hello world

Unlocking the Secrets of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extracts: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

In the realm of fungi, few specimens command as much awe and reverence as the Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus). Its unique appearance, coupled with a rich history of medicinal and culinary use, has cemented its status as a revered organism. In this article, we embark on a journey to unravel the mysteries surrounding this remarkable fungus, delving into its origins, cultivation, health benefits, and more.

What is Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushroom is scientifically known as Hericium erinaceus. Its spore bearing projections cascade down the fruiting body resembling a long mane, earning it many names. It is commonly known as llion’s mane mushroom, but also goes by bearded tooth fungus, pom pom mushroom and monkey head mushroom. 

Teeth of Lion's mane mushroom
Fig: Close-up image of the teeth like spore bearing structures of lion’s mane mushroom (image)

Physical Characteristics:

The most distinctive features of lion’s mane mushrooms are their beard like appearance. It belongs to a group of fungi called hydnoid or tooth fungi. All members of this family bear their spores on spine-like projections which protrude from the basidiocarp or fruiting body. Other members of this group include the beautiful mealy tooth mushroom and the toothed jelly mushroom.

Lion’s mane mushrooms coloration ranges from creamy white to pale yellow. They are generally found growing on hardwood trees and are saprobic as well as parasitic in nature.  Just like all other mushrooms, lion’s mane mushrooms propagate using spores borne on their teeth. 

Fig: A map showing the natural distribution of Lion’s mane mushrooms (image)

Geographic Distribution:

Lion’s Mane mushroom is native to temperate regions of North America and Asia. Most notably, they are found in the alpine forests of Japan, China, Korea and the Pacific Northwestern region of North America. Recently a closely related species named Hericium bharengense was discovered in Sikkim.

They thrive in moist, woodland habitats with temperatures below 25℃. It is commonly found growing on dead or decaying hardwood logs, stumps, and branches, particularly those of oak, beech, and maple trees.

Ecological Role:

In its natural habitat, Lion’s Mane mushroom plays a vital ecological role as a decomposer, breaking down dead or dying wood and recycling nutrients back into the soil. Its ability to colonize hardwood trees makes it a key player in forest nutrient cycling and ecosystem health.

Historic Use and Cultural Significance:

The use of Lion’s Mane mushroom dates back centuries, with records of its consumption for both culinary and medicinal purposes in traditional Chinese medicine and Japanese cuisine. Traditionally known as Yamabushitake (Japanese) or Hou you gu (Mandarin Chinese), it is revered for its potential cognitive and digestive health benefits.

Traditional Medicine:

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Lion’s Mane mushroom has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive disorders, inflammation, and cognitive decline. It is believed to have a cooling, nourishing effect on the body, promoting balance and vitality.

Culinary Tradition:

In addition to its medicinal properties, Lion’s Mane mushroom has a long history of culinary use in Asian cuisine, particularly in Japan and China. It is prized for its delicate flavor and unique texture, often featured in soups, stir-fries, and vegetarian dishes.

Symbolism and Folklore:

Lion’s Mane mushroom holds a special place in the folklore and symbolism of many cultures, often representing wisdom, strength, and longevity. In Japanese culture, it is associated with the mythical creature “Shishi,” symbolizing protection and good fortune.

Cultivation History and Methods:

Lion’s mane mushrooms were traditionally harvested from the wild. The cultivation of Lion’s Mane mushroom has gained popularity in recent years due to its increasing demand. Cultivation typically involves inoculating sterilized substrates such as sawdust, straw, or logs with mushroom spawn, providing optimal conditions for growth, including humidity, temperature, and ventilation.

Fig: Lion’s mane mushroom cultivation using natural substrates (image)

Historical Cultivation:

The cultivation of Lion’s Mane mushroom dates back centuries, with records of its cultivation in China as early as the 15th century. Traditional cultivation methods involved inoculating logs or straw beds with mushroom spawn and maintaining optimal environmental conditions for fruiting.

Fig: Lion’s mane mushroom cultivation in a high-tech large-scale controlled environment fruiting room (image)

Modern Cultivation Techniques:

In modern times, the cultivation of Lion’s Mane mushroom has been streamlined and optimized through advances in technology. Commercial growers use techniques such as controlled environment cultivation, automated irrigation systems, and sterile laboratory procedures to maximize yield and quality.

Fig: Nuvedo’s Ready-to-fruit Lion’s mane mushroom growkits offer the freshest mushrooms you can get (image)

Ready-to-fruit Grow Kits

One of the best ways to obtain fresh Lion’s mane mushroom fruiting bodies is to use ready-to -fruit grow kits. These kits are made of colonised substrate packed into a box format. All one has to do is spray some water a couple of times a day and fresh mushrooms grow out within 3 weeks.

Sustainable Cultivation Practices:

As interest in sustainable agriculture grows, there has been a renewed focus on sustainable cultivation practices for Lion’s Mane mushroom. This includes sourcing local, organic substrates, minimizing waste through composting, and reducing energy consumption through efficient heating and cooling systems.

Health Benefits:

Lion’s Mane mushroom is primarily associated with cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects. However it also has significant effects on digestive health and immune system modulation

Cognitive Enhancement:

Lion’s Mane mushrooms are widely researched for their ability to enhance cognitive functions. The consumption of the mushroom in the form of extracts or powders can improve focus and mental clarity.

Fig: Lion’s mane mushrooms support brain function

Brain Support

Compounds in mion’s mane mycelia and fruiting bodies such as hericenones and erinacines stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) and promote neuronal growth and repair. This keeps the brain in a state of good health and prevents neurodegeneration.

Fig: Consuming Lion’s mane mushrooms can stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s diesease and improve cognitive function in patients (image)

Stave off Alzheimer’s Disease

Due to the neuroprotective effects of compounds in Lion’s mane extracts, many clinical trials have been conducted to investigate the use of lion’s mane for the management of Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies report improvements in cognitive function compared to the placebo treated group. The promotion of NGF secretion also helps delay the onset of symptoms and slow down disease progression

Digestive Health Support:

Lion’s Mane mushrooms promote digestive health by supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and reducing inflammation in the digestive tract. This can help alleviate symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Immune System Modulation:

Polysaccharides such as beta glucans from lion’s mane mushrooms enhance immune function, helping the body defend against infections and diseases. These compounds stimulate immune cell activity and modulate inflammatory responses, contributing to overall immune system health.

Improved Fat Metabolism

Extracts of lion’s mane mushrooms promote fat metabolism in mouse studies. Both hot water and ethanol extracts when given to mice fed on a high fat diet, resulted in a much lower weight gain when compared to placebo controls.

Bioactive Molecules:

Lion’s Mane mushroom contains a diverse range of bioactive molecules, each with its own unique properties and potential health benefits. Some of the key bioactive compounds found in Lion’s Mane mushroom include hericenones, erinacines, polysaccharides, terpenoids, and phenolic compounds.

Hericenones 

Hericenones are diterpenoid compounds found in lion’s mane mushrooms which stimulate the secretion of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the brain. They are found in the fruiting bodies of the mushroom and are soluble in ethanol.

Erinacines:

Erinacines are another group of diterpenoid compounds which have the ability to stimulate NGF in the brain. They are found in the mycelia of lion’s mane mushrooms and not in fruiting bodies. They are ethanol soluble in nature.

Hericene

Hericenes are monoterpenoid compounds isolated from fruiting bodies of lion’s mane mushroom. They have been shown to promote axonal outgrowths in hippocampal neurons and promote NGF secretion. They are also ethanol soluble in nature.

Polysaccharides:

Lion’s Mane mushroom contains a variety of polysaccharides which modulate immune function, act as antioxidants and may also have antimicrobial properties. They also support digestive health. Ploysaccharides are water soluble and can be found in extracts as well as dried mushrooms.

Beta glucans

Beta glucans are polysaccharides and are an essential component of fungal cell walls. They are responsible for the immuno-modulatory properties of lion’s mane mushrooms. They are water soluble compounds and can be found in hot water extracts or teas. 

Polyphenols

Polyphenols are the main antioxidant compounds in lion’s mane mushrooms and lion’s mane mushroom extracts. These compounds are extremely sensitive to heat so they are best consumed from dried mushrooms or extracts prepared at low temperatures. 

Methods of Consumption:

Lion’s Mane mushroom can be consumed in various forms, each offering its own unique culinary and nutritional benefits. Some popular methods of consuming Lion’s Mane mushroom include:

Fresh:

Fresh Lion’s Mane mushroom can be cooked in a variety of ways, including sautéing, grilling, or roasting. However the best way to retain the maximum bioactive molecules is  to minimise exposure to heat. Stir-frying is  a quick and easy way to retain the maximum antioxidant potential of these mushrooms.

Due to their low shelf life (unless they are dried), it is best to consume the mushrooms as close to harvesting them as possible. (Check out our Lion’s mane mushroom grow kits for the freshest lion’s mane mushrooms you can get)

Its delicate flavor and unique texture make it a versatile ingredient in savory dishes such as stir-fries, soups, and pasta dishes.

Dried:

Dried Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be rehydrated and used in cooking, or consumed as a supplement in the form of capsules or powder. Dried Lion’s Mane mushroom retains its nutritional value and can be easily stored for long periods. The drying temperature crucially impacts the amount of bioactive molecules retained. Sundried mushrooms or those dried at a low temperature retain the highest dose of bioactive molecules.

Extracts and Tinctures:

Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts and tinctures are a great way to consume concentrated forms of the mushroom’s active compounds. These extracts can be added to hot beverages such as tea or coffee, or taken directly as a supplement for cognitive support, digestive health, or immune system modulation. We prepare our Lion’s mane mushroom dual extracts using sound waves at low temperatures to retain the maximum number of bioactive molecules.

Tea:

Lion’s Mane mushroom tea is a popular beverage in traditional Chinese medicine, prized for its soothing flavor and potential health benefits. To make Lion’s Mane mushroom tea, simply steep dried mushroom slices or powder in hot water for several minutes, then strain and enjoy.

Coffee:

Due to their ability to improve focus and cognitive function, lions mane powders or extracts are often incorporated into coffee blends. The hit of caffeine and lion’s mane together provide a steady stimulation to do some focused work.

Clinical Trials:

Several clinical trials have been conducted to explore the therapeutic potential of Lion’s Mane mushroom, particularly in the realm of cognitive health and neuroprotection. While results have been promising, further research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms of action and therapeutic efficacy.

Cognitive Function:

Clinical trials investigating the effects of Lion’s Mane mushroom on cognitive function have shown promising results, with some studies reporting improvements in memory, attention, and overall cognitive performance in both healthy individuals and those with cognitive impairment. These effects are thought to be mediated by the mushroom’s ability to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) production and promote neuronal growth and repair.

Neurological Disorders:

Preliminary studies suggest that Lion’s Mane mushroom may have potential therapeutic benefits for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. While more research is needed, early findings indicate that Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts may help protect against neuronal damage and promote neuronal regeneration in animal models of these diseases.

Gut Health:

Emerging research also suggests that Lion’s Mane mushroom may have beneficial effects on digestive health, including the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Clinical trials investigating the effects of Lion’s Mane mushroom supplements on gut inflammation and microbial balance are currently underway.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, Lion’s Mane mushroom stands as a testament to nature’s bounty, offering a plethora of health benefits and cultural significance. From its humble origins in the forest to its cultivation in modern laboratories, this remarkable fungus continues to captivate the imagination of scientists, chefs, and health enthusiasts alike. As research into its therapeutic properties expands, the Lion’s Mane mushroom is poised to reign supreme in the realm of natural remedies and culinary delights. Its rich history, diverse array of bioactive compounds, and potential therapeutic applications make it a true marvel of the natural world, worthy of exploration and appreciation.

References

Kawagishi et. al. “Hericenones C, D and E, stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF)-synthesis, from the mushroom Hericium erinaceum” Tetrahedron Letters (1991)

 

Ma et. al. “Hericenones and erinacines: stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF) biosynthesis in Hericium erinaceus” Mycology (2010)

 

Hiwatashi et. al. “Yamabushitake mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) improved lipid metabolism in mice fed a high-fat diet” Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry (2010)

 

Ma et. al. “Cytotoxic aromatic compounds from Hericium erinaceum” Journal of Antibiotics (2010)

 

Khan et. al. “Hericium erinaceus: an edible mushroom with medicinal values” Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine (2013)

 

Friedman “Chemistry, Nutrition, and Health-Promoting Properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia and Their Bioactive Compounds” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2015)

 

Thongbai et. al. “Hericium erinaceus, an amazing medicinal mushroom” Mycological Progress (2015)

 

Kushairi et. al. “Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. Suppresses H2O2-Induced Oxidative Damage and LPS-Induced Inflammation in HT22 Hippocampal Neurons and BV2 Microglia” Antioxidants (2019)

 

Yang et. al. “Rapid Identification of Chemical Constituents in Hericium erinaceus Based on LC-MS/MS Metabolomics” Journal of Food Quality (2021)

 

Turk et. al. “Effect of culture conditions on the content of hericene A, an α-glucosidase inhibitory constituent of Hericium erinaceus” Scientia Horticulturae (2021)

 

Martínez-Mármol et. al. “Hericerin derivatives activates a pan-neurotrophic pathway in central hippocampal neurons converging to ERK1/2 signaling enhancing spatial memory” Journal of Neurochemistry (2023)

 

Szućko-Kociuba et. al. “Neurotrophic and Neuroprotective Effects of Hericium erinaceus” International Journal of Molecular Science (2023)

 

Docherty et. al. “The Acute and Chronic Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplementation on Cognitive Function, Stress and Mood in Young Adults: A Double-Blind, Parallel Groups, Pilot Study” Nutrients (2023)

Unlocking the Secrets of Cordyceps Mushroom Extracts: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

 Cordyceps Mushrooms: Nature’s Enigmatic Fungi

 

Cordyceps militaris

Fig 1: Cordyceps militaris also known as the Scarlet Caterpillarclub Fungus (image)

What is Cordyceps?

Cordyceps mushrooms are an ancient group of entomopathogenic fungi (we’ll get to that in a minute) that have been around for millions of years. The oldest fossil evidence indicates that these fungi may have evolved more than 48 million years ago. Over 750 species of these awesome fungi have been discovered to date. In recent years the genus Cordyceps mushrooms was split into four: Cordyceps mushrooms, Ophiocordyceps, Metacordyceps, and Elaphocordyceps. Species from these genera have been used in traditional medicines for many years and share many behavioral characteristics.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis also known as the Zombie Ant Fungus

Fig 2: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis also known as the Zombie Ant Fungus infects ants and controls their behaviour (image)

What is Entomopathogenic?

The term entomopathogenic refers to those organisms which can infect arthropods such as insects and caterpillars. This is one of the most unique aspects of fungi belonging to the Cordyceps genus. Most species of Cordyceps mushrooms require an insect host to complete their life cycle. In the absence of the host organism, the fungal population begins to decline.

Metarhizium robertsii

Fig 3: Metarhizium robertsii is often used as a biocontrol agent against agricultural pests (image)

Anatomy of Cordyceps mushrooms

Similar to all fungi, Cordyceps mushrooms are composed of mycelium. Most of this mycelium grows vegetatively when it finds a useful nutrient source such as vegetative matter or an insect host. This insect body colonized by the Cordyceps mushrooms mycelia is also known as a sclerotium. The fruiting body of these fungi burst through the insect’s head or thorax and is called the stroma.

 The stroma is analogous to the stipe of many other fungi. The stroma reaches out of the substrate to bear perithecia (perithecium sing.) which are the spore-bearing organs of these fungi. Perithecia house millions of ascospores which are shed into the wind when the fungus is ready to propagate.

Cartoon representation of an Ophiocordyceps sinensis

Fig 4: Cartoon representation of an Ophiocordyceps sinensis specimen highlighting the various anatomical features (image)

Life cycle of Cordyceps mushrooms

Like most fungi, Cordyceps mushrooms reproduce through spores. The spores are flung far and wide in search of favorable conditions for germination. Some species such as Cordyceps militaris can germinate and form hyphae in the soil and infect a passing insect larva later in its life, while others like Ophiocordyceps sinensis require an insect host to germinate and grow.

In either case, once the insect or larva has been infected, the fungus feeds on it and grows. It coaxes the insect host to climb up a high tree, branch, or rock and root itself in a windy area by biting down on the surface of the branch. The fungus then feeds on the insect and grows. At the end of its vegetative growth, it produces fruiting bodies or stroma which bear spores. The stroma pierces through the insect’s carapace and extends out into the atmosphere. The spores are then spread from the perithecia in the wind and the cycle continues.

This intricate dance between Cordyceps mushrooms and their host showcases the adaptability and resourcefulness of these fungi in the natural world. It has even inspired games such as ‘The Last of Us’. Rest assured that there is no threat of Cordyceps mushrooms suddenly evolving to infect humans and the game is purely a work of fiction. Or is it…

Lifecycle of Cordyceps fungi

Fig 5: Lifecycle of Cordyceps fungi showing its parasitic nature (image

 

Geographic distribution

Cordyceps fungi are distributed across various ecosystems worldwide. While they are most commonly associated with tropical and temperate forests, different species have adapted to diverse environments, including alpine regions, grasslands, and even the frigid expanses of the Arctic.

Cordyceps militaris is one of the most widespread members of this family and can be found across Asia, Europe, and the Americas. It has a wide range of insect species that it can infect and is highly adaptable. However, for unknown reasons, their densities in the wild are relatively less and they are a rare find.

Geographic distribution of Ophiocordyceps sinensis

Fig 6: Geographic distribution of Ophiocordyceps sinensis (image)

Ophiocordyceps sinensis on the other hand is highly restricted in its distribution. It is primarily found in the Himalayan region in parts of Bhutan, Tibet, China, and India. They require an insect host (Ghost moth larvae) and can often be observed in the forests of these regions. Most of the O. sinensis consumption is from wild harvested fruiting bodies. 

Types of Cordyceps mushrooms

 

Ophiocordyceps sinensis

Fig 7: Ophiocordyceps sinensis (image)

Ophiocordyceps sinensis: The ‘OG’

Medicinal Significance: Ophiocordyceps sinensis, commonly known as the “Himalayan Viagra,” is a prized species in traditional Chinese medicine. It infects caterpillars in the Himalayan region and has been traditionally used for its purported aphrodisiac properties and the ability to enhance vitality. Research indicates potential immunomodulatory effects, making it a subject of interest for conditions related to immune system health. It is mostly wild harvested as the methods of cultivation still need significant improvement.

Cordyceps militaris

Fig 8: Cordyceps militaris 

Cordyceps militaris: The cultivable wonder

Cordyceps militaris is one of the few Cordyceps species that can be cultivated artificially. This has led to its increased popularity in commercial products, making it more accessible for various applications. Studies suggest that Cordyceps militaris contains bioactive compounds such as cordycepin, which has been associated with anti-fatigue and anti-inflammatory properties.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis

Fig 9: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis: The “Zombie Ant” Fungus

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, also known as the ‘Zombie Ant fungus’ is ruthless in its ability to manipulate the behavior of ants. Infected ants are compelled to climb vegetation and fiercely bite down onto the branch with their mandibles in what is called a ‘death grip’. The fungus then parasitizes the ant eventually producing a stroma that bursts out from the head of the ant. facilitating optimal spore dispersal. They are predominantly found in tropical forest ecosystems.

Cordyceps cicadaeFig 10: Cordyceps cicadae

Cordyceps cicadae: Harmonizing with Cicadas

Cordyceps cicadae as the name suggests, parasitise cicadas in their nymph stage. This species is prevalent in regions where cicadas are abundant. Studies have shown that these fungi have similar bioactive molecules to O. sinensis and are a potential alternative to O. sinensis cultivation. It has been used in folk medicine to treat malaria, palpitations, cancer, fever, diabetes, eye diseases, dizziness, and chronic kidney diseases.

Ophiocordyceps gracilis

Fig 11: Ophiocordyceps gracilis (image)

Ophiocordyceps gracilis: The Alpine Specialist

Ophiocordyceps gracilis is closely related to O. sinensis and has been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. It has potent antioxidant properties. It is often sold in place of O. sinensis due to the similarity in their appearance.

Cordyceps robertsii

Fig 12: Cordyceps robertsii 

Cordyceps robertsii: The tattoo artist

Cordyceps robertsii is native to New Zealand and displays a broad host range, infecting various caterpillars dwelling in leaf litter. These infected caterpillars have been used in traditional Maori tattoos as an ink. The caterpillars are burnt and the pigments are extracted using fat. The ink is said to possess antiseptic properties and prevent infections on the tattoo

Cordyceps subsessilis

Fig 13: Cordyceps subsessilis

Cordyceps subsessilis: The surgeon’s friend

Cordyceps subsessilis challenges the traditional association of Cordyceps mushrooms with forests by thriving in grasslands and meadows. In its vegetative form, it grows freely in the soil. However, when an unwitting scarab beetle walks by, it latches on and begins the sexual part of its life cycle. The vegetative form of this fungus is also named Tylopocladium inflatum and is the source of the life-saving immunosuppressant cyclosporine which has made organ transplants possible.

Cultivation: The art of growing Cordyceps mushrooms

In ancient times, O. sinensis was the primary species that was consumed mainly in parts of China. It has even been referred to as “Himalayan Viagra” due to its libido-enhancing properties. However, due to the difficulty in cultivating O. sinensis, its widespread use is restricted. 

The cultivation of C. militaris has been a breakthrough in Cordyceps mushrooms research and development as it has led to the possibility of this mushroom being consumed all across the world. The different ways in which Cordyceps mushrooms are cultivated are:

Lab cultivated Cordyceps militaris

Fig 14: Cordyceps militaris can be cultivated at scale using wheat, oat, or rice as a substrate (image)

Substrate-Based Cultivation

In substrate-based cultivation, the focus is on mimicking the natural conditions that facilitate Cordyceps mushrooms’ growth. This method involves preparing a nutrient-rich substrate, often composed of grains such as rice or millet, which serves as the medium for fungal growth. The spores or mycelium of Cordyceps mushrooms are introduced into the substrate, and under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity, the fungus proliferates. This method is popular for its simplicity and ability to scale production.

Fermentation vessels used to grow mycelia

Fig 15: Fermentation vessels much like those used for beer can be used to grow mycelia at large scales (image)

Liquid Fermentation

Liquid fermentation involves cultivating Cordyceps mushrooms in liquid nutrient mediums. This method is particularly useful for species that are challenging to cultivate on solid substrates. The liquid medium provides an environment conducive to the growth of mycelium, and it allows for better control over nutrient composition. Liquid fermentation has been employed for various Cordyceps species, offering flexibility and scalability in production.

Ophiocordyceps sinensis

Fig 16: Ophiocordyceps sinensis is often cultivated by manually injecting spores or mycelia into insect larvae (image)

Insect-Based Cultivation

The goal of this method is to mimic the natural parasitic relationship between Cordyceps mushrooms and insects. In this method, insect larvae are infected with Cordyceps mushroom spores. The infected insects are then placed in a controlled environment conducive to fungal growth similar to substrate-based cultivation. This method provides a more natural habitat for Cordyceps mushrooms and has been employed for specific species that exhibit a preference for insect hosts such as O. sinensis

Hybrid Cultivation Approaches

Hybrid cultivation approaches combine elements of substrate-based, liquid fermentation, and insect-based methods. These integrated systems aim to capitalize on the strengths of each approach, optimizing conditions for Cordyceps mushroom growth and enhancing overall yield.

While cultivation methods for Cordyceps mushrooms have advanced significantly, challenges persist. Maintaining the specific ecological conditions in which Cordyceps mushrooms thrive in the wild can be complex. Many strains of Cordyceps mushrooms start to degenerate after a few generations of cultivation leading to greatly reduced fruiting body yields and minimal bioactive molecule production.

The allure of wild-harvested Cordyceps mushrooms has been ingrained in cultural practices and traditional medicine and the increasing demand for these fungi will soon surpass the number of naturally available specimens. To truly unlock the health-promoting benefits of these organisms, new approaches and methods of cultivation need to be constantly developed.

Unveiling the Potent Compounds Within Cordyceps mushrooms

Cordyceps mushrooms are a treasure trove of bioactive molecules that have piqued the interest of researchers and healthcare professionals. These compounds, found in varying concentrations across different Cordyceps species, contribute to the fungi’s potential therapeutic properties:

Beta glucans found in Cordyceps cell walls

Fig 17: Beta glucans are polysaccharides found in Cordyceps cell walls

Polysaccharides

Among the most studied bioactive molecules in Cordyceps mushrooms are polysaccharides. These complex carbohydrates play a crucial role in the fungi’s adaptogenic and immunomodulatory effects. Beta-glucans in particular have been linked to enhanced immune system function, antioxidative properties, and potential anti-inflammatory effects. 

Apart from beta-glucans, exopolysaccharides (EPS) isolated from Cordyceps mushrooms fermentation media have also been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties.

Cordycepin and Adenosine

Fig 18: Cordycepin and Adenosine (image)

Cordycepin

Cordycepin is a nucleoside analog and a prominent bioactive compound found in Cordyceps mushrooms. It is largely attributed as the source of the endurance-enhancing effects of Cordyceps mushrooms and their extracts. It can directly interact with energy-regulating systems within the cells and modulate cellular respiration. It also has a significant role to play in the respiratory health benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms.

Adenosine

Adenosine, a purine nucleoside, is found in Cordyceps mushrooms and is closely related to cordycepin. It plays a role in various physiological processes, including the regulation of inflammation and immune responses. It is an integral component of cellular signaling and DNA.

Ergosterol a precursor to Vitamin D2

Fig 19: Ergosterol a precursor to Vitamin D2 (image)

Ergosterol

Ergosterol, a sterol compound found in Cordyceps mushrooms, is a precursor to vitamin D2. Beyond its role in vitamin D synthesis, ergosterol has been associated with potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. 

Cordycepic acid

Fig 20: Cordycepic acid (image)

Cordycepic Acid (D-Mannitol)

Cordycepic acid, also known as D-mannitol, is a sugar alcohol found in Cordyceps mushrooms. It has been studied for its potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It promotes liver and kidney health.

Cordymin

Cordymin, a peptide, has been found in water extracts of Cordyceps mushrooms. It has been shown to possess antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive, and antiproliferative activities. It has also been shown to significantly improve the symptoms of diabetic osteopenia (weakening of bones during diabetes) in mice. 

Understanding the diverse array of bioactive molecules in Cordyceps mushrooms opens up avenues for targeted research and applications in medicine. As scientists delve deeper into the specifics of these compounds, the potential for harnessing Cordyceps mushrooms’ pharmacological properties becomes increasingly promising.

Fruiting Bodies vs. Powders vs. Extracts

Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies

Fig 21: Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies are the purest form (image)

Cordyceps mushrooms can be consumed as whole fruiting bodies, powders, or extracts. The choice of consumption is purely up to the user. Fruiting bodies are the most similar to the native form of the mushroom and can be consumed dried or fresh. Most commonly they are used in broths or infusions like tea.

