Checklist | What to Look for When Buying Medicinal Mushrooms
Not all medicinal mushroom extracts are created equally. There are a variety of factors that can affect an extract’s potency from the cultivation conditions through to the extraction process.
We’ve enjoyed using a variety of medicinal mushroom extracts over the years and when we started on the journey of sourcing medicinal mushrooms for Inner Atlas, we had certain criteria we were looking for. We wanted to be able to provide medicinal mushies of a higher quality than what was already available and that were at a standard we wanted to take ourselves.
Our sourcing journey was a long one, about a year and a half in fact. But we landed on a supplier and a group of farms that had practices of growing medicinal mushrooms which were in alignment with what we were seeking.
As you can probably tell our obsession with medicinal mushrooms runs deep and in this journal entry, we reveal a checklist of the things that you should look out for to ensure you're getting the best quality medicinal mushroom extracts available. And you can rest assured we've got you covered, Inner Atlas mushies tick all of the boxes.
What to Look Out for when Choosing a Medicinal Mushroom Extract:
Beta-D-Glucans – not polysaccharides
Strong Colour & Taste
Fruiting Body Only
Semi-Wild or Wild Harvested
High Extraction Ratio
Beta-D-glucans are one of the main components responsible for making a medicinal mushroom medicinal. As known biological response modifiers, they have the ability to up-regulate and down-regulate the response of our biological systems. High levels of beta-D-glucans were essential for us as we wanted to be able to guarantee to our customers that our mushies were active and potent and had the ability to provide the benefits they’re intended to. Each of our Inner Atlas medicinal mushroom extracts contain at least 30% beta-D-glucans, which is more than other extracts you may have come across, and we guarantee this with Megazyme testing. It's an expensive testing method to undertake but in our view, it's worth it.
Now you may have also seen some medicinal mushroom products that have a polysaccharide count listed on the label (if any compounds are listed at all). Let’s clear up the confusion between beta-D-glucans and polysaccharides. Some polysaccharides like starch or gluten help store the energy we gain from consuming food and are commonly found in foods like oats, potatoes, and legumes. Here’s where it gets interesting, beta-glucans are not the only type of polysaccharide found in mushrooms. Alpha-glucans are another type of polysaccharide found in mushrooms that have no medicinal properties. Mushrooms that have a high listed polysaccharide count (over 50% ) commonly contain high levels of alpha-glucans. This is due to the prevalence of mushrooms and mycelium-based products that are grown on grain or rice. These products are drawing their nutrients from the starchy substrate they are grown on and contain residual starch that isn't filtered out during processing. The reality of these grain grown products is that they're faster and less costly to produce.
The bottom line - to make sure you’re buying a medicinal mushroom product that’s active and potent it’s important to look for a beta-D-glucans count rather than polysaccharides.
Colour & Taste
Growing medicinal mushrooms can be expensive. Often locally grown medicinal mushrooms make up for it by not separating the mushroom fruiting body from the rice or grain substrate that it may be grown on. The result is a mushroom product that may contain very little medicinal mushrooms. Grain and rice all have a beige like colour. So, if a medicinal mushroom product you might be using is bland in colour and taste chances are you might have an expensive brown rice or grain product on your hands. In this case, words you should look out for and avoid are mycelium, mycelium biomass and full-spectrum. A medicinal mushroom product should be rich in colour ranging from white (Tremella) to a very dark brown (Reishi and Chaga) and have a vibrant rich flavour, often earthy or bitter. A strong flavour and colour are physical signs of a mushroom extract’s potency and something you’ll be able to notice with our Inner Atlas mushies.
Fruiting Body Only
Our extracts contain mushroom fruiting body only. We don’t include any mycelium, which is the root system of the mushroom. The fruiting body contains the highest level of beneficial compounds which is why we opt to use this component only so you can be sure you’re getting 100% real mushrooms.
Medicinal Mushrooms draw their nutrients from the substrate they’re grown on. Our Inner Atlas medicinal mushrooms are all grown on the traditional wood (duanwood) each type naturally grows on (with the exception of Cordyceps). Duanwood means ‘original wood’. Mushrooms are a product of their environment and as we mentioned draw minerals from their surrounds and what they’re grown on, meaning wood-grown mushrooms are thought to result in higher levels of active compounds.
We use the one type of cultivated Cordyceps that produces a fruiting body, Cordyceps Militaris. Wild Cordyceps grows from the body of insects, usually caterpillars, as a parasitic fungus. It’s super rare, has negative impacts on the environment due to over sourcing, and very expensive. We opt for the vegan version using the fruiting body only.
Semi-Wild & Sustainably Wild Harvested
Our mushies are grown in semi-wild, natural environmental conditions exposed to the elements including the sun, rain, temperature changes, and wind. These conditions prime our mushies for resilience and promote the production of all of the beneficial compounds you would find in wild-growing mushrooms. There are two exceptions to this, our Chaga which is sustainably wild harvested from birch trees in Siberia and our Cordyceps Militaris which is grown indoors.
Di Tao is the traditional Daoist practice of tonic herbs being sourced from their spiritual homeland or authentic place of origin. Our Inner Atlas medicinal mushroom extracts are sourced from pristine and remote Di Tao growing regions, where the individual mushrooms have been traditionally grown and are considered to produce the most potent mushrooms of that particular type.
We're all aware of the benefits of eating organic produce wherever possible. It's no different when it comes to medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms are a product of their environment and absorb from their surrounding environment, which if your extracts aren't organic, could be unwanted toxins and contaminants. We source our mushies from farms that are certified organic within the EU and USDA Organic Certification Programs. Our farmers are subject to stringent audits to ensure their mushrooms and farms don't contain any contaminants, pesticides, or heavy metals. We also lab test our mushies for a second time here in Australia as a measure to double-check their purity before they reach you.
Our mushies also have some of the highest extract ratios available. For instance, our Chaga has a 20:1 ratio, meaning 20 kg of raw Chaga makes 1 kg of our Chaga extract. You might notice some more affordable extracts in your local bulk health food store that may have a 1:1 extract ratio. This means that you’d have to consume a lot more of this lower extraction mushie to get the same active benefit.
You might notice that our mushies are dual extracted. Dual extraction refers to a combination of water and in our case organic alcohol extraction. Alcohol is used to draw out the fat-soluble compounds in the mushrooms, the adaptogenic terpenoids. Hot water is used to extract the water-soluble compounds, the polysaccharides, and the immunomodulating beta-D-glucans. The dual extraction process ensures you’re getting the full spectrum of compounds when it comes to a potent mushroom extract.
We hope this rundown helps to demystify some of the messaging around medicinal mushrooms and we'd love to hear from you with any questions or thoughts in the comments section below.
 Beta-D-Glucans | Why They Are So Important When It Comes to Medicinal Mushrooms