Mushroom Supplement Types – What’s Best For You?
We can all agree that functional mushrooms are great for our well-being. But, there are a bewildering array of different ways to get mushrooms in your life!
Pills, tinctures, extract powders… it can get confusing as to which one is best for you. And of course, you might wonder if its best to just eat fresh or dried mushrooms instead of using extracts.
Fresh is always better, right?
Funnily enough, in the case of mushrooms, the answer is… No.
Fresh Mushrooms Vs. Extract Supplements
Both raw and dried mushrooms are basically indigestible for the majority of humans unless subjected to an extraction process. The bioavailability of the active ingredients are too low to experience any noteworthy therapeutic effects.
This is because mushroom cells are made of Chitin — the same component that makes up the exoskeleton of crabs, shrimps, insects, and lobsters. All the bioactive and therapeutic components are essentially locked behind the chitin cell-walls of medicinal mushrooms.
The thing is, our physiology doesn’t have the right chemicals to break down chitin. For us to get to the good stuff, we have to break down the chitin cell-wall through an extraction process or by grilling, or boiling mushrooms- or by brewing them in a tea or soup (as practiced by many Eastern medicine practitioners).
On top of that, in order to reap the medicinal benefits of raw or dried mushrooms, you’re going to need to eat a pretty large amount. Unfortunately, unless you’re growing your own exotic medicinal mushroom, such amounts are pretty hard to find on the regular.
Of course we’re not discouraging you from growing or eating fresh mushrooms! But please note, if you decide to take this route, make sure you boil or grill your mushrooms before ingesting them. This will ensure you gain the medicinal benefits of each mushroom, and avoid indigestion from raw mushrooms.
Mushroom Extraction Processes
Your best option for taking medicinal mushrooms however, is to take mushrooms that have been properly extracted. There are three popular methods of extraction — hot water extraction, alcohol extraction and dual extraction.
Hot water extraction
Hot water extraction is a traditional process that has been used by Eastern cultures for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
It is also the most common extraction method. This is done by heating the mushrooms in large vats of hot water and simmering for long periods of time as a “decoction”.
After the extraction, the resulting substance is spray dried, making a powder rich in beneficial compounds that can be much more easily absorbed and used by your body.
Hot water extraction is done to extract polysaccharides, including beta-d-glucans. Beta glucans are the compounds responsible for mushrooms immune boosting benefits, and much more.
Some compounds, such as triterpenoids, are better absorbed by alcohol than water. This can be accomplished by soaking mushroom fruit bodies in alcohol for a a number weeks, and then pressing off the liquid afterward.
And finally, since different compounds are made available through water and alcohol extractions, some people might use a dual extraction method.
For this, you can perform two separate extractions with the same mushrooms, (one after the other) and then combine together. Or you can simply use two sets of mushrooms and extract them differently and then mix them together.
What is the right dose?
For most people not looking to treat specific conditions, we recommend one gram per day of hot water extracted powder.
This is a good dose to get the benefits of mushrooms at a maintenance level. Many people will take more, up to 2-3 grams per day.
Of course, the dose for you depends on a number of factors- including what mushrooms you are using, what conditions you are trying to treat, and how your mushrooms are processed and extracted. If you’re looking for a more specific therapeutic dose, it’s best to work with a qualified health care practitioner who can cater to your specific condition.
When is the Best Time to Take Mushroom Supplements?
A simple answer is that mushrooms can be taken at any point of the day. That said , some people will be a little more sensitive depending on their lifestyle or how their body reacts to different things.
Cordyceps has been found to have energy boosting effects- so take it in the morning or before a workout.
Reishi on the other hand, is more of a sedative- promoting better sleep quality- so it’s usually best taken before bedtime.
That said, most people who use THRIVE 6 have taken the blend at all times of the day. The best thing to do is to experiment and take note how your body reacts.
Tinctures are basically liquid extracts, usually in alcohol, that you take by mouth.
There are some compounds in mushrooms that are soluble in alcohol instead of water. For example, the the anti-inflammatory compounds (triterpenoids) in Reishi can only be thoroughly extracted by alcohol.
Tinctures are an easy way to digest mushrooms on the go, especially if have problems swallowing capsules. Just keep in mind that when mushrooms are tinctured in pure alcohol, they do not release their water-soluble compounds such as beta-glucans, the molecules responsible for modulating your immune system.
- Easy and convenient to take, just a few drops under the tongue.
- Great for those who have trouble swallowing capsules or pills.
- Pure alcohol extractions will not release water soluble beta-glucans.
- Hard to measure the right dose, so it won’t be as accurate as the capsule or powder.
- Loses the natural fiber of the mushroom that you find in powdered blends.
If you have no trouble ingesting capsules, then this is a really convenient and accurate way of getting your daily mushroom dose. Especially if you don’t have time to make coffee or a smoothie in the morning.
Capsules are made with a powdered mushroom extract that is encapsulated in a hard-shell gelatin or vegan casing. So, there is a strong possibility that it can contain added excipients or additives on top of the ingredients of the capsule itself. You want to make sure that the excipients used are made from quality ingredients.
Capsules don’t have a distinct taste, so if you have a really sensitive palate, popping a capsule is a great way to bypass that. Out of the three methods we talk about here, capsules are probably the most convenient, but definitely not the most versatile.
- Convenient for those on the move, just pop your capsules and you’re good.
- You get an accurate dose, every time.
- No taste, so it’s great if you have a sensitive palate.
- Might be tough for those who have trouble swallowing pills/capsules.
- May contain additional ingredients, both excipients and capsule material.
Powders are very versatile and it’s easy to measure out very specific doses. You can also customize your supplementation regime by choosing to mix a variety of different mushroom extracts in different quantities.
It really is your mushrooms, your way.
Powders can be effortlessly added into your lunch, coffee, salad or smoothie, or even bake it into some bars. It’s also our favorite way of getting our mushrooms because it allows for so much creativity.
Yes, it might be a tad be more time consuming than popping a capsule, but it also means you can play around with how you’re getting your supplements into your diet, which is fun. The good thing about mushroom powders is that it can also go into food and not just drinks.
- Easy to add to different foods and beverages.
- Fun and creative way to consume your supplements.
- No added additives, only natural goodness.
- Easy to mix mushrooms, customize your supplementation.
- More time consuming to prepare.
- Might be difficult to measure the right dose. Luckily, all our powders comes with a measuring scoop.
What To Look Out For
Whichever method that you end up choosing, always look for mushroom extracts that are made from the “fruiting” body.
Unfortunately some mushroom supplements are made by simply grinding up mushroom mycelium that has been grown on grain – typically rye, sorghum, millet, or wheat berries – without actually “fruiting” the mushroom.
The fruiting body contains the vast majority of the beneficial compounds (beta glucans), while the final product of mycelium on grain contains a non-significant quantity. In order to avoid this, look out for “myceliated grain” in the ingredients.
Rest assured, we always only use the “fruiting” body for all our powders.
If you have any questions, leave us a comment below!