Is Dual Extraction Necessary for Mushrooms?

Is Dual Extraction Necessary?

Whether a mushroom extract powder should be made with water or alcohol or both is a question that comes up often.

Hot water is a very traditional extraction process and is the most common. Sometimes only alcohol is used. When both water and alcohol are used, it is called a dual extract.

It is important to make sure the correct solvent is used since many mushrooms do not need dual extraction and may potentially be negatively impacted. Not only that, in many cases, non-water soluble compounds can be preserved without the need for alcohol extraction.

Note: This is addressing commercial mushroom extract powders where the liquid has been removed. If you are making your own tinctures this generally does not apply unless you are precipitating out a portion of the alcohol (see Dual Extract with Less Beta-glucans).

What is an extract?

An extract is defined as “a substance made by extracting a part of a raw material, often by using a solvent such as ethanol or water. Extracts may be sold as tinctures or in powder form”.

In this case, the raw material is mushrooms and the solvents are water and alcohol (typically ethanol).

How is a hot water extract made?

Think of a traditional hot water extract similar to making a soup stock or bone broth. 

The raw materials could be mushrooms or vegetables or beef bones. These get cooked in hot water for a set period of time. Once the cooking is finished, the liquid is drained off and preserved and the solids are thrown away.

Cooking with hot water will extract out any water soluble compounds from our raw material. These will now be contained in our liquid. Compounds that are not soluble in water will be left in the solids that get thrown away at the end of the cooking period.

Note, a commercial mushroom extract is a bit more complex than this in terms of pressure, temperature, surface area of raw materials but the example above is a good general simplification.

Now, our final liquid can either be consumed as a liquid or in the case of an extract powder, this liquid is put through a spray dryer which evaporates all the water, leaving you with a powder.

For mushrooms, the primary water soluble compounds are polysaccharides like beta-glucans.

But what about non-water soluble compounds?

If we want our extract to contain non-water soluble compounds, we will need to extract the raw materials with something other than water. This is where the alcohol comes in. The alcohol will extract the non-water soluble compounds into our liquid.

With the leftover solids from our hot water extraction, we will now add them to a mixture of alcohol and water and continue to cook the solids for a set period of time. Once the cooking is done we will separate the liquid from the solids and add this liquid to our first hot water extract liquid.

Voila! A Dual Extract.

This is all and well but was it really necessary?

What are these non-water soluble compounds?

There’s a lot of talk specifically about the need to use dual extracts to get a “full spectrum” of compounds available in the mushroom.

But what are these compounds?

For reishi, we have triterpenes like ganoderic acids, many of which are non-water soluble. These are an important component of reishi which should be present in any reishi product. Triterpenes give reishi its bitter flavor as this bitterness is a good quality indicator for reishi. Reishi products that aren’t bitter can be assumed to have negligible amounts of triterpenes.

For chaga, we have triterpenes and sterols like inotodiol, trametenolic acid and betulinic acid. These are primarily non-water soluble.

For other mushrooms like cordyceps, lions mane, turkey tail, shiitake and maitake there isn’t any primary non-water soluble compounds of note.

For these reasons, we recommend dual extracts of reishi and chaga like we have in our 5 Defenders but for the other mushrooms, it’s not only unnecessary but potentially detrimental.

Are these compounds present?

The other issue with many of these non-water soluble compounds is the ability to measure them. Many of them cannot be measured so we don’t even know if they are present in the final product.

We can measure the triterpenes in Reishi using HPLC and guarantee them like in our Reishi 415.

Inotodiol in Chaga can be measured although very few labs can perform this test.

The measurement of these compounds adds an additional layer of quality. This is why we recommend that any product you choose have measured levels of beta-glucans and not polysaccharides.

It’s great to say “this is a dual extract” but without any analysis of the compounds that are supposed to be present, you have no proof if they are actually there.

Maybe it was a poor extraction?
Maybe fillers like starch and grain were added?
Maybe it’s being called a dual extract when it’s only a hot water extract?

