What Are Mushroom Supplements?

Rewind the years, and your first encounter with mushrooms would likely have been with this exotic food, boasting a unique flavor. Mushrooms, whether as a culinary delight or a medicinal ingredient, have been ingrained in human consumption since our days as omnivorous hunter-gatherers.

The medicinal properties of this natural superfood have rendered it an indispensable component of traditional medicine for centuries. In fact, some experts speculate that mushrooms’ rich and diverse medicinal history dates back as far as 450 BC.

Therefore, we have been incorporating mushrooms into our diets for a considerable span of time. They have been a staple in my own diet for years.

So, when I encountered the question, I pondered, much like millions around the globe: Should I incorporate mushroom supplements?

If you find yourself contemplating the same query and wish to delve deeper into the realm of mushroom supplements before integrating them into your daily health regimen, then read on.

What Are Mushroom Supplements?

Mushroom supplements have made a grand entrance into the overcrowded wellness space. The increasing demand indicates their popularity and solidifies their place as the most sought-after health supplement at the moment.

Fitness enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals are incorporating mushrooms into anything and everything possible. If you’re new to mushrooms, you only need to know about two ways to consume them: as mushroom supplements or as a cooking ingredient.

In supplements, mushrooms are dried and milled into powder form. Alternatively, the beneficial essence of the medicinal mushroom is extracted using water and alcohol. The extract is later sold in liquid form or dried into powder, then filled into capsules of standard doses.

The strength of the supplement depends on several factors, including the extraction method, extraction ratio, purity of the extract, part of the mushroom used, harvesting technique, and more. However, it’s widely believed that mushroom supplements are more effective and efficient than consuming cooked mushrooms.

There are around 200 mushroom species known for their medicinal properties. Out of these, only a handful can be used as an ingredient. Furthermore, you would need to consume a large quantity of mushrooms to match the health benefits conferred by mushroom supplements.

The Different Forms of Mushroom Supplements

Decades ago, the sole method to enjoy the benefits of mushrooms was by incorporating them into your diet. Nowadays, mushroom supplements are available in numerous forms.

Your convenience should influence the choice of supplement form you opt for. For instance, individuals who travel frequently, need a quick dose before important events, or have family members of varying age groups taking the supplement, may prefer mushroom gummies.

Why? Because mushroom gummies are portable, can be portioned into variable doses, and are suitable for both young and old alike.

Here are the most readily available supplement forms:

Mushroom Gummies: Gummies offer a tasty and convenient way to incorporate the benefits of mushrooms into your daily routine. In this form, mushroom extract is infused into sweet and chewy gummies. Mushroom gummies are a popular choice due to their ease of consumption, portability, and, of course, palatability.

Mushroom Capsules: Mushroom extracts are dried and encapsulated into powder form. Mushroom capsules are convenient to carry and easy to consume. Their only drawback is the inability to divide the dosage.

Mushroom Powder: Similar to whey protein powder, mushroom supplements are available in powder form, typically packed in canisters or pouches. It’s rarely consumed raw; usually, a measuring spoon is used to scoop out one or two portions, which are then mixed with a liquid to create a beverage before consumption.

Mushroom Tinctures: This is a traditional method that is still widely used. Mushroom extracts are packaged in bottles, and a dropper is used to add the supplement drops to soup, broth, beverages, etc.

Mushroom Beverages and Other Ready-to-Use Products: As the popularity of mushrooms grows, you can expect to find mushroom supplements in various other forms, such as ready-to-use beverages, mushroom extract cookies, etc.

What Are Mushroom Supplements Good For?

I wasn’t surprised to find that the eating habits of people in the United Kingdom have deteriorated in the past 50 years. In the 1970s, people used more fresh fruits and vegetables than processed food items. The tables have turned now, and people consume more processed foods that are rich in sugar, salt, and carbohydrates. We’re certain the situation is similar in the United States and most other developed countries.

Health experts and nutritionists believe that mushrooms can have a positive impact on the diet. Mushrooms have a unique flavor and meaty texture, making them an excellent alternative to high-sodium and high-fat foods. They are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

Additionally, they are known to contain special compounds that have at least 130 therapeutic applications. In the past few decades, the scientific community has taken a special interest in studying medicinal mushrooms. The list of potential health benefits of mushrooms that we know today is just the tip of the iceberg. This is the opinion of most researchers studying mushrooms.

Soon, scientists will unearth more therapeutic applications of mushrooms. That said, based on the current scientific literature, medicinal mushrooms have shown promise in the following areas:

Credible defense against infections: The beta-glucans and polysaccharides in mushrooms possess antimicrobial properties. They support the body in warding off harmful pathogens by strengthening the various immune cells.

Ensuring a proper immune response: In addition to fortifying the body’s natural defense mechanism, mushrooms also modulate immune response. What does this mean? An overactive immune system can be as dangerous as a weak one. By modulating the body’s immune response, mushrooms reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases.

Fighting oxidative stress and inflammation: Antioxidants such as ergothioneine and selenium in mushrooms help neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation in the body. By reducing damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, mushrooms contribute to overall health and well-being.

