Medicinal Mushroom Extracts vs Whole Powders
With so many different types of medicinal mushroom products out there it can be hard to navigate which one might be best for you. Have you come across whole ground medicinal mushrooms and wondered how they differ from extracts? It all comes down to the way they are processed.
Whole Medicinal Mushroom Powders:
Whole medicinal mushroom powders are created by grinding down dried mushrooms, mycelium and in most cases the substrate they’re grown on, into powder.
Medicinal Mushroom Extract Powders:
Medicinal mushroom extract powders are created by extracting the array of beneficial compounds found in medicinal mushrooms which is then dried and turned into powder.
We’ll start by clarifying that dual-extraction is the only way in which to access the full benefits of medicinal mushrooms.
'Dual-extraction is the only way in which to access the full benefits of medicinal mushrooms'.
When it comes to food, the term ‘wholefoods’ often reigns supreme as we know we’re getting a broad spectrum of nutrients from a particular plant or natural food source, but this isn’t the case when it comes to medicinal mushrooms. Read on to find out why.
The Importance of Bioavailability in Medicinal Mushrooms
Bioavailability means we’re able to digest and absorb the nutrients from the food we’re consuming.
The cells of medicinal mushrooms are made of a tough fibre called chitin. Chitin acts as a barrier that surrounds and embeds the beneficial active compounds within medicinal mushrooms effectively locking them in. Chitin is an extremely hard all-natural material and is also found in lobster and insect shells. Humans cannot digest chitin properly meaning whole ground, non-extracted medicinal mushrooms are indigestible and unfortunately have pretty much no health benefit.
'Whole ground, non-extracted medicinal mushrooms are indigestible and unfortunately have pretty much no health benefit'.
What makes a medicinal mushroom medicinal is the active compounds like beta-d-glucans, triterpenes, polyphenols, phytosterols, sterols and proteins. With whole ground medicinal mushrooms, these beneficial compounds are encased within the fibrous chitin barrier unable to be digested. This is why it's important to opt for a mushroom extract to ensure you can access the benefits you are seeking.
Extracted Medicinal Mushroom Powders to Access Active Compounds
Extracted medicinal mushrooms remove the chitin barrier by dissolving the mushroom’s tough cell walls and making the active compounds accessible to the human body.
Dual extraction or double extraction refers to a combination of hot water and in our case organic alcohol extraction. Dual-extraction is a two-step process. First alcohol is used to draw out the fat-soluble compounds in the mushrooms, the adaptogenic terpenoids. In the second step 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.
You might notice we also have high extraction ratios across all of our mushies. Our Chaga extract for instance has a 20:1 extraction ratio meaning 20kg of raw Chaga makes 1kg of Chaga extract powder. A high extraction ratio is typically used as a benchmark for the potency of a medicinal mushroom extract, and this is indeed the case when it comes to mushies that have been dual-extracted. Without an indicator of dual-extraction a medicinal mushroom product could just be a dried and ground mushroom. Mushrooms are often 80% - 90% water, so an extraction ratio without the mention of dual-extraction could simply be an indication of drying a medicinal mushroom to a percentage of its original weight, and still contain the fibrous chitin rendering the mushroom’s nutrients unabsorbable.
The Bottom Line
Always lookout for a medicinal mushroom extract over a whole powdered or non-extracted medicinal mushroom. Whole-powdered medicinal mushrooms, unfortunately have no bioavailable active compounds and therefore no real benefit for your health.
Taking this a step further we are one of the few companies that test our mushies for the prime active compound, beta-d-glucans using the Megazyme testing method. The testing process is a costly one but to us, it's worth it as we can guarantee greater than 30% beta-d-glucans across all of our medicinal mushroom extracts, so you can be sure your mushies are active and potent. Our current batch of Turkey Tail for instance has an impressive 48.20% beta-d-glucan level!