The term “dual extract” or “hot water extract” for that matter don’t provide any real context without the analysis of the compounds they are meant to extract.

Dual Extract with Less Beta-glucans

We have seen test results of dual extracts that actually have fewer beta-glucans than their hot water extract counterparts. This is due to the fact that polysaccharides precipitate out in alcohol and are removed from the final liquid in the filtration process. This essentially removes many of the beta-glucans.

Herbalist and traditional medicine specialist, Subhuti Dharmananda Ph.D., has said the following in regards to alcohol extractions:

In some cases, such as the immune-enhancing polysaccharides of astragalus, lonicera, medicinal mushrooms, and other herbs, alcohol is actually a poor medium for extraction because it causes the desired components to condense out of the liquid (thus none is left in the finished product). (1)

Here are some testing details courtesy of Nammex:

Hot water extract vs Dual Extract
Beta-glucansAlpha-glucans
Reishi mushroom hot water extract26.23%4.59%
Reishi mushroom alcohol / hot water extract5.5%2.5%

Both extracts are the same ratio. A high alcohol percentage in the dual extract was used specifically to create a high triterpene extract.

So for mushrooms that have few non-water soluble compounds, a hot water extract is a more valid method of extraction. For our 5 Defenders, our shiitake, maitake and turkey tail extracts are all hot water extracts. This keeps the levels of beta-glucans high.

Non-water Soluble Compounds Without Alcohol Extraction

What if, at the end of the hot water extraction process, instead of discarding the solids, you included them in the final product?

Would the non-water soluble compounds be present without alcohol extraction?

Of course they would. As they are present in the raw materials and nothing is being removed during the extraction process, they would end up in the final product.

You may have noticed that our Chaga Extract is a hot water extract and not a dual extract. This is because the extraction process for this product does not remove any of the raw materials. All of the raw chaga is still present in the final extract powder so any non-water soluble compounds are still present.

Our Cordyceps-M, Lions Mane Extract and Chaga Extract are all special proprietary extracts from Nammex that still include the entire mushroom. Nothing is removed during the extraction process so while they are hot water extracts, all the non-water soluble compounds are still present. No medicinal constituents are removed.

The Takeaway

It may be simplistic to say that everything needs to be dual extracted. Extraction is definitely a must for medicinal mushrooms but as we’ve seen above, not all mushrooms need to be dual extracted and in some cases it’s actually detrimental. Plus, without analysis to back up that extraction, it gives no guarantee of quality.

If you have any questions, leave us a comment below.

References

  1. DOSAGE AND FORM OF HERBS: Decoctions, Dried Decoctions, Powders, Pills, Etc. by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon

A Complete Guide to Cordyceps Supplements

Everything you need to know about Cordyceps supplements

Cordyceps seems to be all the rage right now. You see it in every adaptogen and pre workout supplement. It’s being talked about extensively in the mushroom community and is one of the top superfoods.

So what is all the hype surrounding this fascinating fungus. Let’s first explore exactly what this fascinating fungus is and how it can benefit your health. Then we will look at the common variations of cordyceps on the market and help decipher what to look for in a cordyceps supplement.

What is Cordyceps?

Stroma and caterpillar of Cordyceps sinensis

Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that includes over 400 different species which are found all over the world.

They typically infect other insects and arthropods.

Cordyceps spores will land on the insect and then the spore will germinate and hyphae will begin to grow inside the insect and turn into mycelium. The mycelium will continue to consume the insect from the inside and when the insect is fully consumed and the environmental conditions are correct, a blade-like mushroom (fruiting body) will be produced from the insect’s head. The mushroom will then release spores and the lifecycle will start over.

Many have seen the BBC Planet Earth clip of Cordyceps infecting ants.

