Functional mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese herbalism and have been incorporated into many holistic health practices. More recently, these mushrooms have become increasingly popular as they support both physical and mental well-being.
While we may regularly consume mushrooms for their nutritional value, functional mushrooms have mental and physical health benefits that extend beyond their nutritional composition. The health benefits of functional mushrooms are accessible in the form of gummies, mushroom powders, capsules, and other supplements.
Are you interested in exploring the fantastic benefits of functional mushroom supplements? Keep reading. This guide will teach you how to choose the best mushroom extracts, detailing the critical differences between the fruiting body and the mycelium!
Mushrooms: Learn The Basics
Before discussing the differences between the mushroom fruiting body and mycelium extracts, we must understand what these terms mean.
What Is The Mushroom Fruiting Body?
The mushroom fruiting body is the part of functional mushrooms that we are all aware of. It includes the mushroom cap, stem, gills, skirt, scales, and volva. An actual mushroom that you might purchase for your average stroganoff is simply the fruiting body.
The fruiting body is the reproductive structure of the organism, and it is the part that is visible when we go mushroom picking or cook mushrooms for our meals. When the whole mushroom fruiting body performs its reproductive function, it releases tiny spores into the air, which connect with substrates and develop into mycelium.
What Is The Mycelium Of The Mushroom?
Many people are unaware of what the mushroom mycelium is, as it is the hidden part of the mushroom structure. Similarly to a flower or plant, the mushroom mycelium roots protrude from the base of the mushroom’s fruiting body stem.
From there, it extends into the soil and feeds on plant matter in the vegetative stage of the mushroom's life cycle. The mycelium then connects a network of mushrooms and is interconnected with the plant matter it gathers nutrients using enzymes.
The largest organism on earth is a 2,000-year-old mycelium network that spans 890 hectares.
Another fact is the interconnectivity between some of the mushroom mycelium and other plants. A small group of mycelium mushrooms called mycorrhizal fungi can collect nutrients by connecting to other plants. The relationship between these mycelium fungi and other plants is symbiotic, connecting plants all over the forest in an exchange of sugars and nutrients. The mycelium ensures the health of the fruiting body, but also serves a much grander purpose, providing the health of all of the plants in the area.
The mycelium has a robust defense mechanism against pathogens, distributing enzymes into the substrate and the fruiting body to protect itself from competitors.
Differences Between The Fruiting Body And The Mycelium
Now that we are familiar with the makeup of functional mushrooms let's dive in and highlight some of the key differences between the fruiting body and the mycelium. Differentiating the fruiting body and the mycelium will help you to determine which mushroom powder or mushroom supplements will best suit your needs.
- The fruiting body is the reproductive structure of the mushroom, whereas the mycelium is the vegetative body of the mushroom.
- The mushroom's fruiting body produces spores, and the mycelium typically does not.
- We commonly cook using the fruiting body and eat the fruiting body, whereas the mycelium is not consumed in regular meals, except for Tempeh.
- The mycelium grows underground, whereas the fruiting body grows above the soil.
- The fruiting body is isolated, but the mycelium is interwoven with the plant matter it draws nutrients. When growing mushrooms, farmers often grow them on a wood substrate or a substrate made up of rice, oats, or other grains.
Although both the fruiting body and the mycelium perform different functions and have different structures, both contain valuable compounds that can be used in mushroom extracts. However, the fruiting bodies contain a significant amount more than the mycelium.
Active Compounds And Benefits Of The Fruiting Body
Functional mushrooms have nutritional value and can provide the body with valuable vitamins and minerals. Let's discuss some beneficial bioactive compounds that are found in the fruiting bodies of functional mushrooms.
Beta-glucans And Immunity Balance
Beta-glucans are polysaccharides that are found in the cell wall of the mushroom’s fruiting body. Beta-glucans play an essential role in supporting natural immune function. Because of this property, the fruiting body may act as your bodyguard against nasties, which can be helpful during seasonal transitions.
It is important to understand and be able to differentiate between different types of beta-glucans. Mushrooms specifically have 1,3 1,6 beta-glucans. Other plants/grains normally have 1,3 1,4 beta-glucans, which don’t support the immune system.
Many mushroom supplement brands may advertise grain-filled products that are “packed with beta-glucans.” So, if you opt for fruiting bodies in your mushroom extracts, make sure they contain the right kind of beta-glucans.
Triterpenoids And Liver Support
The triterpenoids in the fruiting body may act like a soothing balm for the liver. Your body can naturally protect your liver from damage caused by alcohol and other liver-damaging substances. The triterpenoids found in mushroom extracts may help support the aid of this natural process. Other benefits that you may gain from triterpenes include that they help with inflammatory support post-workout and the defense against occasional stress.
Ergosterol And Vitamin B12 Support
Ergosterol is a fungal sterol found in the fruiting body and is similar to vitamin D. The fruiting bodies of functional mushrooms also have a rich supply of vitamin B12. Many vegans and vegetarians struggle to gain their vitamin B12 supply without supplements, as this vitamin is added to the grain which feeds cattle and is thus present in dairy and beef products. A functional mushroom’s fruiting body can be an excellent natural source of vitamin B12 for vegans and vegetarians.
