• Which supplement should I choose ?
Too long, won’t read all that:
The core of this article: The product should be bioavailable -meaning: extracted- to optimise the therapeutic potential. With that out of the way, all that matters is:
• what is in the product (bioactives such as beta-glucan and triterpenes, which make it useful)
Those details are easy to get (objective third-party contract labs are not expensive at all). Unfortunately, most vendors prefer to keep things vague, don’t list specifications and do not test their products. They simply copy/paste their supplier ‘s specifications and skip quality control.
Probably for marketing reasons they choose to avoid objective facts but instead might emphasise ‘organic’, ‘US grown – Contains no ingredients from China!’,’Fruiting Bodies only!’ or other deceiving marketing phrases. Deceiving, because these are not quality markers. Objective quality can be measured in a lab and the results should be specified in the official supplement facts panel listing percentages of bioactives.
‘Organic’ is not a guarantee for quality in the case of mushrooms. ‘Organic’ does not tell you how much heavy metals are still present. Mushrooms accumulate heavy metals ! All potential dangers including heavy metals should be covered in a third party test report.
If there are no details and no test report that means a huge red flag. The product has not been tested for quality, safety or potency at all. It is best avoided. No vendor would leave out good test results, that’s common sense.
Finally, don’t be fooled by a low price. A safe and useful product means stringent quality control and processing procedures. Such a product can never be cheap, unfortunately. You will notice there are no low-priced products with clear specifications and/or third-party test reports.
Ask for an objective test report, always !!
The test report should list the levels of heavy metals and the percentage of beta-glucans as an absolute minimum. Beta-glucans are bioactive polysaccharides, but not all polysaccharides are beta-glucans. Polysaccharides are carbs and include e.g. chitin, dextrose and starch. These are often added as cheap fillers / flow agents, but are not bioactive. Don’t be fooled !
Here are the details. Worth reading !
Everybody will agree that a dietary supplement is only worth considering if it has therapeutic potency. Consumers in general automatically assume that all dietary supplements have therapeutic potency. But this assumption is wrong! A problem often overlooked is bioavailability – can our body actually digest and absorb the product ?
In particular mushroom supplements are problematic – if they have not been subjected to an extraction procedure they are therapeutically useless.
In the past decade science has made enormous progress in mapping the active ingredients of medicinal mushrooms. We now know that in general their main bioactive ingredients are beta-glucans, terpenes, polyphenols and phyto-sterols. In a 1 : 1 or dual extract all these ingredients are bioavailable (resulting in additional synergy), in a hot water extract only beta-glucans and polyphenols are bioavailable.
As a consumer, you can use this information to judge both the objective quality and the value for money of the product you intend to buy.
As said before, to be able to guarantee therapeutic potency the mushroom supplement should be an extract. Extraction makes the product more expensive, but it is essential. Most people cannot digest non-extracted mushroom products properly. The $ 18.99-per-bottle products (not to mention even cheaper products) are without exception non-extracted mushroom products. They are easy to spot: there’s never a breakdown of the bioactive ingredients on their supplement facts label.
Some vendors use convincing-sounding but misleading statements such as ‘a whole food with its natural ratio of components is always a better choice than concentrations of individual elements, like in extracts‘. However, mushroom extraction is never about concentrating specific components (like in herbal extracts), but about making bio-active components bio-available by extracting the indigestible chitin from the mushroom. A statement like that underlines again the fact that many vendors are ignorant about the details of the products they are selling.
Non-extracted products are mostly indigestible (= low bioavailability) and can never deliver therapeutically useful levels of the active ingredients. The producers of these products can also not guarantee the levels of bioactives, making dosing a trial and error process at best. An extensive explanation can be found here. In a consistent quality product the percentages of at least one of the bioactive ingredients is guaranteed and listed on the supplement facts label. Usually that is beta-glucan. The supplement facts label is governmentally supervised and is 100% reliable. Exaggerations or deceiving claims are prohibited.
The only mushroom supplements worth considering are extracts and should guarantee at least one bioactive ingredient (usually beta-glucans) on their supplement facts label.
Keep in mind the often mentioned polysaccharides also include starch, chitin, dextrin and other therapeutically useless compounds. Only beta-glucans are noteworthy bioactive polysaccharides.
What about value for money ?
As an example, take an offer of 100 grams / 3.53 oz. Chaga extract powder for $ 99.95 whereas another supplier might offer 113 grams / 4 oz. for only $ 35. If you only take this fact into account, you might think that the first product is 3 times more expensive. However, the weight should not be the deciding factor here. The deciding factor is the amount of bioactive ingredients you get for your money. It defines the therapeutic potency of the product. It defines whether it is beneficial for you or not (in the therapeutic sense).
Example of a value for money calculation:
Product A: 10% beta-glucan; 60 capsules @ 500mg; $ 10. (10% = 50 mg beta-glucan p/capsule)
Product B: 30% beta-glucan; 60 capsules @ 400mg; $ 20. (30% = 120 mg beta-glucan p/capsule)
Although it is not compulsory, there is no reason not to list the active ingredients on the label (it is a great selling point!!), except maybe these:
NB – Asian products usually do not reveal the active ingredients on their labels. They are in general very expensive, not just because they are imported, but because many people unconsciously assume ‘expensive means better quality’ and the sellers often abuse this assumption for their benefit.
The Asian suppliers have nothing to gain by the Western style of business transparency; the therapeutic potency of their products is in general low or average at best, just like the majority of the Western products. Instead of using verifiable quality claims they rely on emotional triggers to market their products. A health guru or a person in a white coat is supposed to give the product credibility.
You, as a consumer, should be aware that your emotions are being played. Don’t let that happen – use your head. Read the supplement facts label. It is objective and you can trust it. It makes it easy to compare products and to judge a products’ objective quality. Ignore the website writings – only the label is actively monitored by the authorities.
Core fact: the majority of supplement sellers give no detailed information about their product and the amount of bioactives it contains. Most big companies and all multi-level marketing (MLM) companies use this strategy in our experience: instead of investing in quality products they prefer to invest in marketing. It is in the end more profitable, apparently.
Value for money is determined by the amount of bioactive ingredients you get for your money, not by just the weight or the size of the capsules. Knowing what is listed on the official supplement facts label is essential to be able to determine value for money. A product without guaranteed levels of bioactives cannot be valued objectively and as a consumer, you have no clue what you are buying. Accurate dosing is impossible because you don’t know the amount of bioactives in the tablet/capsule.
Why is Siberian Chaga better than Chaga from other regions ?
The answer is short – it is not.
Chaga has a long history of use in Russia and over there it is found mainly in the coldest regions of Siberia. When Chaga became ‘hot’ in the slipstream of the recent superfood hype, the term ‘Siberian Chaga’ added an exotic not to say romantic/authentic touch to the product. But in fact it is mere marketing, playing the emotions of the potential customer.
In fact, when judging a Chaga product the same rules apply as when judging a mushroom supplement in general (see the first FAQ): check the supplement facts label. Chaga’s main bioactives are, according to science, beta-glucans and betulin / betulinic acid. Look for these on the supplement facts label and you can objectively compare products against each other. Siberian Chaga does not have better therapeutic properties or a higher amount of bioactives as a standard.
The extraction technology used to make the bioactives bioavailable is actually more important. This is obvious when comparing e.g. Russian-made extracts with Chinese extracts.
Lab technician at work in Russian Chaga extraction factory
The Chinese do everything according to their customers wishes, which makes the quality range from very low to very high. Russians use only hot water extraction and are therefore not producing full spectrum extracts (also see the next FAQ). This means the natural synergy found in a full-spectrum product will be missing.
Russian producers are also forced by the Russian Pharmacopeia to use the ‘Chromogenic complex’ as the quality standard for Chaga. This ‘Chromogenic complex’ is an outdated concept from the 1950s which reveals nothing about Chaga’s chemical composition. It is useless as a valuation tool from the modern point of view.
See, as an example, the opening paragraph of this Russian journal – (Translated from Khimiko-Farmatsevticheskii Zhurnal, Vol. 44, No. 3, pp. 35 – 37, March, 2010) where the ‘chromogenic complex’ is described as ‘ a vague concept with no definition of its chemical composition’ and products and protocols based on that (meaning: all Russian Chaga extracts) are described as ‘severely out of date’ and ‘not respond(ing) to current requirements ‘. This article is written by Russian Chaga producers/exporters that apparently want to spread their wings and be able to compete with non-Russian Chaga, using modern scientific concepts, just like the rest of the world.
Scientific research does not use ‘chromogenic complex’ as a starting point, only spectrographic analysis (invented in the late 50s) and other, even more advanced methods such as HPLC.
If you go to PubMed, the worlds largest database of scientific publications and you enter “chromogenic complex chaga” (or something similar) as a search term NOTHING shows up. There is ZERO research using the chromogenic complex in Chaga as a starting point, not even in the most important Russian scientific papers (which are also indexed in PubMed).
Where the Chaga was harvested is not that relevant. When judging a Chaga product the same rules apply as when judging a mushroom supplement in general: check the supplement facts label, or, if possible, the Analysis certificate (CoA) on which that label is based. The product ‘s therapeutic potential is a combination of using the proper raw material and optimal processing. Only the levels of bioactives matter. High levels means a pure extract. In the end, this determines the therapeutic efficacy, not exotic stories and historic references.
What is a ‘full spectrum extract’ ?
This term used to refer to a mushroom extract containing the full spectrum of therapeutically interesting bioactives in a bioavailable form. Only extracts that have been extracted without a filtering step (so-called 1:1 extracts) and those using both hot water and alcohol extraction (or fermentation) can claim this. These products contain both the water-soluble and the non water-soluble bioactives in a bioavailable form. In other words, everything that is therapeutically interesting. (During the extraction process only chitin is removed. Chitin is the reason non-extracted mushroom products are indigestible: it locks the bioactives in the cell walls of the mushroom, like a LEGO brick is locked in a LEGO wall.)
However, in the past year we’ve seen several websites where the term ‘full-spectrum’ was used to deceivingly describe a product that was e.g. a combination of mycelia, substrate and fruiting body. A smart play with words, but in essence misleading.
Most medicinal mushrooms were found to have the biggest concentration of bioactives in either the fruiting body or the mycelia, so for most products combining these has no added benefit, although it does indeed sound very ‘complete’ to an ignorant layman. It is just marketing talk. Below we give some examples, to illustrate our point.
Natural Cordyceps. The black ‘branch’ on the left is the fruiting body, and the caterpillar is filled with mycelia – only the skin is left.
