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mushroom supplements: hands holding supplements

8 Things To Look For In A Quality Mushroom Supplement

Mushrooms have been used for their potent health-promoting properties in traditional systems of medicine—particularly those of the East—for thousands of years. Today, we understand that these fungi are packed with a unique combination of bioactive compounds, with modern research backing a number of their benefits, such as support for cognitive functions, immune defenses, digestion, energy, and more. 

As interest in fungi continues to explode, so does the number of mushroom supplements (some reputable, some not) hitting the market. If you’re looking to incorporate a quality mushroom supplement into your routine, you’ll want to consider several factors, such as specific types included, growing conditions, and manufacturing techniques. Ahead, learn how to sort through the mushroom madness and choose a product that delivers on its promises.

ABOUT OUR EXPERTS: Brittany Michels, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., C.P.T., is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, and in-house nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe. Karen Cooney, M.A., C.N., is a certified nutritionist and is also an in-house nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe.

Who Should Take a Mushroom Supplement?

In general, “mushrooms are full of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, and are good sources of B vitamins, selenium, potassium, copper, and vitamin D,” says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., C.P.T.

When it comes to ‘functional mushrooms’ (or medicinal mushrooms), the benefits span far beyond macro- and micro-nutrients—and these mushrooms can support a wide range of individuals with a wide range of health goals, from improving concentration and defending against fatigue to boosting athletic performance and supporting immunity.

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Those seeking cognitive support might gravitate towards lion’s mane, while athletes or those with active lifestyles might benefit from the adaptogenic properties of cordyceps, says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Karen Cooney, M.A., C.N. Similarly, people looking to support their immune health, especially during the colder months or when stressed, might turn to mushrooms like turkey tail, reishi, or chaga

How To Choose a Mushroom Supplement: Factors to Consider

Regardless of the specific type of mushroom you’re interested in and why, there are a few factors worth considering before pulling the trigger on a particular product:

1. Species of Mushroom

Again, different mushrooms offer different health benefits, so do a bit of research regarding the best type for your specific needs so you can choose the one that aligns with your health goals. Some more details on a few popular options, for your reference:

    • Lion’s Mane has been recognized for its potential to support cognitive health and stimulate nerve growth factor production, which aids in nervous system function. It may also support memory and help in relieving or managing stress and anxiety.
    • Reishi is often referred to as the “mushroom of immortality,” believed to promote longevity and boost the body’s energy. It’s also thought to help reduce stress and anxiety by encouraging the release of endorphins and helping our bodies respond more appropriately to stress.
    • Cordyceps are known for their potential to improve athletic performance and support mental health and respiratory health. Cordyceps can be used as a natural pre-workout supplement, as they boost exercise performance and help to improve heart health. They may also be effective at reducing anxiety and modulating the nervous system.
    • Chaga is full of vitamins and minerals, and is most commonly used to support the immune system and promote healthy cholesterol and blood sugar.
    • Maitake is known to support weight management and healthy blood sugar.
    • Turkey Tail has made a name for itself because of its immune-supporting properties.

2. Full-spectrum vs. Mycelium

The more popular mushroom supplements become, the more you may see distinctions made on product labels about which parts of the mushroom they contain. “Full-spectrum” means that a supplement includes various parts of the mushroom, including the fruiting body, mycelium, and spores of the mushroom, according to Cooney.

“Mycelium is the root-like structure that serves as the vegetative part of the mushroom. It is responsible for sending vital nutrients up to the fruiting body,” Cooney explains. “The fruiting body is what is commonly referred to as the actual ‘mushroom.’ This is the visible part of the fungus that produces spores and carries on the mushroom’s life cycle.”

Unlike “full-spectrum” productions, some supplements only contain mycelium, which is usually grown on grains and may not deliver the full range of nutrients and bioactive compounds that a full-spectrum supplement would offer. Other types, meanwhile, only include the fruiting body of the mushroom. While each part is still packed with unique nutrients, you may notice a difference in potency or effects when consuming a full-spectrum product that provides a greater range of compounds. 

“Look for whole-food mushroom products that include the mycelium along with the fruiting bodies to get the most out of your supplements,” Michels advises.

3. Extraction Process

Mushrooms contain both water-soluble compounds (like beta-glucans) and non-water-soluble compounds (like triterpenes)—all of which offer unique health benefits. For that reason, it’s worth checking if a supplement you’re considering uses a dual extraction process. Dual extraction, which uses both water and alcohol to pull out beneficial components, ensures you’re getting the full range of active compounds. 

On the other hand, some research shows that choosing water-extracted mushroom supplements increases the likelihood that mushrooms’ valuable antioxidants stay intact. For example, one study published in the journal Molecules found that acidic water extracted the highest amount of polyphenolic compounds from mushroom powders. Something to consider if you’re in it for the antioxidants.

4. Certifications

Knowing where mushrooms are sourced from can help ensure their quality and reduce the risk of contamination. Choosing a supplement that meets qualifications for certain certifications can indicate that it’s of higher quality. You can look for products that are labeled “USDA Organic,” or “Non-GMO” to ensure the mushrooms are grown in healthy conditions that are free of certain added chemicals including pesticides. 

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According to Cooney, organic designation is particularly important. “This means they’ve been grown without the use of harmful pesticides in organic conditions, free from exposure to pollutants or toxins,” she says. “As a result, they are much higher in nutrients and minerals than non-organic mushrooms.”

A seal from a third party, like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), is also an indicator of a quality product, as this indicates the supplement meets strict standards for purity. 

What about wild versus commercial mushrooms? Studies show that overall, commercially-harvested and wild-harvested mushrooms are both rich in nutrients that aid in human health. 

5. Potency and Dosage

Ensure the supplement provides a clear dosage recommendation, which should align with what’s considered effective, based on available research.

Michels suggests aiming for dosages within these ranges, based on current science:

  • Chaga: 500 to 1,500 milligrams per day
  • Lion’s Mane: minimum of 1,000 to 2,500 milligrams per day 
  • Reishi: 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day 

6. No Additives or Fillers

Some supplements contain fillers, binders, and other additives. In Cooney’s opinion, it’s generally better to choose a product with no unnecessary additives or unwanted ingredients, as these can potentially cause issues such as allergies or digestive upset. 

In addition, be aware that some mushroom supplements might be grown on grain or other substrates that could be problematic for those with allergies. If you have an allergy to grains, be careful about consuming any mushrooms grown in a substrate (a mix of soil and grains that helps fungus grow indoors).

7. Reputation, Third-party Testing, and Transparency

As with any supplement, purchasing from a reputable brand that forthcomingly provides ample information about its products is crucial with functional mushrooms, says Cooney.
A transparent manufacturer provides details about their sources and processes from start to finish. 

That said, it’s also wise to opt for supplements that have been tested by a third-party lab for purity and potency, and to confirm the absence of contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, and mold. As Consumer Reports states, “The supplements that are doing clinical research or third-party testing for quality assurance are going to be more expensive. But you’re paying for quality.” And, when it comes to supporting your health, you want quality, don’t you? That’s what we thought!

8. Form of Supplement

Mushrooms can be taken in various forms, including powders, capsules, tinctures, or teas. Now, this is more a matter of preference than quality, but it’s worth thinking about before investing in a product. Consider what will be a convenient and enjoyable addition to your routine.

If you often make smoothies, for example, Michels recommends using a form like powder that is easy to add complementary ingredients to, such as collagen powder or other superfoods. Many powdered options are also easy to add to coffee, if you don’t mind the earthy flavor. Of course, if you prefer to keep things quick and flavor-free, you can always opt for capsules.

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