Comparing Functional Fungi for Healing Benefits

by Garrett Kopp September 24, 2020 8 Comments

Comparing medicinal mushrooms

Highlights of Healing Mushrooms

A common misconception is that a single mushroom extract is good for a single benefit. Companies use this misconception for marketing and to distinguish their products from one another, but it could not be farther from the truth. If you read our blogs and look at our product labels, you will find that almost all of our mushroom products share some key benefits. While it is true that each mushroom differs in its specific composition of mycochemicals, most offer shared health benefits:

  • Immunomodulatory Activity
  • High Antioxidant Content
  • Anti-Inflammatory Activity

There is no mutual exclusivity in medicinal mushrooms. A single mycochemical may have many benefits, and a single benefit can be attributed to many mycochemicals[1]. These niche mycological compounds work together synergistically to support nearly every aspect of your health.

Chart comparing benefits of medicinal mushroom


Major Bioactive Components:

Beta Glucans

Chances are you have heard of beta-glucans[2], but might not have ever heard how they work. Let’s change that! Beta-glucans stimulate the immune system because our immune cells recognize them as invasive. Our immune system, in turn, is stimulated. It gets to work producing more immune cells and working harder to protect our body. It’s like having a nice, strong coffee before a productive day… but for our immune system.

Antioxidants: Phenolic Compounds

Antioxidants and antioxidant supplements are everywhere now. So what sets mushrooms apart? In addition to being a 100% natural source, mushrooms are an extremely potent source of a plethora of antioxidant phenolic compounds. Not one, not two, but countless different phenolics work together to prevent cellular and DNA damage due to oxidative stress. In order to achieve this, antioxidants scavenge and extinguish free-radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are highly reactive chemical species that cause disease and cancer by damaging our cellular membranes and DNA. Antioxidants support our cellular and DNA health and have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting activity.

Chaga, in particular, is the breadwinner when it comes to antioxidants. Chaga contains a high amount of melanin[3], which is a potent phenolic antioxidant. We always hear about berries being the “best” source of antioxidants, but Chaga has 1,300 times the antioxidant concentration of blueberries. Yes, that is a lot.

Triterpenoids

Triterpenoids (or triterpenes)[4] are a class of compounds with immunomodulatory activity, including antiviral, antimicrobial, and anticancer activity. Reishi is a potent source of triterpenoids. There is a reason Reishi has been lauded as the key to vitality and longevity for thousands of years in traditional chinese medicine. You can even use your taste buds as evidence of the presence of triterpenoids in Reishi as they are responsible for the bitter flavor. Ganoderic acid, lucidenic acid, and ganoderiols[5] are unique triterpenoids found only in Reishi. These compounds have been researched for their anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antiviral, and hepatoprotective (hepato: liver) properties.

While Reishi is widely known for its high concentration of medicinal triterpenoids, many other medicinal mushrooms also contain unique triterpenoids. Lion’s Mane, a popular nootropic mushroom, contains two such compounds: Hericenones and Erinacines[5]. Found only in Lion’s Mane mushrooms, hericenones and erinacines are small molecules with the ability to stimulate synthesis of Nerve Growth Factors (NGF) in the brain and promote the growth and survival of your brain’s neurons. I can’t fully express in words how incredible this is! Triterpenoids also possess immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory activities. For me, Lion’s Mane is the one mushroom I never forget to include in my daily health regimen (Wink!).


soluble active ingredients of mushrooms mychochemicals

All of the mycochemical groups listed down the left column encompass a broad subgroup of chemicals, which I have listed more specifically and notated in the Extra Science Footnotes below![7]


The Role of Solubility Properties in Extract Formulation

We get asked a lot why we use water and ethanol for our extracts: Why not just water? Why do we combine them? Why ethanol? The shortest answer: Using both water and ethanol allows us to extract the highest amount of beneficial compounds.

All chemicals follow a set of solubility rules: the structure of a chemical determines which solvents (e.g. water, alcohol, oil, etc.) it is soluble in. Every chemical has a “preference” for a particular type of solvent. Luckily, many mycochemicals prefer water, but some do not, so we use ethanol to coax the rest of the mycochemicals into our extract. Dual extracts will offer a higher potency and a broader range of benefits and compounds than a simple water extract will. Anyone who tells you that alcohol extracts are useless or undesired has not done their research. Beneficial phytosterols, glycosides, and are all readily solubilized by ethanol!

Another question we get a lot: Why is my tincture/extract cloudy? Is this bad? Answer: No, it is perfectly normal! A cloudy tincture means that there are particulates in the liquid. This is a result of those pesky solubility rules. When we combine our water and ethanol extracts, somethings may precipitate out of solution. The precipitate causes the tincture to appear cloudy. Just make sure to shake up your extract bottle before use!


Final Notes from the Author

I hope everyone had at least half the fun reading this as I had writing it! Reading all of the research was so interesting (and if you are still curious to learn more, I have attached some excellent sources below!). I want to note that this is by no means a complete story of the mycochemicals and benefits of medicinal mushrooms- this is an introduction. I tried to sum up the most important information on this topic. If you feel like there is anything missing, please let me know! Thanks so much for reading and HAPPY NATIONAL MUSHROOM MONTH! Look out for another blog at the end of the month.




Garrett Kopp
Garrett Kopp

Author


8 Responses

Julie
Julie

October 23, 2020

Hi, thanks for the interesting information. I’ve recently become interested in birch polypore mushrooms (Fomitopsis betulina) and have gathered and dried a bunch for tea. You don’t mention this particular type…do you think their health benefits are inferior to the fungi you’ve noted above?

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September 24, 2020

I appreciate your article but would question one thing, that Chaga is an immune-modulator rather than an immune stimulant. Would you by chance have a reference for this claim? Thank you

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