E.g. Cordyceps sinensis fruiting bodies do not contain the marker compounds that are responsible for Cordyceps’ reputation, the nucleosides and the cordycepin. The ancient Chinese already knew this: wild Cordyceps with the highest value is the one with a very small fruiting body and a large ‘worm’ (which is filled with mycelia). Cultivated mycelia of specific strains, chosen for their consistent quality, give the best yield of bioactives.
Reishi, on the other hand is exactly the opposite: Reishi’s marker compounds (the ganoderic acids and other triterpenes) only start developing when the mycelia are about to form a fruiting body (once a year) and are mainly found in the fruiting body.
In old times Reishi’s therapeutic quality was valued by its bitterness. The mycelia are not bitter at all because they contain very little triterpenes. The triterpenes are responsible for the bitter taste.
There are also ‘full-spectrum’ Chaga products for sale that claim to contain a mix of the wild-harvested fruiting body and cultivated (lab-grown) mycelia. This is wrong in more than one way. Chaga is a parasitic fungus, infecting mainly birch trees. Chaga extracts are always mycelia based, because the black growth called Chaga is actually not a fruiting body but a dense, hardened mass of mycelia that comes bursting from the inside of the tree, a few years after infection. It is called a sclerotium.
This is Chaga mycelium cultivated in a petri dish. Small fruiting bodies are forming.
Several of Chaga’s main bioactive ingredients are developing only because of the battle of the fungus with its host; in particular the phyto-sterols and the polyphenols, responsible for the anti-oxidant properties. Lab-grown Chaga mycelia have therefore a completely different chemical composition. Betulinic acid is also absent in lab-grown Chaga mycelia, because in nature the fungus absorbs this from its host, the birch tree. Therefore only dual extracted, wild-harvested Chaga can claim to contain the full spectrum of bioactives.
Apart from all this a key point remains the extraction procedure. No matter what the source or composition is of a particular mushroom product, if it has not been extracted it is best avoided in our opinion. It should also have a breakdown of the main bioactive ingredients on the supplement facts label, as said before. If not, you have in fact no clue what you actually get and whether or not it will be therapeutically effective, as explained before. The proof of quality lies in the scientific facts, not in folk stories.
Dried Red Reishi + mycelium + substrate…
A full-spectrum mushroom extract should contain the full spectrum of bioactives; meaning both the water soluble and the non-water soluble ones. ‘Full-spectrum’ as a term should refer to a dual extract (hot water + alcohol) or a 1 : 1 -unfiltered- extract, not to a product containing the full range of a mushrooms growth cycle.
Why this emphasis on extracts ?
When looking for medicinal mushroom supplements you’ll come across these options:
Medicinal mushrooms have a long history of use; some types (like Reishi and Coriolus) have a documented history of over 2000 years. In recent decades science started investigating the therapeutic effects of mushrooms and fungi in general, triggered by the accidental discovery of anti-biotics such as penicillin (1928) and, in Asia, by the reported successes of traditional medicinal systems (like TCM and Ayurveda). Many successful drugs have been discovered this way.
Scientific research and traditional use is always using extraction (hot water, hot alcohol (=ethanol) and other types of solvent extraction) when researching mushrooms, to overcome the problem of the poor bioavailability of raw/dried mushrooms.
A 2015 study performed at Bastyr University clearly showed the differences in therapeutic potential between extracted and non-extracted mushroom products.
See the picture.
Specific immune-related effects of 39 mushroom products compared. The black bars show the effects of the extracted and the white bars the effects of the non-extracted products. The differences are striking.
Many people think that herbs and mushrooms are similar, structure-wise, but they are wrong. Herbs are plants and mushrooms are not. Herbs are made of cellulose, structurally speaking. Cellulose degrades in alcohol (which is the reason why herbal tinctures are successful). Mushrooms, however, are chitin based. Chitin is probably the hardest natural material found on earth – it is also the main building block of e.g. lobsters’ claws and insect’s exo-skeleton. Chitin does not degrade in alcohol or water. (Which is the reason why mushroom tinctures are mostly useless, therapeutically speaking – also see below). Most people cannot digest unprocessed mushrooms or mushroom products – they lack the enzyme chitinase in their stomach, needed to break down chitin. The bioactive ingredients are embedded in the chitin, like LEGO bricks in a LEGO wall, and in order to benefit from them the chitin should be removed. Heat is very effective to ‘melt’ the chitin and set the embedded bioactives free, thus making them bioavailable.
Cultivated Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies as an ingredient in Chinese duck soup.
A hot water extraction is probably the most common and cheapest process to create a therapeutically useful mushroom product. Mushroom teas or mushroom soups are in the core crude hot water extracts.
Still, extraction costs money, so many supplement producers skip this step, knowing that 99% of their potential customers will be unaware of the limited bioavailability of their products. It seems like a harsh thing to say, but it is a verifiable fact that most supplement sellers don’t really care about helping people. They are running a business, and their main focus is trying to make money. Cutting costs is a good way to improve the profit margin.
After reading this it will be obvious that if you want a maximal therapeutic effect and you want your money’s worth a well-prepared extract is the only option. Making your own tea or DIY home extraction is unfortunately not very effective and relatively expensive (the yield of bioactives is at least 10 times lower when compared to a multistep dual extract prepared in a dedicated factory). Biomass products, tinctures and mushroom powders are in comparison a waste of money, unless your main objective is to stimulate your bowel movements (chitin is a dietary fiber).
This is cultivated red Reishi, sitting on top of its mycelium + saw dust substrate. This dried brick is harder then concrete – see this link.
Ground into a fine powder, this is basically what you’ll consume if you choose a non-extracted ‘full-spectrum’ Reishi extract. Sounds good ?
A mushroom supplement should be extracted, because only extracts can guarantee therapeutic effects. Scientific research and traditional use is always using extraction (hot water, alcohol (=ethanol) and other types of solvent extraction) when researching mushrooms, to overcome the problem of the poor bioavailability of raw/dried mushrooms.
Liquid extracts and tinctures
In a liquid extract or tincture the main ingredient is always the liquid. This can be water, alcohol or something else, but it is a liquid that has no therapeutic potency in itself. It is only a carrier for the actual active ingredients, and contrary to popular belief liquid extracts do not have better bioavailability, although they might be digested faster (but this has nothing to do with bioavailability).
To jump straight to the conclusion, all liquid extracts and tinctures are offering a ridiculously low value for money. Even without knowing how much bioactives are actually present in the product (we’re not aware of any liquid mushroom product that specifies any bioactives) this is very obvious.
First, take into account that all powdered extracts exist in a liquid phase before they are dried, because the extraction method used is almost always -liquid- solvent extraction (water and/or alcohol).
If you would evaporate the liquid in a mushroom tincture you get a residue. That residue contains the soluble bioactives. That residue is what you find in a capsule. A 30ml bottle contains ± 1 gram (= 2 – 3 capsules) of bioactive mushroom matter. You do the math !
A liquid extract/tincture will be at least 20 to 30 times more expensive than a good quality powdered extract. Apart from that, there are no liquid extracts/tinctures that specify any bioactive ingredients, such as beta-glucan or triterpenes. The therapeutic potential is always minimal at best.
Product reviews and testimonials
The majority of people do not share their reasons for buying a particular product with the seller and most don’t bother to share the results, even when they are good. The normal review rate was found to be ± 2% of all sales. In order to get testimonials and reviews on their website, the seller has to offer an additional trigger, such as a discount or a chance to win something worthwhile. This automatically corrupts the testimonial system.
People tend to write overly positive reviews, to increase their chances of winning the potential price or to get more discounts.
Apart from that, testimonials are impossible to verify – the reason why it’s easy and tempting to write your own testimonials as a company. This is done a lot. And negative testimonials are usually non-existent.
Another point is that testimonials can be abused to make indirect health claims for products, which is illegal.
For all these reasons the use of testimonials in marketing is prohibited in the EU, which seems like a good thing.
That aside, it is easy to see after analyzing websites with a lot of testimonials on them (100s to 1000s) that almost without exception these websites are using testimonials to mask the fact that they actually have no verifiable quality claims about their products to share (the key word here is ‘verifiable’, of course).
Their supplement facts labels do not guarantee bioactives or are missing altogether. Many of these websites are MLM-companies, which are solely relying on testimonials, because the main focus for everybody involved in an MLM-setup is making money, not offering high quality products.
Many people go to Amazon.com to purchase supplements. On Amazon third party sellers are allowed to offer customers discounts in return for product reviews. The initial goal was to offer potential customers more information and background. But instead this led to the development of ‘professional reviewers’.
The whole concept is now completely corrupted and became unreliable. In particular because Amazon is using these 4- and 5-star reviews as a guideline for their ‘Best Sellers’ lists. If a seller has a lot of positive reviews their products will show up on the first page in search results, which is the best thing that can happen to you on Amazon. More sales, more money !
If you plan a purchase on Amazon and the seller has 100s of reviews, it is advisable to check the reliability of the seller and these reviews on this website.
This link shows the quality of Oriveda Chaga reviews, as sold on Amazon, and, just to compare, here is a product that is clearly abusing the system to manipulate search results and ranking.
Testimonials and reviews as found on websites in general cannot be trusted and are not a reliable way to value a product.. On Amazon the reviews can at least be tested for their reliability, which is good. Also see this link for an extensive test; the test team from Lab Door have been comparing objective lab data against subjective consumer reviews for the same products. An interesting read !
Last revision: Aug 7th, 2018
All information provided is for informational and educational purposes only. The statements on this page have not been evaluated by the FDA or the EFSA. The products discussed are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease and have not been approved as medication by the FDA or the EFSA. Do not use these products instead of regular medication.
© oriveda.com 2015-2016 – all rights reserved. Visit our website for more background and our products.
Pingback: What to look for in a Chaga Supplement
Pingback: Where to Buy Chaga
Thank you for your very informative article. Unfortunately, I have ordered a two months supply of dried lion’s mane mushroom (in capsule form) before reading this article. I was not aware of the poor bioavailability of the non-extracted forms of medicinal mushrooms. Given that I have already payed for the two months supply, I was wondering if there is a way I could still benefit from the product. You have mentioned above that the poor bioavailability stems from the fact that chitin cannot be digested in the stomach for most people. Hot water “melts” the chitin, however, according to you, infusion the mushroom myself in hot water would not be so effective. Nevertheless, I can still see one more way around the chitin indigestion problem: in order to break down the chitin, the chitinase enzyme is needed in the stomach. After a quick internet search I found out that bananas, kiwis, and avocados contain a high amount of this enzyme. This made me think that maybe a banana or kiwi based smoothie, blended with the dried mushroom may solve the indigestion problem.
Any thoughts on that would be much appreciated.
