Do Mushroom Supplements Actually Work?
Medicines are used to combat infections, treat medical conditions, and more. On the other hand, supplements contribute to maintaining normal body homeostasis and enhancing various bodily functions.
Supplements have been a part of modern society for several decades, witnessing numerous trends that have come and gone. However, only a few have withstood the test of time.
While mushroom supplements have recently gained popularity, mushrooms themselves have been a staple in human diets for centuries. Different types of mushrooms have been utilized in traditional medicine by various cultures, including Chinese and Mesoamerican, for thousands of years.
The mushroom supplement industry is worth billions of dollars and continues to experience double-digit growth year after year.
For health-conscious consumers, the crucial question is whether the hype surrounding mushroom supplements is justified. Do mushroom supplements really deliver the promised benefits? Why should people consider taking them? Together, let’s explore these questions and more.
Growing Popularity of Mushrooms Supplements
Functional mushrooms are the latest trend revolutionizing the supplements industry, surpassing Bullet Coffee and Nootropics. People are drawn to these nutritional fungi not only for their earthy taste but also because they believe mushroom supplements can enhance their well-being and overall performance.
The market for mushroom supplements is thriving, with North America leading the way. Valued at nearly $26.7 billion globally (as of 2021), this market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.8% for the next 5-7 years. These figures not only demonstrate the popularity of mushrooms but also serve as social proof of their potential benefits.1
Interest in functional mushrooms has been on the rise among both the general public and the scientific community. While mushrooms have been studied for over 50 years, their growing popularity has significantly increased scientific research into their medicinal properties.
Scientists are particularly intrigued by the unique abilities of functional mushrooms to address various health conditions, including immunity, cancer, mood, energy, and aging.
The craze for mushroom supplements and products infused with mushrooms is only just beginning. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened people’s awareness of the importance of a strong immune system, leading them to turn to mushroom supplements, known for their immune-boosting properties.
Until recently, Cordyceps and Reishi were the most sought-after medicinal mushrooms. Cordyceps gained popularity in the 90s when sports authorities suspected it of enhancing energy, endurance, and stamina, as some athletes broke numerous records.
Reishi, known as the “Elixir of Life” in Chinese medicine, has been widely used and revered. However, a growing number of functional fungi are entering the market, indicating that the market growth for these mushrooms is set to expand even further.
Do Mushroom Supplements Really Work?
Supplements are a modern-day elixir, considered the new magic weapon to treat troublesome medical conditions. The list of potential health benefits may seem too good to be true, but mushroom supplements have been proven to work. There is ample empirical proof and scientific evidence supporting their efficacy.
Mushroom supplements are trusted for being safe, pure, and effective. These supplements contain extracts from mushrooms, sometimes combined with vitamins and minerals. Unlike edible mushrooms, which are hard to digest, these supplements provide easily absorbable extracts that quickly benefit the body.
Functional mushrooms gained attention in the scientific community and among the general public around half a century ago due to their significant role in traditional medicine. Asian and South American cultures have utilized mushrooms for centuries.
Reishi, known as the ‘mushroom of immortality,’ has been used for centuries in various cultures worldwide. Studies have identified triterpenoids and polysaccharides in Reishi, which are believed to improve sleep, promote relaxation, and boost immunity in traditional medicine.2
Cordyceps, another popular mushroom in Chinese medicine, has been traditionally used to enhance libido, sexual performance, energy, stamina, and athletic capabilities. Scientists suggest that Cordyceps possesses adaptogenic properties, aiding the body in adapting to stressors.3
Lion’s Mane has been prescribed as a brain tonic in ancient cultures to enhance mental clarity, attention, memory, and other cognitive functions. Erinacines and hericenones found in Lion’s Mane stimulate the release of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), responsible for neurogenesis, neuroplasticity, and optimizing brain functions.4,5
Chaga mushrooms, highly valued and found in cold climate regions on birch trees, have been utilized for centuries in Russia and Northern European countries to boost immunity and support gastrointestinal health. Experts believe Chaga’s potential benefits stem from its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.6
Turkey Tail is a commonly prescribed mushroom in Asian cultures, symbolizing infinity, spiritual attunement, health, and longevity. Practitioners of Chinese medicine recommend Turkey Tail for fighting infections and strengthening the immune system.7
Shiitake, an edible mushroom that grows on Japanese Shii trees, possesses remarkable medicinal properties. It has been historically used to improve the circulatory system, treat colds and fevers, and alleviate hunger. Modern medicine recognizes its immunomodulatory effects, as well as its ability to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.8
Science-Backed Benefits and Properties of Mushroom Supplements
The humble mushroom is gaining attention, not only for its mention in traditional medicine scriptures but also due to the increasing interest within the scientific community to explore its properties and benefits. Here are some scientifically supported benefits of mushroom supplements.