Cordyceps militaris powders

Fig 22: Cordyceps militaris powders are good substitutes for fruiting bodies (image)

Powders are very similar to whole fruiting bodies except they are ground into a fine powder. They can be consumed similarly to fruiting bodies, as stews or teas, and can also be found in capsules.

Extracts are the most effective method of consuming Cordyceps mushrooms as they contain the highest concentration of bioactive molecules. Unlike most other mushrooms, the majority of the known bioactive molecules from Cordyceps mushrooms are water-soluble. While dual extracts are not necessary to reap the benefits from these molecules, they may have an advantage over just water extracts since they increase the efficiency of extraction of the bioactive molecules. 

 

Cordyceps mushroom tincture

Fig 23: Extracts are a great way to consume concentrated bioactive molecules

Due to the relatively recent explorations into the bioactive molecules in Cordyceps mushrooms, there may be alcohol-soluble compounds yet to be discovered that have great beneficial effects so consumption of dual extracts is still recommended.

Cordyceps mushrooms for Health and Wellbeing

Cordyceps mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Modern research is identifying the mechanisms by which Cordyceps mushrooms exert their beneficial properties. Over 2,300 research papers are available on these fungi. A search highlighting the health benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms returned more than 350 papers with the number of papers published per year, steadily on the rise. 

Most of the existing studies are performed in animal models, the increasing number of clinical trials aims to find out if similar effects are seen in humans. Some of the key benefits of Cordyceps mushroom consumption are:

  • Boost Physical Performance: Cordyceps mushrooms particularly cordycepin have been shown to increase the number of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules within cells of the body. This effect allows athletes to sustain physical effort for longer periods
  • Boost Mental Performance: Just like in physical performance, the boost in cellular energy has been shown to support mental effort for long periods and therefore Cordyceps mushrooms can also be used when working long hours
  • Anti-Aging Effects: Cordyceps mushroom extracts have been shown to significantly increase the lifespan of mice and flies compared to placebo. These effects have been attributed to the antioxidant and metabolism-boosting properties of cordyceps extracts
  • Anti Fatigue Effects: Cordyceps mushrooms have been shown to reduce fatigue and have been used to treat chronic fatigue. 
  • Support Lung Health: Cordyceps mushroom extracts have traditionally been used to treat respiratory disorders. Modern studies have shown them to be effective in reducing the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and lung fibrosis.
  • Boosting Sexual Performance: Cordyceps mushrooms have long been revered for their ability to boost libido and enhance sexual performance. This ability has earned it the nickname “Himalayan Viagra” in Eastern medicine. 
  • Antidiabetic Effect: Cordyceps mushrooms have been used to treat diabetes in mouse models of the disease. It has been shown to decrease blood glucose levels and also protect the kidney from damage in diabetic mice.
  • Support Heart Health: Cordyceps mushroom extracts have been effective in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in animal models. This indirectly improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risks of heart disease.

Bridging Tradition and Evidence: Unraveling Cordyceps Mushrooms’ Impact on Human Health

The potential health benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms, rooted in traditional medicine, have sparked scientific curiosity, leading to a growing number of clinical trials. Over 20 clinical trials are being conducted for various indications using cordyceps mushrooms or their extracts. These trials aim to validate the therapeutic claims associated with Cordyceps mushrooms and provide a foundation for evidence-based recommendations. 

While a deep dive into the different clinical trials of Cordyceps mushrooms is outside the scope of this blog, both cordyceps fruiting body powders and cordyceps extracts are being tested for their performance-boosting, anti-cancer, antidiabetic, and immune supportive properties among others.

Echoes of Centuries: Cordyceps mushrooms in Traditional Healing Practices

Long before the advent of modern clinical trials and scientific investigations, Cordyceps mushrooms had already found a revered place in traditional healing practices across various cultures. This section delves into the rich tapestry of traditional uses, folklore, and cultural significance surrounding Cordyceps mushrooms, providing a historical context to its contemporary exploration.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Cordyceps mushrooms have been esteemed for centuries as a potent tonic with adaptogenic properties. It is believed to nourish the lungs and kidneys, fortify the immune system, and promote longevity, and is often associated with enhancing vitality.

Himalayan Folk Medicine

In the Himalayan region, Cordyceps mushrooms hold a special place in the folklore and traditional medicine of communities. Ophiocordyceps sinensis, known locally as “Yarsagumba” or the “Himalayan Viagra,” is believed to have aphrodisiac properties and is used to address a range of health concerns.

Tibetan Medicine

Cordyceps mushrooms have also found a significant role in Tibetan medicine, where it is believed to balance the body’s elements and energies. It is traditionally used for conditions related to the lungs, kidneys, and reproductive health. The holistic approach of Tibetan medicine integrates Cordyceps mushrooms into formulations aimed at restoring harmony within the body.

Conclusion

The traditional use of Cordyceps mushrooms is not merely about the physical application of a natural substance but reflects a profound cultural and generational wisdom. Knowledge about the timing of harvest, preparation methods, and specific use-cases has been passed down through generations, creating a legacy that continues to shape the relationship between communities and Cordyceps mushrooms.

As modern scientific methods are applied to the traditional systems of healing, we are beginning to discover the diversity of molecules that allow Cordyceps mushrooms to have their healing properties. Better methods of cultivation and extraction are aimed at maximizing these health benefits and improving the quality of supplements available in the market. 

Cordyceps mushrooms have the power to enhance one’s pursuit of physical fitness and cellular metabolic health. These are the bedrock of a long and productive life. At Nuvedo, we have been awestruck by the majesty of these unique mushrooms. Our ultrasound-based extraction technology was designed to maximize the amount of bioactive compounds. 

References

Zhang et. al. “Ophiocordyceps sinensis, the flagship fungus of China: terminology, life strategy and ecology”. Mycology (2012)

Srestha et. al. “The medicinal fungus Cordyceps militaris: research and development”. Mycological Progress (2012)

Ashraf et. al. “Cordycepin for Health and Wellbeing: A Potent Bioactive Metabolite of an Entomopathogenic Medicinal Fungus Cordyceps with Its Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Potential”. Molecules (2020)

Liu et. al. “The Chemical Constituents and Pharmacological Actions of Cordyceps sinensis”. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2015)

Wong et. al. “Cordymin, an antifungal peptide from the medicinal fungus Cordyceps militaris” Phytomedicine (2011)

Qi et. al. “The Protective Effect of Cordymin, a Peptide Purified from the Medicinal Mushroom Cordyceps sinensis, on Diabetic Osteopenia in Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Rats” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2013)

Qian et. al. “Anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects of cordymin, a peptide purified from the medicinal mushroom Cordyceps sinensis” Natural Product research (2012)

Tan et. al. “The lifespan-extending effect of Cordyceps sinensis Cs-4 in normal mice and its molecular mechanisms” FASEB (2011)

Zou et. al. “Cordyceps sinensis oral liquid prolongs the lifespan of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, by inhibiting oxidative stress” International Journal of Molecular Medicine (2015)

Chai et. al. “Cordycepin exhibits anti-fatigue effect via activating TIGAR/SIRT1/PGC-1α signaling pathway” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications (2022)

Song et. al. “Studies on the Antifatigue Activities of Cordyceps militaris Fruit Body Extract in Mouse Model” Hindawi (2015)

Yu et. al. “Hypoglycemic Activity through a Novel Combination of Fruiting Body and Mycelia of Cordyceps militaris in High-Fat Diet-Induced Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Mice” Journal of Diabetes Research (2015)

Liu et. al. “Antidiabetic and Antinephritic Activities of Aqueous Extract of Cordyceps militaris Fruit Body in Diet-Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Sprague Dawley Rats” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity (2016)

Guo et. al. “Cordycepin prevents hyperlipidemia in hamsters fed a high-fat diet via activation of AMP-activated protein kinase” Journal of Pharmacological Sciences (2010)

Yang et, al. “Cordyceps sinensis inhibits airway remodeling in rats with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine (2018)

Chen et. al. “Protective roles of Cordyceps on lung fibrosis in cellular and rat models” Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2012) 

Unlocking the Secrets of Reishi Mushroom Extracts: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

What is Reishi?

Reishi mushroom

Fig 1: Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) can be identified by its shiny appearance and woody texture

 

Reishi mushroom is revered in traditional Chinese medicine as the “Herb of immortality” or “king of herbs”. Its scientific name is Ganoderma lucidum. Over the centuries it has been used to symbolize wealth and longevity. Its many medicinal properties have made it the subject of both ancient as well as modern scientific inquiry. With over 3800 publications and 40 clinical trials, Reishi mushrooms hold the title of the most well-researched functional mushroom on Earth today.

Graph showing number of research articles with keyword Ganoderma

Fig 2: The number of scientific studies containing the keyword Ganoderma has constantly increased

 

Where are Reishi mushrooms found?

Reishi mushrooms can be easily identified by their shiny lacquered appearance which is also the reason behind their Latin name Ganoderma which means “shiny skin”. They tend to be reddish brown and fan out in the shape of an ovoid bookshelf. They have a woody and fibrous texture which makes them difficult to consume directly.

They can be found growing all over the world but are particularly common in Asia. Their preferred substrate is hardwood trees which are dead or decaying, especially maple, oak, or elm.

Map showing Ganoderma genus found all over the world

Fig 3: Mushrooms belonging to the Ganoderma genus can be found all over the world (Source)

 

Are Reishi mushrooms safe to consume?

Consumption of Reishi mushroom can be traced back to the Han dynasty which ruled over China between 206 BC to 220 CE. Its usage was traditionally reserved for emperors and royalty. It was equally respected in Japanese culture where it was reserved for the imperial family and nobility. The regular consumption of Reishi by these Nobels laid the foundations for its global recognition today. In short, these mushrooms have been consumed safely for thousands of years without any documented ill effects.

The medicinal properties of Reishi were recorded in a classical text from Chinese traditional medicine, the Shennong’s herbal classic (Shennong Ben Cao Jing) from the Han dynasty. The text referred to the main effect of reishi as strengthening and restoring health.

Shennong Ben Cao Jing

Fig 4: Shennong Ben Cao Jing, an ancient Chinese text containing information on herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine (Source)

More recent evidence traced the usage of Reishi mushrooms to 6000 years old. Archeological sites from Zhejiang province in China excavated spores that were approximately 6817 years old making them some of the oldest evidence for Reishi mushroom usage by humans. 

Today reishi mushroom is the most popular medicinal mushroom consumed globally. Both powder and extracted forms are safe to consume if processed responsibly. In fact, there are large-scale clinical trials being conducted to investigate the effects of Reishi mushroom on humans.

As recently as 2015, Ganoderma extracts were included in the Chinese pharmacopeia, a list of all accepted medicinal compounds in use today in China. This acceptance is spreading throughout the world and Reishi mushrooms are fast becoming the most widely consumed medicinal mushrooms globally. 

What are the beneficial molecules in Reishi mushrooms?

 In the 20th century, there has been a surge in scientific interest in Reishi mushrooms. Many research studies have investigated the compounds in Reishi and their potential health benefits. These studies have aimed at validating some of the claims made by traditional medicine while discovering new uses.

Some of the key bioactive molecules found in Reishi mushrooms are:

 

Structure of a beta-glucan molecule

Fig 5: Structure of a beta-glucan molecule the major immunomodulatory polysaccharide in Reishi mushrooms

 

Polysaccharides: Reishi mushrooms are rich in various polysaccharides, such as beta-glucans and heteropolysaccharides. Beta glucans in particular have immunomodulatory properties. They interact with immune cells to keep them in a state of alertness.

 

Ganoderic Acid A

Fig 6: Ganoderic Acid A, a triterpene from Reishi mushroom

 

Triterpenes: Triterpenes are a group of compounds found in Reishi mushrooms, including ganoderic acids. These compounds are believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and potential anti-cancer properties. They may also support liver health.

 

Peptides: Peptides are short sequences of amino acids attached to each other. Reishi mushrooms contain various bioactive peptides, some of which may have antioxidant and neuroprotective effects.

Structure of ergosterol

Fig 7: Structure of ergosterol, a steroid-like molecule found in Reishi mushrooms

 

Sterols: Sterols, such as ergosterol and ganoderol, are found in Reishi mushrooms. These compounds have potential cholesterol-lowering properties and may contribute to overall cardiovascular health. contribute to the production of Vitamin D.

Basic structure of Stilbene

Fig 8: Basic structure of Stilbene, a kind of polyphenol found in Reishi mushrooms

 

Polyphenols: Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) also contain polyphenols, which are a group of naturally occurring compounds with antioxidant properties. Polyphenols are known for their ability to neutralize harmful free radicals, reduce inflammation, and support various physiological processes in the body.

 

What is Reishi mushroom extract good for?

 

Reishi mushrooms have the widest-ranging documented health benefits of all medicinal mushrooms consumed to date. Some of the key health benefits are:

 

Immune system support: Beta glucans from Reishi mushrooms enhance the body’s ability to fight off infection and disease by boosting the immune system. They interact with immune cells and impart a state of alertness.

 

Anti-inflammatory effects: Both polysaccharides and triterpenes from Reishi mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties. Reducing inflammation in the body has been proven to be beneficial to health over long periods.

 

Antioxidant properties: The antioxidant properties of Reishi mushrooms come primarily from polyphenols. They help combat oxidative stress and protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. This activity contributes to better cellular health and longevity.

 

Stress reduction: Some people use Reishi mushrooms to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality. Compounds like adenosine found in Reishi are thought to play a role in these effects. The adaptogenic properties of Reishi help in managing stress and improving sleep.

 

Potential cancer-fighting properties: Bioactive molecules from Reishi mushroom are effective in fighting against cancer in lab studies on mice and cells. Beta-glucans support cells of the immune system that seek and destroy cancer cells, while terpenes and polyphenols can directly attack cancer cells.

 

Liver support: Water extracts of Reishi mushrooms have been shown to protect the liver against toxin-induced damage. Alcoholic extracts have also been shown to be effective in promoting liver metabolism and protecting from fat accumulation in the liver. Antioxidants such as polyphenols protect liver cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals.

 

Respiratory support: Due to the anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties of Reishi mushrooms, they have been shown to reduce airway inflammation in mouse models of asthma. They also interfere in the molecular processes of lung cancer cells and cause them to die.

 

When should I take Reishi mushroom extract?

 

Due to their calming effects on the nervous system, it is recommended to consume Reishi mushroom extracts at a time when you’d like to wind down. Consuming Reishi mushroom extracts a couple of hours before sleep or deep rest has been shown to promote sleep quality.

 

Types of Reishi Mushroom Supplements

 

 

 

Reishi mushroom powder

Fig 9: Reishi mushroom powder (source)

 

Powder: Powders are generally made from ground-up mushroom fruiting bodies. They contain the whole mushroom and all the molecules present in the mushroom fruiting bodies. However, most of the bioactive molecules are trapped within the walls of the mycelia and are inaccessible to our digestive systems.

 

Reishi mushroom hot water extract

Fig 10: Reishi mushroom being extracted by boiling in a vat with water (source)

 

Hot water extract: Hot water extracts are prepared by boiling whole or powdered mushrooms over long periods. The extracts prepared by this method are rich in polysaccharides. These extracts lack terpenes and polyphenols which are more soluble in water. Furthermore, the heat-sensitive molecules also degrade due to the long periods of heating.

 

Reishi mushroom soaked in water

Fig 11: Reishi mushroom tincture prepared by steeping cut fruiting bodies in alcohol (source)

 

Tincture: Tinctures are prepared by soaking whole mushrooms or mushroom powders in liquids with high alcohol content such as grain alcohol. The mushrooms are steeped in the alcohol for many weeks to extract hydrophobic molecules. Tinctures are rich in polyphenols and terpenes but contain no polysaccharides.

 

Dual Extract: Dual extracts are prepared by combining hot water extracts and tinctures. They contain the widest range of bioactive molecules. They are the most beneficial to consume when targeting overall health benefits.

 

Ultrasound-Assisted Extracts: Ultrasound-assisted extracts are a new method for extracting bioactive molecules from mushrooms. In this method, high-frequency sound waves are used to break open the cells of the mycelia to release bioactive molecules from the cells. They can be performed using water or ethanol. The process is much faster than the previously mentioned methods and contains more bioactive compounds than the other methods.

 

At Nuvedo we use ultrasound-assisted extraction to prepare our Reishi mushroom dual extracts. This allows us to produce the most potent extracts in the shortest period of time so we can bring you the widest range of health benefits in record time.

 

What is the best way to consume Reishi mushrooms?

 

Both extracts and powders have their advantages, and the choice between them can be influenced by factors such as concentration, convenience, and intended use. 

 

Preparation: Powders are prepared by finely grinding whole mushrooms or their spores. They are as good as the whole mushroom. Extracts are prepared by concentrating active compounds isolated from the mushrooms using solvents.

 

Taste: Mushroom powders taste similar to the whole mushroom. Extracts on the other hand can taste quite different from the whole mushroom as only some of the molecules present in the whole mushroom are available in the extract. 

 

Bioactive molecules: Mushroom powders contain the same bioactive molecules as a whole mushroom. Extracts contain specific bioactive molecules such as beta-glucans, polyphenols, and terpenes.

 

Potency: Mushroom powders have a low potency as the bioactive molecules are present in their natural concentrations. Mushroom extracts are significantly more potent and contain much higher concentrations of bioactive molecules compared to powders. One would have to consume much larger quantities of powders to get the same benefits.

 

Bioavailability: the bioactive molecules in mushroom powders are trapped within the tough cell walls of reishi mushroom mycelia. This makes them inaccessible to the digestive system. Extracts have high concentrations of freely available bioactive molecules. These molecules are more easily absorbed by the body.

 

Consumption: Mushroom powders can be consumed similarly to whole mushrooms by using them in soups, stews, or baked goods. Extracts are specially designed to provide functional benefits and are available as powders, concentrates, or capsules.

 

In our experience, extracts have been reported to have more reliable results and the dosages can be more precisely controlled. Nuvedo Reishi mushroom extracts are made using our proprietary ultrasound-assisted extraction process using both alcohol and water to maximize the bioactive molecule yield. We also concentrate our extracts so you can get the most bang for your buck.

Nuvedo labs

Fig 12: Reishi mushroom extract being concentrated during our RnD process

Choosing the best Reishi mushroom products?

Due to the diverse nature of the molecules in Reishi mushrooms, it is always best to extract them with both water and alcohol. Dual extracts contain the widest range of bioactive molecules and are the most beneficial way to consume Reishi mushrooms.

We always recommend looking for extracts that have a certificate of analysis indicating the concentrations of bioactive molecules such as beta-glucans, polyphenols, and terpenes. Apart from this, we also recommend looking at test reports for heavy metal and microbial contamination to ensure that you’re getting the best quality product.

At Nuvedo, we are committed to producing the highest quality extracts by adopting the latest technologies. We strongly believe in your right as a consumer to make an informed decision. That is why we make the certificates of analysis for our extracts publicly available so you know exactly what you are getting when you buy our products.

 

Dry Reishi mushroom

Fig 13: Reishi mushrooms as an ingredient for daily health

 

Integrating Reishi Mushroom Extracts into Your Daily Routine

Incorporating Reishi mushroom extracts into your daily wellness routine can be a transformative step towards better health. Nuvedo’s Reishi extracts are designed for ease of use and can be integrated into various diets and lifestyles. Whether added to your morning smoothie, or evening tea or taken as a standalone supplement, these extracts can seamlessly become a part of your health regimen.

 

How much Reishi mushroom extract should I consume?

The appropriate dosage of Reishi mushroom extract can vary based on the product’s concentration and the individual’s health goals and conditions. Nuvedo recommends starting with a small dose to assess tolerance and gradually increasing as needed. It’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions or who are taking other medications.

 

Reishi mushroom tincture

Fig 14: Nuvedo’s Reishi mushroom dual extract comes with a standardized dropper for consistent dosing

 

 What are the side effects of mushroom extract?

Unlike Reishi mushroom powders, there have been no documented side effects from the consumption of reishi mushroom extracts. In humans, high doses of reishi mushroom extracts, up to 10g/kg have been reported to be completely safe. 

 

How does Reishi mushroom make you feel?

As a result of the calming effects of Reishi mushroom extracts on the nervous system, they have a relaxing effect. Many people have reported feeling calm or sleepy after consuming Reishi mushroom extracts. These extracts are also known to promote good sleep which is beneficial for maintaining energy levels throughout the day.

 

Fig 15: Nuvedo’s Reishi mushroom infusion coupled with Ashwagandha and Lavender provides a relaxing end to a hectic day

 

Other uses of Reishi mushroom

While Reishi mushrooms are medicinal powerhouses, that’s not all they are good for. Recent years have seen a surge in investigations using mycelium as a material. Materials created using fungal mycelia are known as metamaterials.

Reishi mushroom is used as a preferred species for mycobacterials due to the toughness of their mycelium and their highly adaptive nature. They can be easily grown on a wide range of substrates. Substrates are generally plant-derived materials such as sawdust.

Using these methods, people have produced a wide range of materials such as insulation panels, leather substitutes, and even furniture. We too have used our Reishi mushroom cultures to generate pieces of art like no other. We unite biomaterials with the boundless creativity of artists, fostering an environment that nurtures innovation and fosters the seamless amalgamation of art and science.

 

Reishi mushroom mycelium colonising a plastic chair

Fig 16: The Mycobloc chair, a collaborative art project between Nuvedo and artist Maria Joseph

 

The Mycobloc Chair was an experiment in sustainability, combining materials from two ages into one mind-bending art piece. The juxtaposition of plastic, a material of the previous technological age that has immense short-term value but in the long-term is a pollutant that contaminates ecosystems everywhere, and mycelium. Mycelium is the biomaterial of the future. Mycelium-based materials have many desirable properties that make them a prime replacement for plastics. 

Mycelium-based materials have been proven to be excellent insulators and are the frontrunners to be the next best replacement for styrofoam. They are also flame and chemical retardant which makes them excellent replacements for foams and panels used for home insulation. The greatest advantage of mycomaterials is their completely biodegradable nature. They can be readily composted after their useful lifetime, thus returning the nutrients to the earth from where they came.

While our primary focus at Nuvedo centers on crafting functional mushroom extracts and products, our commitment extends beyond this realm. We engage in projects like these to shed light on the ecological impact of fungi, a purpose that seamlessly weaves into our ethos and practices. It is our profound understanding of the broader significance of mycelium and its role in shaping our future that propels us forward.

References

Wu et. al. “Hepatoprotective effects of aqueous extract from Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (higher basidiomycetes) on α-amanitin-induced liver injury in mice”. (2013) DOI: 10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i4.60

Ahmad et. al. “Ganoderma lucidum: Novel Insight into Hepatoprotective Potential with Mechanisms of Action”. (2023) DOI: 10.3390/nu15081874

Li et. al. “Ganoderma modulates allergic asthma pathologic features via anti-inflammatory effects”. (2022) DOI:10.1016/j.resp.2022.103843

Figlas and Curvetto. “Medicinal mushroom Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) – Toxicity and allergenicity studies. Dosage, posology and side effects” 

Yao et. al. “Ganoderma lucidum promotes sleep through a gut microbiota-dependent and . serotonin-involved pathway in mice” (2021) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-92913-6

Sharma et. al. “Bioactive metabolites of Ganoderma lucidum: Factors, mechanism and broad spectrum therapeutic potential”. (2019) DOI: 10.1016/j.hermed.2019.100268

Wu et. al. “Anti-cancer properties of triterpenoids isolated from Ganoderma lucidum – a review”. (2013) DOI: 10.1517/13543784.2013.805202

Wu et. al. “Triterpenoids from Ganoderma lucidum and Their Potential Anti-inflammatory Effects”. (2019) DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.9b01195

Veljović et. al. “Chemical composition, antiproliferative and antioxidant activity of differently processed Ganoderma lucidum ethanol extracts”. (2017) DOI: 10.1007/s13197-017-2559-y

Cen et. al. “Anti-tumor and Anti-angiogenic Ergosterols from Ganoderma lucidum”. (2017) DOI: 10.3389/fchem.2017.00085

Xu et. al. “Anti-inflammatory effects of Ganoderma lucidum sterols via attenuation of the p38 MAPK and NF-κB pathways in LPS-induced RAW 264.7 macrophages”. (2021) DOI: 10.1016/j.fct.2021.112073

Wu et. al. “Sterols and triterpenoids from Ganoderma lucidum and their reversal activities of tumor multidrug resistance”. (2020) DOI: 10.1080/14786419.2021.1878514

Seweryn et. al. “Health-Promoting of Polysaccharides Extracted from Ganoderma lucidum”. (2021) DOI: 10.3390/nu13082725

Wang et. al. “Traditional uses, chemical components and pharmacological activities of the genus Ganoderma P. Karst.: a review”. (2020) DOI: 10.1039/D0RA07219B

Kerala’s Tribal Cultures and their Ethnomycology

Introduction

Nestled within the embrace of the majestic Western Ghats, Kerala’s landscapes boast an awe-inspiring fungal diversity, a testament to nature’s ingenuity. From vibrant orchids to elusive fungi, this biodiversity is a global marvel that resonates with our national pride.

This symphony of life is an integral part of India’s rich heritage. Yet, the encroachment of human activity and the changing climate threaten this legacy. The urgency now compels us to stand united as custodians, preserving this irreplaceable gift for our nation and the world. Kerala, a southwestern state of India, is adorned with an intricate tapestry of ancient tribal cultures that have flourished for centuries. These tribes, such as the Irulas, Kurichiyas, and Paniyas, hold the threads of a rich cultural heritage, contributing to the diverse fabric of the region. The annals of history carry records of their existence, revealing a timeless connection to the land and its resources. Tribal communities are widespread across Kerala’s districts, with a significant concentration in Wayanad, Palakkad, Idukki, and Kasargod. These areas harbor the majority of tribes, reflecting their rich cultural diversity. However, Alappuzha stands out with the lowest tribal population among the districts.

Have you ever wondered how Kerala’s ancient tribes discovered the hidden secrets of plants and fungi long before the advent of modern science? This blog is a small peek into the world that they have uncovered.

2 Kurichiyas tribal women (Source: http://www.ayurvedayogaretreat.com/ tribes-wayanad/).
2 Kurichiyas tribal women

Imagine this scene: tribes like the Irulas and Kurichiyas crafting their own versions of “green medicine cabinets” centuries ago. How did they know which plants could soothe a headache or which fungi could be the cure for the common cold? It’s like they were the original pharmacists, operating without a prescription pad!

And let’s not forget ethnomycology – the art of understanding fungi. While we’re still trying to pronounce the Latin names of mushrooms, these tribes have been incorporating Malayalam and its dialects for many species of fungi for ages. Did they possess a mystical dance that could unveil hidden mushrooms? Or perhaps, did they engage in a mycology-infused quest? akin to a treasure hunt straight from the heart of our tribal heritage?