I think that is indeed the best solution right now. It’s probably best to make the smoothie, leave it for a few hours so the enzymes can do what they’re supposed to do, and then drink it. The smoothie will still be a low potency ‘product’, though, but much better than a no-potency product.
Medicinal mushroom extracts will only show the impressive therapeutic effects one can read about in the scientific research publications if two conditions are met:
– The first: they should be as pure as possible; the higher the level of bioactive compounds the better. Unfortunately, getting a high level of purity makes the product expensive.
As an example, the difference between a basic Maitake hot water extract and the famous Maitake MD-Fraction extract is mainly purity. The basic extract has e.g. 25% of crude polysaccharides (both high- and low-molecular weight glucans and other polysaccharides) and costs ± $ 25 per 30 grams (retail price), whereas the MD-Fraction extract has a purity of 80 – 99% polysaccharides according to the patent (mainly high-molecular weight glucans, which are the most active ones) and costs ± $ 5000 per gram (B2B price). This is also the reason the MD-fraction is not available in its pure form in supplements; it is simply too expensive.
– The second: use the right dosing. If you study the existing research and then compare it with what is usually recommended by the supplement sellers as a daily dosage it becomes obvious that their recommendation is in general arbitrary, not based on what was found during research as being effective, but on marketing concepts.
In general using 25 mg/kg body-weight of a high purity extract will have excellent therapeutic effects, including potential anti-cancer effects. There are no OTC supplement sellers that dare to recommend this as a daily serving, because it would make their product appear to be expensive and affect their sales.
Even when their health is at stake people tend to look for the cheapest products, instead of the most effective products.
These are the main reasons OTC medicinal mushroom supplements are in general weak compromises. Our recommendation is therefore to choose the most powerful products available and don’t be afraid to take a high daily dose of those if you’re battling a grave health condition.
Great article! Thank you for sharing this informative and valuable article with us. Although mushroom powders are superior to mycelium powders, they are still less potent than a concentrated extract. Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has used mushrooms and herbs for thousands of years, almost always makes a tea from herbs. Tea is a simple water extract. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners will boil herbs for long periods of time to extract the medicinal compounds. In recent month i have ordered a chaga mushroom tincture [spam removed] for my diabetics. Thanks.
Mushroom powders are not superior to mycelium powders, that’s a way to general statement to make.
It depends on the particular mushroom. Chaga is e.g. always mycelium; and e.g. Cordyceps fruiting bodies have none of the special elements (nucleosides) that give Cordyceps its reputation.
TCM was aware of the uselessness of raw powders, which is why they ALWAYS use mushrooms as a tea or in e.g. a soup, NEVER raw.
Tea is indeed a simple hot water extract, but when these traditions were developed there were no other options available. In recent years research in Asia has build on the ancient traditions to investigate and improve the therapeutic potential of mushroom. This led to more insight in what exactly makes a mushroom therapeutically effective (which constituents) and how to make those bioavailable (develop highly advanced extraction procedures), which e.g. led to the isolation of highly purified products such as Maitake D-Fraction (don’t mix this up with the supplement sold under that name).
Tinctures are therapeutically not very effective. For more background on this (including references), we advise you to read this link.
My company offers holistic products and chaga is one of them 100% organic and natural.
Chaga is never organic, it is a natural product. Only supervised cultivated products can claim to be ‘organic’.
Does your own chaga product’s sales page not advertise itself as USDA organic (on the right hand side)?
It is not an advertisment but merely stating a fact. Organic is not a quality indicator though. Only lab tests are.
Hi, Thank you for a great articel. I have ordered a 6 months supply of lion’s mane mushroom biomass (in capsule form)from Pure Helth, before reading this article. Pure Helth write om their webside that their product is heat-treatet in order to signicifantly increase their bioavailability. Is that a good product?
We’ve sent a detailed answer to your email. In short, the answer to your question is already in the article.
Biomass products are a mix of undigested substrate and mushroom. In general the percentage of undigested substrate is high, (over 50%), so the value for money of such a product is always low, compared against 100% mushroom products.
That being said, if a supplement doesn’t specify any active ingredients you don’t know what you get for your money. Usually the lack of specs is due to the fact the product in question is not extracted, therefore has a low bioavailability and cannot guarantee any bioactives.
If you are after a therapeutic effect, as a consumer it is common sense to choose a product that specifies at least the ingredients that are thought to be responsible for the therapeutic effects you’re after.
All that aside, no producer will leave good specs unmentioned – that is basic logic.
Hi I find this a helpful summary – just one question though – a number of companies offer a dual extraction liquid extract. Your article implies tinctures are not useful as a form of taking mushrooms, but in my understanding a liquid dual extract should contain bioactive compounds and be very bioavailable to boot? I do understand a liquid double extract is perhaps unable to specify exact amounts of active constituents as this varies… but unless i’m not understanding things correctly I can’t see why a liquid extract (which is not the same as a tincture of an unextracted mushroom – and I’ve not come across this being sold) is intrinsically inferior to a powder extract
That is a very good question. In the core you are right – because every powdered extract starts as a liquid extract. But that is not the whole story.
First of all, liquid extracts are in no way more bioavailable. In the stomach all food is turned to liquid, before it is entering our intestinal tract, where the absorption of the nutrients (incl. bioactive nutrients) takes place.
Second, in our experience, the companies offering ‘liquid dual extracted products’ are most of the time DIY set-ups. They have developed their own extraction procedures, which are usually low-tech solutions to a complex high-tech ‘problem’ – how to make a high percentage of the bioactives bioavailable. A very important step (hot water extraction should be performed under high pressure to counter the problem of disintegrating beta-glucans) is left out, because it requires an expensive set-up.
The last phase of the professional extraction process is the drying / powdering phase. There is no low-tech solution for this phase – it involves expensive equipment and a controlled sterile environment. That is the main reason it is skipped – these small companies do not have the means.
During this last phase the volume of the liquid product might be reduced up to 95%. The acceptable standard for a powdered extract is not more then 9% moisture. The water and/or alcohol (= ethanol) is removed using e.g. spray-drying or freeze-drying.
We read this promotional phrase somewhere on the internet: “The production of the concentrated liquid extract of wild Chaga uses up dramatically less natural resources than the powdered extract equivalent” which is 100% true albeit in a different way as intended. There is indeed very little Chaga in such a product.
Example calculation: 50 ml of dual extracted Chaga liquid might cost $ 60 – $ 90. Let’s assume the liquid is pure alcohol, which weighs ± 800 gr. p/liter. 50 ml will weigh ± 40 grams, depending on how much water is in the solution: more is heavier.
Even if half of the bottle would be actual ‘solid extract’ (which it isn’t – that would mean a bottle containing a thick, opaque slurry) you get only ± 10 grams of Chaga extract for your $ 60 – $ 90. (See the final paragraph of the article for a more detailed calculation)
Therefore a liquid extract can be considered a very low value for money.
All that aside, you still don’t know how potent these ‘extract-grams’ actually are, because the preceding extraction phase is, as explained before, in general a non-professional set-up and the final product is, without exception, untested for potency. (We at least never saw a liquid extract with detailed specs).
(A specific case is the liquid MaitakeGold 404® product – in this case the liquid form is a way to mask how little of the extract you actually get for your money: only 1 gram per 30 ml. bottle according to their own specifications).
[Note: edited to correct some calculation errors]
Ah thanks – I think I may have wasted some money over the years then! I wonder if your comments on mushroom liquid extracts apply to other herbs? Would for example a tincture or liquid extract of Rhodiola also carry the same problems, or is it just with mushrooms? Thanks again
I guess this applies to all liquid ‘extracts / tinctures’, unless there is no alternative such as a tablet or capsule available (and if so make sure it is 100% pure and free of additives or fillers, as is often the case).
The main ingredient in a liquid ‘extract’ is, after all, the liquid. You pay a lot of money for water/glycerine/alcohol with a bit of a ‘herbal additive’.
In the case of herbs it’s easy to make your own tinctures – just take a bottle of HQ vodka and add the dried and ground-up herb to the vodka. Leave for at least a month (more is better) and it’s ready for use.
ORIVeDA is also selling Rhodiola and a few other dried raw herbs, and this is what we recommend.
I enjoyed this article. I am trying to make my own medicinal mushroom tinctures from both whole mushrooms, and powdered extracts of mushrooms. Although a therapeutic dose is good I am aiming for good bioavailability. I am making alcohol tinctures and water decoctions. Alcohol tinctures go for 6 weeks, then are strained and the leavings used to make a hot water decoction.
Here is what I am thinking to work around the chitin problem. I am a canner and I use a pressure canner to preserve low acid foods. My thought was to can my water decoctions; First to sterilize and make them shelf stable so I can use them as I need them without worrying about spoilage from water bacteria and mold. Secondl, to melt the chitin in the mushrooms. These decoctions are canned at 15lbs pressure for 90 minutes at 240º or higher. I leave the mushrooms in the jar with the water.
After reading the article I am thinking I may have to pressure can my alcohol tinctures also. Would this help with any stray chitin in my alcohol tinctures? Or since I’m straining the mushrooms (chopped or powdered) out of the alcohol tinctures is there really much chitin in these?
Although I am a DIY medicine maker I think I can make a product that is bioavailable by using the high heat and pressure of the pressure canner. Potency is another matter. Am I on the right track for what I am doing? I’m very curious.
Making a tincture from a powdered extract makes no sense. ‘Tincturing’ is an effective extraction method itself (for plant based material, not fungi / mushrooms) – why should you try to extract an extract ?
We are not biochemists, so we cannot give detailed guidelines. In this article we offer a review / summary of the existing information and we ‘connect the dots’ to turn all this information into an easy to understand reference source.
Chitin will only dissolve/disintegrate because of heat (like when you’re making your water decoctions), an enzymatic treatment (like using chitinase) or fermentation. Pressure is used to prevent evaporation of the water during the hot water extraction phase (which destroys some bioactives). In itself pressure does nothing to the chitin.
Alcohol itself also does not affect chitin, which is why alcohol tinctures are in itself not very useful in the case of mushrooms / fungi. Only alcohol solubles that are in direct contact with the alcohol will dissolve (this is called ‘cold extraction’).
That is why it is important to grind the base material as fine as possible (dust-like). That increases the surface that will get in direct touch with the alcohol. If you would also heat the alcohol to at least 90º C / 194 ºF you will cause the chitin to ‘melt’ and thus free more bioactives. Take caution, this is not without danger – hot alcohol is explosive!!
That being said, the main bioactives in medicinal mushrooms are the water-solubles, not the alcohol solubles. Immune modulation is a core property of hot water extracted mushrooms, and not so much of alcohol-extracts.