Nutrient-Rich: Mushroom supplements, like those made from medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, cordyceps, or lion’s mane, are nutrient-rich. They provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids that support overall health and well-being.9
Immune System Support: Mushrooms have immune-enhancing properties, thanks to bioactive compounds like beta-glucans. These compounds stimulate the immune system, strengthening its response to pathogens and supporting immune health. Additionally, they prevent overactive immune responses that can lead to autoimmune diseases.10,11
Adaptogenic Properties: Certain supplements derived from adaptogenic mushrooms like Cordyceps, Chaga, and Reishi possess adaptogenic properties. These adaptogens help the body adapt to stress and promote balance in various bodily systems by influencing the HPA axis, the body’s main stress response system.12,13
Cognitive Function and Brain Health: Lion’s Mane, Chaga, and Reishi mushrooms are associated with cognitive benefits. They contain compounds that support brain health, enhance cognitive function, and improve mental clarity. Additionally, they may prevent cognitive impairment by reducing the development of beta-amyloid plaques and fighting inflammation.14,15
Anti-Cancer Properties: Mushrooms may possess anti-cancer properties due to their high content of polysaccharides and beta-glucans. These compounds exhibit immune-enhancing and tumor-suppressing effects.16
Anti-Inflammatory Effect: Many mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties due to various bioactive compounds. By fighting oxidative stress and reducing inflammation, mushroom supplements may alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions and promote overall well-being.17
Energy and Endurance: Cordyceps have traditionally been used to boost energy levels and enhance endurance. They may improve oxygen utilization and increase ATP production, leading to improved energy, stamina, endurance, and physical performance.18,19
Gut Health and Digestion: Mushrooms, in general, are rich in dietary fiber that regulates bowel movement and promotes healthy digestion. The fiber also acts as a probiotic, supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Some mushrooms like Maitake and Shiitake strengthen the intestinal lining. Overall, mushroom supplements improve nutrient absorption, regulate glucose and cholesterol uptake, and prevent gastrointestinal issues.20
Anti-Aging Effect: Mushrooms have anti-aging effects due to their higher concentration of two powerful antioxidants (glutathione and ergothioneine). Their anti-inflammatory properties, along with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, may contribute to a youthful appearance and improved well-being by combating oxidative stress and inflammation.21
How Long Does It Take for Mushrooms Supplements to Work?
The body needs vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to function properly. Supplements are essential nutrients that we consume to compensate for any deficiencies in our daily diet. Therefore, it’s crucial to regularly take supplements according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to fully reap their benefits.
Supplements are not a one-size-fits-all solution. For instance, when it comes to vitamin D, capsules with a higher dosage can be taken once a week. However, this dosage rule doesn’t apply to mushroom supplements. Depending on the ingredients and potency, you may need to take one or two doses of mushroom supplements daily.
The time it takes for mushroom supplements to take effect can vary depending on several factors. Some mushrooms provide immediate but mild results. However, to experience the full range of noticeable and long-lasting benefits, it is necessary to consistently take the mushroom supplement for at least 3 to 6 months.
Several factors influence when you will start noticing the effects of mushroom supplements:
- Specific Type of Supplement: Mushroom supplements are available in various forms such as extracts, powder, tinctures, and gummies. Each form has a different absorption rate and impact on the body. Studies show gummy vitamins have up to 90% greater bioavailability than pills, leading to better absorption and less gastrointestinal distress!
- Metabolic Factors: The time it takes for the supplement to work can vary among individuals due to differences in metabolism. Your body’s unique metabolism affects the absorption, response, and impact of the supplement.
- Build-Up Impact: Most mushroom supplements require weeks or even months to experience their full benefits. This is because bioactive compounds gradually accumulate and build up in the body, exerting their beneficial effects over time.
Following the dosage guidelines provided by the supplement maker or healthcare professional will help you achieve noticeable results in the shortest possible time.
Additionally, it’s important to understand that the supplement’s effectiveness depends on maintaining a balanced lifestyle, including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and minimizing self-destructive behavior.
What to Look for before Buying Mushroom Supplements?
With 4 out of 5 Americans using supplements, it’s natural to find numerous supplement brands, including mushroom supplements, on the market.22
The effectiveness of a mushroom supplement depends on the product you choose. Consider these 5 points before purchasing a mushroom supplement:
Quality and Purity: Look for high-quality, organic mushroom supplements that have undergone rigorous testing to ensure purity and potency. All of our mushroom gummies are third party lab tested!
Active Ingredients: Check the label or product page to identify the specific ingredients and active compounds in the mushroom supplement. Mushrooms contain beneficial compounds like beta-glucans, polysaccharides, triterpenes, or ergosterol, which contribute to their health benefits.