Statins And Encouraging Healthy Cholesterol Support
A functional mushroom’s fruiting body contains lovastatin, which belongs to a group of compounds called statins. Statins are beneficial compounds that may support the body's natural cholesterol management systems within normal ranges. Functional mushrooms may support the body’s cardiovascular system.
How To Choose Your Mushroom Extract
With all of this information in mind, you must choose the best quality mushroom extract with mushroom fruit bodies. Reading about the mushroom extracts you're about to buy is essential to ensure that you get the best products from a reputable brand. Here are some steps to help you choose the best functional mushroom extracts.
Read The Labels And Focus On 1,3 1,6 Beta-Glucans
If you're purchasing functional mushroom products, you need to know that the extract in them provides 1,3 1,6 beta-glucans from the fruiting bodies of the functional mushrooms. 1,3 1,6 Beta-glucans are a valuable part of a mushroom fruit body, and you should look for supplements high in these bioactive compounds.
One of the key differences between the mycelium and the mushroom fruiting bodies is that the fruiting bodies contain up to 500 times more 1,3 1,6 beta-glucans. The mycelium extracts tend to be lower in 1,3 1,6 beta-glucans, so it is essential to check to see the number of 1,3 1,6 beta-glucans in the product.
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Identify If Your Extract Is Made From Mycelium Or Fruiting Body
The mycelium and fruiting bodies of functional mushrooms have different health benefits and bioactive compounds. However, since mycelium is connected to the plant matter it feeds from, many mycelium extracts are considered to be interlaced with up to 80-90% filler of rice of oat powder on which the mycelium was growing on. Many mycelium extracts are drawn from mushrooms that are grown in oats or a rice substrate, so you can expect to see rice or oats included in the supplement.
You must check whether your extract is made from mycelium, a fruiting body, or a combination of the two. Even if it's a combination of mycelium and fruiting bodies, it is important to understand that the supplement will be significantly watered down and weaker, with only a small fraction of the beneficial compounds you want to get from functional mushrooms.
There is much debate about whether mycelium extracts or fruiting body extracts are best, and you could opt for a combination of mycelium extracts and fruiting body extracts. However, it's always best to know exactly what you're getting from your functional mushroom supplements.
Many companies advertise their products as "full spectrum", saying they use all fungal parts (spores, mycelium, fruiting bodies, substrate, etc) and market it as a good thing. But imagine you were buying an apple pie and the company stuffed the pie crust with dirt, roots, stems, leaves, bark, branches, and baby apples and then advertised it as a full spectrum apple pie that was healthier for you. You really would want to buy the pie with 100% apple fruits right?
The same goes with mushroom supplements, you want to opt for the supplement with 100% mushroom fruiting bodies without any other cheap filler ingredients which drives down the manufacturing cost for the company giving them higher profits.
Check The Carbohydrate Or Starch Levels
As we mentioned, the mushroom’s mycelium is often connected and inseparable from the substrate, but even if it was pure mycelium, it is significantly weaker than pure fruiting bodies. Pure mycelium without any fillers is still problematic as it has a fraction of the beneficial compounds compared to actual mushrooms.
You should check the carbohydrate or starch levels to know the amount of mycelium in your mushroom supplements, and opt for products with 100% fruiting bodies instead.
Avoid Extracts Mentioning Myceliated Grain And Biomass If You Want The Fruiting Body
If you're just looking for a fruiting body functional mushroom extract, you need to know which terms indicate the presence of mushroom mycelium. If the product mentions myceliated grain substrate or biomass, this suggests that it contains mycelium extract, not a purely fruiting body.
Avoid Extracts That Lack Specific Information
If the product manufacturer fails to provide sufficient information on what the product contains, it would indicate that the product is low-quality. A lack of transparency could also suggest that the product doesn't have the quality mushroom extracts that you're seeking - a VERY significant red flag. So, avoid extracts that lack specific information, and look for products that provide the following details about the product:
- Information about the mushrooms - are they organic? Are there lab results?
- Information about the supplement - is it kosher? Is it suitable for vegans and vegetarians? Is it gluten-free?
- Specific compounds information - you need to know whether the mushroom extract is made up of fruiting bodies or mushroom mycelium and if it contains any mycelium that is watered down.
Buy Products That Are 100% USDA Certified Organic
The last thing you want when using mushroom supplements to improve your health is to consume traces of harmful pesticides. Pesticide residue is detrimental to the body, and the use of pesticides in farming practices is highly damaging to the environment. So, to protect your body and the planet, you should only choose 100% USDA-certified organic products.
Always Buy From A Trusted Source
You should check out the reputation of any supplement provider you purchase products from. Check out their customer reviews to see how their existing customers have benefitted from their products. You might also wish to check out the company's product recall history to ensure all of its products are safe and consumer-friendly. Any functional mushroom supplement product that you buy should be third-party lab tested to ensure its quality and safety.
The mushroom fruiting body is the stem and cap of the mushroom, whereas the mycelium is the underground network of the mushroom. Fruiting bodies and mycelium are both extracts that you can purchase. However, fruiting bodies have a significantly higher amount of beneficial compounds compared to mycelium. You want to look for pure mushroom fruiting body products and no mycelium on grain or mycelium and fruiting body combined products.
At Mushroom Revival, we believe that mushrooms including fruiting body, adaptogenic mushrooms, and more can revive your overall wellness to make you feel your best self. Find your perfect mushroom match and check out our wide variety of products to start your functional mushroom supplements journey today!