As for the potency, even the best DIY extract will never have the potency of a professional product. A final phase in the professional extraction is alcohol precipitation, which removes useless matter and by doing so increases the potency of the final product. The majority of extracts on the market does not use this final step, though. It is expensive.
If you really want to know the potency send your final product to a lab that can do beta-glucan testing. Such a test will cost around USD 350 per sample.
Thanks for the info. I am especially glad to know that I should not buy mushroom powder extracts as they are not going to extract anything in alcohol. I will stick with whole mushrooms fresh or dried to make my tinctures and then my water decoctions. Pressure canning alcohol is probably not a problem since I am only canning the water decoctions which is perfectly safe. I don’t need to know what the exact beta glucan content is in my own tinctures. Much research today is showing that biological activity in whole foods is much greater than the sum of their parts so even your own insistence that your extracts are strong or concentrated does not mean they have better activity in the body. Bioavailablility is all that matters. Bioavailablility comes from imbibing as much of the whole food as possible. My protocol will be:
1. Acquire high quality whole medicinal mushrooms fresh or dried.
2. Tincture them using the cold or possibly a safe hot method to extract constituents that will dissolve in alcohol.
3. Taking those same mushrooms and canning them in jars in water in a pressure canner to make a shelf stable water decoction.
4. Combining the two liquids to take as a supplement
5. Eating the rest of the mushroom if it is edible after all that.
Thanks again for taking the time to give feedback and clarification of the article and my question.
I was thinking of having a go at growing medicinal mushrooms for fun(specifically lion’s mane, reishi, cordyceps), would this not be worth the bother, if a dual extract is so expensive and impractical to do at home? I’m aware that for years the Chinese had only one method of preparing: tea (hot water extraction), and still they apparently found this method worthy enough to scour the ground for this product for centuries. Is it worth a go? I’ve already got many of the tools needed for growing.
It’s not worth the trouble unless you like to do it as a hobby.
If a therapeutic effect is your goal there’s only one way to go: buy an extract with clear and verifiable specifications. You know what you get and you can easily dose it.
The cost will be significantly lower and the yield MUCH higher.
If a liquid extract is superior to freeze dried, then why was there such a positive outcome from the he first study using Host Defence Turkey Tail Mushrooms which is freeze dried and not extracted? And why are they going to use the same brand which again is NOT extracted for the $5.4 million dollar study??
You are misinformed.
Freeze drying is not a form of extraction, it is just a way to remove liquid. The Host Defense Turkey Tail is not extracted and indeed is just freeze dried mushroom powder.
It was used in the Phase I of the Bastyr clinical study you are referring to. In Phase I the safety of the mushrooms is the subject, not the therapeutic effects.
If you have no clue what exactly is in the product (being non-standardized) you can never make a convincing link between the product and it’s therapeutic effects. Being a natural product one Turkey Tail mushroom can be very different from the next one, just like not all oranges are created alike – some oranges contain 50 mg vitamin C, whereas the next one contains only 5 mg. They do look and taste the same, though.
Apart from that, most people cannot digest non-extracted mushroom products properly, so the therapeutic potential is completely unpredictable.
That’s why all scientific research and all traditional use does use and always has used some form of extraction. The most simple form is probably making a tea or soup from the mushroom – heat melts the chitin cell-walls and sets the bioactive compounds free – they are embedded in the indigestible chitin cell-walls.
Host Defense was most likely chosen because of the media reputation of Paul Stamets as a mycology guru. When it turned out that this reputation does not automatically mean that his company is producing superior supplements Bastyr University decided to switch to a more reliable standardized extract, the Japanese PSK, for Phase II of the study. See this link for the background.
Host Defense Turkey Tail was dropped.
So what products would you recommend then? You seem much more knowledgeable about this topic than the common consumer, and I know it is not your place to promote random products but I’d like to know which marketers are selling the real deal and not just some low bioavailable product for lots of $$$.
In the past I bought Planetary Herbals: Full Spectrum Chaga Liquid Extract which claimed to promote cellular immunity, but it mentioned nothing about polysaccharides but contained a “Chaga fruiting body extract 1:4 ratio” It was for my dad who claims it has given him more energy and helped his colon (he has colon problems – it’s probably just the mushroom fiber), but I don’t know if he was just being nice. There were good reviews on Amazon for it, but I want to know your opinion of it? I also just recently bought GNC’s Herbal Plus Formula Mushroom Complex for myself which is just mushroom biomass…the mycelia of reishi, maitake, and shitake. A daily value was not established so one capsule is prob not enough, let alone bioavailable.
I took animal nutrition classes in the past and it made me question how effective supplements are like these, and luckily, I came across this blog. It makes me sick that companies are allowed to market products that are not worth their weight benefits in nutrients. I am very passionate about real food – the freshest possible produce and their core nutrients. The FDA should play a part in herbal supplement production, marketing, and nutrition labeling – there is really no excuse for it. It just allows these small companies to make money off of lying to consumers, and sure you could argue that it’s the consumers responsibility to do their own research on a desired supplement, but even so, all these herbal companies are doing the same thing – producing very low bioavailable and nutritionally adequate product and their excuse is through vague, deceptive labeling. It makes me so livid. I just want to move to japan, be a cave hermit, and hunt mushrooms every fall/spring. That way I’ll know for sure I’m getting every nutrient available, be cancer free and have the immune system of a stallion!
I value your answer to this. Please let me know of any products you’ve seen or tried that are the real deal. Thank you in advance.
You are very right to be upset about all the deceiving practices, so are we!
All the answers are in the article, if you use this as a base you won’t be fooled. A key thing: look for beta-glucan percentages on the supplement facts label. Not polysaccharides, but beta-glucans.
If you see those listed, you have found something decent. To be sure, you can ask the supplier for a CoA of the product. This CoA should have been issued by an independent lab that you can contact if you wish to do so. However, since companies usually don’t share the test results of their products a home-made spec sheet is what you will usually get, but that’s still better than nothing.
Ratios such as 1:4 mean nothing. In the case of Chaga it might only mean that it was dried and pulverized (the water was “extracted” – which means nothing and has zero effect on bioavailability.)
I’ve just read a paper by Paul Stamets in response to a paper by Jeff Chilton asserting that Beta Glucans are the preeminent constituents in medicinal mushroom products. The reason I mention this is because in the paper, Mr Stametsn writes:
I. There is no scientifically validated test for beta glucans, let alone a ‘guaranteed’ one.
No beta glucan test methodologies have been approved by AOAC (Association of Official Analytical Chemists: http://www.aoac.org), which is a standardizing body for scientific methods that are used to accurately identify chemical constituents.
II. In consulting with chemists deeply skilled in the science of beta glucan analysis, the consensus is that there is no specific enzymatic method for directly measuring mushroom beta-glucans.
Total glucan is measured by acid hydrolysis and alpha-glucan is measured specifically by enzymatic procedures. Beta-glucan is determined by the difference.
What this means is that the science is not yet advanced enough to directly measure beta glucans. Due to these technological limitations, a three-step process including enzymatic activity is necessary to mathematically estimate beta glucan content. This estimation of beta glucan content is by inference and not by direct detection. (Further documentation available upon request.)
This seems to indicate that one of the points you stress, the importance of listing the biactive ingredients on the supplemental label, cannot be done accurately in terms of the beta glucan content.
Could you please comment on this. Thanks!
Stamets article is from late 2015. He is defending his 20 year old point of view. This is understandable, because it suits his business, but he is exaggerating and seems to prefer to ignore new developments.
A few months later this article in the Journal of AOAC International appeared: “Measurement of β-Glucan in Mushrooms and Mycelial Products”. It makes Stamets’s article obsolete overnight. The AOAC-research team -among other things- tested 19 commercially available and popular mushroom supplements in this paper, including two mushroom blends from Stamets’s Host Defense line of products.
The conclusion of the AOAC (April 2016) in this article is:
“For the measurement of total glucan in mushroom products, we thus recommend hydrolysis with H2SO4 as described here, followed by incubation with exo-1,3-β-glucanase/ β-glucosidase to ensure complete hydrolysis of laminari-oligosaccharides to glucose. α-Glucan is measured specifically using a starch assay procedure, and β-glucan is determined by the difference.”
In other words, the point stressed in our article -listing the active ingredients should be compulsory so those can be used as an objective tool to determine quality and potency- is a realistic point. Sellers of products with low levels of bioactives in their products will not be happy of course, because they can no longer hide behind vague statements.
Summarizing, the AOAC recommends the Megazyme method of determining beta-glucan in this paper. It may not be 100% perfect (what is ?), but it is good. All sellers of mushroom supplements should use it. It is also not expensive – for $ 150 a whole product-batch can be tested.
Pingback: Mushroom Extracts: Oral or Sublingual ? | backgrounds and monographs
Thanks for the interesting article. I am wondering if you have any links to articles about cordyceps mycelium containing more cordecepin than the fruiting body. Do you know if this applies to domestically cultivated cordyceps as well? Do you think an extract of cordyceps mycelium grown on grains would be of comparable potency?
Attempts at cultivating the fruiting body of Cordyceps sinensis were mostly unsuccessful so far. It is not a commercially interesting enterprise, but a few enthousiasts are doing their best.
The ‘wild’ fruiting body is hardly used – Cordyceps with a large caterpillar (filled with mycelium) and a small undeveloped fruiting body is considered to be the best and has the highest value. AFAIK the fruiting body has not been analysed for active ingredients.
See this informative image from Daniel Winkler’s website, below.
CS-4 is the cultivated mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis. Our lab tests have revealed it is very low in cordycepin (± 0.1% at best) and relatively low in adenosine (± 0.6% at best). To get these levels the CS-4 should be cultivated in liquid substrate, NOT grains or rice !!
Cordyceps sinensis (or whatever other mushroom) grown in grains or rice will be contaminated with undigested grains/rice in the form of starch. This combination of mycelium and substrate is called ‘biomass‘.
Starch will be the main compound in this biomass – it is a polysaccharide, but without any bioactivity. Only Cordyceps products from China and Taiwan are pure because they are cultivated in liquid substrate – this is known as ‘deep layer cultivation‘. US-produced Cordyceps CS-4 is without exception low quality and biomass-based. In general these products are not extracted. A recent paper investigating beta-glucan levels in 16 popular mushroom extracts made it very clear: mycelium-on-grain products are very low on active ingredients and very high in starch. A waste of money.
Cordycepin is a marker compound of Cordyceps militaris, and there it is mainly found in the fruiting body, which is easy to cultivate. To get bioavailable cordycepin ethanol extraction is needed; hot water extraction will not do.