Could their harmonious ways teach us a thing or two about sustainable living and preserving biodiversity? Maybe it’s time we took a leaf – or a mushroom – out of their book and rekindled our curiosity about the wild world around us. Who knows, we might even discover that our next breakthrough could be hidden in the forest, right beneath our curious noses!

 

 

Tribal Communities of Kerala

Imagine a mushroom buffet straight from the whimsical corners of Kerala! Hold onto your taste buds – there are around 40 different edible mushrooms in town, and about half a dozen of these are like the rockstars of the mushroom world. But here’s the twist: These fungal delicacies aren’t available year-round. They’re like the party guests who only show up after the monsoons hit – both the wild dancers, Edavapathi (south-west monsoon), and the cool breezes, Thulavarsham (north-east monsoon).

Now, let’s play hide and seek with these mushrooms in their favorite hideouts. They’re like little seasonal adventurers – popping up in plantations, hanging out at the edge of forests, strutting their stuff along forest paths, and even throwing shade inside bamboo breaks. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you spot them having a field day in fallow fields, on termite mounds, or chilling by the riversides.

Termitomyces microcarpus (Arikoon), Termitomyces microcarpus on termite mound
Termitomyces microcarpus (Arikoon), Termitomyces microcarpus on termite mound

And speaking of trees, some mushrooms are real tree huggers – you might spot them on tree trunks and snacking on decayed woods in the woods (yes, that’s a mouthful!). The real headliners of this shroom show are Arikkoon, Puttukoon, and Perumkali. These guys aren’t just delicious, they’re like habitat snobs too. Arikkoon and Puttukoon are the life of the termite mound party, while Perumkali prefers to strut its stuff in the open, moist areas, where the ghosts of old termite mounds still hang around.

 

So, next time you’re in Kerala, keep an eye out for these fungi fiestas. Who knows, you might just stumble upon a hidden mushroom rave in the middle of the forest!

From a paper titled,“Nutritional and biochemical studies of wild edible mushrooms used by tribes of Palghat and Wayanad districts of Kerala” – A fascinating journey into Attappadi’s tribal communities has uncovered a remarkable revelation – the taxonomic identification of wild edible mushrooms. An early documentation from 2018, of the tribal knowledge from the area. There were a total of 19 distinct edible delicacy species had been unveiled, spanning 12 genera, 9 families, and 4 orders. Astonishingly, 17 of these species are entirely new additions to the wild edible food repertoire of the Wayanad tribes, adding a new chapter to their culinary heritage.

 

Paddy straw (Volvariella volvacea) or Voikkolkkumma
Paddy straw (Volvariella volvacea) or Voikkolkkumma

 

(L-R) Favolous, Auricularia, Schizophyllum commune, Auricularia delicata, Favolaschia manipularis
(L-R) Favolus, Auricularia (Kathukkumman), Schizophyllum commune, Auricularia delicata, Favolaschia manipularis

Varieties like Auricularia delicata, Lentinus cladopus, Favolus tenuiculus, Schizophyllum commune, and Favolaschia manipularis, previously absent from records, now grace our tables. This tale unfolds as a journey into Kerala’s edible mushroom secrets, unearthing both gastronomic and medicinal promise.

Collage of mushrooms
(L-R) Cantharellus minor, Russula, Coprinellus micaceus, Lentinus cladopus

Amidst this bounty, Lentinus bambusinus, Coprinellus micaceus, and Cantharellus minor emerged as first-time subjects for nutritional study.
Their flavors and textures piqued curiosity, hinting at untapped livelihood prospects and even groundbreaking drug discoveries.

Providing a glimpse into influential tribes within the ethnomycological landscape, a study titled “Diversity, Use Pattern and Management of Wild Food Plants of Western Ghats: A Study from Wayanad District” from the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation’s Community Agro‐biodiversity Centre in Wayanad, Kerala, offers valuable insights.

Paniyas: The Largest Tribal Community in Kerala

 

Black and white photo of a paniya tribe woman
Paniya tribe woman

The Paniyas stands as the largest tribal community in Kerala, adding their vibrant threads to the state’s cultural fabric. In their forays into the forests, they’ve discovered an array of mushrooms and fungi that become an integral part of their culinary heritage.

United by their reverence for Kumman—mushrooms. They sing praises to Marakkumman, the tree-dwelling mushrooms as if the forest itself orchestrates a delicate symphony. Yet, it is Mannukkumman, the earthbound fungi, that binds their roots to the soil of their ancestors.

Each variety bears a name that echoes through generations – Valakkumma, sprouting from cow dung and compost, symbolizes the cycle of life and renewal; Vaikkolkkumma, rising from paddy straw, mirrors the dance of harvest and gratitude.

Kathukkumman, akin to human earlobes, is their treasured gem. With the monsoon’s touch, it adorns Murikku trees—a sight reserved for the Paniya. This delicate wonder transforms into sustenance, a sacred thread connecting their past and present.

In this dance with nature, the Paniya commune with whispers of the forest, finding solace in the smallest offerings of the earth. Their heritage blooms like Kathukkumman, reminding us of nature’s power to unite generations and kindred spirits across cultures.

Paniya women, in particular, possess a remarkable memory of seasonal mushroom availability, linked to precise times and distinct locales. This practice underscores their profound connection with nature. However, the current scenario necessitates arduous journeys to remote, less polluted areas for these mushrooms. This dual struggle epitomizes the resilience of feminism and tribal heritage—a testament to their enduring significance. Often seen as the protectors of termite mounds, and finding unique ways to preserve mushrooms.

 

Kurumbas: The Guardians of the Forest

Meet the Kurumbas, the guardians of the forest in Kerala. These tribal custodians boast an unparalleled connection with the woodlands, fostering a harmony between their way of life and nature’s rhythms. Amidst their daily routines, they come across mushrooms that weave seamlessly into their sustenance practices. Perhaps they’re well-versed in distinguishing the edible from the inedible, cherishing the flavorful goodness of Puttukoon and other forest finds.

Apart from mushrooms, this intriguing community collects tubers and potherbs. They communicate through a blend of Malayalam-Tamil, while women attire themselves in munda cloth and palm leaf-rolled earrings. Rooted in animism, they now revere Bagawati, a genderless deity, and are guided by the Nolumbukaran priests.

Kuruma culture embraces the term ‘Koonu’ from Malayalam to celebrate mushrooms, a prideful inclusion in their family meals. This term references around 14 mushroom species, notably favoring those on soil and termite mounds. Perumkoonu, Arikoonu, Nedumthali, and Puttukoonu (Termitomyces sp.) are cherished varieties. Unlike other cultures, Kuruma women uniquely undertake mushroom preservation by proficiently drying them. These dried mushrooms retain quality until the next season, a technique borne of their culinary ingenuity.

Interestingly, the mushroom collection is exclusively designated for Kuruma women, involving the gathering of safer types like Arikkoon and Puttukoonu, which necessitate minimal processing. Notably, mushrooms earmarked for processing and storage possess reduced mucilaginous substances and softer fiber coatings. These culinary experts immerse mushrooms in turmeric water for a day before smoke-drying them above the hearth.

Intriguingly, how do Kuruma women determine the suitability of mushrooms for extended storage? What spurred the development of their unique preservation practices amidst evolving culinary trends? These captivating questions uncover the intricate layers of Kuruma’s mushroom-related traditions, showcasing their profound connection with nature and the enduring role of women in safeguarding cultural culinary legacies.

 

Kattunaickans: The Honey Gatherers

Photo of a boy from kattunaika tribe holding honey comb
Kattunayakan boy

Picture the Kattunaickans, deft honey gatherers who traverse the wilderness in search of golden sweetness. In their pursuit, they stumble upon mushrooms like Arikkoon and Perumkali, sprouting forth from the very ecosystems they roam. One of sustenance, connection, and a trove of mushrooms, known as ‘Anavae’ in their dialect. These 33 fungal species, each with a scientific name and a habitat tale, hold not just nourishment, but an invitation to ponder our place in the natural world.

Divided into three categories – the ‘Maranavae’ found on tree barks, ‘Huthaanavae’ on termite mounds, and ‘Mannanavae’ gracing the forest floor – these mushrooms paint a vivid portrait of diversity and adaptation. Enter the scientific realm, where ‘Huthaanavae’ belongs to the Termitomyces genus, attesting to the profound relationship between the fungi and the termites’ industrious homes.

The ‘Maranavae’ mushrooms, named after their arboreal companions, beckon us to the enchanting dance of symbiosis. Mushroom names are derived from their host trees—’Njeralanavae’ from Syzygium cumini, ‘Jalanavae’ from Dalbergia latifolia, and ‘Kavalanavae’ from Erythrina indica. This practice bridges nature and culture, prompting us to ponder our own heritage and relationship with our surroundings.

Yet, as we marvel at this harmonious existence, a stirring arises within. Do we, ensnared in the modern world’s frenzied pace, miss the essence of life’s communion? The Kattunaikkas’ reverence for these forest treasures provokes introspection. Are we forfeiting nature’s bounty for momentary conveniences?

Diving into the intriguing world of mushrooms, the community’s fascination lies with the Termitomyces species. Among these, the enigmatic Vellanavae boasts a milky white hue, the Ummanavae a delicate pale white, and the impressive Huthanavae, a large off-white variety. What’s captivating is their connection to termite mounts. Remarkably, these mushrooms are deemed safe, negating the need for elaborate preparation prior to consumption. Even youngsters fearlessly indulge in raw samples. Ummanavae and Vellanavae thrive in dense clusters, in contrast to the solitary or scattered growth of the Huthanavae. Intriguingly, the Mannanavae sprout from the soil, categorized by their solitary ventures or group endeavors. Within this community, a diverse assortment of about 15 such mushroom types finds its way to their plates, each offering a unique growth pattern. The names themselves evoke curiosity, inviting us to explore the mysteries concealed within.

Among the Kattunaikka community, the mastery of distinguishing toxic from edible mushrooms rests primarily with women, relying on cues like odor and color. How do they cultivate this skill and pass it down through generations? Remarkably, this ability isn’t limited to proximity; they can detect these fungi from a distance, showcasing an intimate knowledge of their surroundings. But who else in the community participates in this intricate tradition?

It’s fascinating that the practice involves not only women but also other members of the community. How does this collective engagement reinforce the cultural significance of mushroom collection? When harvesting mushrooms from tree trunks, the emphasis on selective harvesting to ensure regrowth is admirable. How is this wisdom imparted to the young ones, especially the enthusiastic Kattunaikka children?

Furthermore, the allure of some mushroom varieties being palatable even when consumed raw adds a unique dimension. How does this tie into the community’s relationship with nature and its culinary heritage? The multifaceted involvement and knowledge sharing within the Kattunaikka community exemplify a harmonious blend of tradition and practicality.

In the heart of this blog, stand 2 tribes, (Muthuvans and Kaani) nestled at the crossroads of border states. There may be a lot more that I am missing, but Like the enigmatic mushrooms that transcend conventional categories, these tribes straddle both Kerala and Tamil Nadu, embodying a narrative that persistently challenges the significance of the lines we draw on maps. Their roots run deeper than the ink of borders, existing long before we etched the concept of land ownership. They are the true inhabitants of the woods, guardians of ancient secrets whispered by trees.

To overlook their existence is to miss a vital piece of this intricate puzzle that weaves humanity and nature. What are these borders? Who are we without them?  These tribes remind us that our connection with the land precedes borders, awakening a yearning to explore the bonds we share with the wild and the wisdom they offer.

Muthuvans: The Story Weavers

Photo of women from Muthuvan tribe
Muthuvan tribe

The Muthuvans, skilled storytellers of their tribe, possess a unique ability to weave narratives that entwine the rich landscapes of Kerala. As they explore the wilderness, their tales might incorporate the mushrooms and fungi they encounter. The likes of Arikkoon and Perumkali become not only sustenance but also inspiration, embedding themselves in the stories that form the backbone of their cultural tapestry.

Kaani Tribe: The Culinary Kings

In the heart of the Kaani tribe’s traditions, a profound relationship with nature’s bounty emerges through a repertoire of unique mushrooms. Pleurotus sajor caju, known as Vellathazan Kumizh, and Termitomyces heimii, revered as Natarajan putru kumizh, are just a glimpse of this harmonious connection.
Termitomyces microcarpus, Ari Kumizh, Volvariella volvacea, Uppu Kumizh, and Auricularia auriculata, Murukkan Kumizh, form a constellation of edible treasures, each bearing a distinct cultural significance.

 

Early mornings witness the tribal people venturing into the wild, bamboo or reed baskets in hand, to collect these delicacies. With care bordering on reverence, the gathered mushrooms undergo a meticulous cleansing process, immersed in fresh water 2-3 times. Pounded in wooden mortars alongside rice, they transform into a blend steeped in tradition.

This medley is then simmered to perfection, a harmonious union of mushrooms and rice brought to life by the gentle caress of water. Eager to evoke a symphony of tastes, spices, salt, and wild green chilies are introduced, infusing the dish with a melody of flavors and aromas.

The final creation graces the table served alongside cooked rice and tapioca, a testament to the intricate relationship between sustenance and nature’s offerings. In a final touch, tribal artisans adorn their culinary masterpieces with grated coconut, a nod to timeless culinary wisdom. This elaborate process showcases not only their culinary artistry but also their deep-rooted respect for the land and its gifts, weaving a narrative of sustenance and harmony.

 

Ethnomycology in India: A Deep Dive

Across the globe, tribal people have recognized the value of these forest gems as dietary staples and potent healers. In Kerala, ‘Adivasis’ reside amidst the lush landscapes of the Western Ghats, their lives intertwined with the ancient rhythm of the forests. Cholanaikkans, Kurumbas, Kattunaikkans, Kadars, and Koragas, these primitive tribal groups, embody a cultural heritage as diverse as the mushrooms they forage. Cholanaikkans, named “Cavemen of Kerala,” dwell in Nilambur Valley’s forest. Living in rock shelters known as “aale”, their unique identity emerges from cave-named distinctions, adding -nu to names. Their distinct identity, denoted by cave-assigned names, remained hidden till 1971; gaining notice in 1977. With just 176 in number, mingling with Kattunaickan and Pathinayakkan tribes, this underscores the need for further research to unveil their story.

Regrettably, the Cholanaikkans, Kadars, and Koragas remain silent about fungi and mushrooms in my search. However, skepticism shrouds this conclusion, leaving a lingering sense of sorrow. It’s a poignant plea for individuals to reach out, imploring their grandparents to unlock the hidden vaults of knowledge. The shadows of doubt cast upon the absence of information evoke a melancholic realization. Yes, they all use them, but for what purpose? How are they valued? What are the names? The prospect that invaluable insights about the forest’s treasures might slip through the fingers of time paints a somber picture. This unfulfilled quest underscores the urgency to bridge the generational gap, yearning for a connection to ancestral wisdom before it fades into the mist.

Centuries of wisdom passed down through generations, have granted these tribes an innate understanding of the forest’s bounties. Their knowledge of the edibility and healing properties of mushrooms is a blend of folk taxonomy and indigenous lore. Yet, as modernity creeps in, this ancestral wisdom risks fading away. Auricularia auriculata, Agaricus bisporus, Boletus edulis, Ganoderma lucidum, Lentinus edodes, and L. squarrosulus – these names carry the weight of tradition, the echoes of ancient remedies. These medicinal mushroom species, once integral to the tribal communities, now stand at the precipice of being forgotten.

Diving deep into India’s cultural tapestry, we uncover a captivating realm of ethnomedicinal wealth – a repository of traditional mycological knowledge. Indian ethnic groups have embraced this ancient wisdom, harnessing the power of wild mushrooms for over 283 species out of the global tally of 2000. This journey dates back to antiquity, as the ancient medical treatise, Charaka Samhita (3000±500 BC), whispers tales of mushrooms’ dual role as sustenance and medicine.

The spotlight of ethnomycological exploration shines brightly upon India’s North-East. Among the vibrant tribes like Garos, Adivashis, Bodos, and Rajbangshis of Western Assam, seven mushroom species stand as cherished vegetables. G. lucidum emerges as an herbal hero, combatting ailments like asthma. In the mystic land of Sikkim, local folk healers craft herbal elixirs with cordyceps, a potent remedy for a spectrum of afflictions – from cancer to colds.

Venturing further, the tribal tapestry expands. Nagaland’s ethnic tribes infuse wild edible mushrooms into their culinary heritage. Down South, the Kaani tribes of the Kanyakumari district dance with flavors like P. sajor-caju, T. heimii, and more, embodying the fusion of taste and tradition. Amidst the verdant Similipal forest, tribal communities nourish themselves with Russula, Termitomyces, and Pleurotus – a feast that heals maladies and weaknesses.

The saga continues through the undulating landscapes of Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh, where wild mushrooms reign as nutritional saviors. But as we immerse ourselves in this mycological saga, questions arise: What untold stories lie within the mushrooms of the Northeast? How have generations of tribal wisdom influenced their use? Can these remedies hold the keys to modern ailments? As we tread the path of ethnomedicinal exploration, India’s tribal heart reveals a profound synergy between nature and healing, poised to captivate curious minds and inspire modern medicine alike.

 

Road Ahead: for Preservation and Innovation around fungal diversity

The road ahead in fungal diversity preservation and innovation presents a compelling blend of tradition and modernity. Firstly, steps toward preserving tribal knowledge and practices (A) are vital to safeguard centuries-old wisdom about fungi. Many indigenous communities possess a deep understanding of fungal diversity, utilizing mushrooms for food, medicine, and cultural rituals. Collaborative efforts between scientists and indigenous practitioners can lead to ethically responsible ways of documenting and sharing this knowledge, preventing its loss and aiding conservation.

Secondly, bringing ethnomycology and entheomycological into the mix holds exciting possibilities.
Picture this: Scientists delving into how tribes have been using fungi for ages – be it in medicine, religious and shamanic practices, cleaning up the environment, or even farming. It’s like connecting the dots between old-school wisdom and today’s problems. This fusion isn’t just about boosting our scientific know-how; it’s also a nod to the rich tapestry of cultures out there. We’re talking about a 2-for-1 deal – advancing our smarts while giving a tip of the hat to diverse traditions. Cool, right?

In India, the government has taken a few steps to safeguard indigenous wisdom. Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs) have been established nationwide to serve as reservoirs of information on tribal communities. National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) is a proponent of the “re-documentation” of tribal cultures and social practices, with the aim of transcending the colonial lens that has influenced existing scholarly literature. These collective endeavors embody a comprehensive approach that embraces indigenous perspectives, seeking to empower tribal communities in the endeavor to conserve fungal diversity. Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) endeavors to prevent the misappropriation of traditional Indian medicinal knowledge by maintaining its records within international patent offices. This is a start, certainly, but we have a long way to go, as far as on-ground research surrounding fungi is needed.

Where does it begin? Where does it end? How do we continue our efforts – only time will tell.

The preservation of ethnomycological knowledge rests not solely on academic institutions or government bodies, but also requires the active engagement of private organizations and citizen scientists. The intricate relationship between communities and fungi cannot be underestimated, and their preservation is a collective responsibility.

As Kerala rapidly transforms into one large bustling metro, it is imperative to acknowledge the few remaining pockets where traditional ethnomycological wisdom is still preserved. These enclaves hold invaluable insights into the symbiotic connection between humans and fungi, which can offer solutions to modern challenges.

The key lies in fostering a harmonious coexistence, where private entities and citizen scientists collaborate with local communities to document and safeguard this knowledge. It is crucial to create a space where sharing is encouraged, ensuring the longevity of ethnomycological wisdom for generations to come. By embracing this responsibility, we can bridge the gap between the past and the future, enriching our understanding of nature and our place within it.

P.S. Call any photojournalists, researchers, or any other anthropologist reading this. If you have any more information to share, or perhaps photos, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via support@nuvedo.com, would love to include any more information here that you may find. 

References: 

How to Grow Mushrooms at Home: A Step-by-Step Guide for Mushroom Enthusiasts

If you’re reading this, kudos to you for thinking about growing your own mushrooms. I hope this blog gives you the confidence to take the next step and get started on your mushroom cultivation journey. This blog is for anyone who wants to learn mushroom cultivation at a hobby level. It has tried and tested cultivation methods to grow mushrooms which are relatively easy for someone who wants to start growing mushrooms at home. 

If you don’t have much experience in growing mushrooms, then I recommend you go through our earlier blog on what mushrooms are and another blog with commonly used terminologies in mushroom cultivation.

What are the advantages of mushroom growing?

Why farm mushrooms?  As a budding mushroom farmer, you need to be aware of some of the benefits of mushroom cultivation before we get into the details of how mushrooms grow. Here is a list of 6 advantages of farming mushrooms –

  1. Growing mushrooms is sustainable: Mushroom farming uses agricultural waste such as paddy straw, wheat straw, ragi straw, rice bran, corn cobs, soya hulls etc as input material. By cultivating mushrooms we are able to use a lot of by-products of agriculture and turn them into high-quality nutrition. Whatever waste that is left behind can be added back into the soil or composted, making the process circular.
  2. Mushroom production is very water efficient: Though mushrooms are 90% water, they only use a fraction of water to grow as compared to traditional crops.
  3. Mushroom growing doesn’t require soil or sunlight: You don’t need outdoor space to grow your mushrooms and mushroom cultivation can be done indoors in minimal space. This also means that growing mushrooms at home doesn’t depend on soil fertility, pests, or other external factors which are hard to control outdoors.
  4. Mushroom cultivation is vertically scalable: Mushroom beds or bags can be stacked vertically which means that small-scale mushroom farming can be done even if you only have a small room at home.
  5. Mushrooms are a high-quality food source: Apart from macronutrients such as protein and fiber, mushrooms contain many unique bioactive molecules that can improve your health and well-being. They are a good source of amino acids, vitamins minerals, and even rare bio-compounds such as Beta Glucans, Terpenes, and Phenolics.
  6. Cultivation of fungi or mushrooms takes relatively less time: Mushrooms are quite fast-growing when compared to plants. Our pink oyster mushroom is capable of giving you your first harvest in 3 weeks! Compared to traditional food crops you can get more harvests in a year when growing mushrooms which means more income and lower overhead costs per cycle.

If you want to dive deeper into more reasons why you should cultivate mushrooms, please check out the 3 part blog series on why India needs more mushroom farmers: Part1.

What is mushroom cultivation?

Contrary to what most people believe, the most amount of time and effort in growing mushrooms is actually devoted to growing mycelium and not the mushroom itself. Let me give you an example: To grow oyster mushrooms the first 6-8 weeks is actually spent in making spawn and allowing the mycelium to grow and colonize the substrate. The actual fruiting process where you grow mushrooms takes only 7-10 days. Think of this similar to growing fruit trees, most of the effort goes into growing the tree and taking care of it as compared to the actual fruit. Fruit trees usually take 5-10 years to mature and give you the first harvest and the actual fruits take roughly 2-3 months to grow. To get good fruits you need to pay attention to how the trees grow. Similarly, to get good mushrooms, you need to understand and take care of mycelium which then gives you healthy mushrooms under the right conditions.

In short, mushroom cultivation is the process of growing mushroom mycelium, expanding it, feeding it, and then maintaining the right conditions to trigger the growth of mushrooms. Mushrooms are essentially the fruiting bodies of the vegetative mycelium, which exist to spread spores. 

How are mushrooms grown?

There are 8 broad steps in mushroom cultivation-

  1. Mycelium on Agar: A tiny piece of the mushroom tissue is placed on a nutritive medium called agar, in a petri plate. This process is called tissue culturing. Slowly, over the next week or two the mycelium expands and grows over the entire agar surface, “colonizing” it. Here the agar serves two purposes- a 2D surface for the mycelium to expand and also the nutrition for the mycelium to feed on. A fully colonized plate of mushroom mycelium is also called mushroom culture.
    Picture of a myceliated agar plate
  2. Spawn production: Once the petri plate is fully colonized by mycelium, a tiny piece of mycelium is transferred to a container filled with half boiled grain or sawdust. The surface of the grain or sawdust provides more surface area for the mycelium to spread. The water and nutrients inside the grain/sawdust ensure the mycelium stays alive and healthy. Spawn helps the cultivator by providing more points for the mycelium to start growing from compared to a single point. If you want to learn more about spawn and how it is made, please go through our earlier Mushroom Spawn 101 blog.Picture of grain spawn The entire process mentioned in steps 1 & 2 is usually carried out in a lab or clean room. Sterile protocols are followed and all the work happens inside a Laminar Airflow or Biosafety Cabinet. Both these devices provide a smooth stream of HEPA-filtered clean air to work in, lowering the chance of contamination. This is why spawn production and mushroom culture preparation is considered expensive and difficult.
  3. Prepping the substrate: Any material that you use to grow mushrooms on needs to be prepped beforehand. Prepping can include multiple steps depending on what substrate you choose. For example, if you’re working with paddy or wheat straw, steps include chopping it up into 1-3” pieces and then soaking in water to hydrate it.
  4. Cleaning of substrate: Any material (substrate) that you intend to grow mushrooms on needs to be cleaned before you use it. This is done to reduce the chances of contamination by killing off competing microorganisms present in the substrate. There are many ways to clean your substrate including steam/heat pasteurization, lime pasteurization, sterilization in an autoclave etc. You need to choose an appropriate method on the basis of your substrate material and resource constraints.
  5. Inoculation of substrate with spawn: After the substrate has been prepped and cleaned, spawn is added to it. This step needs to be done in a clean space and depending on what mushroom you are growing and the kind of substrate you are working with, you might have to invest in some equipment for the same.
  6. Incubation of inoculated substrate: During this stage, the mycelium slowly starts growing and spreading across the substrate. Depending on the species this step can take anywhere between 3 weeks to 2 months. The bags are allowed to incubate undisturbed in a designated area where the temperature and light conditions are optimal for the growth of mycelium.
    Picture that shows colonisation of substrate
  7. Fruiting myceliated substrate: Once the bags are fully colonized with mycelium, they are shifted to a location where the conditions are optimal to trigger fruit body production. Specific fruiting conditions are dependent on the mushrooms being cultivated but it generally means maintaining ideal levels of temperature, humidity, light and fresh air.
  8. Harvesting mature mushrooms: Once the mushrooms start pinning, they grow quickly and reach maturity very soon. The last stage is harvesting the mushroom at the ideal stage of growth. Mushrooms are usually harvested before they drop spores and timely harvest can influence the taste, texture, and shelf life of mushrooms.

 

How do I get started?

Before you begin your journey of growing mushrooms at home, you need to think about a very important question- Which mushroom am I going to grow? 

