The Art of Mushroom Extraction: Methods for Maximum Extract Potency

Dual Extraction - Mushrooms

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

Hot water is a very traditional mushroom extraction process and is the most common. Pure alcohol is rarely used when making extract powders. When both water and alcohol are used, this 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 a mushroom extract?

In general, 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 of a mushroom extract, the raw material is mushrooms and the solvents are water and alcohol (typically ethanol). The solvents may be removed to leave behind a powder, or may be left behind to create a liquid tincture.

The reason for mushroom extraction is to make the natural compounds more readily available to our bodies. The fungal cell wall is made up of chitin, which is the same tough substance that crustaceans make their shells from. Our bodies typically lack the chitinase enzyme to digest chitin so much of the mushrooms we eat as food end up as insoluble fiber which is great food for our gut but the compounds we want end up locked inside this chitin cell wall.

This is where mushroom extraction comes into play. By using common extraction techniques, we can break down this chitin and give our bodies easier access to the important compounds.

How is a Hot Water Extract Made?

It might not be obvious, but most people consume some kind of hot water extract daily—common hot water extracts are coffee, tea, bone broth or soup stock. In these cases, the solvent (hot water) remains behind to be consumed along with the compounds that were extracted from raw material.

dual extractionThe raw materials could be tea leaves, mushrooms, 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 while the solids are thrown away.

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

Important Note: a commercial mushroom extract is a bit more complex than this in terms of pressure, temperature, and 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 removed (usually by a spray dryer which evaporates all the water), leaving you with a dry powder.

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

What is Dual Extraction?

If we want our extract to contain all the 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?

Non-Water-Soluble Compounds in Mushrooms

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 the question is: what are these compounds?

In a reishi double mushroom extraction, we have triterpenes like ganoderic acids, many of which are non-water soluble.2,3 These are an important component of reishi which should be present in any high quality reishi product. Triterpenes give reishi its bitter flavor and this bitterness is a good quality indicator for reishi. Reishi products that aren’t bitter can be assumed to have negligible amounts of triterpenes.

A chaga double extraction will help to isolate triterpenes and sterols like inotodiol, trametenolic acid, and betulinic acid. These are primarily non-water soluble.

For other mushrooms like cordyceps, lion’s 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 Mushroom Complex. However, for the other mushrooms, it’s not entirely necessary and potentially detrimental to employ dual extraction.

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Measuring Medicinal Compounds in Mushroom Extracts

The other issue with many of these non-water soluble compounds is the ability to measure them. Many of them currently cannot be measured at commercial laboratories 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 the raw materials were of low quality?

Was it a poor extraction?

Maybe fillers like starch and grain were added?

Is it 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.

The Downside of Dual Extraction

We have seen test results of dual extracts that actually have fewer beta-glucans (one of the key medicinal compounds in mushrooms) 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 for:

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:

 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 Mushroom Complex, 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 mushroom 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 mushroom extraction, it gives no guarantee of quality.

Real Mushrooms continues to stay on the forefront of mushroom research and we will always look for ways to advance our products. As mushroom extraction methods and testing methodology improves, we can continue to adjust and optimize our products.

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

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Resources

  1. DOSAGE AND FORM OF HERBS: Decoctions, Dried Decoctions, Powders, Pills, Etc. by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon
  2. Chen, M. L., Hsieh, C. C., Chiang, B. L., & Lin, B. F. (2015). Triterpenoids and Polysaccharide Fractions of Ganoderma tsugae Exert Different Effects on Antiallergic Activities. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2015, 754836. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/754836
  3. Chen, M. L., Hsieh, C. C., Chiang, B. L., & Lin, B. F. (2015). Triterpenoids and Polysaccharide Fractions of Ganoderma tsugae Exert Different Effects on Antiallergic Activities. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2015, 754836. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/754836
  4. Jose, N., & Janardhanan, K. K. (2000). Antioxidant and antitumour activity of Pleurotus florida. Current science, 79(7), 941-943.
Skye Chilton

Skye Chilton

Skye is the founder of Real Mushrooms. Read more about his story into medicinal mushrooms here. When he’s not spreading the word of Real Mushrooms, he enjoys mushroom foraging, bouldering, cooking, gardening and hiking.

45 Comments

  • Avatar BLENDERBENDER says:

    So I just did an alcohol extraction of local Maitake and was going to follow with a hot water extraction. Seems this was not the wisest choice. What’s the best way to recover at this point to reap the most benefit?

  • Avatar Jason Scott says:

    This is an interesting article, however I feel like some things are overlooked. My main mode of extracting is dual extracts with Hot Water and then with Hot Alcohol – and my Tinctures always come out very potent.