Oriveda’s Cordyceps SM extract is a combination of liquid CS-4 and Cordyceps militaris fruiting body extract; the cordycepin level is > 1%.
Pingback: ALL-NATURAL Laundry and Surface Cleaners + Experimenting with Reishi – Jahn Tang
Host Defense says its products are heat-treated, not “just freeze dried mushroom powder.” Liquid extraction might concentrate the active ingredients, but for the mere sake of breaking down the chitin for bioavailability, isn’t dry heat-treatment sufficient?
‘Heat-treated’ is just a marketing phrase. It’s not extraction – if it was, why wouldn’t he say so ?
Apart from that, the proof that ‘heat-treated’ is little more than a marketing slogan is -as always- in the facts:
If you check this comment you see we link to an AOAC research paper there. They tested 12 mushroom supplements for their beta-glucan content.
In that paper, if you look closely at Table 10, the sample numbers correlate to table 2. In table 2 the product details from the bottle are an exact guide to the actual brand. So it is easy to find and view the bottle information and relate it back to the sample tested. Two of Stamets’ ‘heat-treated’ Host Defense products were included and tested for their beta-glucan content (nrs. 2 and 3 in Table 10). The outcome is clear: resp. 3.2% and 1.3% beta-glucan, and > 66% and 72% useless starch/alpha-glucan was determined. The therapeutic effects will be negligible.
A decent quality extract will have at least 20 times more bioactive beta-glucan.
this is from host defenses website under the faqs section:
“Do you use dual extractions on your mushrooms?
Host Defense extracts utilize Paul Stamets’ comprehensive Double and Triple Extraction Methods:
Certified organic fruitbodies of Reishi, Maitake, Turkey Tail, Lion’s Mane and Shiitake are hot-water extracted to draw out polysaccharides like beta-glucans, glycoproteins, and other high-molecular weight compounds.
Mushroom mycelium and fruitbodies are extracted with certified organic ethanol, providing terpenes, triterpenoids, inositols, ergosterols, sterols and flavonoids.
Filtered water is used to extract extracellular metabolites from the living mushroom mycelium within the temperature range at which the fungi’s immune systems are most active.
Double Extraction refers to ethanol and cold-water extraction.
Triple extraction refers to ethanol, cold water, and hot water extraction.”
If this was true then why are there no objective quality indicators on the label of these products ? The labels do not mention specifications of bioactive compounds such as beta-glucans or terpenes. There are globally accepted test methods available to quantify these compounds. Host Defense products have been tested by third parties including Consumerlabs (2015 / 2019) using these methods and the products were found to be very poor quality and to have been marketed using misleading claims.
Hi, so I have a question regarding your Lion’s Mane Extract, and the question of Hot-Water extract and Dual Extract. You mention in this article:
“. A full-spectrum mushroom extract should contain the full spectrum of bioactives; meaning both the water soluble and the non-water soluble ones. ‘Full-spectrum’ as a term should refer to a dual extract (hot water + alcohol), not to a product containing the full range of a mushrooms growth cycle.”
“In general the best extracts in terms of therapeutic potency are dual extracts (AKA ‘full-spectrum’ extracts – see below) which guarantee several bioactive ingredients on their supplement facts label (e.g. beta-glucans + triterpenes).”
“We now know that in general their main bioactive ingredients are beta-glucans (a specific bioactive type of polysaccharides), triterpenes, polyphenols and phyto-sterols. In a dual extract all these ingredients are bioavailable (resulting in additional synergy), in a hot water extract only beta-glucans and polyphenols are bioavailable.”
Also, in this Study (following), they conclude that the water extract does not have any effect on NGF: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb/31/9/31_9_1727/_pdf
So, I am wondering why you cannot make a dual extract Lion’s Mane product, and if this would be more effective. I just finished a bag of “Real Mushrooms Lion’s Mane” and it also was not dual extracted. Will the fact that you use Hot-Water Extract mean that the other important therapeutic contents of the Lion’s Mane extract will not be present? Such as the hericenones, erinacines, triterpenes? Or do you keep the contents of the mushroom that are not water soluble within the final extract? Otherwise it would seem that a water extract would leave behind all these important non-water soluble compounds. And, how can products like “Noomadic Lion’s Mane” or the old Powder City “dual extract”, or the upcoming Nootropics Depot “Dual extract” Lion’s mane claim to be dual extract, if you say that dual extract for Lion’s Mane is impossible? Or are they actually not effectively extracting the Triterpenes in their dual extract? Ultimately, is it possible to get any of the benefits of the triterpenes/hericenones without some sort of ethanol extraction process? Or can our bodies somehow digest it without the ethanol extraction? Sorry- lots of questions. It seems like you know quite a bit, so I would think if anyone were able to do dual extraction of Lion’s Mane, you would-
Great questions, thank you!
A dual extract should preferably specify diterpenes, not triterpenes (diterpenes include the erinacines). Erinacines are low molecular weight molecules that can pass the blood/brain barrier. These are the most interesting NGF-promoting compounds in Lion’s Mane, followed by the hericenones.
Some producers try to pass off a hot water extract with alcohol precipitation as being a ‘dual extract’. This is incorrect, check for this if you see somebody offering a ‘dual Lion’s Mane extract’ !
And if they do not specify terpenes, you can question the value of such a product in our opinion. A production batch of 5000 – 10,000 items still requires only one test (which costs ± US$ 200). Products with only a polysaccharide spec are questionable to start with – why not test for those glucans ??
The dollars spend on testing are the cheapest marketing available – unless the test reveal a low-potency product, of course.
Lion’s Mane contains very little terpenes:
– fruiting body : ± 0.5% terpenes
– pure mycelium : ± 0.01 – 0.05% terpenes
That makes the production of a potent extract expensive – in particular the mycelium alcohol extract will be pricey because it requires a massive amount of 80-90% pure alcohol for extraction, and the yield will still be small.
So-called “1:1 Lion’s Mane” products claim that after the hot water extraction nothing is thrown away; basically the raw material is made bioavailable by hot water extraction and you get the whole spectrum of compounds in the final product. Sounds great, but how good is it really?
There are some issues with this approach – judge for yourself:
– First of all, the method is impossible to validate. This is the problem with all ‘ratio’ claims: it’s easy to lie and the claim still does not tell you anything about the potency or quality of the product unless there are detailed specs on the label as well. Sad as it may be many sellers are deceiving their customers.
– Second, the fact that ‘nothing is thrown away‘ does not make the product automatically useful or ‘better’ in the therapeutic sense, because many interesting compounds are only present in tiny amounts which is usually too little to really do something (like the terpenes in Lion’s Mane) unless you take a high dose. As a matter of fact, ‘nothing is thrown away‘ also guarantees you the product’s bioactive compounds will be severely diluted with useless matter (dietary fibers, ash, useless proteins, etc.)
There are technical problems making it difficult to produce a dual extract from Lion’s Mane: such an extract will be ‘oily’, highly hygroscopic and difficult to powder. Oriveda will introduce an alcohol extract containing both fruiting body and liquid-grown pure mycelium in May 2018, aiming at 2% terpenes or better.
Right now Oriveda is already the only producer including pure mycelium in their extract. According to research, mycelium is the main source of NGF-promoting substances (in particular erinacines, not hericenones).
The fruiting body is less potent (from the NGF point-of-view). Alcohol or dual extract would be the ideal way to go for sure with Lion’s Mane, although even with non-extracted powder statistically relevant results were achieved somehow.
Some people are genetically better suited to digest chitinous products such as mushrooms than others – e.g. if you have a family history showing a diet including lots of shell-fish or insects in the past generations there’s a good chance the chitinase enzymes in your stomach will be more active than normal. Those chitinases are essential to digest/break down non-extracted mushroom powder.
This is a great article, so much information! Thank you:)
I have been using products from a certain company that add mushroom powder to teas and coffee. After reading your article, I am now realizing that there are very little health benefits to these products (I even asked a customer service rep from the company how the mushrooms are processed and they told me that they weren’t allowed to give out that information….. um, red flag?!!)
Anyways, the one thing I have been doing is using the tea (with the mushroom powder) to make Kombucha. Above, it is mentioned that fermentation is a process that is able to make the mushrooms more bioavailable. Am I understanding this correctly? I also have supplements in pill form that are a “fermented” products.
Thank you for your time.
It depends entirely on the enzymes used in the fermentation process. For mushrooms that should be chitinase to break down the chitin structure that’s locking the bioactives in the cell-walls of the mushroom.
Fermented mushroom products are uncommon. We are aware of a few Japanese producers that offer a fermented Chaga product, but the quality is low (judging from the levels of active ingredients) and the price is very high.
The rule of thumb is that if the product does not specify or guarantees any active ingredients on their labels but only in their promotional articles / leaflets you should be wary of the quality. A good product can proudly display hard and verifiable facts about its contents on the label, a questionable product has to rely on marketing only.
Many products do not show their ‘supplement facts’ label on their websites. The reason is obvious. Amazon made it mandatory to include a picture of the supplement facts label for all supplements and with good reason.
Fantastic content, your writing surely just opened my mind to a whole new level of consciousness regarding medicinal mushroom products. I have multiple questions to ask, but right now I’ll start with one. Regarding Cordyceps only, what are the differences between Cordycepin, Cordycepic acid, and beta glucan?? Thank you
Edit: Just read your product description page about your Cordyceps extract and I think my question has been answered. Is the condition where mycelium contains more bioactive than fruiting bodies exclusive only for sinensis or does this apply to militaris as well? I assume militaris has better bioavailability in their fruiting bodies because you said so. Also when you said that Cordycepin from militaris could only be extracted through alcohol, does it mean that militaris fruiting bodies teas and soups yield little to no therapeutic effect? Thank you
C. militaris is a better source for cordycepin and adenosine than C. sinensis. C. sinensis has the better reputation though, so most people look for sinensis.
Cordycepin is water-soluble. There’s no need for alcohol extraction.
Thanks for the kind words !
As for your question, here’s the breakdown:
– Cordycepin is considered the most important bioactive compound in Cordyceps because it is only found in Cordyceps and thought to be responsible for most of the health effects attributed to Cordyceps. It is the main quality marker if you’re after the Cordyceps-specific health effects. Google for more details about its potential and background. It is present in trace amounts in Cordyceps CS-4 (mycelium-based supplements). Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies are the main source.
– Cordycepic acid is often mixed up with Cordycepin by consumers, but it is something entirely different. It is also known as Mannitol and found in many botanicals. It is actually not bioactive unless injected. It is not a quality marker for Cordyceps.