Let’s look at this question in a little more detail-

Deciding which mushroom you will grow is a really critical decision in mushroom cultivation, if not the most important one. Your choice of mushroom will have an effect on-

  1. Growing conditions: The mushroom you choose should be suitable to grow well given your local weather conditions. If you want to grow exotic mushrooms such as Lion’s mane, you might have to invest in an AC room dedicated to growing them which might turn out to be an expensive affair. Different mushrooms have very specific temperature, humidity, fresh air and light requirements. Please make sure you do a bit of research on the fruiting conditions of your strain before you go deeper into growing it.
  2. Choice of substrate: Each mushroom has its own preference for what medium it wants to grow on. Most oyster mushrooms tend to do very well on paddy/wheat/ragi straw as compared to mushrooms such as button or portobello which prefer compost-based substrates. One of the major challenges as a home cultivator will be finding a reliable local source for substrate. So, make sure you choose mushrooms which you can grow using locally available materials so that the overall process remains sustainable.
  3. Choice of substrate cleaning method: Once you have narrowed down on the substrate that you want to use for your mushroom, you will have to choose which method of substrate cleaning will work best for your needs. Substrates which are relatively low in nitrogen such as cardboard and straw can be boiled or even cold pasteurized using hydrated lime. Others such as master’s mix (hardwood sawdust + soy hulls) need to be sterilized using an autoclave at 121 degrees Celsius and 15 PSI pressure.

Please do note that the fruiting temperatures can change depending on the strain for the same species. For example we have seen strains of Shiitake mushroom which can fruit at 24 degrees Celsius and some which fruit only below 16 degrees Celsius

Table 1.1 with 15 commonly cultivated mushrooms, their substrates and fruiting temperature

What substrate do I use?

Once you have chosen your mushroom, the next question to address is what material am I going to use as substrate to grow my mushrooms?

When evaluating substrate here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Economical: Your substrate material should be affordable. It doesn’t make economic sense to grow your mushrooms using really expensive material as substrate
  2. Easily Available: Use materials that can be sourced locally or can be procured online with ease.
  3. Right nutrients: Substrates should have the right ratio of Carbon and Nitrogen to support the growth of mushrooms. Most agricultural waste that are rich in lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose make good substrates but you need to ensure that any material which is very high in nitrogen content is better suited as a supplement and should not be used exclusively as substrate. Example: spent coffee grounds, rice/wheat bran, soy hulls are very high in nitrogen and are best used as an additive to other substrates which are high in carbon such as sawdust, cardboard or straw.
  4. Hydration capacity: A good substrate should be able to hold 50-70% moisture by weight. This water is what the mycelium will use to grow. A good way to know if a substrate is hydrated to the right amount is by doing a squeeze test- when you squeeze a fist full of hydrated material it should feel wet without the water dripping down in a stream. Different substrates can absorb different amounts of water so ensure you check the hydration capacity of the material before you choose to use it as a substrate.
    Here is a simple formula for you to check the hydration% of your substrate:Hydration % = [ [(Wet weight of substrate after hydration) – (Dry weight of substrate before hydration)] ÷ (Wet weight of substrate after hydration) ] × 100
  5. Aeration: Your substrate should allow airflow so that the mycelium can breathe. Lack of airflow or poor airflow leads to anaerobic conditions which can promote the growth of bacteria leading to contamination. Any substrate can get anaerobic if it gets overhydrated or too compacted while packing it.
  6. Free from competing organisms: Substrates you use should not have other organisms growing on it as this can lead to competition with mushroom mycelium ultimately resulting in poor or no yields. This happens because the mycelium ends up spending all its energy on defending itself against competition rather than producing mushrooms.
Figure showing properties of good substrate for mushrooms
Figure 1: Properties of a good substrate

If you’re new to mushroom cultivation, we recommend using hardwood fuel pellets as substrate to begin with. These are sawdust which has been heat treated and extruded into the shape of pellets. They come pre-pasteurized and therefore the chances of contamination while using them are very low compared to sawdust procured from mills or even straw. We have sawdust substrate pellets available on our website for home use.

What method of substrate cleaning should I use?

Now that you have an idea of what substrate you will be using, the next thing that you need to decide is how you’re going to clean your substrate. There are plenty of ways to do this depending on your scale and budget. I will list down the 6 most common ways and how to perform them.

  1. Steam Pasteurization:
    Suitable substrates: Straw, sawdust, cardboard, agri-waste such as shredded banana leaves, bamboo leaves time taken: 2-8 Hours

    1. Pass steam generated in a boiler to a chamber with hydrated substrate.
    2. Continue to pass steam and ensure the temperature is maintained at 60-65 C for 4 hours or at 80-85 C for 2 hours for straw or other agri-waste. In case you are using sawdust, you will need to pasteurize for 6-8 hours at 80-85 C.
    3. Allow bags to cool overnight before inoculation.
  2. Hot Water Pasteurization
    Suitable substrates: Straw, cardboard, agri-waste such as shredded banana leaves, bamboo leaves etc. Time taken: 2 Hours

    1. Plunge dry/hydrated substrate placed in a sack for 2 hours in hot water maintained at 80-85⁰ C for 2 hours.
    2. Remove the sack and allow it to cool and release excess water.
    3.  Note that the same water can be used 2 times, after which it needs to be discarded.
    4.  If you’re using cardboard, a quick dip in hot water at 80-85 C should suffice.
  3. Lime Pasteurization
    Suitable substrates: Straw, cardboard, agri-waste such as shredded banana leaves, bamboo leaves etc Time taken: 12-20 Hours

    1. Add hydrated lime (Ca[OH]) at a rate of around 2-2.5 g / Litre of water to 20 L
    2. 1.5 Kg of straw is then bagged in a sack and submerged in this water for 12-20 hours. (Keep a heavy object to make sure straw stays submerged)
    3. After soaking, the straw is drained well to remove excess water and then inoculated as normal. 
    4. Excess lime water can be used for subsequent treatment batches, just be sure to add more lime as needed to maintain the proper pH (12-13).
  4. Cold Fermentation
    Suitable substrates: Straw Time taken: 7-14 days

    1. Submerge the straw in a drum filled with water for 7-14 days.
    2. The substrate will smell somewhat foul and the water surface will be covered in a thin layer of slime. This is good; it means that the fermentation was successful. 
    3. The substrate is then removed and suspended above the fermentation tank to drain until water stops dripping from the substrate.
  5. Ash Pasteurization
    Suitable substrates: Straw, wood ash, cardboard, agri-waste such as shredded banana leaves, bamboo leaves etc. Time taken: 12-20 Hours

    1. Add Wood Ash at a rate of around 20g / Litre of water to 20L.
    2. Use a PH strip to ensure the PH is more than 10. If it is lower, add more ash.
    3. 1.6 Kg of straw is then bagged in a sack and submerged in this water for 12-20 hours. (Keep a heavy object to make sure straw stays submerged)
    4. After soaking, the straw is drained well and then inoculated as normal.
  6. Autoclave/Pressure Cooker Sterilization
    Suitable substrates: ALL- hydrated substrates. Time taken: 30 – 180 Minutes (30 minutes for straw, 2-3 hours for nutrified sawdust)

    1. Put enough water in the bottom of the PC so that by the end of the pressure cooking there is still some water left at the bottom of the PC. For most runs, 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) of water is sufficient. Never run the pressure cooker dry!
    2. Place your materials in the PC and securely close the lid. If using a “rocker top” pressure release system, leave the weight off the vent port. If using a “petcock” pressure release, open the petcock. Turn the heat source to a level that requires 15 minutes to pass before steam begins to flow from the petcock or vent port. Heating the PC too rapidly can cause substrate bags to break.
    3. Allow a steady jet of steam to escape from the pressure release vent for 1-5 minutes and then place the weight on the vent port or close the petcock. This ensures that everything heats evenly. The PC will quickly come up to pressure in 5-15 minutes. Once the desired pressure is reached (typically 15 psi), reduce the heat level on the burner until the pressure stabilizes. It may take a few minutes to adjust the heat to get it just right. If using a “rocker top;’ adjust the heat source so that the rocker maintains a slow, steady rocking motion and/or jiggles once a minute or so.
    4. Once the pressure is stabilized, start your timer. You will need to sit with the pressure cooker during the entire run to make sure the pressure remains constant and to adjust the heat accordingly. Cook your materials for the specified run time. If you are above 2000 feet (6000 m) in elevation you will need to add 5% to the cooking time for every 1,000 feet (300 m) (i.e. at 3,000 feet [900 m] add 5%, 4,000 feet (1,200 m] at 10%, etc.).
    5. When the run time is over, turn off the heat source and walk away to let the PC cool and de-pressurize on its own. I do much of my PC work at night so that everything is cooled by the following morning.

      Figure 2: Autoclave of 20L capacity
Figure 3: 200L vertical Autoclave
Figure 4: Industrial Scale Autoclave

 

Choosing between sterilization and pasteurization:

Both sterilization and pasteurization have pros and cons, as a cultivator you will have to choose one of the methods based on your constraints and requirements. Here are some fundamental differences between both approaches:

Figure 5: Pros and Cons of pasteurization

 

Figure 6: Pros and cons of sterilization

5 Really easy ways to grow mushrooms at home

Here are 5 of the easiest and simplest ways to grow mushrooms at home. Please note that most of these methods are geared towards the cultivation of Oyster mushrooms as they are really aggressive and less prone to contamination. If you want to learn how to grow mushrooms like shiitake and lion’s mane you will need to use an autoclave or steam sterilizer. They also need to be inoculated under sterile conditions using a Laminar Air Flow or a Still Air Box.

There are many other ways to cultivate mushrooms out there but I find these 5 methods to be the simplest- 

Method 1: Use a mushroom-growing kit

This is the easiest way to grow mushrooms. The best part about growing kits is that they come pre-inoculated with spawn and fully colonized. You can proceed to grow mushrooms from day one without waiting. There are many advantages in starting your home cultivation of mushrooms using growing kits-

  1. No risk of contamination: As the kits come pre-inoculated and colonized, the risk of contamination is eliminated.
  2. Saves time: The kit is ready to use from day 1 and you can save a lot of time (2-6 weeks) that would have otherwise gone into prep and incubation.
  3. Very convenient: The kits usually come with all materials and instructions included which means that you don’t need to spend time or effort in procuring any extra materials.
  4. Customer support: At Nuvedo we ensure that we help each and every one of our customers in their mushroom-growing journey. We have a support team who will help you troubleshoot and answer any queries you may have while you grow your mushrooms. Before you get started make sure you select the mushroom which is best suited for your location. At Nuvedo We offer many different kits for home use including white, pink, and golden oyster mushrooms and even Lion’s mane. If you’re unsure which kit is suitable for your location please use this widget and enter the temperature and humidity at your location, the widget will then suggest the best kits for your location. What you need: Any fully colonized mushroom growing kit with a species of mushroom suitable for your location.
    Time taken: 5 minutesInstructions:

    1. Find a good location to place your kit. Make sure it is clean, free from pests, has ambient lighting and enough fresh air.
    2. Cut a small  2-3 inch ‘X’ mark on the plastic cover.
    3. Mist with drinking water regularly (Make sure you don’t spray directly on the mushrooms themselves)
    4. Watch your mushrooms grow!
    5. Harvest the mushrooms when they’re ready!

 

Figure 7: Grey and Pink Oyster mushrooms grown using Nuvedo’s Mushroom Growing Kit

Pink oyster mushroom growing from Nuvedo's pink oyster mushroom growing kit
Figure 8:Pink Oyster mushrooms grown using Nuvedo’s Pink Oyster grow kit

White oyster mushroom growing from Nuvedo's fairy white oyster mushroom growing kit
Figure 9:White Oyster mushrooms grown using Nuvedo’s Fairy White grow kit

Method 2: Bucket Tek using straw

This technique is quite popular with both home growers and commercial cultivators and also eco-friendly since you avoid using single-use plastic completely. Here you use a reusable food-grade plastic bucket or container to house your substrate while the mycelium feeds on it. We will be using the lime pasteurization method to clean your substrate. Please note that this method of cultivation is best suited for oyster mushrooms.

What you need: 10L Paint bucket or food grade plastic container (PP5 is a really good plastic to use), 900g-1Kg straw, low magnesium hydrated lime powder or NuvoPast, scissors, micropore tape, isopropyl alcohol or any disinfectant of your choice. Our DIY Mushroom Growing Kit comes with most of the materials mentioned above including an information pamphlet and YouTube video which explains the entire process.

Time taken: 90-120 minutes

Instructions:

STEP 1: Cleaning and hydrating your substrate.

  1. Put 1 Kg chopped straw into a meshed bag / cloth bag / pillow case
  2. Fill a 20 liter bucket with water, leaving 2-3 inches gap from the top of the bucket
  3. Using a weighing scale, measure 25-30 grams of hydrated lime powder
  4. Mix the powder into the water thoroughly
  5. Put the substrate-filled bag into the bucket and place a heavy object on top to make sure that all of your substrate is submerged under water
  6. Leave the substrate bag submerged for 12-20 hours
Figure 10: 20L water filled with water and NuvoPast

 

Figure 11: mix in 2 tablespoons of lime powder

 

Figure 12: Sack full of straw being submerged in hydrated lime water

STEP 2: Preparing the bucket

  1. Make 3-5 x 8mm diameter holes on the bucket as shown below. These holes are where the mushrooms will grow from
  2. Make 4 x 3mm holes at the bottom. This is for excess water to drain out of the substrate
  3. Clean the bucket and lid thoroughly with isopropyl alcohol or soap solution
  4. Tape all holes on the side wall of the bucket (not the holes below), with 2 layers of micropore tape. This is to ensure that no contaminants enter the bucket through these holes.

    Figure 13: Diameter and number of holes to be made

 

Figure 14: Sticking micropore tape

STEP 3: Inoculation

  1. Remove the bag with substrate from the bucket
  2. Squeeze the bag to remove excess water
  3. Take a fistful of substrate and squeeze it. The straw should feel wet without any water dripping out of it. If the straw feels wet, it needs to be dried more before use
  4. Take the sanitized bucket and pack the bottom with a 5-6 cm thick layer of substrate
  5. Using the spawn packet provided, make an even thin layer of spawn above the substrate layer
  6. Alternate with layers of substrate and spawn and top off the bucket with a final layer of substrate
  7. Pack everything in and close the lid.
Figure 15: Alternating layers of spawn and substrate

Your mushroom growing bucket is now ready for incubation!

 

STEP 4: Incubation

Leave your bucket in a cool, dry and hygienic place away from direct sunlight, for a period of 2-3 weeks. The mycelium slowly grows on the substrate and breaks it down to feed itself, over the next few weeks.

STEP 5: Inspection & Fruiting

  1. After the 3 week mark, open the bucket lid. The inside should be almost completely covered in white mycelium.
  2. If you can still see straw which has not been colonized, close the bucket and check it after a few days
  3. If you notice any discoloration such as green, blue or pink, this means that your substrate has been contaminated. You will have to empty the bucket, clean thoroughly and start again
  4. Once your substrate has been completely colonized, open the micropore tape. This increases the airflow, triggering the mycelium to produce pins
  5. Spray the bucket with clean drinking water 2-3 times daily
  6. Watch the mushrooms grow!
  7. Harvest them at the right time to enjoy your first flush of oyster mushrooms!

    Figure 16: What your substrate should look like after 3 weeks

 

Figure 8: Pinset of white oyster mushrooms growing from a bucket

 

Figure 9: Fully matured White Oyster mushrooms grown using bucket tek, ready for harvest

 

Figure 17: Mature pink oyster mushrooms grown using Nuvedo DIY Mushroom Growing Kit ready for harvest

 

 

Method 3: Using hot water pasteurized sawdust pellets

In my opinion, this has to be the easiest and most foolproof way to grow mushrooms at home. You can use this method to grow all varieties of oysters and even some hardy medicinal varieties such as Reishi and Turkey tail (since they are aggressive colonizers). Other mushrooms such as shiitake, lion’s mane, enoki, etc can be grown on plain sawdust pellets but they need additional supplements such as soy hulls. Nutrified sawdust needs to be autoclaved to sterilize it well and they can only be inoculated inside a Laminar Air Flow or a Still Air Box which makes them hard to grow for beginners.

What you need: PP5 bag with breathable filter, 1 kg sawdust pellet, hot water, scissors, isopropyl alcohol or any disinfectant of your choice, and tape. We have a DIY Mushroom Cultivation Kit which comes with all the inputs you need including a detailed instruction pamphlet that describes the process in depth! 

Time taken: 6-7 hours

 

STEP 1: Pasteurizing the substrate

  1. Add EXACTLY 1.5 Liters of boiling hot water inside the filter patch bag containing 1 Kg substrate pellets. This helps in pasteurizing and hydrating the substrate pellets
  2. Fold the top of the bag and tape it down with a piece of cello tape.
  3. Wait for 5-6 hours while the bag cools down to room temperature.

Figure 18: Adding hot water to substrate pellets

Figure 19: Taping the top of the bag while the substrate cools

STEP 2: Inoculation with grain spawn

  1. Sanitize your hands, scissors and work space with soap water/Iso propyl alcohol or any other disinfectant
  2. Break up the spawn inside the packet and then cut open the packet using your scissors
  3. Remove the tape on the cooled bag of substrate and add the spawn into it
  4. Fold the top of the bag over itself and tape it shut using cello tape. Ensure that no air can enter or leave the bag as it can lead to contamination
  5. Mix the spawn into the substrate from outside the bag using your hands

 

Figure 20: Adding grain spawn to hydrated and pasteurized wood pellets after cooling it down

Figure 21: Mixing the spawn and substrate after sealing the bag with tape

STEP 3: Incubation

  1. Move the bag to a cool, clean area away from direct sunlight and let it incubate for 15-21 days.

STEP 4: Fruiting

  1. Once the mycelium has completely colonized the bag, you can proceed to cut an X mark on the bag using a sharp knife or a blade.
  2. Spray clean, drinking water using the spray bottle provided on the plastic thrice a day
  3. Once the mushroom pins emerge, let them grow till they reach maximum size. Twist and pull gently to harvest!
Figure 22: ‘X’ shape of 2-3″ cut on the plastic

Method 4: Hot water pasteurized straw in plastic bags

This method is the most commonly used method to cultivate mushrooms in India. Most mushroom farms in India who grow Oyster mushrooms tend to boil their straw in order to pasteurize it. This is a fairly simple method but the only downside is that you need to have a heat source and a container large enough to fit 1kg of chopped straw.

What you need: Plastic bag (preferably food grade) , 1Kg straw, scissors, micropore tape, isopropyl alcohol or any disinfectant of your choice, stove/induction cooker, needle or safety pin

Time taken: 2-3 hours

Instructions:

STEP 1: Cleaning and hydrating your substrate.

  1. Put 1 Kg chopped straw into a meshed bag / cloth bag / pillow case
  2. Fill a 20 liter metallic vessel with water, leaving 2-3 inches gap from the top of the bucket
  3. Put the substrate filled bag into the bucket and place a heavy object on top to make sure that all of your substrate is submerged under water
  4. Turn on the stove/hotplate and put it on high heat to bring the water to a boil
  5. Reduce the heat so that the temperature is maintained above 80 degrees
  6. Leave the substrate bag submerged for 2 hours

Figure 23: Chopped straw between 1-3 inches
 

Figure 24: Jute bag filled with straw being boiled

Image- https://cdn.bitlanders.com/users/galleries/315133/315133_gallery_551542dd62ea2_jpg_fa_rszd.jpg

 

STEP 2: Inoculation

  1. Remove the bag with substrate from the bucket and let it dry for 1-2 hours in a clean area.
  2. Squeeze the bag to remove excess water
  3. Take a fistful of substrate and squeeze it. The straw should feel wet without any water dripping out of it. If the straw feels wet, it needs to be dried more before use
  4. If the spawn is clumped up, break it up into smaller pieces from the outside
  5. Take the plastic bag and pack the bottom with a 5-6 cm thick layer of substrate
  6. Use the crumbled spawn packet provided, make an even thin layer of spawn above the substrate layer
  7. Alternate with layers of substrate and spawn and top off the bag with a final layer of substrate
  8. Pack everything in and seal the top by folding it and taping it shut
  9. Using a small needle, poke 15-20 tiny holes around the bag (for best results we recommend you use a filter patch bag and heat seal it to prevent any contamination but for home cultivation of oyster mushrooms the technique mentioned above will work)

Your mushroom growing bag is now ready for incubation!

Figure 25: Plastic bag inoculated with spawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 4: Incubation

Leave your bag in a cool, dry and hygienic place away from direct sunlight, for a period of 2-3 weeks. The mycelium slowly grows on the substrate and breaks it down to feed itself, over the next few weeks.

Figure 26:  After 3 weeks of incubation

Figure 27: Zoomed-in view of mycelial growth on the substrate

STEP 5: Inspection & Fruiting

  1. After the 3-week mark, check the bag. The entire bag should be covered with white mycelium
  2. If you can still see large patches of straw which has not been colonized, let it incubate undisturbed for a few more days.
  3. If you notice any discoloration such as green, blue, or pink, this means that your substrate has been contaminated. You will have to discard the bag and start again
  4. Once your substrate has been completely colonized, use a pair of clean and santised scissors (Use soap water or Isopropyl alcohol to clean the blades) to cut open an X-shaped slit on the bag. This increases the airflow, triggering the mycelium to produce pins
  5. Spray the bag with clean drinking water 2-3 times daily
  6. Watch the mushrooms grow!

Harvest them at the right time to enjoy your first flush of oyster mushrooms!

Figure 28: Flush of Elm Oyster mushrooms grown on pasteurized Ragi straw

Figure 29: Flush of Elm Oyster mushrooms grown on pasteurized Ragi straw

Method 5: Lime pasteurized sawdust pellets

This is another method of mushroom cultivation that makes use of sawdust pellets and is the same as hot pasteurization of sawdust pellets apart from one difference. The difference here is that you will be using hydrated lime powder to pasteurize your substrate instead of boiling hot water. This method doesn’t need any heating and can be done very easily at home. This is different from Bucket Tek since you don’t need to spend much time soaking or drying the substrate. The waiting time is much less- 3 hours compared to 6 hours of hot pasteurization and 12 hours of lime pasteurized straw in buckets.

What you need: PP5 bag with breathable filter, 1Kg sawdust pellets, low magnesium hydrated lime powder OR NuvoPast, scissors, isopropyl alcohol or any disinfectant of your choice, tape

Time taken: 90-120 minutes

STEP 1: Pasteurizing the substrate

  1. Add 2 heaped tablespoons of Pasteurization powder into EXACTLY 1.5 Liters of drinking water and mix well. Add this water to the filter patch bag containing 1 Kg substrate pellets. 
  2. Fold the top of the bag and tape it down with a piece of cello tape.
  3. Wait for 3 hours for the pellets to get hydrated and then mix the pellets and water mixture by applying pressure on the outside of the bag using your hands.

STEP 2: Inoculation with grain spawn

  1. Sanitize your hands, scissors and work space with soap water/Isopropyl alcohol or any other disinfectant
  2. Break up the spawn inside the packet and then cut open the packet using your scissors
  3. Remove the tape on the cooled bag of substrate and add the spawn into it
  4. Fold the top of the bag over itself and tape it shut using cello tape. Ensure that no air can enter or leave the bag as it can lead to contamination
  5. Mix the spawn into the substrate from outside the bag using your hands
  6. Move the bag to a cool, clean area away from direct sunlight and let it incubate for 15-21 days

STEP 3: Incubation

  1. Once the mycelium has completely colonized the bag, you can proceed to cut an X mark on the bag using a sharp knife or a blade.

STEP 4: Fruiting

  1. Spray clean, drinking water using the spray bottle provided on the plastic thrice a day
  2. Once the mushroom pins emerge, let them grow till they reach maximum size. Twist and pull gently to harvest!

What is the best way to fruit mushrooms?

Once you’re done with incubating your substrate bags, the next obvious question is how do I go about fruiting it? Well, each mushroom species has a specific fruiting condition in which it does best so it is important to ask your spawn vendor what the right conditions are for the strain they have provided. 

Fruiting conditions mean 4 parameters- Temperature, Humidity, CO2 levels and Light levels.

The fruiting room should be clean and hygienic to start with. The room should have ample ventilation to ensure fresh air exchange. There should be enough light in the room- a window that allows sunlight during the day or even a lightbulb will do. Make sure the bulb doesn’t make the room too hot (unless you live in a place where temperatures are very low). As for the humidity, most mushrooms thrive in RH of >80% but anything above 60% will do. If you live in a really dry area you can try one of these hacks or you can consider investing in a small humidifier. Temperatures are hard to control without an Air Handling Unit or AC so please make sure you’re growing mushrooms that are suitable for your local microclimate. Please note that ACs tend to de-humidify the room, so in case you are using one make sure the humidifier is not directly in line with the flow of air from the AC! 

All the conditions mentioned above become critical when you’re cultivating mushrooms for commercial use at a slightly bigger scale. As a home user, you can get away with using a humidity tent or wrapping a wet towel around the base of the kit.

 

In closing, thank you for taking this journey through the world of mushroom cultivation with me. Your curiosity and interest have already set you on the path to a rewarding and exciting venture. Remember, as with any new endeavor, you might encounter challenges along the way, but rest assured, the satisfaction and joy derived from growing your own mushrooms will far outweigh any obstacles.

Should you find yourself with questions or seeking further clarification on any aspects of this guide, please don’t hesitate to comment below. Your insights, experiences, and queries enrich our community of mushroom enthusiasts and may very well inspire my next blog post.

Always keep in mind that mushroom cultivation, like any horticultural activity, is as much an art as it is a science. There isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, so I urge you to experiment and discover the methods and techniques that resonate best with your own unique situation. This blog is simply a stepping stone, a launchpad to your personal adventure in the realm of fungi.

Lastly, remember that the journey is just as important, if not more so, than the destination. Stay motivated, stay curious, and most importantly, enjoy every moment of the process. This journey of mushroom cultivation promises a world of discovery and I’m excited to hear about your triumphs and learnings along the way.

May your home teem with bountiful fungi and your spirit be enriched by the process. Happy mushrooming!

Beta Glucan: The Immune Boosting Wonder You’ve Been Searching For (Part 2/3)

Beta Glucans: What are they really?

Mushroom extracts are all the craze today. Have you ever wondered what are in these extracts? What do you as a consumer look out for when you buy a product? The answer to these questions is not very simple as there are an array of different bioactive molecules which give mushrooms their functional benefits. The three main classes of biomolecules being- polysaccharides, terpenes and phenolics.  In this blog we will delve deeper into the world of polysaccharides, an important class of compounds that are responsible for giving mushrooms a lot of their healing properties. However, please do keep in mind that all polysaccharides are not the same, as we will see later in this blog. Our primary focus here will be Beta glucans, which are the main functional components of mushroom polysaccharides

In our previous blog we had a look at the intricacies of the fungal cell wall. The three major layers (Chitin, beta glucans and mannoproteins) are intertwined into a dynamic barrier that has stood the tests of time and allowed fungi to thrive (See Figure 1). Having evolved with fungi for billions of years, our immune systems recognize these cell wall components as a threat and spring into action. These molecules are what give mushroom extracts their immuno-modulatory function. A major active ingredient in these extracts are the beta glucans. They are polysaccharides that form the middle layer of the fungal cell wall (Layer 2 in Fig 1). 