 

Wild Cordyceps sinensis – The Caterpillar fungus

Wild Cordyceps sinensis caterpillar and fruiting body

Wild Cordyceps sinensis. The caterpillar is below ground while the mushroom is above ground. ©Nammex

The most well known species of Cordyceps is Cordyceps sinensis (now known officially as Ophiocordyceps sinensis) which infects the caterpillar of the Hepialus moth. It is mainly found at high elevations in Tibet and the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu. It can also be found but is less abundant in India, Nepal, and Bhutan.

This is an entire article in itself, but Cordyceps sinensis was made famous back in 1993 at the Chinese national games in Beijing where multiple Chinese runners shattered track and field records.

Most notable was Wang Jungxia, who beat the 10,000m world record by 42 seconds. This record lasted 23 years.

3 days later, she came second to teammate Yunxia Qu in the 1500m. They both beat the current world record and Yunxia’s record stood for 22 years.

Then 2 days after that, Wang posted a world record in the 3000m. This record still stands today and 5 of the top 10 times in the 3000m come from Chinese athletes in these 1993 games.

Their coach, Ma Junren claimed their success due to a tonic of Cordyceps sinensis and turtle blood.

This olympic runners story is touted all around the internet to promote Cordyceps products, but what is typically left out is that many of Ma’s athletes later failed drug tests. Junren Ma was eventually dropped as part of Chinese olympic team due to his athletes failing drug tests.

This era of sports in the 80s to mid 90s was rife with doping scandals and it begs the question, was their success really due to Cordyceps?

Wild Cordyceps sinensis

Commonly shown in marketing materials yet these are not in your supplements.

The Caterpillar Fungus is not in Your Supplements

True, wild Cordyceps sinensis (shown above) is not in 99.9% of Cordyceps supplements because of its exceptionally high price tag. In fact, wild Cordyceps sinensis costs over $20,000 per kilogram, making it the most expensive mushroom in the world.

They are almost exclusively sold in Asia and rarely make it into the North American market.

The high price is due to the fact that for many years, the Chinese have been unable to cultivate this mushroom. This has fueled increased demand on a set supply of wild Cordyceps sinensis. Only recently have the Chinese figured out how to cultivate this mushroom but it is not at a production scale yet to make an impact on the wild Cordyceps sinensis prices.

Even though the majority of Cordyceps supplements do not contain the caterpillar fungus, this has not stopped many companies from using photos of this mushroom in their marketing materials and label information causing customers to believe they are consuming this mushroom. Sadly, they are not.

But if the Caterpillar fungus isn’t in your supplements, what is?

Forms of Cordyceps Supplements

Liquid fermentation mycelium facility

Liquid fermentation mycelium factory in China. ©Real Mushrooms

Cordyceps Cs-4

In the 1980’s, when the wild Cordyceps sinensis was gaining in popularity and the price tag kept climbing, scientists in China set out to cultivate this fungus. Many tried and many failed. Still to this day, there is no affordable cultivated version of this mushroom. What the scientists did end up with are Cordyceps anamorphs, mycelium cultures that are unable to produce a mushroom (fruiting body).

These anamorphs were grown in liquid fermentation to create mass amounts of pure mycelium.

This process is known as liquid culture mycelium or liquid fermentation and involves growing the mycelium in a liquid solution of nutrients which can then be removed, leaving you with pure mycelium.

These anamorphs were studied extensively and found to produce similar results to the wild Cordyceps sinensis.

This ended up turning into what is now known as Cordyceps Cs-4. After undergoing clinical trials in China, the Chinese government approved its use in TCM hospitals and it is now recognized as a safe natural product drug in China.

If a Cordyceps supplement is claiming to be Cordyceps sinensis and it is made in China, it is almost certainly Cordyceps Cs-4.

Other Cs-4 products may also be labelled as Paecilomyces hepiali which is an anamorph form of Cordyceps sinensis.

Do not confuse Cordyceps Cs-4 with Cordyceps myceliated grain (below) as these are very different products.