– Beta-glucan is responsible for the immune modulating effects of mushroom extracts. It is not unique for Cordyceps though and can be considered a quality marker only if you want confirmation your product is actually based on mushroom instead of biomass (biomass = mycelium on grain, the cheapest base material, used by non-Chinese producers mainly). Biomass has only 1/10th of the therapeutic potential at best when compared against actual mushroom extracts because it is very low on beta-glucan. Also see our dedicated article about beta-glucan.
Thanks for the article. I’m interested in the steam extract process for powders, do you have any information/resources on how this is done, equipment used? No retailer seems willing to explain their process.
Your article mentioned all powdered extracts exist in a liquid phase before they are dried. Would this mean the mushroom and/or mycelium is first put through a water extract to free the polysaccharides, followed by being dried and powdered, then exposed to high temperatures using the liquid extract to create steam that rejoins the powder? I assume the triterpenes aren’t bioavailable in these powders as alcohol isn’t used, and if it was why not just leave it in the tincture phase?
Hope you can clarify, thanks for any information.
There is no such thing as ‘steam extraction’. It might sound good, but as long as nobody can show the actual results of ‘steam-extracted / steam-activated’ products we should classify these statements as mere marketing. Suppliers mentioning ‘steam-activation’ do not show levels of active ingredients on their labels, nor will they share test reports with their customers. That is a red flag, just like all other claims about quality that are not backed up with actual facts (read: independent lab test results).
Hot water extraction is the most effective method of extraction, described already in the 1970’s and optimised ever since. Pressurised hot water extraction is even better (the pressure prevents the disintegration of several bioactive compounds -i.p. glucans- that will occur when the water starts evaporating /steaming), and when combined with alcohol precipitation as a final step the extract can be optimised for high molecular weight beta-glucans, because the low molecular weight compounds are filtered out that way. The final product will be very pure, low on ash, useless proteins and such, and high on the main bioactive compounds. Research has shown high molecular weight glucans to be the most effective from a therapeutic point of view, just as an example.
Usually the solids are filtered from the thick slurry (it cannot be called a ‘tincture’) leaving the water with the dissolved water-soluble compounds in it. When dried (e.g. spray-drying or freeze-drying) the deposit that’s left is the final powdered extract.
Sometimes the filtering phase is left out and the whole slurry is dried. Some call this a 1:1 extract, and see that as a quality marker. A potentially deceiving claim that’s easy to abuse because there is no way to verify such a claim in any way.
Such a product will also contain non-water-soluble bioactives (after all, it is unfiltered), but the levels are usually just traces and are never specified on the official label because 1) their presence is not guaranteed and 2) the levels are so low it would be ‘anti-marketing’ to mention them. Not filtering the final product will also dilute the bioactive compounds in such a product with a significant amount of useless stuff. Again: the proof lies in the facts, not the marketing claims!
Side note: many people (including many researchers) approach mushrooms as if it is some ‘standardised’ product. That’s why you see phrases like: “recommended dosage: 1 gram” on examine.com without even taking into account what is actually in that dosage. This approach is wrong, mushrooms are natural products and there are countless variables that do affect the presence or absence of bioactive compounds, just like not all oranges will contain vitamin C…
By mixing extracts of different potency a standardised high quality product can be produced. Only testing can show the actual percentages and underline the true quality. Probably the main reason why almost none of the mushroom supplement sellers want to share their test results with their customers.
Not drying an extract would leave you with a severely diluted product: ± 95% useless water/alcohol and ± 5% solid matter (only part of which is potentially useful). That’s the reason why tinctures and such are not suitable for therapeutic use in the case of mushrooms.
Wow, this is all so much incredible information. What about getting to the source though? I’ve heard of people cooking with fresh white reishi tips, and lion’s mane tastes great too! If you can farm or find these yourself, do you think there are medicinal benefits of eating them cooked in addition to their culinary attributes?
Many people enjoy making their own decoctions etc. from fresh mushrooms. It’s fun, but don’t expect impressive therapeutic effects.
Cooking mushrooms will indeed melt away the chitin and release bioactives, but it will also destroy the bioactive beta-glucans for a large part. Cooking should happen under pressure to avoid this. But even then, the level of bioactive compounds in the final product will be quite low. Filtering and purification steps are what separates professional extraction from DIY approaches.
So-called 1:1 products (extracted but not filtered) were tested and the dilution of the final product was high, leaving less room for the desired compounds. (contamination/dilution with useless proteins, ash, dietary fibers etc).
Extraction is a true profession !
A quote from another article on this blog: “The study team used 15 grams of red Reishi slices and boiled them in 300 cc (about one bowl) of water for an hour. Their lab analysis showed that the amount of polysaccharides extracted was about 0.076 grams ( ± 0.5%), so the study concluded that this boiling method by the consumer is not only labor intensive, but also much more expensive and clearly less effective than consuming ready-made industrially processed Reishi products.”
The best Reishi extracts can have up to 50% beta-glucan and an even higher percentage of polysaccharides (not all polysaccharides are glucans). In other words – up to a 100 times more powerful when compared against a home-made product, therapeutically speaking.
I am simply BLOWN away. Everywhere you go on the internet alcohol based tinctures are touted as the best method to enjoy chaga and other mushrooms. It is crazy to me that the information you are outlining here is unknown to most chaga enthusiast. I have a question for you ; I harvest chaga and red belted polypore and id like to do a double extraction tincture. Is it really useless to do so? Note that I don’t suffer from any condition but would like to maintain my health.
I am sadden to see that I won’t be able to make my own potent mushroom medicine unless I invest 50k in lab equipement.
I hate chitin mate, but thanks for the info, a hard truth is better than a soft lie.
On the internet you usually find what you are looking for and ignore the less appealing information – so if you are searching for ‘Chaga alcohol tinctures’ you’ll mainly find a lot of enthusiastic stories. It’s fun to do after all and quite a few people make good money by selling their home-produced stuff.
What we wanted to point out in this article is that you shouldn’t spend money on commercially produced tinctures because that is not money well spend and the therapeutic potential is minimal.
The therapeutic potential is minimal because at least 95% of what you buy is alcohol and/or water. It is not some ‘magic’ liquid Chaga.
Take the test and allow the alcohol to evaporate from a tincture. Chaga does not contain volatile compounds so the deposit that is left after all liquid has evaporated is basically what you’d get if you’d bought extract powder / capsules. And a decent supplement will also tell you what is in that extract powder (bioactive compounds) so you’d know what you put in your body.
But if you’re not trying to cure some grave health issue and enjoy making your own stuff, there’s no reason not to make your own tinctures. It’s fun !
Make sure to grind the dried Chaga as fine as you can get it, because only the exposed alcohol solubles will have a chance to dissolve in the alcohol. Smaller particles means more exposure to the alcohol.
It is not the form of extraction where chitin is removed; for that you’d need hot water extraction (under pressure, to prevent the beta-glucan chains from disintegrating). Heat destroys the chitin and releases all bioactives.
I was wondering if a kitchen pressure cooker would be enough in order to get the polysacarides like beta-glucan? If so what would be the ideal pressure and heating period?
I know it would not be a high quality extract, but at least I could consume the mushroom I find near my place like chaga and fomitopsis pinicola properly.
I think that that’s the best you can do. Check this article describing the use of pressure while making a hot water extract.
Thank you, I will buy access to the study when I get back home. I also would like to mention that I found out that some antique pressure cooker that were manufactured in the 20-30s can safely reach 35 psi(50 psia). I think this would be my best bet both safety and budget wise.
Over the years I would love to learn more and put together a complete set-up to do good quality extraction. A PHWE system, a ethanol precipitation centrifuge machine and a spray drying machine. This is all very costly but I would love to pursue this project for the fun of it.
Hum from the article, and other papers I have read in the last few days it seams that a pressure cooker might be better than a decoction because of the temperature, but the pressure won’t help much. From what I understand in a true PHWE system, the pressure is there to maintain the water in a liquid state, which won’t happen with a pressure cooker as it increases pressure with steam. Unfortunetaly it seams that only professionnal lab grade equipement can produce the 4 mPa required to follow the guideline in the study. I would really have to get good material, 4 mPa would certainly kill me in case of failure. So I guess there is a definite line between a home extraction and professionnal one. Only someone with extensive skills and knowledge in bio chemistry, physics and metal working/welding could build their own system from scratch. Not something I want to try anymore.
But hey an antique pressure cooker at 50 psia might still be a good way to go for now!
I understand that each mushroom has it’s specific bioactive features besides beta glucan. If people are after beta glucans, it seems more reasonable to get a product of betaglucans (such as from TransferPoint — from my research, the best). ?
Do you recommend any mushroom products? I didn’t pick that up in my first read?
Thank you for the thought you put into this.
About the beta-glucans, please read our dedicated article about the difference between yeast and mushroom-based beta-glucan.
Yeast-based beta-glucan like TransferPoint and many others are selling in their ‘beta-glucan-only’ supplements are not as bioactive as mushroom beta-glucan. Research shows this over and over again.
We are not endorsing specific brands, this is not a sales / affiliate channel. We just provide consumers with the tools to make a good choice. Don’t fall for the marketing that is bombarding you with deceiving information. We recommend mushroom products that specify the active compounds in their supplement facts panel. The minimum that should be listed on whatever mushroom extract is a beta-glucan percentage. If not, look elsewhere.
Check the facts, on the supplement facts panel. If there’s nothing there, look elsewhere. If there is a quality claim but it seems exaggerated, ask for proof. Every vendor has test certificates, it is an official requirement. The supplement facts panel should be based on those facts / test results, if not the vendor might be prosecuted. Despite that, some unscrupulous or ignorant vendors try to bend the facts their way. If they cannot/don’t want to share their test results, it might be better to look elsewhere as well.
Hi. You look to have great products with thoughtful analysis of ingredients you would want. great description above. I am new to this but was comparing Host Defense to your products. Host Defense says on their site they are Triple or Double Extracted, Hot Water, Ethynol, Cold Water. They do not list their Beta-Glucan or any other ingredient like that on their supplement label on the mushroom itself and that they believe in a whole mushroom approach. How does your extraction process differ? Thank you!
Research has mapped the active compounds of the various medicinal mushrooms very well. They also investigated in the past decades how these active compounds can be optimised and made bioavailable, using standardised extraction protocols. Consumers’ interest in mushroom products is usually triggered by those research articles.
We use the available scientific information to extract the active compounds in the best way possible. After that we test how much of the active compounds are present in the product and put that information on the label, so the consumer knows what he buys. For us that is a logical approach. The analytical methods to determine e.g. beta-glucan have been validated by the AOAC and are accepted industry-wide. Except by Paul Stamets, who owns Host Defense. He says it is not an accurate method but shows no proof.