 

Cell wall

 

Fig 1: Cartoon representation of a Candida albicans (yeast) cell wall (Source)

 

Beta glucans are incredibly diverse in their composition and function. Different mushrooms contain different beta glucan molecules. To fully understand these differences, we will be exploring these polysaccharides from a molecular perspective. 

In this blog we will deconstruct the polysaccharide molecule and understand how they are named. We will also explore some of the common beta glucans obtained from mushrooms and their health benefits. By the end of this blog we hope that you will have a much better understanding of what beta glucans are and what to look for in your own research.

Before we delve into the details of beta glucans, we must first understand the term polysaccharide.

What are Polysaccharides

Any molecule composed of long chains of carbohydrates strung together is known as a polysaccharide (“poly” = ‘Many’, “Saccharide” = ‘Sugar’). These chains are made of sugars called monosaccharides. The most common examples of monosaccharides are glucose, mannose, fructose, galactose and xylose. Our beloved table sugar is in fact made up of glucose and fructose. Each molecule of sugar (sucrose) consists of one glucose and one fructose molecule. Since there are two monosaccharides in sucrose, it is known as a disaccharide. When the number of monosaccharides exceeds twelve the molecule is known as a polysaccharide. 

Sucrose figure

Fig 2: Sucrose, a disaccharide made of D-Glucose and D-Fructose

 

Glucose: The building blocks of beta glucans

To understand how polysaccharides are named, we must first look at the molecular structure of a polysaccharide molecule. We start with the humble glucose molecule. Glucose is nature’s preferred fuel source. Almost all living things break down glucose within their cells to generate ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is the energy source for biochemical reactions. 

Structure of a Glucose Molecule

Glucose consists of 6 carbon atoms, 12 hydrogen atoms and 6 oxygen atoms giving it the molecular formula of C6H12O6. The carbon atoms are arranged in a 6-member chain with the oxygen and hydrogen atoms sticking out from the central chain. Every carbon atom is attached to at least one hydrogen atom and either an alcohol (-OH) or ketone (=O) functional group. The distribution of these functional groups determines the name of the monosaccharide. Glucose is specifically the 6- carbon monosaccharide which has an arrangement of atoms as depicted in the figure below.

Fig 3: Structure of a D-glucose molecule in the open-chain format

 

Many Forms of Glucose

If one were to change the orientation of the -OH and -H molecules on any of the carbon atoms, we would obtain a different monosaccharide. For example, galactose and mannose have the same number of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen molecules as glucose but with different arrangements. Such molecules are known as isomers. Hence, mannose and galactose are isomers of glucose.

Fig 4: Isomers of D-glucose depicted in the open-chain format highlighting the distribution of functional groups across each molecule

 

The Ring of Power

In reality however, these monosaccharide molecules do not exist as open- chains. The first and fifth carbon atoms in the chain fold over to form a hexagonal structure with the oxygen atom forming a bridge between these carbon atoms. This is the functional form of the D-glucose molecule. 

Fig 5: The folding of an open-chain glucose molecule to a hexagonal glucopyranose unit

 

What’s in a Name?

Glycosidic Bonding

Now that we have a basic understanding of the structure of the monosaccharides, we can begin to understand how they link together to form polysaccharides. The bonds that link these monosaccharide molecules to one another are called glycosidic linkages or glycosidic bonds. These linkages are traditionally formed between the alcohol (-OH) containing first, third, fourth or sixth carbon atoms. So when a bond is called a 1 → 4 glycosidic bond, it indicates that the first and fourth carbon atoms of adjacent molecules are participating in the bond formation. 

Alpha or Beta?

Another important aspect of the bond is its orientation. The roman letter alpha (𝛼) or beta (𝛽) are used to indicate this orientation. This can be better understood by considering the two disaccharides in the image below. Let us begin by imagining the ring to be a plane with the functional groups sticking out above and below this plane.

Figure 6 a) represents the link formed between adjacent D-glucose molecules in a Maltose molecule. The first and fourth carbon atoms of the adjacent glucose molecules partake in a 1→ 4 glycosidic bond. The (-OH) groups taking place in the bond lie on the same plane below the hexagonal ring structure. Bonds taking place in the same plane are termed 𝛼-glycosidic bonds. Therefore Maltose exhibits an 𝛼 (1→4) glycosidic bond between its two glucose monosaccharides.

In contrast Lactose molecules (Fig 6 b)) are linked through 𝛽 (1→4) glycosidic bonds. The (-OH) molecules from galactose and glucose that take place in this bond formation lie on opposite sides of the hexagonal ring structure. This bond therefore forms across this plane. 

Fig 6: a) The combination of two D-glucose molecules via an 𝛼 (1→4) glycosidic bond results in the formation of a Maltose molecule

b) The combination of D-galactose and D-glucose molecules via a 𝛽 (1→4) glycosidic bond results in the formation of a Lactose molecule

While this terminology can be rather confusing, the important thing to remember is that 𝛼 glycosidic bonds form on the same plane while 𝛽 glycosidic bonds form across two different planes. This difference contributes to very different three-dimensional conformations for the two kinds of bonds. 𝛼 bonds are more linear resulting in tightly packed structures as in the case of amylose (a component of cellulose), while 𝛽 bonds are more flexible and tend to rotate into helical shapes like in the case of chitin. 

Different kinds of beta glucans

The above examples demonstrate the different kinds of bonds that can form between monosaccharide molecules. However, when we talk about bioactive polysaccharides from mushrooms, we are specifically interested in beta glucans. 

Mushroom beta glucans are those polysaccharides that consist of glucose molecules linked together via 𝛽 (1→3) and 𝛽 (1→6) glycosidic bonds. This is an important distinguishing factor since beta glucans are also found in a wide variety of plant foods such as barley and oats.

These plant beta glucans consist primarily of 𝛽 (1→3) and 𝛽 (1→4) glycosidic linkages. The 𝛽 (1→4) linkages result in a more linear and packed structure. As a result, these plant glucans are harder to break down in our digestive tracts. They thus contribute to the beneficial insoluble fibers that nourish our microbiome.

Beta glucan diversity

Beta glucans are found in all fungi, including yeasts. Different fungi have different glucan compositions. Ascomycete fungi such as Cordyceps contain glucans that have varying amounts of glucose, galactose and mannose. Basidiomycete fungi such as oyster mushrooms, Reishi, Turkey tail and Shiitake have predominantly glucose in their glucan molecules with minor contributions from the other monosaccharides.

The ratios in which the different monosaccharides are found in the glucan molecules affect both their structures as well as their bioactivities. The different configurations and branching structures of beta glucans lead to differences in their effects on our health. These effects vary considerably from species to species. It is therefore not surprising that the species of mushrooms that have been used for medicinal purposes for the last two to three thousand years are also the ones which have the highest beta glucan content. 

We always recommend our readers to look for beta glucan content in their mushroom extracts. Polysaccharide content does not imply beta glucans.

Common sources of beta glucans and their health benefits

If you’ve ever consumed a mushroom, you have consumed beta glucans. Many of the health benefits of consuming mushrooms come from the beta glucans. As beta glucans are an essential part of the fungal cell wall (see blog), every cell of the mushroom contains beta glucans. This makes them very easy to incorporate into our diets. All we have to do is consume mushrooms, although some ways of consumption lead to better absorption compared to others.

Oyster mushrooms 

Oyster mushrooms are robust and easy to grow. They are a beginner friendly mushroom to try growing at home. They grow happily on almost any plant based substrate and are ready to burst out fruiting within a few weeks. (if you want to grow your own at home try our mushroom growing kits)

Fig 7: Pleurotus ostreatus (Pearl oyster mushroom) [image illustration]

Pleuran is a beta glucan isolated from Pleurotus ostreatus (Pearl Oyster Mushroom). It has been shown to have an immunomodulatory effect while also being beneficial for skin, gut and respiratory health. It also has antiviral activity.

Fig 8: Molecular structure of Pleuran, a 𝛽 glucan extracted from oyster mushrooms (Source)

Shiitake Mushroom

Shiitake mushrooms are another edible variety that is rich in beta glucans. It has long been consumed by cultures of the far East and is revered both for its culinary and medicinal properties. 

Fig 9: Lentinula edodes (Shiitake mushroom) [image illustration]

Lentinan is a beta glucan isolated from Lentinus edodes (Shiitake Mushroom). It has  potent immunomodulatory effects. This in turn promotes the body’s own anti-cancer, antiviral and antimicrobial abilities. It is one of the most well understood beta glucans. Its widespread use is restricted by the difficulty of extraction of this molecule.

Fig 10: Molecular structure of Lentinan, a 𝛽 glucan extracted from shiitake mushrooms (source)

Maitake Mushroom

The Hen of the woods, also known as Maitake in Japan, is well known for its delicious taste and aroma. However it is also rich in beta glucans that provide immunomodulatory, antidiabetic. antiviral and antitumor properties.

Fig 11: Grifola frondosa (Maitake mushroom) [image illustration]

 

Grifolan is a beta glucan isolated from Grifola frondosa (Hen of the Woods mushroom). It has strong antitumor activity.

Reishi Mushroom

Apart from edible varieties, most medicinal mushrooms are particularly rich in beta glucans. The Reishi mushroom, also known as the herb of immortality in traditional Chinese medicine, has a very high beta glucan content. These beta glucans are in part responsible for the legendary immunomodulatory properties of Reishi mushroom extracts.

Fig 11: Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) [image illustration]

Ganoderan is a beta glucan isolated from Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom). It possesses antitumor, hypoglycemic, antioxidant, probiotic and immunomodulatory properties. 

Conclusion

Table 1: List of mushrooms with their beta glucans and associated health benefits

In this article we delved into the structural details of beta glucans. We took apart the differences between polysaccharides and beta glucans and looked at how the glucose molecule forms the fundamental building block for most beta glucan molecules of fungal origin. Finally, we explored some of the commonly studied beta glucans and the mushrooms they came from. 

Beta glucans are extremely diverse in their structure. No two mushroom species will have the same beta glucan composition. These differences allow the extracts obtained from different mushroom species to have different health effects. In recent years many clinical trials have been initiated to investigate the relevance of beta glucan supplementation. Traditional healers swear by the healing powers of functional mushrooms. Modern medicine is attempting to verify and specify the use cases where these fungi can have maximum impact. 

A major challenge lies in obtaining large quantities of pure beta glucan molecules. Only about 20% of the beta glucans are soluble without significant heating. Beta glucans consumed in the form of whole mushrooms are harder to digest. Extraction is a method of enriching beta glucans and increasing their bioavailability

Many mushroom extracts represent their concentration as ratios or in terms of polysaccharide content. These are misleading terms and do not indicate the effectiveness of the extracts. We always recommend that one checks specifically for beta glucan content when inspecting an extract for potential health benefits. Always remember that polysaccharides do not imply beta glucans.

Modern extraction methods aim to maximize and standardize beta glucan content per dose. In our next blog we will explore the latest extraction technologies and how they can help improve beta glucan yields.

References

Š. Karácsonyi and Ľ. Kuniak. 1994. “Polysaccharides of Pleurotus ostreatus: Isolation and structure of pleuran, an alkali-insoluble β-d-glucan”. DOI: 10.1016/0144-8617(94)90019-1

Milos Jesenak et. al. 2015. “β-Glucan-based cream (containing pleuran isolated from pleurotus ostreatus) in supportive treatment of mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis”. DOI: 10.3109/09546634.2015.1117565

Ingrid Urbancikova et. al. 2020. “Efficacy of Pleuran (β-Glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus) in the Management of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Infection”. DOI: 10.1155/2020/8562309

Juraj Majtan. 2013. “Pleuran (β- Glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus): An Effective Nutritional Supplement against Upper Respiratory Tract Infections?”. DOI” 10.1159/000341967

Yangyang Zhang et. al. 2011. “Advances in lentinan: Isolation, structure, chain conformation and bioactivities”. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2010.02.001

Takuma Sasaki and Nobuo Takasuka. “Further study of the structure of lentinan, an anti-tumor polysaccharide from Lentinus edodes”. DOI: 10.1016/S0008-6215(00)83552-1

Yiran Zhang et. al. 2018. “Lentinan as an immunotherapeutic for treating lung cancer: a review of 12 years clinical studies in China”. DOI: 10.1007/s00432-018-2718-1

Hiroshi Hikino et. al. 1989. “Mechanisms of Hypoglycemic Activity of Ganoderan B: A Glycan of Ganoderma lucidum Fruit Bodies”. DOI: 10.1055/s-2006-962057

Hiroshi Hikino et. al. 1985. “Isolation and Hypoglycemic Activity of Ganoderans A and B, Glycans of Ganoderma lucidum Fruit Bodies”. DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-969507

Masashi Tomoda et. al. 1986. “Glycan structures of ganoderans b and c, hypoglycemic glycans of ganoderma lucidum fruit bodies”. DOI: 10.1016/S0031-9422(00)83748-6

Xue-Song Yang et. al. 2009. “Effects of Ganoderan on the dysbacteria in intestinal tract of mice”. DOI: 10.1096/fasebj.23.1_supplement.980.2

Weifeng Wang et. al. 2019. “Ganoderan (GDN) Regulates The Growth, Motility And Apoptosis Of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cells Through ERK Signaling Pathway In Vitro And In Vivo”. DOI: 10.2147/OTT.S221161

Yifeng Zhang et. al. 2013. “Schizophyllan: A review on its structure, properties, bioactivities and recent developments”. DOI: 10.1016/j.bcdf.2013.01.002

The Structure and Function of Fungal Cell Walls: An Overview

Just like plant cells and unlike animal cells, fungi possess a cell wall. The cell wall is nothing but a protective layer within which all of the cellular components are housed. It acts as a protective shield that allows a fungal cell to carry out its functions without threat of destruction from external stresses. While it is easy to think of the cell wall as just a hard shell like that of a tortoise or turtle, this could not be farther from the truth. The cell wall is a highly dynamic and responsive organ of the fungal cell. This dynamic organ is both a target of antifungal drugs and enabler of immune evasion. It also contributes to a majority of the functional benefits we obtained by the consumption of mushroom and mushroom based products. It is constantly changing in response to stimuli and is key to the survival of a fungus. In this blog we will get an idea of the composition of the cell wall.

 

What is the cell wall

 

The cell wall of a fungus can be distinguished into two layers: an inner rigid layer and an outer fluid layer. The inner layer forms the structural component of the cell wall. It determines the shape and size of the fungal cell and it prevents the cell from bursting by taking in too much water.

 

The cell wall is located outside the cell membrane. Ninety percent of the cell wall is composed of polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are long chains of carbohydrate molecules known as monosaccharides bonded together to form a polymer. The most common monosaccharide molecule found in fungal polysaccharides is glucose. Galactose and mannose are also found in lesser proportions. Individual monosaccharides are connected to each other through glycosidic linkages. Polysaccharides are named based on their monosaccharide composition and the nature of the glycosidic bonds between the monosaccharides. 

 

The remaining ten percent of the cell wall may be made up of proteins, lipids and other minor biomolecules. The three major polysaccharide components of the fungal cell wall are: mannoproteins, beta glucans and chitin. Let’s have a look at these three in a bit more detail.

Cell Wall Components

Cell wall

 

Fig: Cartoon representation of a Candida albicans (yeast) cell wall (Source)

 

Layer 1: Mannoproteins

Mannoproteins form the outermost layer of the cell wall. This layer consists of polysaccharide chains composed mainly of mannose. A variety of proteins can be found attached to these mannan chains and therefore they are called mannoproteins. This layer is more fluid and porous than the other layers. As the outermost layer, it serves the important function of interacting with the surroundings of the fungal cell. The composition of this layer is highly variable across different fungal species and therefore the least is known about this layer.

Layer 2: Beta GlucansBeta glucan figure

Fig: Representative structure of fungal beta glucans consisting of long 𝛃 (1-3) chains with short branches of 𝛃 (1-6) linked D-Glycopyranosyl units (Source)

The next layer of the cell wall is made up of the famous beta glucans. These form the core structure of the cell wall and form the link between the inner rigid layer and the outer flexible layer. They are composed of long chains of glucose molecules linked to each other via 𝛃 (1→3) glycosidic bonds. These long chains contain short branches also composed of glucose which are linked through 𝛃 (1→6) glycosidic bonds. This results in the formation of a mesh or net-like structure in which other components such as proteins can be embedded.

Layer 3: ChitinChitin structure

Fig: Representative structure of a chitin molecule consisting of 𝛃 (1-4) linked N-acetyl-Glucosamine (Source)

 

The innermost layer of the cell wall is composed of chitin. This is the most rigid part of the cell wall. Chitin is the most abundant molecule in the cell wall. Chitin and beta glucans are bound together and form the structural part of the cell wall. The chitin molecules form short chains organised into structures known as fibrils. 

These are helical structures that wind around each other (much like a rope). The fibrils of chitin assemble to form tightly packed sheets.  Due to this packing it acts as the protective layer of the cell wall, shielding the cell membrane from the harsh outer environment. The beta glucans are found attached to these chitin sheets.

Chitin is the oldest component of the fungal cell wall, surviving through evolution to become the most abundant molecule in the cell wall. Many fungi develop thick chitin layers when the cells are exposed to stress. 

The ratios of the different cell wall components are highly variable based on the fungal species. This species to species variation is sometimes used in their identification. 

Functions of the cell wall

The cell wall performs many functions in the fungal cell. Its most obvious function is protection. It also acts as the main structural backbone of the fungal cell, determines the shape and size of the cell and helps some fungi evade immune responses.

By forming a multilayered barrier around the fungal cell, the cell wall helps the cell withstand stressful conditions. The cell walls respond to different stresses by altering their composition. For instance, research shows that Aspergillus niger cells can increase the chitin composition of their cell walls by 2.5 times when they are starved. This results in the formation of a thick protective layer that allows the fungus to survive till it encounters a new nutrient source.

As fungi often live in highly variable environments, the composition of molecules such as salts and minerals are constantly changing in their surroundings. The change in salt concentrations lead to the formation of diffusion gradients which result in changing water levels within the cell. In conditions of low salt, the fungal cell swells up due to increased water content. As the cell swells, the cell membrane pushes against the cell wall and exerts pressure on it. These internal pressures can reach as high as 10 MPa in certain fungi. This is 20 times the normal atmospheric pressure! Without the cell walls, the cells would burst.

Fungi which form mycelial threads have elongated cells attached end to end and form highways for the transport of nutrients and water from one end to another. This movement of nutrients is essential to the maintenance of soil ecology. 

The fungal cell wall is of immense importance to human health. As it is the interface between the fungus and the external world, it acts as a beacon to our immune system indicating an infection. Most of the major components of the fungal cell wall can be detected by proteins on human immune cells. Upon detection, the immune cells release signaling molecules that inform the immune system of a fungal invasion and trigger an immune response. 

To take advantage of this directed immune response, many pathogenic fungi have evolved mechanisms to avoid their detection by altering their cell wall chemistry. These chemical modifications prevent the detection of the fungal cells by our immune cells and allow the fungi to go unnoticed. Other fungi can secrete molecules that act as decoys and prevent the recognition of the fungal cell walls by masking the proteins of the immune system.

 

Cell wall images

Fig: Transmission Electron Microscope images of cell walls from three different fungi showing the variability in cell wall structure (Source)

 

Synthesis of the cell wall

The formation of the fungal cell wall is a complicated process with multiple steps along the way. Most of the molecules that form the cell wall are assembled within the cell in by the activity of enzymes. These enzymes string together molecules one by one to form the chains that make up the polysaccharides of the cell wall. 

Both chitin and glucans are extruded through the plasma membrane of the fungal cell. The basic ingredients for the formation of these molecules are nucleotide diphosphates. In the case of chitin and beta glucans, uridine diphosphate-sugars (UDP) are the carriers that bring together the monosaccharides which form the polysaccharide molecules that are incorporated into the cell wall.

Chitin is synthesised by a family of enzymes known as chitin synthases. These enzymes act on UDP-N-acetylglucosamine. The type of chitin synthase and their relative proportions in the cell determine the structure of the chitin molecules that end up in the cell wall. Similarly, beta glucans are formed the the activity of enzymes belonging to the glucan synthase family. These enzymes string together UDP-glucose molecules.

These enzymes can be found coexisting with each other near the cell wall where they actively extrude these components. Once the polysaccharide molecules are extruded, local enzymes embedded in the cell wall chemically link them to form the complex, multi-layered structure that we observe. The constant change in the number and kinds of proteins in the cell wall affect their structure and help the fungi adapt to various environmental conditions.

Cell wall synthesis diagram

Fig: Cartoon representation of fungal cell wall synthesis. Chitin and 𝛃 glucans are synthesised by chitin synthase and 𝛃-1,3-glucan synthase enzymes respectively. The enzymes are embedded in the plasma membrane and extrude polysaccharide molecules to form the fungal cell wall (Source)

 

Conclusion

Up until the 20th century, the cell wall was assumed to be a passive structural element of cells. However, recent research has highlighted the constantly changing and highly regulated nature of the cell wall. As this structure forms the interface between the external and internal worlds of the cell, it needs to constantly adapt and mediate the survival of the cell. These structures have evolved to be highly complex and can vary immensely between species. However their two core components, chitin and beta glucans, have stood the test of time and are found in all fungi. As such they are responsible for many of the functional benefits observed when we consume fungi. In the next blog we will take a more detailed look at beta glucans and how they help our immune system.

 

References

Jean-Paul Latgé. 2007 “The cell wall: a carbohydrate armour for the fungal cell” DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.05872.x

E.P. Feofilova. 2010 “The Fungal Cell Wall: Modern Concepts of Its Composition and Biological Function” Microbiology. DOI: 10.1134/S0026261710060019

K. Vega and M. Kalkum. 2012 “Chitin, Chitinase Responses, and Invasive Fungal Infections” International Journal of Microbiology. DOI: 10.1155/2012/920459

Neil A.R. Gow et. al. 2017 “The Fungal Cell Wall: Structure, Biosynthesis, and Function” Microbiology Spectrum. DOI: 10.1128/microbiolspec.FUNK-0035-2016

Ruiz-Herrera and Ortiz-Castellano. 2019 “Cell wall glucans of fungi. A review” The Cell Surface DOI: 10.1016/j.tcsw.2019.100022

De-Oliva Neto et. al. 2015 “Yeasts as Potential Source for Prebiotic β-Glucan: Role in Human Nutrition and Health” DOI: 10.5772/63647

King Tuber Oyster Mushroom: 3 Diseases it can protect you from: (PART 2/3)

In Part 1 of this 3 Part Series we discussed the ways in which scientific studies have shown Pleurotus tuber-regium to aid and help with cancer.

Part 2 will take a deep dive into one of the most prolific diseases of our current generation. 


Diabetes is a disorder that renders the body incapable of dealing with its own glucose load. While there are many ways in which a person can reach the point of being diabetic, one thing is common among them all – diabetes is not fun! Diabetes leads to impaired wound healing, improper weight maintenance, the need to supplement with medication on a daily basis, and an overall decreased quality of life. India is currently the diabetes capital of the world with over 70 million diabetics in the country as of 2019. An increase in packaged and processed foods along with sedentary lifestyles and carbohydrate-laden Indian diets have been heavy contributors to this rise. 

India diabetes prevalence

Part 2: Diabetes

Pleurotus tuber-regium for diabetes

Many laboratories around the world have been looking towards mushrooms as a potential tool to reduce the rates of diabetes occurrence.
Mushrooms contain a wide variety of bioactive molecules that can contribute towards a healthier physiology

In 2012 researchers from Taipei investigated the effects of Pleurotus tuber-regium polysaccharide extracts on rats that were made diabetic. The rats were injected with a drug called streptozotocin. This compound is particularly toxic to pancreatic beta cells which are responsible for the production and secretion of insulin in a normal body. The loss of insulin-producing cells pushed the mice toward diabetes. The mice were also fed a high-fat diet which further enhanced their diabetes. 

Polysaccharides were extracted from P. tuber-regium with hot water and precipitated with ethanol. The purified polysaccharides were administered to the diabetic rats every day for 8 weeks and The rats were monitored for weight gain and other common clinical signs of diabetes such as oral glucose tolerance, Hba1c levels, and serum insulin. To their surprise, the polysaccharide-treated rats gained less weight on high-fat diets when compared to untreated mice. Furthermore, the polysaccharide-treated rats also had higher insulin levels, lower Hba1c, and better glucose tolerance. The polysaccharide-treated rats it seemed were less diabetic.

Pleurotus tuber-regium versus fat

With some positive indications, the investigators delved deeper into the body weight mystery. They measured common health markers such as serum triglycerides and cholesterol levels. These circulating fats are bad for cardiovascular health when they stay abnormally high for many years together. Surprisingly the researchers found that the polysaccharide treatments also resulted in lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels indicating that the polysaccharides were possibly affecting fat distribution in the body as well. This could explain the lower weight gains observed in the polysaccharide-treated rats.

In an extension to the above study, the scientific team looked at how the liver was affected by the polysaccharide treatment. The liver is at the center of many metabolic pathways, including cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism. Since the polysaccharides were affecting the serum cholesterol and triglycerides, the liver was an obvious place to take a deeper look. They discovered that a protein named PPAR-⍺ was more prevalent in the livers of the polysaccharide-treated rats. PPAR-⍺ increases the expression of genes responsible for fat metabolism. The polysaccharides were able to stimulate the metabolism of fats in the liver thus resulting in lower triglyceride levels. 

Combo, that works!

The high fiber content in P. tuber-regium extracts and whole mushrooms should not be ignored when considering these effects. Soluble dietary fiber is known to reduce fat and cholesterol absorption in the intestine. The lower absorption of fats combined with the increased metabolic activity of the liver together could have reduced the metabolic burden on the diabetic rats. The extracts are also rich in flavonoids which have strong antioxidant properties. These antioxidants can reduce damage to cells and in particular may have aided in the survival of the pancreatic beta cells. 

So what does this mean?

So how is this information really relevant to us?

There is no evidence that states that the use of such extracts in diabetic patients will have similar effects. However consuming foods rich in antioxidants and fibers have been shown to aid in healthy aging. Diabetes in most cases is a result of metabolism going bad. When we are young and relatively active, our body is more capable of dealing with the stresses of daily life. As time progresses, the accumulating stress overcomes the natural defenses the body has and pushes it towards a disease state. By aiding the body’s fight against the disease state, health span increases even if lifespan does not. In fact, it has been shown that chronic high-fat diets lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. Tackling the issue from the onset can help offset this pathway and may even prevent it. 

