About Medicinal Mushrooms
What are medicinal mushrooms?
Medicinal mushrooms are those mushrooms which upon consumption can provide a physiological benefit to the body.
In simple terms, they are mushrooms whose compounds can promote health and wellbeing in those who consume them. They are also known as functional mushrooms.
Traditional Wisdom Meets Modern Science
For centuries, cultures like China, Japan, and various indigenous tribes have harnessed the healing properties of medicinal mushrooms. These extraordinary fungi have a rich history of promoting well-being and vitality.
Common medicinal mushrooms
Let’s get to know some of the prominent medicinal mushrooms:
Ganoderma: Also known as Reishi or Lingzhi, it is the most widely consumed medicinal mushroom. It is known for its immunomodulatory, stress relieving and anticancer properties.
Lion’s Mane: This is both a culinary and medicinal mushroom. It has a delicious seafood-like flavour while its extracts have neuroprotective properties and promote gastric health.
Cordyceps: This cool mushroom which parasitises unwary caterpillars is often consumed as an athletic supplement. It is known to promote metabolic health and improve stamina.
Shiitake: A prized culinary mushroom, it is also used in many traditional medicines. It has potent anti-inflammatory properties and is widely used as an ingredient in cosmetics.
Turkey Tail: Beautiful and radiant, mushrooms of this family can be found the world over. They are known for their potent anti-cancer activity.
The Magic in the Mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms carry out their effects through molecules that are produced within the fungal cells. These molecules when consumed, interact with different physiological systems within our bodies. These interactions can alter how our body responds to external stresses such as infections, long work days or grueling workouts.
Key Players: Beta Glucans and Terpenes
The most important bioactive molecules to look for in medicinal mushrooms are the beta glucans and terpenoids.
Beta glucans are water soluble (complex sugar) polysaccharide molecules that form part of the fungal cell wall. These molecules interact with our immune system and regulate their activity.
Terpenes are alcohol soluble molecules that enter our bodies cells and affect various cellular functions. They have a wide range of effects and benefits.
Extracts vs. Powders: The Better Choice
A common thing to consider when consuming medicinal mushrooms is whether to consume them directly or through extracts. In our opinion, extracts are a better way to consume medicinal mushrooms as they contain higher concentrations of bioactive molecules.
Moreover, the bioavailability of the bioactive molecules in extracts are far higher than in mushrooms. The tough fungal cell walls are made of indigestible chitin, which prevents most of the molecules from being absorbed when consumed directly.
The Art of Extraction
Many methods can be used to prepare medicinal mushroom extracts. However, all methods are not the same. In every case, a solvent of some kind is used to extract the bioactive molecules from the fungal matter.
The nature of the solvent used, chooses the bioactive molecules that are extracted. The most common type of extraction is a hot water extraction, similar to brewing tea. This involves boiling or simmering the mushrooms in a vessel of water and it mostly extracts beta glucans, and other water soluble compounds.
The other most commonly used method is an alcoholic extraction. In this case, ethanol is used in place of water. This extracts polyphenols and terpenoids but not the beta glucans. In this way extract manufacturers can cater the composition of the extracts to suit a particular need.
If one is seeking to reap the broadest benefits from a medicinal mushroom extract, it is recommended to consume dual extracts. Dual extracts combine both hot water and alcohol extracts to deliver the maximum number of bioactive molecules per dose.
The Importance of Certificates of Analysis
Certificates of analysis are reports generated by accredited analytical testing labs that contain information about the quality and safety of an extract or supplement.
Heavy metals: Heavy metals are common contaminants in water and can have severe adverse effects when consumed beyond permissible limits. Analytical tests for heavy metals are necessary to ensure that the products are safe and free of heavy metals.
Microbial loads: Food safety is a major concern when producing mushroom supplements or extracts. Food borne bacteria such as E. coli can cause severe gastrointestinal distress. Testing of microbial loads of a food product is an easy way to ensure the consumed material is safe.
Beta glucans: Beta glucans are the major immunomodulatory molecules extracted from medicinal mushrooms. It is important to check beta glucan content of mushroom supplements or extracts when seeking immunomodulatory benefits.
Terpenes: Terpenes are responsible for a wide range of functional benefits. Most benefits apart from immunomodulatory ones are often because of terpenes. Terpenes can also have immunomodulatory effects in addition to their other effects. Terpenes are a large class of molecules and each medicinal mushroom will possess different terpene molecules in them.
At Nuvedo, we’re dedicated to providing you with the knowledge and products you need to make informed choices for your well-being. Explore the world of medicinal mushrooms with us and unlock their incredible potential.