People have been using mushrooms medicinally for centuries, from traditional medicine to modern health crazes.
Nowadays, you can find fungi in all kinds of forms – from pill-based supplements to coffee – but which makes the best mushroom supplements?
Powders and extracts are two of the most common forms of mushroom supplements, but products can vary wildly in quality, ingredients, and production methods.
Mushroom supplements are quite exciting, as they are simultaneously new and old: They’ve been used in traditional medicine for ages, but we’re still discovering unique health benefits! While mushrooms can be consumed in various ways – raw, cooked, dried, and steeped in hot water to make tea, etc. – mushroom supplements come in two main forms – powders and extracts.
This article will help you understand the differences between mushroom extracts in powder or extract form and what types of products will provide the most benefits based on your health needs. But before we get into tips for choosing the best mushroom supplements for your needs, let’s start at the beginning.
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The mushroom powder is exactly what it sounds like – a powder made by drying and crushing mushrooms, which extends their shelf-life and potency while minimizing nutrient loss. Due to the simple manufacturing process, these powders can be made from all kinds of mushrooms and are often incredibly pure, as they’re (almost) nothing but mushrooms.
Mushroom powders can be made from only the mushroom fruiting body or the whole mushroom uprooted from its substrate, which may affect the potency of the finished powder. But no matter what species is used, the mushroom powder is water-soluble and highly versatile, making for some of the best mushroom supplements in terms of versatility and ease of use.
Because most mushrooms are dried at low temperatures (lower than 104°F) before being powdered, more natural compounds survive intact, giving mushroom powders a wider range of nutrients than extracts. These macro-and micronutrients make mushroom powders great as nutritional supplements that can easily be added to food and drink to supplement your intake of, say, protein or B vitamins, though they are less effective for specific aims like boosting your immune system.
This versatility makes powders some of the best mushroom supplements for people taking supplements for nutritional reasons – such as vegans looking to boost their protein intake – but means they aren’t as effective at treating specific ailments. As the old saying goes, “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Mushroom extracts are made by soaking dried mushrooms in a solvent to release compounds before the liquid is strained and cooked down into a mushroom-infused extract. Depending on the type of mushroom and desired compounds, manufacturers may use water, alcohol, or other solvents (like glycerin) and heat treatments (i.e. cooking) to extract beneficial compounds.
Some of the most beneficial compounds in mushrooms (such as beta-glucans) are ‘locked’ inside the cell walls of the mushroom fruiting body, but solvents allow you to extract these compounds from within the mushroom cells. However, the extraction process means that many nutrients like minerals and B vitamins won’t make it into the finished product, making extracts the best mushroom supplements if you want specific health benefits, rather than a broader spectrum of nutrients.
Many supplement manufacturers use the term “tincture” to refer to mushroom extracts, while others use the terms interchangeably, so you may be wondering what the difference is anyway. All extracts are made by extracting part of raw material using solvents, while tinctures are a form of extract that uses ethanol.
In other words, all tinctures are extracts, but not all extracts are tinctures, so try to ignore the tincture cheerleaders and read the ingredients list to find the right supplement for your needs.
The main appeal of mushroom extracts is the control over what compounds end up in the finished product, and the higher concentration of active ingredients like beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are believed to help lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar management and boost the immune system, making extracts some of the best mushroom supplements for these health benefits.
Extracts can also be safer than powders, as the extraction process eliminates or destroys a lot of the trace amounts of toxic chemicals in certain mushroom types. However, it’s worth noting that most mushroom powders aren’t toxic by any stretch of the imagination and will only contain traces of harmful chemicals which are perfectly safe if you stick to the recommended dosages.
Medicinal mushrooms have a long list of health benefits, including immune support, antioxidant effects and even boosting brain function, though each type of shroom is different. To help you find the best mushroom supplements for your health needs, we’ve compiled a list of some medicinal mushrooms which you should keep an eye out for, including:
When you look into the benefits of medicinal mushrooms like the ones listed above, it’s clear to see that they’re pretty amazing, but what’s the best way to get more mushrooms in your life? Even when you reduce the debate to the two main types of mushroom supplements – powders and extracts – it can be tough to choose the right form.
Fortunately, we’ve done the work of finding the pros and cons of mushroom powders and extracts so you can choose the best mushroom supplements for your needs:
The mushroom powder is incredibly versatile, as you can measure specific doses, add it to food, drink, and smoothies and even blend different mushrooms if you want the health benefits of multiple types. However, powders are less convenient or targeted than extracts, as you consume the whole mushroom (including some ingredients you may not need), and you have to mix them into food or drink.
Extracts tend to be more concentrated but provide fewer nutrients than mushroom powders, as they only contain certain compounds and chemicals from mushrooms. As a result, extracts are less versatile but better when targeting specific health concerns (i.e. immune support), meaning people looking for specific benefits tend to rate extracts or tinctures as the best mushroom supplements.
After you’ve decided whether you want a mushroom powder or extract, you need to consider various factors to find the best mushroom supplements for your needs. When scanning the aisles of your local pharmacy or searching online, remember these top tips:
In the end, the best mushroom supplements are what works for you, so there is no clear ‘right answer’ to this question. However, the two main types of supplements function very differently, and you may prefer one or the other depending on your nutritional needs.
Mushroom powders are better suited to people looking to get more nutrients like protein and B-vitamins (such as vegans), while extracts provide focussed, high-concentration doses of specific compounds ideal for treating specific health concerns. But whichever approach you take, make sure you choose a high-quality product with the type of mushroom best for you by following the tips in this article.
And last but not least, please get professional medical advice before starting on supplements, as even the best mushroom supplements can’t beat conventional medical treatment.
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