Low serum triglycerides and cholesterol are important indicators of good cardiovascular health. It is most often cholesterol and triglycerides that end up being deposited in the small arterioles and venules of our bodies. The deposits eventually block these capillaries and can lead to what is commonly known as heart attacks, thromboses, or strokes depending on where they occur. By reducing fat absorption, high-fiber diets help support cardiovascular health. By preventing the build-up of sludge, flavonoids keep our capillaries healthy. 

Biochemical analysis of P tuber regium fruiting bodies showed that they are rich in proteins, fibers, and carbohydrates and low in fats. Carbohydrates in this case do not equate to glucose since the carbohydrates here refer more to complex carbohydrates and will not contribute to the glucose load as much as starch prevalent in many other vegetables. These mushrooms also contain all of the essential amino acids making them a complete source of protein. Obese and diabetic rats fed with dried and powdered P. tuber-regium had similar serum lipid profiles to rats treated with the antidiabetic drug Glibenclamide. 

  1. tuber-regium is a unique mushroom that has been used by traditional communities for hundreds of years to help treat various ailments. Are they truly medicinal, we can’t say for sure. They sure are delicious though!

Stay tuned for the final part of this series!

References

Ikewuchi, Catherine Chidinma et. al. 2017. “Restoration of plasma markers of liver and kidney functions/integrity in alloxan-induced diabetic rabbits by aqueous extract of Pleurotus tuberregium sclerotia”. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy.  DOI:10.1016/j.biopha.2017.09.075

Huang, Hui-Yu et. al. 2012. “Pleurotus tuber-regium Polysaccharides Attenuate Hyperglycemia and Oxidative Stress in Experimental Diabetic Rats”. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. DOI:10.1155/2012/856381

Huang, Hui-Yu et. al. 2014 “Effect of Pleurotus tuber-regium Polysaccharides Supplementation on the Progression of Diabetes Complications in Obese-Diabetic Rats”. Chinese Journal of Physiology. DOI:10.4077/CJP.2014.BAC245

Onuekwuzu, Ifeanacho et. al. M 2019. “Anti-Diabetic Effect of a Flavonoid and Sitosterol – Rich Aqueous Extract of Pleurotus tuberregium Sclerotia in Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Rabbits”. Endocrine, Metabolic and Immune Disorders – Drug Targets. DOI:10.2174/1871530319666190206213843

Lin, Shaoling et. al. 2021. “Research on a Specialty Mushroom (Pleurotus tuber-regium) as a Functional Food: Chemical Composition and Biological Activities”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. DOI:10.1021/acs.jafc.0c03502

Adeyi, Akindele Oluwatosin et. al. 2021. “Pleurotus tuber-regium inclusion in diet ameliorates dyslipidaemia in obese-type 2 diabetic rats”. Clinical Phytoscience. DOI:10.1186/s40816-021-00321-0

 Tyagi, Sandeep et. al.  2011. “The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor: A family of nuclear receptors role in various diseases”. Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology and Research. DOI:10.4103/2231-4040.90879

Lattimer, James M. and Haub, Mark D. 2010. “Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health”. Nutrients. DOI:10.3390/nu2121266

10 Things you need to know to have a profitable mushroom business in India

When we were starting our journey, we were completely new to the mushroom space and hardly knew anything about cultivating them. We took up mushroom cultivation because it seemed like something that could meet our goals- sustainable, profitable and scalable. If you want to know more about us and why we do what we do, please check out our About us page.

Our journey into the Indian mushroom cultivation space was far from smooth and had a lot of ups and downs. The important thing is that we made it this far and have figured out a lot of interesting things on the way which would have saved us a lot of time, effort and money if we knew it earlier.

This blog post is our way of passing on some important bits and pieces of information that we have acquired in our journey so that beginners don’t have to go through all the trouble we did.

 

  1.     Choose your mushroom well

Each mushroom comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, some are easy to grow and grow really fast, others can fetch you a lot more money but they might be quite challenging and expensive to cultivate. You have to ask yourself a few questions which will help you find the mushrooms best suited to your requirements. Here are some questions that you can think about: 

  • How much time and money am I willing to invest in this business? 
  • How long can I wait before each harvest? 
  • Which mushrooms are best suited for the climate around me? 
  • Do I want to grow mushrooms seasonally or throughout the year? 
  • Can I find the raw materials required to grow the mushrooms around me in an economical way?  

Mushrooms are not just what you see in the supermarket, they are also ingredients in various different industries such as food and beverage industry, nutraceuticals and functional foods, personal care, retail etc and are consumed in different forms – whole dry mushrooms, dry mushroom powder, fresh mushrooms, mushroom extract etc. When choosing your mushroom, you also need an understanding of where all it can be used and in what all forms.

Flushes of oyster mushrooms

Most trainers and courses will recommend Oyster mushrooms as a good mushroom to start with. They are not wrong but they aren’t completely right either. Yes, Oyster mushrooms are really easy to grow and they are quite forgiving of our mistakes. If you dig deeper, you will find that they have a really short shelf-life of 2-3 days from harvest. To make matters worse you will also realize that there is hardly any demand for them in the Hotels/Restaurants/Café sector because of their unpopularity among Indians. All the above factors make oyster mushrooms a not-so-good candidate for large-scale farms. You might be tempted to grow Button mushrooms because the demand for them is high but you cannot cultivate them without a climate-controlled setup (unless your local weather conditions are suitable) since they need temperatures between 16-19 degrees Celsius for it to fruit. So, please consider all angles before you choose which mushrooms to grow. Don’t just follow trends, take time to understand what has demand in your area and what can be grown easily.

  1.     Understand the market

Once you have chosen which mushroom to cultivate, you have to study the local market for the same in-depth. You will have to find out before-hand which are the industries and channels that are currently using your mushroom and at what volumes and at what price. Try and talk to others in the same business if possible, to understand challenges that they might have faced. Make sure that you factor in things like ease of transportation and cost of packaging while you choose which channels to focus on. Understanding the market also means understanding the pain-points of the existing market so that you are better equipped at dealing with them. This step is very critical to ensure you succeed because without understanding the market you will not know how to position yourself or how to market your finished product.

  1.     Develop your own market

After you have done an in-depth study of the market, you have all your facts and figures ready. Some questions to ponder at this stage are: 

  • Which segments of the market can you realistically satisfy?
  • What can you do to make your product stand out from the local competition?
  • Some retailers require you to give them a fixed quantity on a daily basis, can your production meet those demands? 
  • What resources do you need to satisfy the capacity you have settled on? 

Remember, you can always start small and scale up. For example: to get a feel of the fresh mushroom market start by selling to close friends and family or to your neighbors, to create your own loyal client base. You could even drop off samples at restaurants nearby and ask the chefs to give your mushrooms a try. Figure out what matters most to them (The freshness? Value for money? Packaging? Aesthetics?) and in the process learn how to best satisfy your customer. The easiest strategy would be to work with a few customers in such a way that you have forward orders for your harvest. You are ensuring that you have a ready market for your produce so that you can put all your energy and attention into cultivating high quality mushrooms in a way that your customers love them.

  1.     Get the right training

This step is extremely crucial and the step which we here at Nuvedo had a hard time with. When we were starting out, we could hardly find any courses (both online and offline) which seemed legitimate. The courses were either too basic and lacked scientific explanation behind the processes involved or promised far too much to seem realistic – like lifetime support on cultivation and timely updates on technical advancements in cultivation for a fee of INR 750? I don’t think so! 

In our experience, we found that a lot of trainers were ex-mushroom cultivators themselves but turned away from cultivation and towards training because it was more lucrative. I don’t think that this is a good sign. If you’re getting trained make sure that it is under someone who either has a successful mushroom cultivation up and running or from a reputed consultant with a proven track record. We here at Nuvedo offer multiple avenues for different experience levels and requirements- starting from our DIY Mushroom growing kit for beginners to advance hands-on courses for specific mushrooms. Check out our Workshops section to stay up to date with our latest in-person workshops..

  1.     Have a trusted vendor for spawn and raw materials

Once you have had some basic training and experience growing your first batch of mushrooms, you need to figure out how to get quality inputs for cultivation. The most critical input in ensuring you get a profitable yield is having good and reliable spawn. Without good spawn, you are bound to fail. You have two options: either 1) make your own spawn, which is time consuming and involves considerable effort or 2) buy it from a vendor, which might be a bit risky. When looking for vendors, make sure you find vendors who give you at least generation 2 spawn and have a hygienic and standardized setup with documented results. In India, getting high quality spawn can be a challenge because of lack of regulations or standards in the industry. If you want to ensure that what you’re paying for is of the quality that they promise, you can go through our in-depth blog on spawn. We here at Nuvedo have our own super spawn- NuvoSpawn, which is manufactured in our lab using the latest technology and best quality ingredients. We have documented the conditions in which our spawn performs best, so that you can get best yields each and every time. To know more about what spawn is and how it is used please visit our Spawn FAQ.

Apart from spawn, ensure that you have a steady source of substrate material that is available locally and at a cost that makes sense for your profitability goals. Different substrates can have varying effects on yield and quality of the mushrooms that you grow. If you want to know more about the effect that different substrates and techniques can have on your yield and quality, do check out our DIY Mushroom Growing Kit. As part of the kit, we provide an information pamphlet with various different substrate recipes along with a table to track your progress. The pamphlet contains basic definitions and even some formulas to calculate biological efficiency, hydration etc. 

  1.     Prepare yourself for failure

Making one grow bag of Oyster mushrooms during training doesn’t prepare you well enough for the challenges that you will face while handling a bigger operation. Most people fail in the beginning when they try cultivating mushrooms at a commercial scale because there are too many variables involved and it is extremely hard to standardize the whole process. So, make sure that you are mentally prepared to accept failure. Your strategy should be- fail small and fail fast, so that you learn from your mistakes quickly and they don’t cost you so much money. You have to ensure that you document every single step so that you have evidence of what worked and what did not. This will allow you to finetune your entire process and develop standard operating procedures for each step. Standardizing your process and steps involved is critical to ensure that you can reproduce your results every time.

  1.     Start Small and scale up

Your trainers or consultants might tempt you to go for a 100 Ton setup and you might be tempted to do so after your successful oyster grow but always start small. Start at a capacity where you are confident that you have a ready market for whatever it is that you produce. Once you have mastered the art of cultivating at a small or intermediate capacity then you can confidently invest money in the right places to increase your capacity and scale up production. Remember, selling mushrooms can be harder than growing them, so ensure that you have a ready market before you decide to scale up production. Starting small will allow you to make changes to your layout or process flow without incurring large losses. 

  1.     Build a larger ecosystem of cultivators in your area

Like any other business, mushroom cultivation can fall prey to a lot of issues which can affect your turnover. Drastic changes in weather, contaminated spawn, equipment failure, labor shortage etc. can negatively impact your business. This is why it is important for you to ensure that you have a network of mushroom cultivators in your locality who can help you in case of emergencies like equipment failure or loss of cultures due to contamination etc. We at Nuvedo take pride in saying that we work closely with all our community members in ensuring that they succeed. Nuvedo gives its network of cultivators access to documented cultivation techniques, new advancements in cultivation technologies and also a list of our trusted vendors across the mushroom cultivation ecosystem. Nuvedo also has a group of highly trained and experienced professionals who help our customers troubleshoot and get the best possible output from their cultivation unit. We cannot thank our community members enough for all the support they’ve provided us on our journey so far. 

  1.     Think about other streams of revenue

Apart from just cultivating and selling fresh mushrooms it helps to have other streams of indirect revenue coming in. For example, dehydrating and maintaining an inventory of dried mushrooms, making value added products from your mushroom such as pickles, soup powders, cookies etc. These additional sources of income ensure that you can protect yourself from market disruptions and other influences beyond your control. In the hypothetical case that the price or demand for fresh mushrooms drops in your locality, you now have the option of drying them and using them in your value-added products. With India still reeling in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is critical now more than ever to diversify your business into multiple streams of revenue so that you can keep your business safe from external challenges.

  1.   Keep learning and share your knowledge

Mushroom cultivation is a fairly new space and there are lots of technological advancements being discovered on a daily basis. It is important to keep updating our knowledge on the latest developments in the field of fungiculture so that we can continuously improve the quality and output of our cultivation unit. It is equally important to share whatever knowledge we have with others in the mushroom ecosystem so that the whole community can develop and better serve the market. In today’s day and age the most successful companies keep much of their information open source as they know the importance that sharing the right knowledge can have on the larger business ecosystem. Investing time and resources in keeping yourself up to date and in innovation has a very large payoff in the long run. We here at Nuvedo, live by the philosophy “A thousand candles can be lit from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened” . So go on and spread the spores of knowledge far and wide so that at least some of them can fruit when the conditions are right. 

 

King Tuber Oyster Mushroom: 3 Diseases it can protect you from: (PART 1/3)

Pleurotus tuber regium. The King Tuber Oyster Mushroom. This warm-weather mushroom has long been revered for its medicinal properties in parts of Western Africa, China and North East India. As the only sclerotium-forming member of the Pleurotus genus, it is unique in its ability to store nutrients for a rainy day. Here is a 3 part series taking a look at 3 diseases that this wonderful mushroom can protect you from.

 

In Part 1, we will refrain from fixating on the evolutionary wonders of the sclerotia but instead, look to them as sources of medicinal compounds. In particular, we will investigate some existing evidence relating the sclerotial extracts to antitumor or anticancer properties.

Part 1: Cancer

Beta-glucans as active molecules

Our journey begins at the Chinese University of Hong Kong where Peter Cheung and colleagues made use of hot alkaline water to extract polysaccharides from the sclerotia of P. tuber-regium. Polysaccharides are long chains of sugar molecules such as glucose that are connected to each other through chemical bonds. These polysaccharides are important structural components of every fungal cell. In their study, the researchers chose to focus primarily on the long and branched polysaccharide molecules known as beta-glucans.

Representative structure of a beta glucan with (1->3) and (1->6) glycosidic linkages

The researchers used two commonly used cancer cell lines to test the effects of their beta-glucan extracts. HL-60 cells are derived from a patient suffering from acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a form of blood and bone marrow cancer that is also the most common form of such cancer in adults. When they treated the cells with their beta-glucan extracts, they noticed that the outer membranes of the cells became more porous. A blue dye called Trypan blue which is normally kept out of the cancer cells by the cell membrane was able to enter the cells and stain them blue. This indicated that the extracts were able to disrupt the integrity of the cell membrane of the leukemia cells. 

HL-60 Cell Line picture
HL-60 Cell Line

To verify whether the extracts could work on other forms of cancer, the researchers used another cancer cell line called HepG2 cells. HepG2 cells are derived from hepatocellular carcinoma (a form of liver cancer) and are commonly used to screen drugs for toxicity and study liver cancer. When these cells were treated with the P. tuber regium beta glucan extracts their metabolic activity decreased. A decrease in metabolic activity indicates stressed, dying, or non-functional cells. This indicated that the P. tuber regium beta-glucan extracts had a negative effect on the HepG2 cells as well.

Hep G2 - Wikipedia
Hep G2 cell

At this point, an obvious question that the researchers had to answer was whether the adverse effects seen by the extracts were only on cancer cells. The extracts could have similarly deleterious effects on normal and healthy cells too, which would make them hazardous for consumption. To check if this was true, they tested the extracts on kidney cells obtained from an African green monkey (Vero cells) and found that the effects that they had observed on the cancer cells could not be seen here. This was an indication that the extracts were more harmful to cancer cells than to normal cells.

The importance of solubility

Now that they had some evidence that the beta-glucan extracts from P. tuber regium had some anti-cancer effects, the scientists wanted to improve the solubility of the extracts to make them more easily consumed. To do this, they modified the beta-glucan molecules by adding water-loving or hydrophilic chemical groups to them through a process known as carboxymethylation. This made the molecules easily soluble in water and therefore more bioavailable. They then added different doses of this modified beta-glucans to a human breast cancer cell line (MCF 7 cells). They observed a dose-dependent decrease in the metabolic activity of these cells. By monitoring the change in the number of DNA molecules in the treated and untreated cells they showed that the treated cells were multiplying much slower than the untreated ones. Further investigation showed that the treated cells were more prone to death as well. This highlighted the anti-cancer abilities of these extracts against breast cancer cells.

Size matters

The evidence provided by the studies so far sheds some light on the ability of P tuber regium sclerotial extracts to prevent or reduce the growth of cancer cells. However, a cell in a dish in the lab does not replicate the dynamic environment within the body. Another group of scientists from China’s Wuhan University decided to dissect this very aspect. They chose to work with Sarcoma 180 cells, a highly malignant mouse cancer cell line widely used in the field of cancer biology. They extracted water-soluble compounds from the sclerotia of P. tuber regium and further separated the molecules based on their sizes and biochemical properties. Once again the beta-glucans proved to be the molecules of interest. Moreover, the size of the beta-glucans had an impact on their effectiveness. Longer beta-glucan chains were more active when compared to the shorter ones. When it came to beta-glucans and their anti-cancer activities, size did matter it seemed.

In vivo effects

To replicate a more likely pre-clinical scenario, the Sarcoma 180 cells were transplanted under the skin of mice and allowed to form an active tumour. These mice were then injected with either 5-fluorouracil (an anticancer drug) or the beta-glucan extracts from P. tuber regium every day for eight days. On the ninth day, the tumours were dissected and weighed. Two of the extracts tested outperformed 5-fluorouracil and showed a greater reduction in tumour weight. This indicated that the extracts were not only able to prevent cancer cell growth in a dish, but also do so when injected into live animals. 

 

Taking a look at the evidence so far points to the ability of the polysaccharide extracts from Pleurotus tuber regium to inhibit the growth of cancer or tumor cells. However, it is important to keep in mind that all of these studies have been performed under highly controlled laboratory settings using well-established, immortal cell lines and do not necessarily recapitulate the true behavior of the disease. The in vivo mouse study by Zhang et. al. does indicate that the injected molecules are able to find the tumor and affect its growth negatively. However, the mode of injection, the location of the tumor, and the dosing protocol did not perfectly reflect an actual clinical scenario in a human patient. No successful clinical trials have been conducted to date that conclusively shows the efficacy of such extracts in the treatment of cancers or tumors. Keeping this in mind, we must evaluate the evidence that continues to grow day by day. Can these mushrooms help in the treatment of cancer?

Only time can tell. But they sure are delicious!

Read Part 2 on Diabetes of the blog King Tuber Oyster Mushroom: 3 Diseases it can protect you from: (PART 2/3)

References

Cheung, Peter C. 2001. “Chemical structure and chain conformation of the water-insoluble glucan isolated from Pleurotus tuber-regium.” Biopolymers.

Zhang, L. 2001. “Evaluation of mushroom dietary fiber (nonstarch polysaccharides) from sclerotia of Pleurotus tuber-regium (Fries) singer as a potential antitumor agent.” J Agric Food Chem.

Zhang, Lina. 2008. “Characterization of polysaccharide-protein complexes by size-exclusion chromatography combined with three detectors.” Carbohydrates Research. 

Zhang, Lina. 2009. “Chemical modification and antitumor activities of two polysaccharide-protein complexes from Pleurotus tuber-regium.” Int J Bio Macromol.

Zhang, Mei. 2003. “Molecular mass and chain conformation of carboxymethylated derivatives of beta-glucan from sclerotia of Pleurotus tuber-regium.” Biopolymers.

Zhang, Mei. 2004. “Carboxymethylated β-glucans from mushroom sclerotium of Pleurotus tuber-regium as novel water-soluble anti-tumor agent.” Carbohydrate Polymers.

 

Mushroom Spawn 101: Your Ultimate Guide

Before you start exploring this blog about mushroom spawn, It will be really helpful if you are familiar with the basics of what mushrooms are and how they are cultivated. If you’re new to mushroom cultivation, please check out these blogs to know more about how mushrooms grow and the jargon used in mushroom cultivation:

Mushroom spawn is very critical if not the most important input in the mushroom cultivation process. We try to clarify the most commonly asked questions about mushroom spawn in this blog, in order to equip you with the right knowledge. Here is a look at the different questions that we will be addressing:

  • What is mushroom spawn?
  • Why can’t we cultivate from spores?
  • How is spawn made?
  • What is the difference between grain spawn and sawdust spawn?
  • What are the qualities of good spawn?
  • How do we store spawn properly?
  • How do we know if the spawn we have is good?

What is mushroom spawn?

Mushroom spawn is basically mycelium, the living fungal culture, grown onto a substrate. It is the most critical input in mushroom farming and is used by mushroom growers similar to how farmers and gardeners use seeds. Mushroom spawn, unlike seeds, is grown from selected genetics and cloned so that it is possible to consistently produce a particular cultivar (cultivated variety) of mushroom which exhibits desired traits. This is similar to how people grow fruit trees via grafting as opposed to planting their seeds. Grafting is done to make sure that the fruit tree consistently produces delicious fruits because of a particular set of genetics that are chosen. Spores (and seeds for that matter!) are a genetic lucky dip dependent on two individual sets of genetic material, whereas spawn is a single, unique genetic culture that can be indefinitely propagated from the same ‘mother’ culture. Our ‘mother’ cultures are kept in the laboratory on agar petri dishes and maintained at the optimal temperature.

 

Spawn production in laboratory

Spawn bags being prepped under sterile conditions in the lab

 

 

Why can’t we cultivate mushrooms from spores?

In the wild, mushrooms produce tens of thousands of spores (some even billions!) and get scattered across the forest by wind, rain, insects and other agents. They are on a quest to find the most suitable growing conditions but sadly the vast majority of spores will never grow into a mushroom fruit-body. As a cultivator this is not a risk that you can take, you want to ensure that you get consistent, reliable and repeatable results every time.

Another factor to consider is that spores are not sterile and growing using spores directly might lead to an increase in contamination rates which will affect your productivity drastically.

At Nuvedo we select productive strains of edible and medicinal fungi to make spawn which have been proven to give consistent results in the Indian setting, so that our cultivators can maximize their success.

How is spawn made?

All spawn start out their journey on a petri-plate as a pure fungal culture of mycelium. Once the mycelium has fully colonized the surface of the agar, a tiny piece of the mycelium is transferred to boiled grain. This mycelium is then allow to grow on the surface of the boiled grain for 3-4 weeks until it colonizes all of the grain. This myceliated grain is what is called grain spawn.

 

Infographic about myceliated agar plate

Step 1

 

Infographic about grain spawn

Step 2

Apart from different grains such as wheat, jowar (sorghum), millet, rice, etc. some spawn producers even use sawdust and wooden dowels as a substrate for making spawn. The substrate used to make spawn serves three functions-

  • Act as a surface for the mycelium to grow and spread on
  • Provide the mycelium with macro and micronutrients so that it stays alive and healthy till it is inoculated on the final substrate material
  • Act as multiple points for the mycelium to grow from and colonize the final substrate material at a faster rate from different parts of the substrate

We produce all of our spawn at our state-of-the-art facility in Bengaluru. NuvoSpawn is produced on sorghum grain in sterile lab conditions. We start by taking mushroom cultures from our culture bank and then growing them out on sterilized grain in a controlled environment, using our own standardized process and media, to ensure that our customers get the best quality time and again!

To ensure consistent results we grow our own mushrooms at regular intervals and keep track of the cultivation parameters of each and every strain. We do not sell spawn of any mushroom that we ourselves have not grown. If you’re buying spawn for the first time, make it a point to ensure that your spawn vendor grows their own mushrooms to ensure the variety is still performing consistently.

 

Spawn making in lab under sterile conditions

Nonabsorbent cotton plugs being inserted into the neck of the spawn bag inside a Laminar Air Flow

 

Spawn making in lab under sterile conditions

Inoculation of sterilized sorghum with a myceliated agar wedge

 

 

Spawn production in lab under sterile conditions

Final packing of spawn bag after inoculation under aseptic conditions

 

What is the difference between sawdust spawn and grain spawn?

Grain contains a lot more nutrition as compared to sawdust. This can lead to contamination or increased chances of attack by pests if used to make outdoor beds or logs. When the cultivator wants to grow in an outdoor environment where there could be pests or where the chances of contamination are higher, sawdust spawn is a much better option. Using sawdust spawn for conventional cultivation can lead to lower yields and slower colonization as compared to grain spawn.

What are the qualities of good spawn?

The most critical parameters for good spawn from a cultivator’s point of view is:

  • It should be free from contamination

    1. The spawn has to be made under aseptic conditions preferably under a Laminar Air Flow to ensure the best results
    2. All materials used must be of the highest quality. Using low-quality or broken grain can lead to increased chances of contamination post inoculation.
    3. Grain used has to be boiled to the right consistency to ensure that it doesn’t break or get squished post inoculation. This is really important in ensuring low contamination rates.
    4. Grains/sawdust needs to be sterilized in an autoclave at 121 degrees Celsius and 15 PSI pressure to make sure that no microbial life persists
  • It should be fast colonizing

    1. Genetics that are old or not maintained well undergo “senescence” or deterioration, leading to slow growth and poor yields
  • It should give good yields

    1. Strains are one of the most critical factors which determine yield so spawn manufacturers should use commercial cultures which give high yields
    2. If cultures are not maintained well, the fungus can lose its virility over time leading to poor yields
  • It should be free from toxic chemicals, antibiotics, and pesticides

    1. Some spawn manufacturers have been seen using hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde to fumigate their labs and some even add antibiotics such as gentamycin to their media to keep it free from microbial contamination
    2. Over time, exposure to these chemicals can cause detrimental health issues to the cultivator who handles these materials
    3. Fungi can bioaccumulate complex molecules and the resulting mushrooms may contain trace amounts of these chemicals which will eventually affect the health and wellbeing of the consumer.
  • It should give consistent results every time

    1. Some genetics are prone to mutation more than others and this can lead to variation in cultivation parameters such as speed of colonization, physical characteristics of the mushroom itself, and even yields.

 

Qualities of good spawn infographic

Qualities of Good Spawn

We take pride in saying that NuvoSpawn is not just another bag of spawn. It is a technically superior product guaranteed to maximize your success by giving you consistent results time and again. We document the optimal growing conditions of our cultures to ensure that our customers can make the best use of our product.

NuvoSpawn:

  • Is enriched with first-quality grain which ensures vigorous colonization and healthy growth.
  • Is completely dry, pure fungus without wet patches to eliminate chances of bacterial contamination.
  • Has been proven to give higher yields due to greater bio-efficiency because of our genetics and unique media.
  • Is manufactured in a sterile environment which leads to a healthier growth of fungus.
  • Uses disinfected nonabsorbent cotton to reduce chances of contamination.

 

How do we store spawn properly?

Your mushroom spawn is alive!! Yes, it is a living, breathing organism. In order to keep it healthy, happy, and strong we need to make sure that it is stored properly. A question we keep hearing is “how long can I store my spawn?” How long you can store your spawn depends on 3 things mainly:

  • Cultivated variety or cultivar
  • Storage Temperature
  • Storage Conditions

 

Infographic on Qualities of Good Spawn

Factors Affecting Spawn Storage

 

Let’s take a look at the factors one at a time:

  • Cultivated variety:

It has been observed that varieties in which the mycelia grow slowly tend to have the longest shelf-life. To put it simply, the slower the growth of the variety the longer you can store it.

