Here’s what the medicinal mushroom industry in Australia doesn’t want you to know
Medicinal mushrooms have been used around the world, for centuries, to treat medical conditions as well as for general wellness. Finally, their effects are becoming common knowledge — which is great! We know that medicinal mushrooms can help with immunity, endurance, cognitive function, infections and oxidative stress (among other things!) we’re keen for everyone to understand the benefits. But we do have some bad news: there’s a big secret that the medicinal mushroom industry doesn’t want you to know about.
It’s all about beta-glucans
Of course, there are lots of healthy compounds in medicinal mushrooms. Things like: polysaccharides, triterpenoids, sterols, prebiotics, antioxidant enzymes, amino acids, polyphenols, proteins, peptides, flavonoids, and digestive enzymes (proteases, lipases) among others.
But the big dogs — the most scientifically studied and health promoting compounds — are polysaccharides called beta-glucans (β-glucan), more specifically beta-D-glucans.
And here’s where the mushroom sleight of hand comes in.
Most “medicinal mushroom” products on the market in Australia don’t come from actual mushrooms
In fact, most medicinal mushroom sellers that we know of have never grown a single mushroom. Instead, they grow mycelium, which is basically the roots of the mushroom. Mycelium is grown on a carrier material, typically rice, millet, rye, or wheat.
And for lots of sellers, the process stops there. They grind up the mycelium of, say Lion’s Mane, with the carrier material — but the resulting product contains few (if any) of the beta glucans associated with that species of mushroom. In fact, what the customer ends up with is a jar full of (mostly) starch.
This study by Jeff Chilton found that grain-grown mycelium contains significantly fewer beta glucans than the actual mushrooms, as well as significantly higher starch levels.
Medicinal mushrooms or starch?
As you can see, Cordyceps mushrooms (the actual fruiting body) contain high levels of beta glucans — around 30-40%. On the other hand, Cordyceps mycelium grown on grain contains much lower levels of beta glucans, and much higher starch levels.
Read the label
When you’re buying medicinal mushroom products, it’s important to read the label. Be sure that you understand exactly what’s inside the product you’re buying. If you see something like starch or grain, we recommend stepping away. Also, be wary of the term full spectrum, which is marketing-speak for this isn’t pure mushrooms. Look for the words “100% fruit body” to make sure you’re buying the good stuff.
The Touchwood Difference
With 40 years as a mushroom grower, including five years as the Director of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association, Graham Upson knows his stuff. Touchwood Mushrooms is one of a handful of medicinal mushroom growers in Australia, and Graham makes it all happen in pristine conditions in his Class-100 laboratory. If you’d like to know more about Graham or his facility, there’s heaps more information on our blog. And if you’d like to get your hands on some Australian grown medicinal mushrooms (with no filler!) visit our shop.
And hey — if you’re a mycologist who has solid evidence of the benefits of consuming mycelium-based products, we’d love to hear from you. Give us a yell on our contact page.