The 2016 AOAC test report included 2 Host Defense products (see table 10, # 2 and 3). Both were found to contain 60 – 70 % starch and only 1 – 3% beta-glucan. That’s pretty bad and probably the main reason Paul Stamets does not specify active compounds on his products – the levels are very low.
Unless Host Defense specifies and proves they have substantial levels of active ingredients on their supplement facts labels there is no reason to believe they are selling worthwhile products. Claims without backup like Host Defense is making are unsubstantiated claims and can be classified as marketing statements.
Based on their supplement fact panels it is clear powdered Host Defense products are not extracted and are based on biomass (= mycelium + grains/rice), not on actual mushrooms. The liquid products are 95% liquid/carrier (= water/alcohol). No specifications. See the paragraph about liquid extracts / tinctures how these products should be classified, objectively speaking.
am allergic to all fungus of any kind
Allergy to fungus of whatever kind is actually an allergy to chitin, the main structural building block of all fungi.
Mushroom extracts have the chitin removed to improve bioavailability.
In other words, you will not be allergic to extracts, but you will most likely show an allergic response to non-extracted mushroom products and biomass-based products.
Thank you for the quick reply! It’s a bit difficult to know what you are buying supplement wise and you have made itclear that you are testing your product and show the most sought-after compounds. It’s hard to take Host Defense seriously with the grain/rice , but then they have these claims from them that it’s more than just the compounds, it’s the whole mushroom. But it makes more sense to me to have it labeled as you do. Hard to imagine also someone with his fame would not want to position his company in the same fashion. It would not be difficult given he has a lab and the money and the background? His disclaimers on the website try to explain the AOAC testing as you mentioned. I did read the links above as well previously. Also confusing he says there is a beneficial relationship in the grain/rice Mycelium and the compound formed there. Paul seems well versed in mycology and wants to do the world good. Maybe his approach is just a more general one, and not purposefully dishonest. Hard to imagine also all the positive Amazon reviews and that no one finds it beneficial. I really appreciate your thoughtful approach and knowledge on the subject of mushrooms. Your online articles helped me reach a more informed opinion. Thank you! You have a sharp looking product and company backed by educated opinons.
Yup, they claim it’s more than just the compounds, it’s the whole mushroom. But that claim is unsubstantiated, there is zero proof.
There is proof of the opposite effect: we already mentioned this research (Bastyr University, 2015). Non-extracted powdered mushroom products (including 8 Host Defense products) were showing only a fraction of the therapeutic effects of an actual extract – see the table.
Indeed he also says there is a beneficial relationship in the grain/rice Mycelium and the compounds formed there.
He’s hinting that some sort of ‘bio-transformation’ is taking place. But again, he offers zero proof and research does not back up his theory. He also says things like ‘the mycelium is the immune system of the mushroom [fruiting body]’ which equals to saying ‘the tree is the immune system of the apple’. That is not mycology, that is an opinion. Unsubstantiated.
It seems he’s just defending his business, which is exceptionally profitable; Stamets is a multi-millionaire.
So what exactly is “triple heat extracted?” This is a term used by some wild mushroom company in Austin, TX. They only list the % of polysaccharides which I know means nothing since those are just carbohydrates. Additionally, I pointed out that ‘wild’ picked doesn’t mean ‘organic.’ Thanks.
Ask them what it means. Also ask them why they do not test for beta-glucan
where can I purchase in the USA thank you
As much as I have come to a realization that Host Defense may not be the top of the line medicinal mushroom company, it is made in the United States. It has been stated any products made in China’s soil due to high metal and pollution, one should steer away from. I am particularly interested in Lion’s Mane and looked into ORIVeDa products as it does state its Beta-Glucan percentage (unlike Host Defense), what I am weary is that their Lion’s Mane extract is from China. https://www.amazon.com/ORIVeDA-Lions-extract-NGF-optimised-alcohol/dp/B00NZ7WTQ8/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1538076108&sr=8-3&keywords=oriveda&dpID=41JSLX8Bc2L&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch
It is stated in a response to a question. One can’t trust ORIVeDA either now? Should there be a heavy consideration where the extract is cultivated? Paul Stamets have stated it should come from USA organic, however, it could come from a bias perspective due to his own business line. His credentials speaks highly in the field. I am highly confused on how to find a good product now, because I rarely see products mentions beta-glucan percentage.
Stamets is using patriotism effectively as a marketing tool. Smart, but his claims are unsubstantiated. He’s pointing fingers at China but refuses to share his own test reports with his customers. A red flag IMO.
You mention Oriveda, Oriveda might source their Lion’s Mane from China but does share all their test reports with their customers.
The one about their Lion’s Mane was in their recent newsletter, I copy the link here : https://oriveda.com/news/2018_OrIVeDA_Lions_Mane_COA.pdf
As you can see they test for 25 trace metals and active compounds in total, including heavy metals and radioactive isotopes. All numbers are compliant to FDA standards, the product is both safe and shows great potential. Now try to get similar information from Paul Stamets.
In the end all that matters is what is in the product (bioactives) and what is not in the product (heavy metals, fillers, additives). Those numbers are easy to get (contract labs are all over the place and these tests are not expensive at all) but most vendors prefer to keep things vague for reasons of marketing.
What is the best way to get the most benefits from chaga? Should I keep drinking the tea?
The ONLY way to know for sure you get the benefits of Chaga is to take a dual extract with a clear indication of what is in it. Research shows the most important anti-cancer compounds are all alcohol-soluble terpenes/sterols. These will not be present in a water extract.
Chaga tea (making ‘tea’ from raw Chaga) is always a compromise.
Can you please explain, for someone who does not want to study mountains of information on mushroom supplements and just wants a recommendation from you on which products are the best to buy, do you represent oriveda.com and their products? Are they the best ones to buy?
It’s too easy and in fact wrong to say ‘brand X is the best’.
The best is the product with the best (and validated) specifications. That’s what this post is all about. So you will not be fooled by the marketing tricks 99% of vendors are using.
Excellent Article and your dedication to responding to questions is amazing. The world need more companies like yours.
Is it possible to get notable Cordycepin or Andenosine levels with CS-4? Also, what is the benefit of having higher Andenosine in an extract?
If a C.Militaris extract and CS-4 extract have the same levels of Cordycepin and andenosine will they provide basically the same effect?
CS-4 is 100% mycelium, and the mycelium does not contain cordycepin according to research. Adenosine is present though. The levels are usually between 0.1 – 0.5%. More is actually not recommended, because adenosine is also a prescription drug used for cardio-vascular issues. Taking too much (10mg daily is already too much) might cause problems in a healthy person. See the wikipedia adenosine article for more details.
C. militaris fruiting bodies are a great source of both cordycepin and adenosine.
Yes, and thats what oriveda tells, they have militaris AND sinensis in their cordyseps-product. They say the most healtheffects for what corysepts is known for, is in the militaris (cordysepin)
I wonder why the procentage of militaris isn’t higher! Much better, seperate to buy.
The same for hericium! There they have two seperate products and for my health-goal the mycelium product is better. Enter the blood/brain barrier for new nerve cells!
Even there, they don’t allow to buy seperate!
(hello from germany, still customer from oriveda after long long research, i think THE BEST)
By combining the most researched Cordyceps version (CS-4 in a very pure version, high in beta-glucan and adenosine) and the C. militaris in a very pure version (low in adenosine, but high in cordycepin, which is not present in Cordyceps mycelium) Oriveda offers a much more powerful supplement than other vendors. It is 100% in line with the existing clinical and other research. Look at the specifications, and also take into account the value for money, which is the objectively speaking the best, worldwide.
The same is applicable to our Lion’s Mane combo extract. It is incorrect to think of this as a drug of some sort. It is not a drug and does not cure anything. It supports the body’s natural processes in various ways. It is an adaptogenic supplement that rebalances and resets the body’s internal homeostasis, both on a physical and a mental level. Beta-glucans also have an impact -indirectly- on brain health, people tend to overlook that.
This combination product is 100% in line with all 5 clinical trials. Three of these trials used the fruiting body, unfiltered and not concentrated, the two most recent ones (2019) used alcohol extracted pure mycelium.
really great information, thank you. I’m dissapointed that Stamet’s products don’t hold up to scrutiny, mostly because I just spent a fair amount of money on them. Also because, I pride myself not not being a blind follower, and my reason for going with his products was basically ” he’s awesome so his products must be too” all the while feeling conflicted, because his message of wanting to heal the world, whilst selling prohibitively expensive products just doesn’t jive. I’ve found a local company run by a father and son in British Columbia that seems to echo your sentiments, and offers full dislosure on their packaging. I appreciate the ” expensive doesn’t equal high quality” advice, because apparently, my conditioning is a little more ingrained that I realized! Thanks again!!
Hi and thanks a lot for the knowledge bomb. Great information resource!
As someone who is eager to try making some dual extracted mushroom liquids, I have a lot more uncertainties about it than before reading your article! So here goes:
You write that in a liquid extract 95% of the total will be alcohol and water and only 5% solids. I get that, but do the water and alcohol then not contain any of the beta-glucans and triterpenes? Say for instance I pressure cooked the mushroom several times and then let it sit in ethanol for 6 weeks – wouldn’t a lot of the beneficial compounds have leeched into the liquid, which is then that 95%?
Also, I understand now heat is necessary to melt the chitin. Does this heat need to be in water, or is it sufficient to heat ethanol to 90 degrees Celsius for a period of time? I was under the assumption that one first needs to break down the chitin by boiling before being able to extract the terpenes in alcohol.
Does alcohol above a certain % proof destroy polysaccharides?
What then would be the way for a hobbyist to approach this? First pressure canning, then soaking in alcohol? Would I need to heat the alcohol to increase the amount of terpenes released?
I know that’s a lot of questions… Happy to receive any input at all. Thanks again for the wonderful article.
you write: “do the water and alcohol then not contain any of the beta-glucans and triterpenes?” yes they do, that’s the 5% solubles that’s dissolved in the filtered liquid. The point is that a powdered extract is in fact a liquid extract minus the liquid. If you would make a tincture and then allow the liquid to evaporate you’re left with a residue. That’s the 5%. That’s what you find in good quality powdered extracts.
Now do the math: how much did you pay for that gram of extract ? Because a 30ml. tincture bottle contains ± 1 gram of dissolved bioactive matter.
You can of course also skip the filtering and just pressure-cook your dried mushrooms. That’s how you get a 1:1 extract. It’s the full mushroom with all bioactives included – yes also the terpenes and other alcohol-solubles, because nothing was filtered out. The only drawback is that it is very crude.