There are some basic signs to look for to understand if your mycelia are undergoing senescence or biological aging. The following are signs of the aging process of mycelia, in their order of appearance:

  • The mycelia become more compacted
  • The appearance of hard-looking crusts or lumps
  • Formation of foul-smelling, colored liquid
  • Self-digestion or autolysis of mycelium and degradation of mushroom spawn

 

4 Stages of Spawn Ageing Infographic

4 Stages of Spawn Ageing

 

The mycelium is perfectly healthy and usable in stages 1 & 2 through the spawn might not feel as crumbly as it does when it is fresh. Self-digestion or autolysis starts happening at the end of stage 3, hence it is strongly recommended that you use your mushroom spawn before it happens. The mycelium has reached the end of its life in stage 4 and therefore the spawn should be discarded at this stage.

 

  • Storage Temperature:

The ideal temperature for the storage of spawn is 0 to 4 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, spawn can be stored for anywhere from 2 months to 4 months. However, there are a few exceptions to this, for example, Pink Oyster mushroom spawn or Milky mushroom spawn tend to degrade if refrigerated since they are both tropical varieties.

 

  • Storage Conditions:

If you have ordered boxes of NuvoSpawn, make sure that you place the boxes on shelves or stack them in an alternative manner like bricks, always making sure that you leave around 10 cm space between the boxes for airflow. If spawn for mushrooms like oysters has to be stored for extended periods, then take out each bag from the box and put them separately on the shelves inside the refrigeration unit. The refrigeration unit will have to be opened on a daily basis to ensure there is enough circulation of fresh air for spawn survival.

We strongly recommend you not to order or store your spawn months before the actual date of use. Whatever money you may save on shipping will be compensated by an increased yield and lower chances of contamination losses using fresh spawn.

At Nuvedo we do not keep any spawn that has aged more than 3 weeks to ensure that our customers get the best results, so it becomes really difficult to entertain last-minute requests as we are almost always booked out. The best-case scenario for us would be if you let us know 14-21 days before you need your spawn so that we can ensure the availability of fresh spawn. We will ship it out to you exactly in time for your inoculation!

 

How do we know if the spawn we have is good?

So, you’re waiting on your first batch of NuvoSpawn from Nuvedo or have a batch of mushroom spawn that you’ve been storing for a while now?
Without testing, you might have to inoculate your substrate and then wait a few weeks to come to the realization that the spawn you used was too old or not strong enough. To save yourself all that trouble you now want a quick and easy method to see if you can proceed with inoculation without worrying if the spawn you used was good enough. Well, you’ve come to the right place, all you need to do is follow the instructions mentioned below!

There are 2 ways of doing this, the hard way (which gives you more reliable results) or the easy way (which is cheaper and requires a lot less effort)

Let’s start with the easy way:

  1. Take a sample of a few grams of spawn from each bag you wish to test.
  2. Take a clean plastic container and put a small pile of wet paper (tissue paper, toilet paper, cardboard) on it.
  3. Place the spawn on top of the paper.
  4. Place the container in a clean, cool place away from direct sunlight.

The mycelium should be growing visibly on the paper in less than a week. This method is not foolproof and can give you false results so we would recommend you to follow the technique mentioned below.

The hard but reliable way:

  1. Take a petri dish that has been prepared with PDA or MEA mixture.
  2. Open the dish under sterile conditions, preferably under a laminar airflow, to avoid contamination. (Contamination can give your false results)
  3. Using a sterile tool, such as a spoon sterilized under a naked flame, place a few kernels of mushroom spawn around the petri dish.
  4. Under the laminar air flow, roll the kernels around under the petri dish. Close and label the petri dish.
  5. Let the petri dish mature for 5 days to a week at a temperature beneficial for mycelium. We recommend around 20 Degrees for Oyster mushroom spawn or Shiitake mushroom spawn.

In a week you should observe mycelium growth from the place where the kernels were rolled over the agar medium and from the kernels themselves

The result: The strength of the spawn is indicated by the amount of mycelium growth present after a week. If the growth is fast and intense, your spawn is still very active. Old spawn also has a capacity to colonize the substrate like fresh spawn but the rate of growth will be much slower. So, the same applies to the kernels on your petri dish/paper towel. If you don’t see any growth in 5 days or so then that means that your spawn is too old and needs to be discarded. It is not that old spawn will not be active, it grows so slowly that contaminants get the upper hand and might take over your substrate. So, better safe than sorry.

Now that you have checked your spawn quality, you can confidently proceed with the next steps of mushroom cultivation if your test results came out well or order a fresh batch of NuvoSpawn in case your spawn is too old.

This brings us to the end of this blog, if you have any further questions or need any clarifications about spawn, feel free to reach out to us. We are more than happy to answer your queries.

A Culinary & Medicinal King – The King Tuber Oyster Mushroom

Before I get into the mushroom side of things, let’s take a look at 3 not-so-good statistics about the current state of affairs in India –

  1. 2022 was the hottest summer in India in the last 10 years with temperatures in parts reaching 49 degrees Celsius.
  2. According to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), India witnessed a 62% increase in the number of overweight children from 2016 – 2020. This alarming statistic is an indication that if neglected, we might face an obesity crisis.
  3. Despite the blanket ban on plastics nationally, India still generates over 26,000 Tonnes of plastic every day with 60% of this ending up in landfills.

So, to put it simply- global warming is showing its true colors, our population is getting more obese by the day and our lands are being choked by plastic waste.

The million-dollar question on your mind now must be – what does all this have to do with mushrooms?!

Well, let’s find out!

As humans, we are drawn to mushrooms because of the unusual physical characteristics of their fruitbodies which magically appear after the first rains in fields and woodlands. Mycelium, which might not be visible, but is passively present within the ground below, waiting for favorable conditions.

Pleurotus tuber-regium has a similar story for us. This beautiful ochre colored mushroom was first stumbled upon by a member of our Cultivation Team at Nuvedo,while on a trip through the tropical jungles of Goa. He was quick to grab his camera and send us a couple of photos of this unique looking mushroom. Little did we know that this mushroom would soon be the reason for a lot of research, experiments, discussions and sleepless nights in our journey to work with the most healing mushrooms out there.

Ethnomycological Significance

Pleurotus tuber regium or King Tuber Oyster mushroom as it is commonly called is a relatively new mushroom for a lot of us in the mushroom space. They have been used by communities in West Africa and even in parts of North East India for many centuries as both an edible delight and also as folk medicine. These are not to be confused with the popular gourmet mushroom King Oyster (or Pleurotus eryngii) though they both share the characteristic feature of growing from the top surface of the substrate, rather than sideways like your conventional Oyster mushrooms do. Apart from this feature King Tuber and King Oyster mushrooms are two very different mushrooms. This mushroom derives its name from its unique ability to form truffle-like tubers underground, which are actually hard bundles of mycelium called sclerotia (which also act as food reserves for fungi). Apart from being a culinary delight, sclerotia contain a considerable amount of polysaccharides that are responsible for the multitude of medicinal properties that these mushrooms exhibit. If these facts haven’t blown your mind yet, let me tell you more!

King Oyster (Pleurotus eryngii)
King Tuber Oyster (Pleurotus tuber-regium)

 

Heat Tolerant Mushroom

King Tuber Oyster mushrooms are one among the most heat tolerant cultivable mushrooms out there, capable of withstanding temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius! Now that’s one hot mushroom! With temperatures around the world increasing year after year, the effects of global warming cannot be dismissed. Keeping this in mind, these mushrooms have the potential to become a food source in places where other crops might find it hard to survive due to high temperatures.

These mushrooms have a lot of potential for commercial cultivation but a lot more research needs to be done to develop commercial strains which have superior yields before these mushrooms can become available to the masses. As of today, these mushrooms are a rare delicacy that is wild foraged from tropical forests in Africa, Asia, and Australasia.

We even have tribal communities in Tripura who use these wild-harvested mushrooms to cook up some amazing delicacies.

 

King Tuber Oyster Mushroom

In the wild, King Tuber Oysters can be seen growing from rotting wood or from the soil. In the forests of Nigeria, these mushrooms can be seen growing around the African breadfruit tree. They are considered primary decomposers and can be cultivated on lignocellulosic waste similar to other gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. In their natural habitat, these mushrooms first form a thick bundle of mycelium underground, the sclerotia. Under favorable conditions, the fruiting bodies start to emerge from the sclerotia and appear above ground as beautiful light ochre mushrooms with funnel-shaped caps. These caps turn flat and proceed to turn wavy after the mushrooms reach full maturity. The sclerotia can be harvested and used to grow these mushrooms by simply planting it inside the soil, the same way you do with seeds!

King Tuber Oyster harvest mushrooms
Harvest from the King Tuber Oyster Mushroom Growing Kit

Medicinal Uses 

Traditionally these mushrooms have been used in folk medicine in Ghana (4) for the treatment of a variety of health conditions including asthma, and high blood pressure and even to assist in weight gain for malnourished children. For all these purposes the mushroom/sclerotia is dried and powdered first and then used in soups or broths or even as an additive to flour used in cooking. One quick search for this mushroom on google will leave you with a multitude of research papers that show the therapeutic benefits of this special fungus.

King Tuber Oyster mushroom contain bioactive molecules which have been shown to help with-

  • Lowering high blood pressure (2)
  • Lowering high blood sugar (1)
  • Lowering Cholesterol (1)
  • Anti-Tumor/Cancer: (2,5)
  • Anti-microbial properties (for Herpes Simplex) (2) (5)
  • Anti-Obesity (2)
  • Liver protection (2, 5)

Apart from medicinal benefits, King Tuber Oysters are also very high in potassium(3), anti-oxidants (2), and dietary fiber (equivalent to legumes or even seaweed)(5). It is an excellent prebiotic (2) and has also been explored as one of the few vegetarian sources of Glucosamine (5) which is used by patients suffering from various joint, bone, and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

Another really interesting property of this mushroom is its ability to break down polyethylene, which is a commonly used type of plastic! Don’t believe me, see the result of the study for yourself! As can be seen below, Pleurotus Tuber regium was able to decrease the weight of the polyethylene strips by a good 13.25% which is almost 50% higher than that compared to Pleurotus pulmonarius.

So we have with us a rare mushroom that grows in tropical jungles, is capable of withstanding scorching high temperatures, has the potential to treat a multitude of health conditions, and can eat plastic to top it off it also happens to be super tasty!

The obvious question most of you have right now would be where can I find these mushrooms? Or how do I cultivate these mushrooms at home? Don’t worry, we got you covered! Over the last year, our R&D team at Nuvedo HQ has been busy tinkering and finding a way to bring this powerhouse of a mushroom to your hands. After a lot of trial and error, we were successfully able to come up with the cultivation technology for this amazing mushroom which is now available for you to experience at home in the form of an easy-to-use grow kit!

You can grab one here: https://nuvedo.com/product/king-tuber-oyster-mushroom-growing-kit/

One last point that I want to touch upon before concluding is the culinary nature of King Tuber Oyster mushroom. Due to its high fiber content, the texture of the caps can be quite chewy compared to other mushrooms. Also, the stipe of the mushroom is hard and difficult to chew but brings in a unique texture, unlike any other variety. Throwing the stem away is not advised because there are a lot of polysaccharides and bioactive molecules present in it. You can chop them up or put them in the blender and make a paste out of it, which can later be added to soups or brother. The blended mushroom can be used in a similar fashion as a grated coconut!

Single Use Plastics in Mushroom Cultivation

Before you start exploring this blog, I am assuming that all of you are familiar with the basics of what mushrooms are and how they are cultivated. If you’re new to this, please check out these blogs to know more about mushroom cultivation and the jargon used:

Mushroom cultivation by its very nature is sustainable and has a positive impact on the environment. Just by cultivating mushrooms, we upcycle a lot of agricultural waste which would have otherwise been disposed of or burnt. Mushrooms also use only a fraction of water used by commercially cultivated crops.

What makes things better? The substrate leftover after growing mushrooms is a really good compost starter!
If you want to explore the positive environmental impact of mushroom cultivation then this blog is for you: Why India Needs More Mushroom Farmers: Environment

But all things said, the resting guilt most mushroom cultivators face, is the usage of single-use plastics. In this blog, we are going to look deeply at the use of plastics in the mushroom industry, viable alternatives, and advancements in the field of biopolymers that may be possible solutions.

To begin with – let’s get down to basics.

Why does one need to use plastics in mushroom cultivation in the first place?

Here are the 5 main uses for plastics in the mushroom cultivation process:

  1. Prevent evaporation: Most of the commonly cultivated mushrooms are composed of ~80% water. This water is absorbed by the mushroom from the sterilized or pasteurized substrate which is hydrated to hold 55 – 70% water, as a percentage of the total weight of the substrate. The plastic acts as a physical barrier to ensure that the water present in the substrate doesn’t get lost due to evaporation.
  2. Protect against contamination: Plastic is inorganic. It lacks the nutrition and hence doesn’t support the growth of any unwanted microorganisms that can negatively affect the growth of mycelium.
  3. Keep pests out: Plastic acts as a physical barrier to stop pests from entering and eating up or contaminating your substrate.
  4. Protect against physical damage: The plastic cover ensures that the loose substrate stays intact while it is being moved around and while the mycelium slowly spreads through the substrate making it one single mass.
  5. Provide suitable microclimate: Certain mushrooms like Antler Reishi (shown in the picture below), King Oyster & Enoki need a specific microclimate (high in C02 for example) to grow a certain way, the plastic helps in maintaining certain cultivation parameters.

 

 

Are there ways to grow mushrooms without using plastic?

Now that we’ve established the uses of plastic, another important question we need to address before we proceed is, are there any established methods of cultivating mushrooms without the use of plastics? Yes! there are plastic-free ways to grow mushrooms, the most common methods being log/totem cultivation and bed cultivation. In log/totem cultivation, logs of suitable trees and the right dimensions are inoculated with mycelium. The mycelium then feeds on the log and colonizes it, giving out mushrooms when the weather is right. Many mushrooms such as Shiitake, Oyster, and Reishi can be grown outdoors using logs.

 

The Reishi Mushroom - FreshCap MushroomsVietnam Straw Mushroom For Sale (whatsapp: +84 845 639 639) In 2020 - Buy Mushroom Spawn For Sale,Straw Mushroom Benefits,Fresh Straw Mushroom Product on Alibaba.com

 

The major disadvantage with this method is that the cultivator has to wait a year or two before his first harvest and also the fact that harvests will be seasonal, making it hard to cultivate mushrooms throughout the year.

Finding the right wood, at the right time of the year and in the required dimension can be hard. Another challenge with logs is that they are heavy, moving and handling them can be very energy-intensive. Apart from logs, outdoor beds are also a great way to grow mushrooms without the use of plastics. In this method, the cultivator makes an outdoor bed using a pasteurized substrate that has been layered with spawn. One major drawback of this method is that the number of species that can be cultivated is very low, for example, Paddy Straw, Wine Caps, and certain species of oyster mushrooms.

Growing in beds can also lead to increased chances of contamination and attacks by pests. Both methods described above are still used in different parts of the world today and can be viable for the cultivator depending on his location and requirements but for a cultivator looking for consistent yields and year-round production, bag cultivation remains the most practical option.

Let’s dig a little deeper and understand what are the different types of plastic available in the market and which ones are suitable for growing mushrooms.

Based on what they are made of and how they degrade, plastics can be put in one of 4 categories:

  • Bio-based and Biodegradable: These plastics are derived from natural sources and are biodegradable. Eg: PLA, PHA, PBS, Starch blends, etc
  • Non-bio-based and Biodegradable: These plastics are derived from artificial sources and are biodegradable. Eg: PBAR, PCL, etc.
  • Biobased and non-biodegradable: These plastics are derived from natural sources but are not biodegradable. Eg: Bio-based PET, PE, PTT, etc
  • Non-bio-based and non-biodegradable: These plastics are derived from artificial sources and are not biodegradable. Nearly all conventional plastics fall into this category.

 

This categorization makes it very clear that just because something is made from a natural source doesn’t mean that it is automatically biodegradable and on the other hand just because something is made artificially it doesn’t necessarily have to be biodegradable. Another common mistake is thinking that compostable and biodegradable imply that if you simply throw away that piece of plastic, it will degrade by itself. This is incorrect, the words “compostable” and “biodegradable” imply that it can be composted or degraded under industrial conditions for composting or bio-degradation!

This brings us to our next question, what is the most suitable type of plastic available for mushroom cultivation and why?

Most cultivators prefer using Polypropylene number 5 or PP5 for short. PP5 is commonly used as packaging for foodstuffs and as containers for food as it is a very safe and stable polymer that doesn’t degrade easily. It is the safety coupled with the fact that it can withstand temperatures of 121 degrees and 15 PSI pressure with ease, (this temperature and pressure are encountered in an autoclave which is typically used to sterilize substrate bags) that makes polypropylene bags for mushroom cultivation most popular. Unlike PP5, biodegradable polymers such as PLA, PHA, etc. cannot withstand such high temperatures or pressure and have poor barrier properties. This makes these biodegradable mushroom bags unsuitable for mushroom cultivation commercially.

 

This being said, if you’re pasteurizing your substrate and can find a way for the substrate to retain moisture, you can try using biodegradable polymers available in the market for mushroom cultivation. Post use, they need to be sent to the right facility to be composted. There are scientific papers out there that have examined the ability of certain plastic eating mushrooms (some oyster mushroom species for example) to degrade bioplastics such as PLA. Keeping this in mind, please be sure that you are using a type of bioplastic which the mushroom mycelium cannot degrade! To know more about this please read this article.

A few materials that we often get asked about for mushroom cultivation are jute bags and clay/ceramic pots. Both of these aren’t viable alternatives to plastic. Jute bags are porous, so evaporation will not be controlled and since it is made from plant matter they can get contaminated very easily. As for earthen pots, they are full of micropores which can act as a surface to attract contaminants, and similar to jute, the porous nature of the material will result in a loss of moisture from the substrate. Apart from this, clay/ceramic pots are fragile and heavy, handling them without damage can become an issue if they are used at a commercial level.

Though plastics are bad for the environment, there is no denying that it is a really good material that has a lot of uses and is economically viable for mushroom cultivation. One viable alternative that a mushroom cultivator can try is growing mushrooms in containers. These reusable PP5 containers have a long life and can be used over multiple cycles without any need to be replaced. Mind you, this alternative may not be suitable for all varieties of mushrooms and there will be an additional step of cleaning and maintaining these buckets, which will need additional resources. For example: Growing King Oyster mushrooms in buckets will not work the same way as other oyster mushrooms because King Oysters grow vertically from the top as compared to other oyster mushrooms which grow from the sides. For that matter growing Shiitake mushrooms in buckets is not a good idea either since the blocks need to be removed from the buckets to initiate fruiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some representations of the same: Enoki mushrooms and King Oyster mushrooms being cultivated in reusable mushroom growing containers:

While writing this I am hopeful about the future and I feel that it is just a matter of time before performance-based bio-materials become widely available and cost-effective enough to replace plastics altogether in the mushroom cultivation process. Mushroom cultivators around the world are rooting for the day when biodegradable mushroom bags for cultivation will become widely available. We might even have completely sustainable and biodegradable mushroom plastic or mycelium based plastic alternatives which can be used for mushroom cultivation in the future. Till then, let’s all be on the hunt for more sustainable materials and practices, and let’s all do our bit in growing the mycelium network!

Guest Blog: This Veganuary, give mushrooms a try!

The ethical and environmental devastation wreaked by animal agriculture or livestock farming is finally getting mainstream attention in the West, and now in India. The impact of industrial animal agriculture is enormous. It emits 14.5% – 16.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, occupies over 30% of the Earth’s land, and has destroyed over 70% of the Amazon rainforest. It commodifies the lives of over 80 billion land animals in a year — raising and slaughtering them in intensive, cruel, and filthy conditions. It has been the breeding ground for avian and swine flu epidemics. Experts cite that the next pandemic could well originate from a factory farm. Can we afford this destruction just to satiate our demand for meat?

Today, there are several humane and sustainable alternatives to animal-based meat. They use a fraction of the environmental resources required by conventional meat, do not lead to fatal contagious diseases, and spare billions of animals unnecessary suffering. Plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs have proved that they are no longer just a passing health or sustainability fad — they are no longer consumed only by vegans or health enthusiasts.

Veganuary was started as a challenge by a UK nonprofit group in January 2014 to help people transition to a plant-based diet for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. Veganuary India offers support in this transition too.

The future is plant-based and these alternatives are here to stay! Gone are the days when meat alternatives consisted merely of soya nuggets or chaap, or tofu analogues. Meat alternatives today mean business — they are tasty, affordable, and accessible, and will only get better with increase in demand.

The humble mushroom is playing a crucial role in mitigating the disastrous impacts of animal agriculture, and in forging a new food system that is more equitable for people and animals. It is rich in potassium (which reduces sodium levels and blood pressure), contains B vitamins which can boost energy, has anti-inflammatory effects on our immune systems, and is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols that protect against aging.

Mushrooms have enormous potential as raw materials for plant-based meats, leading to an explosion of mushroom-based meats in the West. According to Forbes, investors are favouring fungi-based meats as they have fewer ingredients, require significantly less processing, and have a better nutritional profile than the current popular plant-based meat ingredients such as soy or pea. According to The Good Food Institute, an impressive USD 1.5 billion was invested in plant-based meats in 2020, of which USD 435 million was in fermentation technologies, which are used by several mushroom startups. Meati is one such example. It is grown indoors, without environmental pollutants or antibiotics and is ‘brewed’ using water, sugar, and nutrients from the mushrooms’ mycelium structures. Meati uses this technology to create its steak, chicken, and jerky. Ecovative is another company that created its AirMycelium™ platform which systematically grows mycelium fibres in specific patterns using a range of biological processes to create mushroom-based meat and leather at scale. It then created MyForest Foods to launch its first product MyBacon, using its gourmet mycelium.

Mushrooms are an ideal raw material for meat alternatives — they are grown extensively across India, are not resource-intensive, are nutritionally dense, and provide a texture and umami flavour that are convincingly meat-like. For a population that is growing increasingly conscious of their health and the environment, it is only a matter of time (and increasing consumer demand) that such products are available and price-competitive in India!

Mushrooms are playing a vital role in reforming the traditional leather industry too. India’s dairy, beef, and leather industries are inextricably interlinked with each other. These industries have the same ‘raw material’, i.e. India’s cows and buffaloes. In addition to the obvious cruelty to ~ 500 million animals, the cattle industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are amongst the highest in the world, with India being among the world’s top beef and dairy exporters and consumers. The industry is infamous for emitting sludge and metals like chromium, lead, zinc, and manganese into nearby water bodies. It is also rife with social ills. According to the report ‘Do Leather Workers Matter?’, Dalits and Muslims, who comprise a majority of tannery workers, must contend with abysmal wages and working conditions — leading to eye infections, skin diseases, lung ailments, and cancers. Such workers are not offered health insurance, and in case of accidents, are rarely provided compensation.

Mushrooms have superior characteristics that make them a natural choice for leather alternatives. The cruelty-free and biodegradable nature of mushrooms allay the ethical, environmental, and human rights concerns associated with traditional leather. Mushroom-based leathers today are touted to be at par with traditional leather in terms of performance.

One of the world’s leading mushroom leather companies is Bolt Threads, which produces Mylo, a mycelium-based material, currently ready for commercial production. “Growing a cow takes one to two years. It takes growing the feed before you grow the cow. And so you’ve got a huge impact embedded in that cow. Mylo takes less than two weeks to grow.”, says Jamie Bainbridge, Vice President of Product Development at Bolt, to Fast Company. Bolt will not release further information on CO2 savings and a life cycle analysis until production starts at scale. MycoWorks, another company, claims to innovate over existing mushroom-based leathers in its patented Fine Mycelium™ technology, which “engineers mycelium cells as they grow to create three dimensional structures that are densely entwined and inherently strong”. This creates the chromium-free final leather product Reishi, which compares with the durability, performance, and environmental impact of animal-based leathers. In March 2021, MycoWorks collaborated with luxury brand Hermes to launch the Victoria travel bag, bringing its biotechnological innovation and Hermes’ legendary craftsmanship together to design the future of fashion.

In addition to providing ethical and sustainable alternatives to the leather industry, mushrooms offer us an opportunity to consider our consumption practices overall. As Merlin Sheldrake, author of ‘Entangled Lives: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures’ told The Guardian, We have been trained as consumers to think in terms of a straight line whereby we buy something, use it and throw it away. This is about material innovation, but it’s also about the culture of making endless new things, and what we can learn from thinking in terms of nature and of cycles instead.”

In addition to the immense potential that mushrooms offer as alternative meats and materials, one of its most important benefits is the potential economic opportunities for traditionally marginalised communities in a developing country like India. India’s poultry industry comprises huge conglomerates that employ millions of farmers through contract-farming agreements. India’s version of The Transfarmation Project could provide such farmers with an opportunity to escape the debt associated with vertically-integrated chicken farming, and transition to the significantly more humane and sustainable mushroom-farming model. This in turn could supply mushrooms as raw material for India’s burgeoning plant-based meat industry.

Mushrooms are leading the way when it comes to sustainable food and materials globally, and I expect that it will do so soon in India too. In honour of Veganuary, I urge you to give mushrooms a try. Watch this space as Nuvedo brings mushrooms to the forefront of India’s sustainable food and materials systems!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why India Needs More Mushroom Farmers (Part 3/3)

Socio-economic-issues

Unemployment

India is said to have over 38 million unemployed people as per reports published in December 2020. Though this number is disputed, it is still alarmingly high and unemployment continues to be the largest social issue in India.

 

Source: https://www.businesstoday.in/latest/economy-politics/story/india-unemployment-rate-april-cmie-highest-257055-2020-05-01

Mushroom cultivation is an extremely labor-intensive process and this is precisely what makes it expensive to cultivate mushrooms in the USA and Europe. The whole process can only be automated partly and there are critical parts of the growing cycle that need human intervention. In India, we have a wealth of human resources, both skilled and unskilled, which can be utilized to fuel the growing international demand for cheap and high-quality mushrooms. With the right training and supportive ecosystem, India has the potential to turn into the mushroom cultivation hub of the world.

More people getting into controlled cultivation of fungi can create a multitude of jobs across the sector, which can address the issue of seasonal unemployment currently present in the agricultural sector. With more investment into the larger mushroom ecosystem, like developing value-added products or manufacturing spawn, more job opportunities will get created across the whole mushroom value chain.

Women empowerment

There is a need today more than ever to redefine the status of women in Indian society.  Economic empowerment through financial independence is one of the ways in which we can help women gain access to their rightful share of things in different spheres of life. We can do this by giving women access to resources that can help them generate a stable source of income. Without economic strength or reasonable income security women will always lack the freedom to make rational choices and to become socially responsible.

