits would be to misdirect from the fact that there is no mushroom in these products. The long and the short of it is that mycelium is much cheaper to produce versus growing mushrooms naturally. Don’t let a “big-name” attached to a supplement brand stop you from checking out what it is really made of.
The mushroom or fruiting body, which you see above ground and which is the only part that should be referred to as “mushroom,” is grown in natural conditions, with fresh air and sunlight on wood – this is critical, as the wood carries the precursors for many of the key medicinal compounds we want in a mushroom supplement. Mushrooms are genetically more complex and have more medicinal properties – they are where most of the powerful biochemical constituents reside.
The mushroom is what has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Furthermore, a vast body of research has identified that beta-d glucans are the key immuno-supportive compound and that they are found in abundance in the mushroom, but only at extremely low levels in mycelium. Check the labels or websites to see if the % of beta glucans is communicated. You will sometimes see the % of polysacchrides noted as a supposed measure of medicinal potency. This is misleading. Polysacchrides include beta-glucans, but also the starches from myceliated grain, which serve no medicinal purpose. The relevant measure, therefore, is % of beta-d glucans.
If a product states it is a combination of both mushroom and mycelium, it is likely primarily mycelium. Do they communicate what % is fruiting body? It’s important to check – mushrooms are more expensive and therefore likely to be included in small amounts just to facilitate the claim of their being present. Sometimes brands refer to using all the fungal parts, which is to say spores, mycelium, and the mushroom itself, as full spectrum. This alters the true definition of “full spectrum.” In point of fact, the real meaning of this term is meant to describe the fact that the supplement contains a broad number of medicinal compounds e.g. beta-d glucans, triterpenoids, etc. “Full spectrum” has nothing to do with all the fungal parts. This is key, as it is related directly to how effective a supplement will be.