In China its tradition to use honey to extract from Cordyceps Sinensis. Cordyceps is combined with ginseng, and goji and left for months before it can be consumed. It’s a powerful mix that I have enjoyed for years.
Your article says that Cordyceps too needs a dual extraction. Can you advise on the extractive abilities of honey ?
Honey does not break down chitin. The only things that will break down chitin are heat or enzymes (chitinase). Chitin is what is locking the bioactive compounds in the cell walls. Honey is not suitable for extraction.
For Cordyceps dual extraction is not essential, because all main bioactives are water-solubles.
Thanks for this great article! I’d like to buy Turkey Tail mushroom, and now I understand that I should look for the powdered extract. All products that I’ve seen so far do not specify the bioavailability of the ingredients. Where can I get a powdered extract with validated specifications? In order to have maximum absorbance, what’s the best way to intake the supplement (with water, with food…)?Thanks!
Sorry if this questions seems redundant. I am
new to mushrooms but had just ordered from two brands- Om and Four Sigmatic- before stumbling across this article. All the information is a bit overwhelming but your article makes a lot of sense to me and now I am questioning the validity of the products I chose. The Om products are the whole/ biomass but also fermented so would that increase the bioavailability? And it looks like Four Sigmatic is dual extracted properly but beta-glucan percentages are not listed on the supplement information. Any clarification for these two brands would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Fermented is a meaningless marketing term that is impossible to verify. Only listed and validated percentages of bioactives are acceptable as an indication of quality, that’s common sense.
Biomass products are 60 – 70% useless starch according to recent research and can never achieve noteworthy therapeutic effects. The only reason these poor quality products exist is because these are extremely cheap to produce, almost for free. The bottle and the label are much more expensive than what’s in the bottle.
Is micronized better than water or alcohol extraction?
‘micronized’ is a marketing term. As a quality claim it is meaningless and definitely does not imply ‘extraction’. There should be lab-validated levels of bioactive ingredients on the label. Those numbers are the only meaningful quality markers.
Hi – great article and I learn more than 1 thing today reading it 🙂 I just bought 3 tinctures from this website – Lions’s Mane Dual Extract (in the link) as well as, Chaga Dual Extract and Reishi Dual Extract – Here is also what the company shared with me and im curious if it stands with everything you discussed here as a good quality product? Thanks!!
From the company representative: First, it is well known that taking a tincture is much better for complete absorption and bioavailability, absorbing readily in the mouth and along the ingestion pathway. Secondly, our tinctures are made from fresh, recently harvested mushrooms that offer a full-spectrum extract. Dried powders may be sitting for quite some time for batch testing or other reasons before they are sold. The shelf life of a tincture is over 7 years and the preservation of all synergistic properties are sustained. Powders and capsules have a much shorter shelf life and are vulnerable to degradation.
Yes, we use the fruiting bodies of mushrooms wild harvested in the U.S.A. Many companies sell products that are from mushrooms grown inside a building, in a controlled environment, using rice, grain, straw or sawdust. We feel this method produces an inferior product.
Last, what’s your take on Health Force Super Foods products?
Tinctures always offer very bad value for money and are never recommended in the case of mushrooms.
You cannot extract a mushroom properly using ‘cold extraction’ (another name for tincturing / infusing). That works well with herbs (cellulose-based) but not with mushroom (chitin-based).
A mushroom tincture has no advantages over a dry extract at all. Claiming it does makes one thing clear: the vendor is ignorant about his own product’s properties and the science behind it, and/or is consciously misleading his customers. The main bioactive ingredients of all mushrooms (beta-glucans) are way too large (macro-molecules) to be absorbed sublingually, for instance. Alcohol however will enter your bloodstream easily, causing a ‘rush’ which you might attribute to the mushroom in the tincture.
95% of the tincture is liquid, the carrier. It is useless in itself, therapeutically speaking. The other 5% is -hopefully- mushroom matter. You can’t be sure actually because there are no validated specifications of what is actually present in the tincture.
All dry extracts start as ‘tinctures’ (solvent extraction) but then the solvent/liquid is evaporated. The powdered residue is what is sold as dry extract. In a 30ml bottle that residue is about 0.5 – 1 gram (1 – 3 capsules).
The second remark about ‘fresh mushrooms / wild harvested = better, etc. etc.’ also makes no sense in fact although it sounds logical. To prove such a claim you’d have to test the product and measure what is actually present in terms of bioactive ingredients and contamination. Producers of dry extracts do that and can guarantee a stable quality product, tincture sellers never test their products. Wild harvested is actually the worst choice because the quality is always unpredictable and the risks of contamination (heavy metals i.p.) is much higher.
Research never uses tinctures. Tinctures are just a smart way to make lots of money: invest ± $ 100 – 150 plus the cost of the bottles and the labeling and you have 1000 30ml bottles to sell. It is daylight robbery.
Thanks for the quick reply! I’d love to challenge the seller – could you point a few questions for me to ask them about the 3 products I bought that could validate the quality levels? asides of the fact mentioned that tinctures are not the best choice, just curious what kind of other information they could share that can offer more facts. if it’s not good enough ill try to return my products. also, my tinctures arrived in the mail and the bottles were warm – is that a factor also for the tinctures to go bad?”
Well, ask the vendor for proof of his statements of course!
Where is it written that mushroom tinctures are “much better for complete absorption and bioavailability” ? Also “the preservation of all synergistic properties are sustained” Where is this statement coming from ? Source ? And if all that is true, how come there are no research papers utilising the tincture approach ?
Also, keeping in mind wild-harvested mushrooms i.p. accumulate a lot of heavy metals from their environment, did they do heavy metal testing ?
Ask them how much bio-actives such as beta-glucans etc. are in the product(s) and ask to see the test reports.
This can prove the product is safer / better / more potent than dry products. Also, having test reports shows the vendor is using quality control at least.
Thanks! they couldn’t answer any question and they don’t do any testing. I’m going to return the items! I saw this on another website Super-concentrated Lion’s Mane Fruiting Body Extract with 50% Polysaccharides ~ what is Polysaccharides? Also, Health Force Super Food got 25%+ in their 100% pure organic whole mushroom fruiting body full-spectrum extract.
Polysaccharides are carbs and include e.g. chitin, dextrose and starch. Beta-glucans are the only bioactive polysaccharides so the supplement label should specify beta-glucans, not polysaccharides.
Useless polysaccharides are often added as cheap fillers / flow agents, or might be undigested substrate (myceliated grains/rice). Don’t be fooled !
All answers are in the article. Also check the Lion’s Mane entry.
Thank you for all this info.
Anyway, I asked seller for LM test results…they claim its 1:20 extract (I also asked for detailed information, how extract is made)
Answer was this: (they do both water and alc extraction, then they sieve it all through fine sieves. Then all the liquid is dryed… and remaining powder is what they call 1:20 extraction.
Whats seems a bit strange is… original (not extracted LM powder is sold for around 70€ kg here). Ok, if they claim that they sell 1:20 extract… (means they got around 100g of extraction out of 2kg pure LM powder) hmm fine, but including alcohol for ectraction… power for drying, man labor costs etc…. then they sell this extracted powder for 35€ for 100g….
somethin does not add up?
Anyway they provided me their product analysis…could you please look on it and tell me if its seems legit?
There is no such thing as “20:1”. Nobody can verify this, it should be considered marketing.
That aside, assuming this actually is a 20:1 extract it would not be in line with any of the clinical trials. Three of these trials used unfiltered, non-concentrated fruiting body powder (meaning 1 : 1) , and the two most recent ones used alcohol extracted mycelium. This is a fruiting body extract.
Their “test report” is either fake, has been altered or their lab made a mistake. It makes no sense at all. It claims a high level of erinacines but what they are selling is a fruiting body extract. There are no erinacines in the fruiting body according to research.
It also claims 40% beta-glucans which is 100% impossible in a dual extract. In fact, most of the Lion’s Mane beta-glucans are of the insoluble type, meaning a concentrated extract will in fact have less beta-glucans than a 1:1 -unfiltered- extract.
Great article. I was wondering what you think about Reishi spore oil using the supercritical co2 extraction method? I bought the oil and they make a claim that in 0.5mL of the oil there is 500mg of Reishi Spore with a minimum of 30% of triterpenes. they dont mention beta glucans at all but that is a pretty high level of triterpenes for such a small amount. I dont know much about this type of extraction and the potency that they claim. Any thoughts?
There are no beta-glucans worth mentioning in spores. The extraction method is fine in itself.
It’s very simple. Anybody can make a claim, but do they have a third party test report supporting that claim?
“Third party” meaning, an objective ISO 17025 accredited laboratory such as Alkamist Labs, that do use the correct methods to measure Reishi triterpenes.
Most Chinese manufacturers use simple UV tests which are unacceptable because they are not accurate. 200 / 300% off is pretty standard when using UV-VIS. Also see this article about Reishi : https://wordpress.com/page/oriveda.wordpress.com/256
Thanks for this enriching conversation. I was wondering if you had heard about Ultrasonic extraction methods and their effectiveness? I have seen a few companies already making claims about this method and it looks quite promising…
New extraction methods are interesting of course, but in the end the only thing that really matters is what is present in the final product.
And as long as vendors do not specify the main bioactive ingredients and/or refuse to share their analytic test results ultrasonic extraction is little more than just another marketing slogan.
Interesting, I have harvested a large Reishi from my own back yard here in the Tropics of Queensland and use an electric planer set to 2mm which make a fine powdery batch put about 10g in a liter of water and bring to a boil then simmer for 30 to 60 min.
The end product is bitter but not unbearable, I keep it in the fridge and drink it once or twice a day. I have been looking for Chaga online and find Alibaba express have a few sellers, just like other sellers but better prices, but how can you really be sure your getting whats stated on the label. Thanks
First, I really want to thank you about the educational and informational purpose of this article, which can be challenging to find among the marketing claims of different companies.
I would like to know, based on the scientific literature you know about Coriolis versicolor, and the proportion of beta glucans on a product (I believe it is about 35% on yours which is great), what you be the daily intake to match the scientific studies that proved beneficials from intake of Coriolis versicolor on patients with cancer treatments ?
I know the standards can be different from a study to an other, but that is of course only on information purpose, I wouldn’t take it as a guideline.
Thanks for the builk buying option which make the product more affordable for the kinds of people.
Thanks for your answer
AFAIK there is no information about this. The clinical trials we are aware of do not test for bioactives; they treat the whole mushroom as ‘bioactive’ .
This is incorrect. There can be large differences in potency between strains and individual batches. Potency and quality are depending on environmental circumstances, processing, you name it. A mushroom is not a standardised pharmaceutical product.
There is some information about dosing though, check out our dedicated post.