    Firstly I know there is little research, and what we do know is that the Conk mushrooms should certainly be dual extracted, but I have found that the dual extraction pulls things out of some of the mushrooms you mentioned in the article, including Lions Mane and Cordyceps. Now, since I don’t have access to a lab I don’t know what is being drawn out, or even if there are standards, but something is in there.

    Secondly I find it reductionistic to dismiss compounds that we don’t know much about, and only focusing on the Beta Glucans and Tri-terpenes. While we may not know as much about the other compounds, they are not to be overlooked. And through my own connection to preparing and offering medicine I consider them to be absolutely vital to the final product.

    Thirdly you make the assumption that everyone is filtering out their final tincture and getting rid of most of the polysaccharides. While I am well aware that some people do this, and it is important to be aware of it is not practiced across the board. There is also a eloquence to keeping as many of the polysaccharides in solution when doing a cohobation of the two extracts. I personally do not filter after I add the alcohol to the water – and some of my Tinctures have a little bit of precipitate, polysaccharides and otherwise (including oleo-resins) but I never filter the final product because I care for quality over aesthetics.

    I understand where you come from in wanting to make a point, but it also seems to an extent that you are belittling dual extract in general and I have found it to be extremely effective in all of the mushrooms I work with. I even have doctors working with my extracts individually and formulating then with other Tinctures and finding really good results.

    All just things to consider – more than anything I think it is more important to be discerning where you source your medicine than it is to discourage a process because some people (maybe even most people, especially most commercial operations) do it wrong.

    Just my two-cents! Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Jason. Great comments.

      This is geared towards commercial extract powders where the alcohol is precipitated out.

      It’s also to show that there are methods to get non-water soluble compounds without alcohol extraction.

      This wasn’t written in regards to homemade tinctures.

      I do agree with you that there are other compounds other than beta-glucans and triterpenes but are they present? We don’t know and many don’t have standards to measure them.

      Once again, this is geared more towards a commercial extract powder where a consumer would not know much about the source ingredients, extraction process, etc. The product may have marketing materials claiming X, Y, and Z compounds without any measurements.

      As you’re making your own this is different.

      • Avatar Jason Scott says:

        I make my own, for commercial, retail and clinical use for practitioners. I see what you are saying now, I didn’t realize this was just for solid extracts – what I make are fluid extracts. Thanks for the reply!

    • Avatar blindanddumb says:

      how do you do a hot alcohol extraction? it has a low evap temp yes? is this a lab procedure?

  • Avatar Marion Sansing says:

    I am a little confused, aren’t Beta-Glucans water insoluble and should therefore be extracted with alcohol?

  • Avatar Arista Tischner says:

    Amyloban and hericenones are both water insoluble compounds in Lions Mane. Amyloban has protective properties against beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, and hericenones also stimulates the production of NGF. Wouldn’t it then be important to do a dual extraction for Lions Mane as well? http://bioupdate.org/uncategorized/bioresearch-update-news-letter-3-anti-dementia-and-beyond/

  • Avatar blindanddumb says:

    interesting bit about the different extraction methods, if you are using a 40% alcahol solution to do a first step extraction the other 60% is water so this is a dual extraction, just not a hot water one. i have not been able to find data about the solubility of glucans and polysacerides in different water temps. i would guess the lower the temp the less is extracted but the amount of time it is let to sit may be able to make up for this lower extraction rate. regardless a hot water extraction can be done after the alcohol/water extraction.

  • Avatar Anja Bartels says:

    I’d like some input: i am currently making Reishi tincture from fresh Reishi that I harvested a week ago. I started with the alcohol extraction. Does alcohol destroy the polysaccharides?
    Would you all suggest I use a fresh batch of mushrooms for the hot water extraction before mixing the alcohol extract with the hot water extract? Or is that wasteful and should I simply use the mushrooms I have soaking in alcohol right now for the hot water extraction?
    Thank you so much!

    • Once you’re done with your alcohol extraction you can put those mushrooms into hot water and cook them to remove the beta-glucans.

      • Avatar Ian Thompson says:

        Hello, I hope you see this and respond. Like the responder above, I too make dual extract of wild mushroom in my kitchen. I use 80% ethanol (190 proof everclear) for the tincture portion of the extraction. One thing I have noticed that there is quite a lot of precipitation when I combine the water and ethanol fractions. What is in this precipitate? Is it removing valuable consitituents?
        Also, I am correct in thinking that the process for creating dual extract powders is to basically perform both a water and ethanol extraction and then combine them and evaporate the liquid leaving a powder behind that is considered medically active?

        • It could be active constituents or it could be just fibre. Non-water soluble components could go into suspension. I’m unsure.

