Mushrooms provide a wide range of health benefits. There are however different ways and forms of ingesting these beautiful little fungi into a form that is beneficial for us. You can choose from powder, extract, tincture or tea. We will focus on powders and extracts in this article.
What are these different procedures and why are they important? Which one is better for our bodies, is there really a difference? There is indeed a difference between powder and extracts with only extracts providing therapeutic potency.
We will be comparing powders to extracts taking an in depth looking at the procedures, results and how the body uses and absorbs the nutrients found in these various forms. The first difference is in the methods used for creating an extract and a powder.
HOT WATER EXTRACTION
Mushrooms are formed by tough cellular walls that are mostly indigestible. These walls are mainly made up of Chitin (pronounced as KY-tin). ⁽¹⁾ Chitin is also what makes up the external skeleton of shellfish and some insects, finding multiple industrial uses for sustainable and eco-friendly food packaging! ⁽²⁾ Chitin is heat sensitive, this means that heat-treated procedures like Hot Water Extraction (HWE) can be used to break down these tough cellular walls. This can be done by boiling procedures that fully heat the fungi (Step 1 in Figure 1) the mixture is then loaded in a spray-drier that uses pressurized hot air to remove any liquid – Step 2 – 3 in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Hot Water Extraction Procedure
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
This extraction procedure (HWE) makes it possible for our natural digestive enzymes to absorb the essential nutritional and bioactive ingredients of extracted mushrooms. These bioactive ingredients range from proteins, B-vitamins, vitamin D, minerals and essential nutrients called β-glucans (pronounced beta-glucan), which can be extracted by hot water as they are water-soluble. β-glucans occur as a result of the broken-down cellular walls. The amount of β-glucans naturally increases in connection to the bio-activity of the extract (Step 4 in Figure 1). The hot water extraction procedure is the extraction method that we use and allows us to make all of our Medi Mushroom products.
ALTERNATIVELY -MUSHROOM POWDER
Mushroom powders can be made in a variety of ways as standardisation does not really exist. Methods used for creating mushroom powders consist of dehydrating mushrooms at temperatures that do not fully breakdown the chitin and then once dried are made into a powder. Mushroom powders can either consist of the fruitbody (the grown mushroom) and/or the mycelium grown on grains. Mycelium is responsible for taking in nutrients and releasing enzymes. It acts like a complex network that feeds the mushroom; you can think of mycelium as roots of the mushrooms. The myceliated grains are then freeze dried and ground into a powder – no extraction treatment is used. This method of using inadequately heated fruitbody and/or myceliated grain, increases the possibility for inferior grain or other inferior/indigestible molecules to be present in the finished product. This could result in a reduced amount of bioactive ingredients and an increase of common molecules in the bottled product. It is important to understand that once dried and ground into a powder you are not getting any of the beneficial compounds that were present in the fruiting body or myceliated grain. You will mostly be ingesting powdered grains that mycelium has taken over. These products are usually sold as very expensive ground up grains/fruitbodies sold as a mushroom extract for e.g. freeze-dried myceliated brown rice.
ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS BETWEEN MUSHROOM EXTRACTS vs MUSHROOM POWDERS
The main and most important question to ask when looking at mushroom products is whether your body can digest the product? With mushroom powders due to the method that they use, the cellular walls are still intact meaning that the nutrients are still enclosed in the cell walls. As a result of still being trapped all the beneficial compounds simply pass through the digestive system and cannot be absorbed. This is different with the extracted compounds, having been through the hot water extraction method they contain bioavailable β-glucans that are easily absorbed and taken up by the immune system. ⁽³⁾ The immune system can only take up the β-glucans if they are bio-available. This is because the body’s natural defence mechanisms are only effectively influenced when mushroom products have gone through heat/extraction treatment. These underlying differences (see our summary in Figure 2 below) are some of the reasons why extracts are therapeutically potent and why powders may not always provide the same benefits seen in extracted mushroom products.
As can be seen from the information above mushroom extracts seem to yield far greater therapeutic benefits in comparison to their powder counterparts. Want to get some today? To place an order for a Medi Mushroom product Click Here. Alternatively, if you would prefer to source our products in a retail store, the Medi Mushroom products can be found at the following Distributors.
Did you find this blog insightful? Check out the Medi Mushrooms Blog for more articles on everything to do with Fungi!
Looking for more information on Mushrooms? Here is a depth and informative interview with Christopher Hobbs ⁽⁴⁾ (Ph.D., L.Ac., A.H.G.) on mushrooms and wellness. ⁽⁵⁾