Speeding up wound healing and recovery: Certain mushroom supplements contain compounds that promote tissue regeneration, improving the body’s healing response. Taking mushroom supplements regularly can speed up the healing process and reduce recovery time.

Increasing energy levels, stamina, and endurance: Nutrients such as vitamin B6 and B12 are vital for energy metabolism. Mushrooms are a rich source of vitamins and minerals that boost energy levels, stamina, and endurance. Additionally, certain mushrooms like Cordyceps are known to increase ATP production and improve oxygen utilization in the muscles. These functions help with athletic performance, intense training, and quick muscle recovery.

Improving mental health: Mushrooms contain powerful adaptogenic agents that regulate emotional response during tough situations. Additionally, certain compounds influence the release and functioning of neurotransmitters associated with mood and emotions. The optimal functioning of these chemicals can improve mood and alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression.

Enhancing cognitive faculties and reducing age-related cognitive impairment: Mushrooms have nootropic properties. The compounds in mushrooms are known to boost cognitive faculties by influencing neurotransmitters and supporting neurogenesis. Additionally, mushrooms can help fight age-related cognitive impairment. Compounds like hericenones and erinacines (in lion’s mane) stimulate nerve growth factor production, promoting neuronal health and function.

Slowing down aging: The special compounds in mushroom supplements purge free radicals, reduce inflammation, cleanse the body of toxins, and support cellular repair mechanisms. These actions help slow down the aging process, especially in the skin and hair. Additionally, mushrooms help the skin retain moisture, ensuring healthy skin and a more youthful appearance.

Supporting the fight against tumor cells and cancer: The compounds in mushrooms are able soldiers in our fight against cancer. Certain mushrooms contain compounds that inhibit the growth of tumor cells. Mushroom extracts are also known to promote cell death in tumors. Experts believe that mushrooms can serve as an adjuvant along with conventional cancer treatments.

Reducing the risks of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases: The low-calorie and high-fiber content make mushrooms a healthier alternative to processed foods. Regular mushroom intake can help manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Additionally, the compounds in mushrooms help regulate cholesterol absorption, relax blood vessels, and support metabolic functions. All these activities help reduce the risk of modern-day killers such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.

What to Look for in a Mushroom Supplement?

Every other week, a new mushroom supplement enters the market. With numerous supplement varieties and mushroom species available, it’s no wonder people often feel overwhelmed when searching for mushroom supplements.

Furthermore, supplements are not subject to the same strict regulations as drugs by the FDA. In the absence of regulatory oversight, the responsibility falls on you to select the highest quality mushroom supplement that meets your needs. We can assist you in this process by outlining certain points to consider before purchasing a mushroom supplement.

Check for fillers: Fillers are common in supplements and are often necessary to maintain their efficacy. However, it’s important to scrutinize the type and quantity of fillers in comparison to the main mushroom ingredients. Starch is a prevalent filler in many supplements, so ensure that the starch filler does not exceed 5% of the total supplement powder.

Fruiting Body or Mycelium: Extracts from mushroom fruiting bodies typically contain a higher concentration of active compounds compared to mycelium extracts. Check the supplement label or product description on the website to determine the source of the extract. Mycelium extracts tend to have lower potency and higher starch content.

Extraction method: Supplement manufacturers employ various methods to extract essence from mushrooms. Since mushrooms are considered nature’s superfood due to their wide range of nutrients, it’s advisable to opt for products that utilize the double extraction method, involving both hot water and alcohol extractions. This method effectively extracts both water and fat-soluble nutrients from the mushrooms. Avoid products that use chemical solvents, as they can leave behind impurities and residues.

Reviews and testimonials: Take the time to read reviews and testimonials on the product website and third-party review portals to evaluate the supplement’s quality, effectiveness, and reliability. Additionally, look for feedback on packaging, order processing, timely delivery, and returns.

Risks and Side Effects of Mushroom Supplements

Mushroom supplements are generally safe and pose a very low risk of side effects. However, not all users react to a supplement in the same way. Any adverse effects, even if they occur, are generally mild and resolve themselves within a couple of days.

The most common side effects experienced by supplement users include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, and bloating. Individuals with sensitive stomachs should start with the minimum recommended dosage to avoid any adverse effects.

Those with allergies or pre-existing medical conditions should exercise caution and consult a physician or health expert before taking a new supplement. If you’re already taking medication for any medical condition, discuss potential drug interactions with your healthcare provider before adding a supplement to your regimen.

Adhere to the dosage recommended by the physician or printed on the product label, as taking more than the recommended dose can increase the risk of side effects.

Among all the options, mushroom gummies are widely considered the safest, as the risk of accidental overdosing is minimal compared to tinctures, powders, beverages, or other forms. However, individuals sensitive to specific ingredients or sugar should exercise caution.

Final Thoughts

Given the recent interest in natural solutions for our health and wellness issues, mushroom supplements have emerged as a boon.

Incorporating mushrooms into your diet is beneficial; they are an excellent source of fiber and essential nutrients.

However, to further support your health goals, address specific medical conditions, and safeguard against present and future health issues, mushroom supplements are necessary. They serve as a safe and reliable source of good health and overall well-being.