Cordyceps Myceliated Grain

Mycelium grown on grain

Mycelium growing on a sterilized grain substrate. ©Nammex

Due to the fact that it is not economical to grow mushrooms in North America for supplement use, if a Cordyceps product is grown in North America, it is almost certainly Cordyceps myceliated grain, recently referred to as MOG.

Myceliated grain can also go by mycelium on grain, mycelium biomass or grain spawn.

Myceliated grain products will typically be labelled as Cordyceps sinensis or Cordyceps militaris.

Instead of growing the mycelium in liquid like what is used for Cordyceps Cs-4, the mycelium is instead grown in a plastic bag containing sterilized grain. This can also be referred to as solid state fermentation.

The issue here is that unlike being in liquid, the mycelium cannot be separated from the grain so the grain ends up in the final product.

It has been shown with MOG products that the mycelium does not fully consume the grain so much of the final product is actually the grain the mycelium grows on. This is most apparent with Cordyceps as it is a slow growing fungus.

From the table below you see that the high amount of alpha-glucans, which represent starch from the grain. Starch is an alpha-glucan. This confirms that the grain medium the Cordyceps mycelium grows on is not being fully consumed.

The high amount of grain translates into a low amount of mycelium and this is confirmed in the low beta-glucan numbers. This is why it is important to measure beta-glucans and not polysaccharides for medicinal mushroom products. These samples can tout high polysaccharide numbers (beta + alpha) but the majority of it comes from non-beneficial starches which are alpha-glucans.

Beta-glucan and Alpha-glucan results of Cordyceps mycelium grown on grain.(3,4)
Beta-glucansAlpha-glucans
Sample#11.5%64%
Sample#23%65%
Sample#31%45%
Cordyceps Mycelium Nutritional Comparison

Nutritional analysis of Cordyceps mycelium grown on grains showing that these products closely mirror the grain itself and not the true Cordyceps mushroom. ©Nammex

The nutritional analysis above also confirms how well Cordyceps myceliated grain tracks the grain it is grown on. This further demonstrates how closely myceliated grain is to the grain itself which leads you to wonder how much is actually mycelium.

Myceliated grain is often justified by referencing research on pure mycelium made through liquid fermentation. As pointed out above with Cs-4, Cordyceps myceliated grain is very different from Cordyceps Cs-4 so using Cordyceps Cs-4 research to justify the use of Cordyceps myceliated grain is not valid and is misleading to the consumer.

Cordyceps Mushroom Extracts

Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies

Cordyceps militaris mushrooms (fruiting bodies) ©Nammex

There is currently one type of Cordyceps species that can be cultivated to produce a mushroom (fruiting body) and it is becoming quite popular. This is Cordyceps militaris. By using Cordyceps militaris, for the first time, true Cordyceps mushroom extracts can be made.

By being made from the mushroom, we see much higher levels of the important beta-glucans. Our Cordyceps-M product which is extracted exclusively from Cordyceps militaris mushrooms has greater than 25% beta-glucans. Compare that to Cs-4 which typically has less than 10% beta-glucans and Cordyceps mycelium on grain which typically has 1-3% beta-glucans.

One of the unique things about Cordyceps militaris is that it produces the compound cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine) in much higher amounts when compared to Cordyceps sinensis.

Nucleosides in Cordyceps and various medicinal mushrooms

Yuan, J. P., Zhao, S. Y., Wang, J. H., Kuang, H. C., Liu, X., Uan, J. I. A. N. I. N. G. Y., … Iu, X. I. N. L. (2008). Distribution of nucleosides and nucleobases in edible fungi. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56(3), 809–815.

As seen from the table above Cordyceps militaris has up to 90 times more cordycepin (column “Co”) when compared with the wild Cordyceps sinensis. Cs-4 would likely have even less cordycepin than the wild Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps mycelium on grain would have almost no cordycepin due to the low amount of mycelium present.

