Medicinal Mushroom Lingo – The Top Terms You Need to Know
Navigating the world of medicinal mushrooms and the lingo that comes with it can be a little confusing. From physiological responses to the biology of the mushrooms themselves, it can seem like a whole new world, and in some ways it is as herbal tradition and science continue to meet allowing us to discover more about the fascinating capabilities of medicinal mushrooms and the benefits they hold for us. Here are the top terms to add to your mushie vocabulary.
Active compounds are substances found in food that have a biological effect or health benefit for the person consuming it.
Adaptogens are naturally occurring non-toxic substances that make our bodies resilient to stressors whether they be physical, psychological, environmental or chemical by balancing and optimising our physical functions. The prime systems they regulate are the endocrine, nervous system, immune, digestive, and cardiovascular functions.
Beta-D-glucans are largely responsible for making a medicinal mushroom medicinal and giving them their adaptogenic properties. They are biological response modifiers, which refers to the ability to up-regulate and down-regulate the response of biological systems. The architecture of beta-D-glucans vary slightly from mushroom to mushroom, which gives each mushie its own set of benefits supported by the presence of additional active compounds.
Our Inner Atlas medicinal mushrooms have the highest beta-d-glucans of any medicinal mushrooms available in Australia, at levels greater than 30%.
Bi-directional is a term that we use a lot as it helps describe the function of adaptogens and immunomodulators meaning our medicinal mushrooms have the ability to upregulate or downregulate our physical functions to help optimise and achieve balance.
Biological Response Modifier
Biological response modifiers are substances that modify the responses of vital systems in our body like our immune system, in this case, either stimulating or suppressing our immune response.
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.
This is a method used to get the maximum amount of health benefits from a medicinal mushroom. It 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, like the immunomodulating beta-D-glucans.
Duanwood means ‘original wood’. Our semi-wild cultivated mushrooms are grown on the wood they would naturally grow on in the wild. Mushrooms are a product of their environment and draw minerals from their growth substrate. Wood-grown mushrooms result in higher levels of active compounds.
Is the part of the mushroom that grows above ground and contains the most beneficial compounds for our health. We only use the fruiting body in our Inner Atlas medicinal mushroom extracts.
Immunomodulators are similar to adaptogens but relate to the immune system. They help to regulate the immune system calming it down if it’s overactive in the case of allergies or autoimmune disorders, or stimulating it if it’s underactive which is necessary to fight colds and viruses. Immunomodulators play a critical role in balancing the immune system and keeping it consistent. All of our Inner Atlas medicinal mushrooms, Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Lion’s Mane and Tremella are immunomodulators.
Mycelium or Mycelial Biomass
Mycelium is like the root system of the mushroom and contains some, but few active compounds when compared to the fruiting body of a medicinal mushroom. It's important to note that medicinal mushroom extracts that contain mycelium are most commonly grown on grain or rice. The mycelium is embedded in the grain and is impossible to separate during the extraction process, unfortunately resulting in a product that's labelled as a medicinal mushroom but actually contains a whole lot of grain. The popularity of these products is that they're far faster and less costly to produce.
Nootropics are substances that improve cognitive function, memory, creativity or motivation in healthy individuals. Lion's Mane mushroom is a well-known nootropic.
A nutraceutical is a product derived from natural sources that provide nutritional and health benefits.
You may have seen mushroom products that list a polysaccharide count on the label. However, beta-d-glucans are the real measure of quality when it comes to medicinal mushrooms.
Beta-D-glucans are a type of polysaccharide. Polysaccharides are water-soluble chemical compounds that make up chains of complex carbohydrates. 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. High levels of polysaccharides in medicinal mushrooms are often coming from mycelium-based products that are grown on grain or rice. These ‘mushroom’ products are drawing their nutrients from the starchy substrate they are grown on and contain residual starch that isn’t filtered out during processing, and as a result, aren't immunologically active.
Sclerotia or Sclerotium
A sclerotium is a sterile or hardened mass of mycelium that forms in some medicinal mushrooms like Chaga.
A substrate refers to the material that mycelium and inevitably a mushroom grows from like wood in the case of Inner Atlas, and rice or grain when it comes to some other products. The medicinal mushroom draws its nutrients from this substrate.
Triterpenes are another type of active compound found in medicinal mushrooms. Reishi mushroom has a high level of triterpenes. They are fat-soluble chemical compounds with proven anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
Wood grown medicinal mushrooms refer to mushrooms being grown on logwood or trees rather than grain or rice. Wood grown medicinal mushrooms are shown to have higher levels of active compounds as they are drawing their minerals and nutrients from trees and wood rather than a starchy substrate.
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 Beta-d-glucans in medicinal mushrooms https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301922414_Measurement_of_b-Glucan_in_Mushrooms_and_Mycelial_Products