Extraction Method: Pay attention to the extraction method used to obtain the ingredients. Effective methods like hot water extraction, dual extraction, or alcohol extraction yield higher-quality extracts with maximum levels of bioactive compounds. Dual extraction is best!
Mushroom Species and Parts: Identify the specific mushroom types in the supplement. Extracts from fruiting bodies are more effective than from mycelium. Popular functional mushroom species include Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, Maitake, Turkey Tail, and Shiitake.
Reputation and Certification: Choose mushroom supplements from manufacturers with certifications like Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), USDA Organic Certification, and third-party testing. These certifications indicate that the product has been produced in a controlled and safe manner.
Mushroom supplements offer numerous health benefits, supported by scientific evidence as discussed earlier. It is undeniable that these supplements are effective.
However, to maximize the benefits, it is crucial to select the right supplement for your specific needs. While mushroom supplements cannot perform miracles, they can certainly support your path to optimal health.
- Mushroom Market Size & Analysis Report, 2022-2030, www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/mushroom-market. Accessed 1 July 2023.
- Wachtel-Galor S, Yuen J, Buswell JA, et al. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 9.
- Lin B, Li S. Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 5.
- “9 Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom (plus Side Effects).”Healthlinehealthline.com/nutrition/lions-mane-mushroom. Accessed 1 July 2023.
- Kirkpatrick, Karie. “Everything You Need to Know about Lion’s Mane Mushrooms.”Cascadia Mushrooms, 17 June 2021, cascadiamushrooms.com/blogs/cm/everything-you-need-to-know-about-lions-mane-mushrooms.
- Brown, Mary Jane. “Chaga Mushroom: Uses, Benefits and Side Effects.”Healthline, 25 Oct. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/chaga-mushroom.
- Kubala, Jillian. “5 Immune-Boosting Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom.”Healthline, 6 Apr. 2023, www.healthline.com/nutrition/turkey-tail-mushroom.
- Jennings, Kerri-Ann. “Why Shiitake Mushrooms Are Good for You.”Healthline, 14 June 2019, www.healthline.com/nutrition/shiitake-mushrooms.
- Valverde, María Elena et al. “Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life.”International journal of microbiology 2015 (2015): 376387. doi:10.1155/2015/376387
- Lull, Cristina et al. “Antiinflammatory and immunomodulating properties of fungal metabolites.”Mediators of inflammation 2005,2 (2005): 63-80. doi:10.1155/MI.2005.63
- Guggenheim, Alena G et al. “Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology.”Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.) 13,1 (2014): 32-44.
- Herman, James P et al. “Regulation of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenocortical Stress Response.”Comprehensive Physiology 6,2 603-21. 15 Mar. 2016, doi:10.1002/cphy.c150015
- Sheela Vyas, Ana João Rodrigues, Joana Margarida Silva, Francois Tronche, Osborne F. X. Almeida, Nuno Sousa, Ioannis Sotiropoulos, "Chronic Stress and Glucocorticoids: From Neuronal Plasticity to Neurodegeneration",Neural Plasticity, vol. 2016, Article ID 6391686, 15 pages, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686
- Kushairi, Naufal, et al. “Modulation of Neuroinflammatory Pathways by Medicinal Mushrooms, with Particular Relevance to Alzheimer’s Disease.”Trends in Food Science & Technology, vol. 104, 2020, pp. 153–162, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2020.07.029.
- Trovato Salinaro, Angela et al. “Neuroinflammation and neurohormesis in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and Alzheimer-linked pathologies: modulation by nutritional mushrooms.”Immunity & ageing : I & A 15 8. 14 Feb. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12979-017-0108-1
- Ba, Djibril M et al. “Higher Mushroom Consumption Is Associated with Lower Risk of Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies.”Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) 12,5 (2021): 1691-1704. doi:10.1093/advances/nmab015
- Muszyńska, Bożena et al. “Anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms: A review.”Food chemistry 243 (2018): 373-381. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.09.149
- Xu, Yan-Feng. “Effect of Polysaccharide from Cordyceps militaris (Ascomycetes) on Physical Fatigue Induced by Forced Swimming.”International journal of medicinal mushrooms 18,12 (2016): 1083-1092. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v18.i12.30
- Hirsch, Katie R et al. “Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation.”Journal of dietary supplements 14,1 (2017): 42-53. doi:10.1080/19390211.2016.1203386
- Li, Miaoyu, et al. “Role of Dietary Edible Mushrooms in the Modulation of Gut Microbiota.”Journal of Functional Foods, vol. 83, 2021, p. 104538, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2021.104538.
- Swayne, Matt. “Mushrooms Are Full of Antioxidants That May Have Anti-Aging Potential.”Penn State University, www.psu.edu/news/research/story/mushrooms-are-full-antioxidants-may-have-anti-aging-potential/. Accessed 1 July 2023.
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