This is very important as products touting the benefits of cordycepin and labelled as Cordyceps sinensis would likely have undetectable amounts. Either that or the product is improperly labelled as Cordyceps sinensis when it is actually Cordyceps militaris.

Note that Cordyceps militaris products grown in North America would still be myceliated grain and not a true mushroom extract. Pure mushroom extract powders almost solely come from Asia, with China accounting for over 85% of the world’s mushroom production.

More and more research is coming out showing that Cordyceps militaris has similar benefits to the traditional wild Cordyceps sinensis and has traditionally been used as an alternative to Cordyceps sinensis in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Cordycepic Acid & Other Nucleosides

This is not to be confused with cordycepin which is a unique compound in Cordyceps but many Cordyceps products talk about Cordycepic acid (sometimes spelled Cordyceptic) as a beneficial compound in Cordyceps. But this was debunked back in the 60s as not being a compound unique to Cordyceps, but a compound that is found in all medicinal mushrooms, which is D-Mannitol or Mannitol (1).

Other nucleosides like adenine, adenosine and uridine which are commonly touted in Cordyceps are also found in other fungi as well (see table above).

Benefits of Cordyceps

Now that we’ve dispelled a lot of the misinformation around Cordyceps, let’s look at some of the benefits of using Cordyceps. Traditionally in China, wild Cordyceps sinensis has been used for lack of energy, treating asthma, sexual function plus lung, liver and kidney support.

More recently, Cordyceps Cs-4 showed an increase in exercise performance in healthy older adults according a study from the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine in 2009. This study took twenty healthy elderly individuals ages 50-75. One group was the controlled and the other group took 333 mg of Cs-4 or 3 capsules per day. The subjects performed the stationary cycle ergometer using breath-by-breath examination at baseline and the end of the study. The results were quite good! Following 12 weeks of Cs-4 supplementation, the healthy elderly individuals lactate threshold increased by 10.5% and their ventilatory threshold increased by 8.5%. On the other hand, the control group saw no changes in VO2 max (5).

A study from the Evidence Based Complimentary Alternative Medicine journal in 2015 looked at the anti-fatigue effects of Cordyceps militaris (CM) supplementation on rodents and the results are quite exciting! The study found that the rodents that received two weeks of Cordyceps militaris supplementation displayed greater levels of delayed fatigue compared to the rodents not given Cordyceps militaris. Not only that, but the CM rodent group had higher levels of ATP, anti-oxidant enzyme levels and best part of all, lower levels of lactic acid (a key component regarding fatigue and time to exhaustion). In other words, these rodents were able to push longer and harder without tiring out (8).

As Cordyceps militaris mushrooms have high levels of beta-glucans, they can also act as potent immunomodulators to help balance out your immune system. In addition to helping your immune system, Cordyceps militaris mushrooms may also stimulate neurite outgrowth which could be beneficial for brain and cognitive health (9).

Final Thoughts

It is very important when selecting a Cordyceps product to know exactly where it is from and how it is made. Scrutinize the label and supplements panel very carefully.

You now know that the caterpillar fungus is not in any supplements due to its price tag. You know that Cordyceps Cs-4 is pure mycelium from China. You know that North American grown products are myceliated grain and that grain ends up being a large portion of the final product. Cordyceps militaris is the only species able to be used to create a mushroom extract and mushroom extract powders almost solely come from Asia.

We always recommend selecting products that are extracted from the mushroom (fruiting body), ideally certified organic, with measured levels of beta-glucans and starch like our very own Cordyceps-M.

If you have any questions, please comment below.

