Beware of 'Mushroom Extract Powders'

The differences in physical characteristics between dried, ground fruiting bodies of wild fungi and their ‘extract powder’ derivatives are profound. They vary in taste, color, solubility, and micronutrient composition.
Beware of 'Mushroom Extract Powders' - Birch Boys, Inc.

Products consisting of ‘mushroom extract powder’ compose a majority of the mainstream healing mushroom market here in the United States. These products are marketed as instant coffees, elixirs, coffee substitutes, capsules, smoothie additives, and more. The common theme of these products is that they are all soluble like instant coffee; they dissolve in water.

On the contrary, ground mushrooms in a dried, natural state do not dissolve in water. The differences in physical characteristics between naturally dried fruiting bodies of wild fungi such as Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) and Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) and their ‘extract powder’ derivatives are profound. They vary in taste, color, solubility, and micronutrient composition.

The obvious question - How does one convert a mushroom fruiting body into an ‘extract powder?'

Process used to make Mushroom Extract Powders

    It begins by crushing / grinding the mushroom into a powder. The mushroom is then brewed or otherwise extracted with water. The resulting liquid is separated from the insoluble mushroom solids. The liquid is then dehydrated in any one of the following three means:
    • Spray-dry method: The extract is sprayed into a centrifugal machine with hot, compressed air.
    • Infrared-dry method: The extract is dried in infrared ovens.
    • Freeze-dry method: The extract is dried through sublimation
    The dried soluble constituents are yielded and grated into a fine powder.

Flaws of Mushroom Extract Powder Dehydration Methods

While the concept of this extraction seems logical and convenient for a consumer, it should be noted that the infrared-drying method as well as the spray-drying method inevitably alter the yielded constituents through exposure to extreme heat. (Spray-drying is the worst, using temperatures up to 302 degrees Fahrenheit).

The freeze-dried method of sublimation is perhaps the most legitimate approach to creating a mushroom extract powder that yields the soluble active constituents of the original mushroom, but this method also has drawbacks:

    • Recovery of sublimable agents is frequently incomplete because fumes blow away (aka - extra waste and uncertainty of yield purity)
    • Most chemicals don’t sublime under reasonable conditions, meaning that it takes extreme amounts of energy and highly specialized pharmaceutical equipment to properly perform sublimation.

Original Mushroom Quality is Obscured

From a more broad perspective, common sense suggests that heightened levels of scrutiny should be applied to a product utilizing mushroom extract powders compared to products that use dried whole or ground mushrooms in their natural state because the tangible physical properties of the original mushrooms have become obscured. If you desire an end-product that has legitimate healing power from any mushroom, you deserve absolute transparency as to how the mushroom was sourced and how it was extracted. Especially if you are unable to verify its basic qualitative attributes on your own!

The numbers don’t add up…

We need look no further than to discover something very fishy about mushroom extract powders: the price. Considering the laborious steps required in manufacturing a mushroom extract powder, you’d think it would cost more than dried whole mushrooms in their natural state. Right?

Wrong! Suspiciously, wholesale buyers can purchase bulk Chaga extract powder in larger volumes and at lower prices than they are able to for real, unadulterated Chaga. This is probably because mushroom extract powders are often cut with filler substances such as cocoa, flour, and other mystery material.

 mushroom extract powder is cheap

alibaba whole chaga pricing

Most Mushroom Extract Powders only capture water soluble components

A tincture contrarily captures both water soluble and ethanol-soluble components of the mushroom. Mushroom tinctures are full-spectrum extracts, while mushroom extract powders will only offer the (uncompromised) water-soluble components of the mushroom.

Locally sourced mushroom products made in the USA are more trustworthy.

Chinese and Russian manufacturers of mushroom extract powders enjoy the freedom of ZERO regulatory oversight. If you are a foreign supplier of bulk mushroom extract powder to be sold in the United States, who is going to stop you from forging a fraudulent certificate of analysis that meets the needs of your big-brand American buyer?

It’s safe to say that the FDA isn’t going to travel to a sovereign nation in order to inspect and verify claims made by suppliers of mushroom extract powders. I have a feeling the CCP is similarly indifferent. Sadly, raw materials sourced abroad are not held to the same standards that American companies are held to by reasonable state and federal food safety regulations.

Knowing this - It’s no surprise that certificates of analysis provided publicly by the suppliers of mushroom extract powders do not feature contact information from accredited 3rd party laboratories. Instead, they may feature a handful of non-specific claims such as “30% polysaccharide” or “1% triterpene.” You should never take their word for it. Ask for a certificate of analysis from a US-based accredited 3rd party lab.

This is not to diminish the powerful cultural history and knowledge of healing mushrooms abroad; it is to shed light on the fact that predatory international suppliers of fraudulent products take advantage of American brands and consumers. It is about holding these products to the same standard they’d be held to by our own state and federal authorities.

I encourage us all to ask - what specifically are we dissolving in our beverages and how exactly is it being made?

The Main Benefit of Mushroom Extract Powder

Mushroom extract powder is designed with one thing in mind: Marketing. Thus far, it has worked to the benefit of the brands who deploy it. In my opinion, the transformative healing powers of mushrooms hold a throne within the broadening marketplace of powerful health supplements - a category that exists beyond the limited lane of coffee substitutes and instant beverages.