          Commercial extraction extracts dried mushroom powder with hot water and/or alcohol under pressure (ie. pressure cooking). Multiple passes are done on the powder and the resulting liquid is combined and concentrated to a desired gravity. This liquid is then sent to a spray dryer which evaporates all the moisture resulting in an extract powder.

          • Avatar Ian Thompson says:

            Cool. Thanks for getting back to me and sharing your insight. I will have to look into the pressure extraction thing…I have options available for that…So, basically, in commercial level extraction you extract all the soluble constituents (water / alcohol soluble, bio-active or not) and then evaporate of the liquid leaving a powder. Interesting. What is the yield, mass wise, for that process typically?

          • Yield depends on extraction ratio. Ex. a 10:1 extract will have 10kg going in and 1kg coming out.

  • Avatar Metalcaster says:

    Hello, I am curious as to why the solids are thrown away rather than being processed into powder as well? Is it the assumption that the extracting process has removed anything beneficial?
    Thanks

    • This is common practise for the majority of herbal extracts. You use solvents like water and alcohol to pull out the beneficial compounds then discard the solids.

      This also allows for concentration. You can’t turn 10 kilos of a raw ingredient into 1 kilo of an extract powder without removing something.

      • Avatar Metalcaster says:

        It just seems wasteful as I doubt everything was extracted, especially with a tough mushroom like Reishi. A ratio might sound good in advertising, but the best parts might still be in what is considered the waste. Have they ever tested what they throw away?

        • Avatar BLENDERBENDER says:

          I can’t imagine why one shouldn’t incorporate the discards….. I always dry them and throw em into something like a smoothie…. but perhaps I don’t know any better. Seems like there must be some worth to them.

        • I haven’t seen any tests but the material is extracted at least 3 times after being ground into a fine powder. Typically what is left is the fiber which does contain some insoluble beta-glucans but if alcohol was used these should come out as well.

          It’s quite the science for extraction at a commercial level.

  • Avatar Mario Vitali says:

    Hello Skye! Mario here from Northern Mushrooms Canada! I read this article and found it very interesting! We also make hot water extraction powders here in Ontario, Canada using wild harvested canadian chaga mushrooms. I spent a year studying different chaga extract (methanol, ethanol, hexanes, and water) methods at a local university for a biotechnology field placement.

    While I can’t say there is no benefit to an ethanol extraction powder….I personally chose to focus on hot water extraction for my company where I plan to optimize the water extract process to it’s full potential….adding pressuring, sublimation, etc. I had a question though! If you’re not for alcohol extract powder why not just say so? Why put the raw mushrooms in the water extract powder? Just to say you have non water soluble compounds?

    I believe there’s a lot of applications to a water extract powder alone with tons of scientific research to say its worth it’s salt. There’s plus and minuses to everything even dual extracts.

    I really liked your article otherwise! Keep on mushing!

    Sincerely,

    Mario
    https://www.northernmushrooms.ca

    • Hi Mario,

      Alcohol extraction has its place and is quite useful. For certain mushrooms and depending on the extraction flowchart, it is quite beneficial. I am not for one over the other.

      The point of the article was to bring more understanding to the extraction process. Too many articles out there say that dual extraction is the best or you need to dual extract to obtain X or Y compound. As I’ve shown above, this is simply not true and it is more complex and varies from extract to extract.

      Cheers.

      • Avatar Mario Vitali says:

        Hello!

        Good answer! I agree whole heartily. Good article!

        Good luck on your entrepreneurial journey!

  • Avatar lilith Ohan says:

    Have you done some research on pressure cooker extraction? I have been using it for Reishi and am thinking of trying with turkey tail.

  • Avatar Jackson Sullivan says:

    Hey Real Mushrooms! I’m trying to know when to take my mushrooms to maximize my absorption and benefit.

    If a mushroom is a water-only extract, does that mean I should take it without any meal?

    Does it mean I’m better-off taking dual extracted mushrooms with a meal?

    For some reason when I take Lion’s Mane powder with coconut oil, it seems to work a little more (this could be placebo).

    Thank you for any help on this, because I want to make sure I spend my money well!

  • Avatar AnejNove says:

    Looking at your testing details for reishi courtesy of Nammex, I am at a loss to understand what you mean by “both extracts are the same ratio.” This chart would seem to demonstrate a higher yield of beta-glucans and alpha-glucans by hot water extract. Also, you offer your reishi 415 as a dual-extraction. Is that because reishi has water soluble compounds and that is the only way to get at them? Color me confused.

    • Extract ratio is the amount of raw dried ingredients used to make the final extract powder. ie. an 8:1 extract means 8kg of dried mushrooms makes 1kg of extract powder.

      Reishi has many non-water soluble triterpenes which are very beneficial. This is why alcohol is used to pull these out of the source material so they end up in the final extract powder.

      Let me know if you have further questions.