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Resources

  1. A Reinvestigation of the Structure of “Cordycepic Acid”1a. Milon Sprecher, David B. Sprinson. J. Org. Chem., 1963, 28 (9), pp 2490–2491
  2. Yuan, J. P., Zhao, S. Y., Wang, J. H., Kuang, H. C., Liu, X., Uan, J. I. A. N. I. N. G. Y., … Iu, X. I. N. L. (2008). Distribution of nucleosides and nucleobases in edible fungi. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56(3), 809–815.
  3. Chilton, Jeff, Nammex, 2015. Redefining Medicinal Mushrooms.
  4. McCleary, B. V., & Draga, A. (2016). Measurement of ß-Glucan in mushrooms and mycelial products. Journal of AOAC International, 99(2), 364–373.
  5. Chen, S., Li, Z., Krochmal, R., Abrazado, M., Kim, W., & Cooper, C. B. (2010). Effect of Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy older subjects: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(5), 585–90. 
  6. Hur, Hyun. (2008). Chemical ingredients in Cordyceps militaris. Mycobiology, volume 36
  7. Tuli HS, Sharma AK, Sandhu SS, Kashyap D. (2013). Cordycepin: a bioactive metabolite with therapeutic benefits. Life Sciences.
  8. Song J, Wang Y, Teng M, Cai G, Xu H, Guo H, Liu Y, Wang D, Teng L. (2015). Studies on the Antifatigue Activities of Cordyceps militaris Fruit Body Extract in Mouse Model. Evidence Based Complimentary Alternative Medicine.
  9. Phan, C.-W., David, P., Naidu, M., Wong, K.-H., & Sabaratnam, V. (2013). Neurite outgrowth stimulatory effects of culinary-medicinal mushrooms and their toxicity assessment using differentiating Neuro-2a and embryonic fibroblast BALB/3T3. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 13(1), 261. 

 

 

The Truth Behind Polysaccharides in Medicinal Mushrooms

Why Polysaccharides are a Poor Measurement of Mushroom Quality

Polysaccharides are one of the key active components in medicinal mushrooms and they are commonly listed on many medicinal mushroom products. In fact, many companies boast about high polysaccharide numbers. However, if we look deeper it becomes clear that polysaccharide analysis may be hiding significant product flaws.

Are high polysaccharides really a measure of quality?

Actually polysaccharides include more than just compounds found in mushrooms which means many mushroom products are fooling you with their polysaccharide numbers.

But first…

What are Polysaccharides?

Polysaccharides are long chain carbohydrates that are made up of various monosaccharides connected by glycosidic bonds. These molecules can range from the very simple to the more complex carbohydrate molecules.

Some examples of polysaccharides would be chitin and beta-glucans, which make up the cell walls of fungi. Cellulose, which is what plant cell walls are made up of are also polysaccharides. So are sugars like glucose and fructose.

Polysaccharides are considered to be one of the most commonly mentioned active compounds in plants and fungi. Specific types of mushrooms like reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) and Maitake (Grifola frondosa) possess high levels of polysaccharides.

Polysaccharides in Fungi – Beta-glucans

Now that we’ve defined what polysaccharides are, we will look specifically at the polysaccharides you find in fungi. Fungi will contain small amounts of glycogen, but the primary polysaccharides are beta-D-glucans. Beta-glucans come in various forms, but the main one in fungi have what is known as 1-3,1-6 branching also referred to as (1-3)(1-6)beta-d-glucans. These are specific to fungi and yeast. Oats also contain beta-glucans, but they have a different branching structure, which are (1-4)beta-d-glucans.

This is important because the bulk of the medicinal mushroom research is based on the effects of these beta-glucans.

If the important compounds are beta-glucans, why are companies still measuring polysaccharides?

Polysaccharide Fillers – Alpha-glucans

Another group of polysaccharides are alpha-glucans. These are compounds like glycogen, dextran, pullulan and starch. What we’ve discovered is that the polysaccharides in many so-called mushroom products are made up of alpha-glucans and not beta-glucans.