Some mushrooms such as oysters can be cultivated at home with low technical inputs and skills, due to new cultivation techniques like cold water pasteurization which removes the need for any equipment. Oyster mushrooms grow fast (one complete cycle in 45 days), are also quite hardy, and can tolerate changes in an external environment to a larger extent compared to other mushrooms. Therefore, the cultivation of oyster mushrooms at home is a relatively fast and easy way for women to earn a livelihood and supplement their income from other sources such as rearing cows or chicken farming which are the current favorites among women to make a living. As long as the production volumes are commercially viable and they have access to a steady market, small-scale cultivation of mushrooms is a viable option. A single household can make up to 1 ton of oyster mushrooms in a cycle with just 600 sq ft of dedicated growing area. The synergy of a group is much higher than an individual, so adopting a participatory approach like setting up self-help groups centered around mushroom cultivation can definitely help make women an equally important paradigm of the development process.

It is safe to say that mushrooms are in line with our current agro-economy and can play a vital role in serving many needs such as environmental, socio-economic and health which are key to a healthy, flourishing country. As Indians, we have to look deeper into the mycoverse, understand fungi and their benefits and adapt them suitably to our current climates and weather patterns. For consumers to help grow this ecosystem and support farmers, encouraging conversations surrounding mushrooms and adapting them in our diets is equally important if not, vital to the survival of mushroom cultivation industry. 

If you’d like to recap on the other two parts that addressed two key areas:

Part 1: Environmental – Read here: https://nuvedo.com/2021/12/20/why-india-needs-more-mushroom-farmers-part-1-3/

Part 2: Health & Wellbeing – Read here: https://nuvedo.com/2021/12/29/why-india-needs-more-mushroom-farmers-part-1-3-2/

Why India Needs More Mushroom Farmers (Part 2/3)

Health & wellbeing

“Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health.”
– Paul Stamets

Protein deficiency in the Indian diet

The Indian Market Research Bureau’s 2017 report states that measured against the recommended daily intake of 60g, 80% of Indians are protein deficient. The usual sources of proteins in a regular Indian diet consist of one cup of lentils, 1 glass of milk, or 1 cup (200 g) of yogurt which contains 7-8 grams of protein. In order to meet the requirement of 60g protein per day, it would be necessary to eat eight bowls of lentils or drink 7-8 glasses of milk which you and I both know is practically impossible!

 

Mushrooms are considered the highest producer of protein per unit area and time. This basically means that for a given area and a fixed time frame, compared to all other sources, mushrooms have the highest protein content. So, just how much protein does a mushroom contain? 100 g of dried Lentinus Sajor Caju commonly known as the Indian oyster mushroom contains around 28 grams of protein, which is as much as you would find in 100 g of chicken breast! Apart from absolute protein content, the quality of protein from mushrooms is superior to almost all other vegetarian sources. This is because mushrooms contain all of the 9 essential amino acids whereas most plant-based protein sources lack one or more of these or may not have them in the required quantities.

 

If you’re an environmentally conscious fitness enthusiast, you might want to swap your chicken steak for some mushrooms next time because it takes roughly 156 times the amount of water to produce 1 kg of chicken as compared to the same quantity of fresh mushrooms. Yet one more way in which mushroom cultivation can help society is by giving us the protein we need on a daily basis while using only a fraction of water and resources compared to popular alternatives.

By adopting mushrooms as part of our daily diet, we can bring about the much-needed shift towards vegetarian and sustainable sources of protein at an individual level. This can further encourage more farmers to take up mushroom cultivation as a means to support themselves in a more sustainable manner.

 

Increase in lifestyle disorders as the leading cause of death in India

A recent article by the business world states that nearly 61% of people in India die due to lifestyle diseases. Lifestyle diseases are ones that are connected to how people live their lives. Irregular sleep patterns, unhealthy food habits, lack of regular physical activity, and stress are the leading causes of lifestyle disorders. Major lifestyle disorders most prevalent in India are obesity, hypertension, heart disease & stroke, type-2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

With advances in technology and the ever-increasing pace of life, lifestyle disorders are here to stay. Which leads us to the question of how mushrooms could possibly play a role in this?

Well, it turns out that many mushrooms contain novel compounds which can help us treat or manage many of the disorders mentioned above. Let’s take a look at a few common examples of medicinal mushrooms and their benefits:

 

 

From the above list, it is quite obvious that adding a dose of some of these potent medicinal varieties of mushrooms to your daily diet can help prevent or treat many of the most prevalent lifestyle disorders of today. No wonder mushrooms such as Reishi, which is regarded as the mushroom of immortality in China, have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for the last 10,000 years! India, with its rich heritage of natural remedies, should seriously consider adding these powerful medicinal mushrooms to its already vast arsenal of herbs.

Promoting awareness about the healing potential of mushrooms and their uses can help increase access to alternative healing remedies, which can improve the quality of life of millions of Indians who seek relief from their health conditions on a day-to-day basis.

I’ll be taking into account the other issue in the next blog piece stay tuned folks for Part 3: Why India Needs More Mushroom Farmers.

Read Part 3 here: https://nuvedo.com/2022/01/05/why-india-needs-more-mushroom-farmers-part-3-3/

If you need to recap on Part 1 on some of the environmental issues Read Part 1 here: https://nuvedo.com/2021/12/20/why-india-needs-more-mushroom-farmers-part-1-3/

Why India Needs More Mushroom Farmers (Part 1/3)

Our tagline at Nuvedo is “In Mushrooms We Trust”. At Nuvedo, we truly believe that fungi hold the answer to many of the most pressing issues that our country India is facing today on multiple fronts. Rather than looking at these as issues, we can approach them as opportunities for us to harness the true potential of fungi and progress towards a more sustainable future. So, let us take a look at some of these opportunities and see how mushrooms can help solve them.

The problems that we face today can be broadly be classified into 3 categories:

  • Environmental
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Socio-economic

Though all the problems listed below can be considered to have an environmental and economic benefit owing to the very nature of mushrooms, I have categorized them on the basis of the dominant theme. This blog has been split into 3 parts so as to get into the details of each of them. In part one, the environmental angle is what will be explored.

Environmental

The issue of crop burning

Every year, India generates about 700 million tons of agricultural waste out of which close to 16% is burnt, leading to an increase in airborne pollutants.

How bad is this problem?

It is estimated that the total national annual emission for CO2 from crop residue burning alone is more than 64 times the total annual CO2 pollution emission in Delhi. If this isn’t alarming enough, a study conducted by the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru, estimates that people in rural Punjab spend INR 7.6 crore every year on treatment for ailments caused by crop residue burning. Even after three years of an intense awareness campaign in Punjab, along with INR 1,000 crore worth of subsidies on straw management machines, there hasn’t been any big shift away from stubble burning. As per the data from Nasa’s VIIRS 375m satellite, 86,606 fires were detected in Punjab and Haryana this year which marks a 7.3% increase over last year. Moreover, climate scientists have already linked fine particulate matter in the haze to the melting of Himalayan glaciers. So, it is quite clear that crop residue burning is not a problem to be taken lightly. To understand the underlying causes let’s try and understand why farmers resort to burning crop residue.

There are 3 main reasons

  1. Most farmers use combine harvesting machines which cut the crop eight inches above the ground, leaving the stem stuck in the soil. Additional machinery is required to further remove the stubble, which have high operating costs and hence increases the financial burden on farmers. Burning is the cheapest and most convenient way to dispose of crop residue due to which farmers resort to it.
  2. There is no other profitable source of income that the farmer can generate from agricultural waste, apart from selling it as feedstock for bio-CNG plants or as animal fodder, both of which don’t generate enough income to cover the labour involved.
  3. The time window available to prepare the fields and sow winter wheat crops after paddy harvesting is really small, which forces the farmers to find a fast and easy way to remove crop residue. Overall, farmers find that harvesting the crop residue simply isn’t worth the effort that goes into it.

This is where mushrooms come in. Agricultural waste such as paddy and wheat straw makes a great substrate for cultivating a variety of mushrooms including different types of Oyster, Paddy straw, and Milky mushrooms. These mushrooms digest the lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose present in the straw and turn it into nutrients that help them grow. To see how profitable it can be let us compare the wholesale price (as of December 2021) of 1 Ton of wheat, Onion, and Oyster Mushrooms; 1 ton of wheat sells for  21,000, Onion for  62,000, and Oyster mushrooms for  1,00,000! Farmers can use their crop residue to cultivate these lignin-loving mushrooms and generate a considerable chunk of revenue from what would otherwise have been burnt. What makes this even more economical is that the mushrooms substrate which has been utilized to grow mushrooms (also called spent mushroom substrate) can be used in compost preparation; which can be added back into the fields to improve the structure and soil fertility. Currently in India only 1.5% of the agricultural waste generated is being used as substrate to cultivate mushrooms.

The spent mushroom substrate has also found use in industries to generate bio-diesel or can even be used to feed livestock! As you can see, mushroom cultivation is something that should be promoted in areas with an abundance of agricultural waste as a way to reduce waste, stop pollution and generate additional income.

 

India’s water crisis

India is facing a major water crisis today, which can be attributed to the culmination of a variety of issues. The major cause of this crisis lies within the agricultural industry. Nearly 90% of the available groundwater is currently being used by the agricultural industry for irrigation. This issue is made worse by unscientific growth of water intensive crops like sugarcane and rice in areas with poor rainfall and insufficient ground water. The Nature study, published in the year 2009, clearly warned that, if counter measures are not taken soon, India would not only face severe shortage of drinking water, but the agricultural yields would also reduce, which could lead to extensive socio-economic issues. The evidence so far is in line with this prediction. For example, the agricultural yield growth of Punjab which was once the top performing state, has reduced considerably in recent years. This coupled with potable water shortage and water and air pollution has caused a variety of problems in the state.

Consider this- 1 kg of wheat needs 1350 liters of water, 1 kg of rice needs 3000 liters of water, 1 kg maize needs 900 liters of water. Compared to all the crops mentioned above, 1 kg of fresh oyster mushrooms requires just 25 liters of water! Need I say more? Mushroom cultivation could be a really good way to provide much needed nutrition to the average Indian while utilizing 90% less water compared to commercially cultivated crops.

 

I’ll be taking into account the other two issues in the next blog piece stay tuned folks for Part 2: Why India Needs More Mushroom Farmers.

Read Part 2 here: https://nuvedo.com/2021/12/29/why-india-needs-more-mushroom-farmers-part-1-3-2/

India’s Mushroom Tribes: NuMushTe

India is a land of tribes, cultures, mixed religions, dance music, and most importantly cuisines that are diverse in many ways. The food of indigenous people holds contrasting spectrums while we move across geography. And with this diversity, tribes of India have adopted practices that are inherent to their regions in order to bring food to their plates. Ethnomycology is concerned with the roles of fungi in the human social experience. An inherently multidisciplinary field, it reaches myriad cultural domains and crosses interests in the humanities, fine arts, and social and natural sciences.
Ethnomycology, as a study is to be explored further in our country, but to begin, here is our attempt to explore, and understand our own heritage through documented evidence.

Some of these practices of foraging and hunting have been forgotten along the way as tribes started urbanizing further. Foraging as a concept has been lost, with the advent of mono cultivation and the free availability of food. However, with this ease, ideas of food over years have become what the market dictates. Over the years this repeated stress on cultivation has taken away the knack of urban and semi-urban communities to concepts of foraging and this skill lies simply with the tribes in dense forest locations. One such rampantly foraged kingdom is Fungi. After foraging, tribes collected recipes of various fungi and used them for medicinal, spiritual, and socio-economic purposes. India is home to the largest population of tribes (Adivasis) in the world, making fungi a close link to their culture. States like Assam, Nagaland, Madhya Pradesh, and Orrisa have shown many ethnomedicinal uses which have been very well documented. Diverse climates and unique biodiversity are host to a rich mushroom population in India and form a valuable non-timber forest resource for local tribes and communities. Consider the recipe of the ‘Kaani’ tribe of Tamil Nadu, the community collects mushrooms early morning and soaks them with pounded rice and water. Post this they boil the mixture with spices, salt, and green chilies and serve the same with grated coconut and tapioca.

Nowadays, we have begun to eat, not from a geographic perspective, nor from ancestry but from what the market dictates. Thus, our biochemistry over years is perhaps dictated by what our great-grandparents and ancestors have eaten, and we feed our guts non-intuitively. In the same way, we eat the mushrooms that the market dictates – button mushrooms while forgetting the various many beautiful, medicinal, and nutrient-rich mushrooms available in our lands.

Traditional knowledge of mushrooms within tribes of India lies deeply in the religious sacredness of festivals and ceremonies. Maharashtra cultivates a wide variety of mushrooms and has been building its so-called inventory through foraging, keeping ahead of the mushroom trends, and with a variety of mushroom cultivators propping up in the state. Local names of mushrooms in Maharashtra include aalimb, tree-loving varieties literally as “lakdachi aalimb” and “mohacha aalimb” as those which are closely linked to the mahua tree, and grow out there.

West Bengal has many regional ethnic tribes like Munda, Sabar, Lodha, Kol, Bhumija which are concentrated in the dense forest areas and consume wild edible mushrooms freely. Previously, ethnomedicinal uses of fungi in different areas of India like Assam 25, Nagaland 20, Madhya Pradesh 26, Northern Odisha 27, Similipal Biosphere Reserve 28, and Central India 29  were studied and documented. In Central India, Ganoderma lucidum is used as herbal medicine by the Baiga tribes to relieve those who suffer from curing asthma. Similarly, another potent medicine is Agaricus sp. which has found immense benefits in use in goiter. Lycoperdon pusillum was found to help in clotting, and wound healing with its antiseptic properties.

Baiga Tribe Photo

In a lot of tribes, the affordability of animal protein is impossible, and thus mushrooms are greatly valued as a source of protein. They form a vital food supplement solving a huge malnutrition problem in these areas. Ethnic tribes of western Assam such as Garos, Adivasis, Bodos, and Rajbangshis also do consume mushrooms on a regular basis in their pickles, festival cooking and in soups. Take, the Kodagu district in Karnataka where tribes have been foraging and consuming mushrooms just after the first monsoon rains. These mushrooms pop out from all around the forest near the base of trees and thus get their names, in a unique syntax. The ethnic names are derived from having the first name a tree name followed by ‘mara’ which means tree and ‘kum’ which means mushroom. Some common names also include Alambu = Mushroom, Amme = Breast-like, Anabe = Mushroom, Baari = Big, Balliya = Big, Baeru = Root, Beeru = Root, Buguri = Top / Pedestal, Chalae = Purple, Gante = Bell etc. Similarly in a neighboring state of Kerala, the mushrooms are given names along with their association with other plants. Mushrooms growing on tree stumps are called thuttikoonu, while those that grow along with jackfruits are called Chakkakumman. Some even are grown after the bamboo wood is put out, and destroyed known as mulankoonu. With every dialect and ethnic tribe, this close association with nature while bringing in nomenclature has a beauty that might have been lost as we moved away from nature.

Garos tribe photo

Due to their close association with festivals, rituals, and practices, mushrooms have traditions associated deeply with them in these tribes. For example –  the effects might get enhanced if the preparation is eaten or applied on an empty stomach on the onset of ‘Purnima’ or ‘Amavasya’ tithi. Celebrated, respected, and consumed widely, there is a lot to learn from the tribes of India as to why fungi have healed and stood the test of time.

Bodos tribe photo

Fungi are the link in the entire forest that takes signals through its mycelium network and helps us understand why each species operates the way it does. Our tribes in India and forest communities are the last piece of information on empirical knowledge of the fungal kingdom and unique species. In order to really respect and understand this kingdom, we need to keep our understanding of its characteristics intact.

While we understand just a sliver of it, as a community we ought to create pockets of collection, appreciation, and understanding through spending time in those environments, foraging for species, and documenting evidence that could benefit our relationship with mushrooms.

Women’s Health & Mushrooms

If you think closely, in your immediate group of friends, family, or loved ones, you would know at least one person, who has a lifestyle-related issue. We’re living in a time when a large number of us have new eating habits, sedentary jobs, and lifestyles that often lead to a lot of imbalance in the normal functioning of our bodies. These imbalances have long-term effects on our endocrine system which ultimately leads to an inability to maintain a state of homeostasis.

Homeostasis, any self-regulating process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival. If homeostasis is successful, life continues; if unsuccessful, disaster or death ensues. The stability attained is actually a dynamic equilibrium, in which continuous change occurs yet relatively uniform conditions prevail.” – The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

It is important to present the above statement here because we often forget that we need to strive towards balance, and try to bring a sense of equilibrium back into our bodies. In the context of women, hormonal imbalances translate into problems such as PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, weight gain, strong Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), lower fertility etc. Women go through experiences such as pregnancy and menopause which lead to spikes in hormonal levels. This surge of hormones can create a lot of discomfort and often lead to other complications as they continue.

Having said the above, women’s hormonal health often goes hand-in-hand with being able to manage stress, anxiety, and overall mental health.
We can safely say, that what steers the ship of a woman’s bodily health, is her hormones. Hormones are released from glands in your endocrine system. They tell your body how to breathe and how to expend energy. To explain this further, I will briefly explain how our bodies are governed by our hormonal balance.

For the sake of this article, we will look at the three key hormones that play vital roles in regulating women’s health:

  • Androgens: Androgens are made from cholesterol and are produced in the adrenal gland and the ovaries. Women and people with cycles who have higher levels of androgens than normal can experience symptoms like excess hair growth, acne, irregular or absent periods, and infertility.
  • Progesterone: Progesterone is the major hormone that promotes pregnancy.
  • Estrogen: Estrogen is the most famous sex hormone in women and people who menstruate. It is made from cholesterol (a type of fat molecule) within the body. You can read a little more on each of the above hormones here.

So where do mushrooms come into the picture?

Mushrooms have been viewed as therapeutic in ancient Chinese cultures and had their diversity explored thoroughly for various ailments and treatments both topically and internally. It’s no surprise then that mushrooms can be incredible for women’s health. And while, these have been recorded through history, and have their roots more firmly in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), — studying them with controlled methodologies is important.

As a disclaimer – what works in our own bodies must have a combination of our own medical history, what our doctors have recommended, and should intuitively work with our bio-feedback. Just as in India, we uncovered some of the potential healing benefits of Ayurveda, we must owe credit to what historically has been documented, and passed on through TCM.

Mushrooms contain compounds that have various properties such as antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, antiallergic, immunomodulating, cardiovascular protector, anticholesterolemic, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, antifungal, detoxification, and hepatoprotective effects. In the context of hormonal imbalances, what is fascinating is their ability to bring back “homeostasis,” and thereby creating a place where hormones find balance.

Mushrooms aid women’s health in their ability to up-regulate the immune system, elevate resistance to stress and help our bodies detoxify all the harmful xeno-estrogens – which act as hormone disruptors and are present in numerous cosmetics, plastics, and foods, such as additives, artificial flavors, and factory-farmed meats.

Let’s look at the top three issues faced among women in various age groups and the specific mushrooms that can help manage them better:

PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome):

Accumulation of excessive estrogen in the body due to hormonal imbalance, which comes mainly from poor diet, exercise, or under secretion of cholesterol, is responsible for the sex hormones being able to function properly.

Reishi mushroom growing on a tree

Reishi helps in stimulating the liver and helps detoxify xeno-estrogens which disrupt the functionality of female hormonal systems. Apart from being a direct link in the functionality of the liver, Reishi has a strong action in inhibiting testosterone. Women who consumed Reishi have shown reduced levels of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is an endogenous androgen sex steroid and thereby reducing acne, facial hair, and hair loss. As a potent natural anti-androgenic medicine it contains oils called triterpenoids which reduce the production of 5-alpha-reductase – a hormone that increases testosterone production. It also happens to be an important factor in benign prostate growth and prostate cancer.

 

Maitake mushrooms

Maitake is a very beneficial mushroom for PCOS. It has the ability to regulate insulin and induce ovulation which in turn regulates the menstrual cycle, thereby decreasing the chances of PCOS. Research has shown it may also help reduce pelvic inflammation, which is beneficial for women suffering from endometriosis, uterine fibroids, dysmenorrhea, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

 

Menopause:

When women reach their 40s and 50s, there is a natural decline in the reproductive hormones leading to a lot of discomfort such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness. These often lead to mild forms of anxiety and depression which create an overall surge of changes that can deeply affect women.
Mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years treating some of the symptoms of menopause and have shown great results.

 

Cordycep mushrooms

Cordyceps are a great way to mitigate irritability or mood swings which have resulted from low estrogen. It has been used widely to treat unpleasant effects of menopause and even lack of libido. Evidence shows that release 17β-estradiol (E2) directly influences the quality of maturing oocytes making it a strong contender to help with menopause. Cordyceps sinensis (CS) is a great option, but studies are still being conducted to examine and understand their effects at a deeper level.

In TCM, the liver often governs the way we respond to various diseases, imbalances and it is what regulates the movement of ‘qi’ within the body.  ‘Qi’ much like, “prana” in Ayurveda, is a concept of a circulating life force that sustains all living beings. It links our body’s physiological and emotional flow of energy in the body that maintains life.

Hence even with menopause, mushrooms that benefit liver functionality, such as reishi can be very therapeutic. Increasing evidence has proved that it has immuno-modulatory properties, simply put, it helps in boosting a weak immune system and brings to rest an overactive immune system. Reishi additionally has incredible benefits in reducing inflammation within joints, edema, and palpitations of the heart. For women going through a challenging time in their lives, during menopause, the ease and comfort it could bring to mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and depressive states are tremendous.

 

Candidiasis:

A common problem often caused by a parasitic fungus (Candida albicans) that lives in the digestive system mucous layer. During regular functioning of the immune system, the body has a strong ability to manage the fungi as they colonize the mouth, gastrointestinal tract and vagina. However, during a compromised immune functioning, a commonly occurring problem in women is vaginal yeast infections. Close to 75% of women, experience it at least once, in their lifetimes.  Itching, redness, and discharges as symptoms cause a lot of uneasiness throughout the day.

Interestingly, Maitake has shown ways to restore a good immuno-modulating response in the body. Although it does not directly target the problem it has a plethora of benefits in creating a good immune system. In a similar fashion, reishi has shown to have some efficacy in treating candida but not as effectively as standard medicines do. However, this does come to the point on how medicinal mushrooms play a larger role in daily supplements or lifestyle nutrients which can be more preventive rather than curative.

 

Shiitake mushroom

Extracts of shiitake have also been able to rid of Candida in a laboratory setting but in high concentrations. Both Reishi and Shiitake have proven to have a high amount of beta-glucans ( which can become immune stimulants in the body, activation of macrophages (Macrophages are specialized cells involved in the detection, phagocytosis, and destruction of bacteria and other harmful organisms), increase NK cell production.

The immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of β-glucans from different mushrooms’ species are known, however, their benefits in the case of women take a whole different landscape. We have only scratched the surface of what they can do. If taken consistently, with appropriate care and consideration to the bodies’ needs they host a variety of properties that have the ability to bring you back to homeostasis.

 

3 Tips for the best oyster mushroom growing experience

Congratulations on getting your very own Nuvedo High Protein Oyster Mushroom Growing Kit!

We are really happy that you have taken a step towards bringing the magic of mushrooms into your lives. #MoreRoomForShrooms

If you have just received your kit, you probably have a lot of questions on your mind right now. Where do I keep it? How much water do I spray? When do I harvest?

We have tried to answer as many of those questions here in our FAQ Section.

We highly recommend that you through it once before you start.

For those curious to know more, continue to read on:

The substrate block you see inside the kit is nothing but chopped and sterilized straw with mycelium (the white stuff) growing on it. The patches of yellow and brown that you see on the block are metabolites released by the mycelium as it feeds on the straw for its nutrition.oyster mushrooms

Once you cut open the membrane of the substrate and spray water on the block for the first time, the mycelium gets triggered into the fruiting stage of its lifecycle. The rush of fresh air increased humidity, and exposure to moisture tricks the mycelium to start producing fruiting bodies or what we commonly call mushrooms.

As a mushroom farmer, you have to try and mimic its natural environment in the best way possible for the best results. The mushroom in your growing kit is Lentinus Sajor Caju, commonly known as The Indian Oyster Mushroom.

It is mostly found growing from the sides of dead tree logs, which is also why you cut the side of the substrate block and not the top.

They grow best in cool (19 – 30 Degrees Celsius) and humid environments (65-80% Relative Humidity) with a lot of fresh air.

For a home grower to improve his chances of getting a beautiful flush, consider 3 things – light, air, and moisture.

 

Dos and don'ts for oyster MushroomsLet’s examine the three factors:

 

Light:

Mushrooms are not plants, they cannot photosynthesize and depend on the substrate for food. This means that they don’t need direct sunlight but at the same time they cannot survive in complete darkness either. Light is a trigger for the mycelium to produce mushrooms, so you have to place your kit somewhere where it gets exposed to light for around 12 hours a day. The light source can even be ambient indoor lighting, just make sure that it doesn’t get too hot as high temperatures can cause the substrate blocks to overheat and kill the mycelium.

Air:

Mushrooms breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide just like us. Oyster mushrooms in particular tend to do well in places that have high levels of oxygen, so keeping your kit in a place with good air circulation is important. Next to a window would be ideal, but if you decide to keep it in a closed room, you should make sure that you open the door to the room and switch on the fan or blower for a few minutes to draw in the fresh air a few times a day.

While fruiting, mushrooms will drop spores, keeping them next to a window will allow the spores to get carried away by air currents.

Moisture:

The membrane on the substrate prevents the block from drying out completely by trapping the moisture inside. Spraying the exposed substrate after cutting the membrane, triggers the mycelium to enter fruiting. This is the same reason that we find mushrooms after fresh rains, the moisture from the rain triggers underground mycelium to reach up to the surface and form mushrooms. So, you aren’t really “watering” the mushrooms like you do plants by spraying water.

This means that you just have to spray enough clean water to keep the substrate moist without making it soggy or wet. A good test to know if your block has enough moisture is to touch the surface of the substrate with your finger (remember to wash your hands before handling the block!), it should feel moist but your finger should not be visibly wet.

Take care to use filtered water as tap water can contain chlorine which is harmful to the growth of mushrooms.

  • Humidity: Another aspect of moisture is humidity. If your geographic location has humidity less than 65%, you have to increase the humidity around the kit by placing a wet towel or cloth next to the base of your kit. The evaporation of water from the cloth creates a humid microclimate around the kit, which can help you get good harvests.

We hope we have been able to cover your doubts regarding how you can grow your kit well.

Remember- To be a good mushroom farmer you have to learn directly from the fungi by observing them patiently.

In case you have any more queries please do reach out to us or write to us.

All the best for your mushroom journey!

0
    0
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop
    WhatsApp