Where Polysaccharide Testing Falls Short

McCleary, B. V., & Draga, A. (2016). Measurement of Beta-Glucan in mushrooms and mycelial products. Journal of AOAC International, 99(2), 364–373. http://doi.org/10.5740/jaoacint.15-0289

If you look at the table above, you will see an alpha-glucan and beta-glucan breakdown of various medicinal mushroom products. Take note of specific mushroom products like sample #5, which is Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum). This particular sample tests high in alpha-glucans and very low in beta-glucans. Another prime example would be sample #12, which is Chaga (Inonotus obliquus). It expresses high amounts of alpha-glucans and little if any beta-glucans. Same applies for sample #8, Cordyceps sp. (ascomycete), which is dominated by high alpha glucans and small amounts of beta-glucans. The Nammex report also showed similar results.

On paper these products can tout high polysaccharide amounts (alpha-glucans + beta-glucans) but in reality the majority of those polysaccharides come from alpha-glucans in the form of starches and fillers. Those alpha-glucans provide no medicinal benefit.

This concept is extremely important to understand when it comes to medicinal mushroom products. It is quite concerning because many products on the market tout polysaccharide numbers yet fail to mention any beta-glucan numbers.

The Importance of Beta-glucan Testing

As the beta-glucans are the important polysaccharide in these fungi, it is vital that beta-glucan testing be done instead of polysaccharide testing to properly qualify medicinal mushroom products. The Megazyme method, developed by Dr. Barry McCleary at Megazyme International, has been used by the USDA and other peer-reviewed research papers to precisely measure the beta-glucan and alpha-glucan content in mushrooms. It can test all types of basidiomycete products like mushroom powders, mushroom extracts and mycelium powders. It detects soluble and insoluble (1-3)(1-6)beta-D-glucans and even quantifies the alpha-glucans, which are starches, so we can see if products contain fillers like grain.

High Polysaccharides ≠ Good Quality

A common trend you see in the medicinal mushroom industry are various brands claiming that their medicinal mushrooms products contain high amounts of polysaccharides. This looks and sounds great on paper but this can be very misleading considering that polysaccharides can also come from starches.

For example, products#2, 3, 8 and 12 in the table above are actually mycelium products that are grown on grain. They all can tout >60% polysaccharides but the polysaccharides are mainly coming from alpha-glucans in the form of grain starch and the products contain very little beta-glucans. Thus, the majority of your money is spent on alpha-glucans instead of beta-glucans, leaving you with a less potent medicinal mushroom product that is primarily grain.

This is why it’s imperative that you do your own research into exactly how the product is made and make sure to look for products that measure beta-glucans. Beware that products grown in North America are almost always mycelium grown on grain.

If you’re curious, for less than $5 you can perform an iodine starch test on your medicinal mushroom product to verify if it contains any starchy fillers.

Final Thoughts

It is extremely important to understand that there is a difference in polysaccharides and that measuring polysaccharides for medicinal mushroom products is meaningless. High polysaccharides is not an indicator of quality and could actually be an indicator of poor quality.

A medicinal mushroom product should quantify the beta-glucans so you know the important medicinal compounds that much of the research is based around are present. This will help you in making an honest decision when selecting the right mushroom product.

At Real Mushrooms, we use the Megazyme method to measure beta-glucans and starch on all our products to show the potency and to confirm that they contain no fillers or grains.

Have questions or comments? Ask us below.

Resources:

  1. Friedman, M. (2016). Mushroom Polysaccharides: Chemistry and Antiobesity, Antidiabetes, Anticancer, and Antibiotic Properties in Cells, Rodents, and Humans. Foods, 5(4), 80. 
  2. Sari, M., Prange, A., Lelley, J. I., & Hambitzer, R. (2017). Screening of beta-glucan contents in commercially cultivated and wild growing mushrooms. Food Chemistry, 216, 45–51. 
  3. McCleary, B. V., & Draga, A. (2016). Measurement of ß-Glucan in mushrooms and mycelial products. Journal of AOAC International, 99(2), 364–373.
  4. Biomolecules: Carbohydrates – Polysaccharides
  5. Chilton, Jeff, Nammex, 2015. Redefining Medicinal Mushrooms.