Mushrooms are one of the most popular and versatile ingredients in cuisines around the world. They can be used in a dish to add flavor, texture, and nutritional value. But did you know that mushrooms can also be used as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments?
The mushroom extract is a superfood that is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that can help boost your immune system, fight inflammation, and improve your skin health. In addition, mushroom extract has been shown to have anti-aging properties that can help you look and feel younger.
If you are looking for a natural way to improve your health, then mushrooms may be the answer. Keep reading to learn more about the incredible health benefits of mushroom extract!
What is mushroom extract?
Mushroom extract powder is a concentrated supplement that’s made by first drying the mushrooms and grinding them up. This powder is then cooked in either water or a water/ alcohol mix to extract beneficial compounds (like beta-glucans and triterpenes) and make them more bioavailable.
While some companies bottle the resulting liquid, other manufacturers use a spray dryer to evaporate it, resulting in a concentrated mushroom powder. This is sold in either a loose form which can be used in teas, smoothies or other foods or in capsule form, which you can take like a pill.
Though eating fresh mushrooms is good for you, a concentrated powder form will give you more of the health benefits without having to eat, say, a pound of shiitakes.
What Are the Best Medicinal Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are being marketed as supplements or medicinal mushrooms with claims that they can promote brain and heart health and prevent cancer. There are, however, insufficient clinical trials to support these claims. Although good for health, you must not replace mushrooms with prescribed medicines. Some of the mushrooms considered best for human health include：
Lion’s mane mushroom (scientific name: Hericium erinaceus): It is also called “the mushroom for the mind” because of its role in promoting brain health and nerve function. It contains important compounds such as beta-glucans known for their tumor-protecting, immune-boosting, and brain-protective properties. It may play a role in protecting against diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Turkey tail mushroom (scientific name: Trametes versicolor and Coriolus versicolor): It is also called “the mushroom of several colors.” It is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms. It boosts immunity and is said to fight cancer cells. It also promotes gut health.
Shiitake mushroom (scientific name: Lentinula edodes): It is also called “the fragrant mushroom.” It is known for its delicious flavor. It reduces inflammation in the body and boosts liver function, heart health, and immunity.
Reishi mushroom (scientific name: Ganoderma lucidum): It is also called “the mushroom for immortality.” It boosts immunity, promotes restful sleep, fights fatigue, and reduces stress.
Chaga mushroom (scientific name: Inonotus obliquus): It is also called “the king of medicinal mushrooms.” It is not a true mushroom but a mass of mycelia (called sclerotium). This mushroom is rich in various antioxidants. It boosts immunity, brain health, and liver health and may thus increase life span.
Cordyceps mushroom (scientific name: Cordyceps sinensis): It is also called “the caterpillar mushroom.” It is known for its role in increasing energy production inside the cells. It may protect from allergies and boost lung health.
Maitake mushroom (scientific name: Grifola frondose): It is also called “the dancing mushroom.” It is famous for boosting immunity, regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, regulating blood pressure, and aiding weight loss.
Top 10 health benefits of mushroom extract
Protect brain health
Researchers continue to study the effects of eating mushrooms on mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI causes memory and language difficulties and is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study in Singapore, participants who ate more than two cups of mushrooms a week had a 50% lower risk of developing MCI. Even those who ate only one cup saw some benefit. The mushrooms eaten by participants included golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms.
Contain immune modulating nutrients
Mushrooms contain active polysaccharides, one of which is a type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan. This compound activates parts of your immune system, including immune cells called natural killer cells and macrophages, and by so doing it increases your body’s ability to fight infection and possibly even stop the growth or progression of tumours.
Mushrooms also contain B vitamins as well as a powerful antioxidant called selenium, which helps support the immune system and prevent damage to cells and tissues.
Promote lower cholesterol
Mushrooms make an excellent substitute for red meat while minimizing calories, fat, and cholesterol. Research shows that shiitake mushrooms, in particular, help to keep cholesterol levels low. They contain compounds that inhibit the production of cholesterol, block cholesterol from being absorbed and lower the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood.
Support a healthy immune system
Mushrooms contain macronutrients that support a healthy immune system. According to the Mushroom Council, your immune system will benefit from mushrooms whose nutrients include:
Selenium, which helps your body make antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage. Choose cremini or portabella mushrooms for the most benefit.
Vitamin D, which assists with cell growth, boosts immune function and reduces inflammation. Maitake mushrooms offer an easy way to add vitamin D to your diet.
Vitamin B6, which helps your body form red blood cells, proteins and DNA. Shiitake mushrooms are the best choice for vitamin B6.
May be beneficial for the management of neurodegenerative conditions
Certain varieties of mushroom are referred to as ‘medicinal’, this is because they are thought to have specific healing properties. Medicinal mushrooms, such as lion’s mane and reishi, are more often taken as a powder or supplement rather than eaten whole. There is some evidence such medicinal mushrooms may be beneficial in the treatment and management of neurodegenerative diseases and potentially for Alzheimer’s.
May be helpful in maintaining heart health
Mushrooms have been shown to have some therapeutic properties which may help lower cholesterol, particularly in overweight adults. They also contribute nutrients and plant compounds that may help prevent cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and forming plaque build-up. This in turn helps protect the heart by maintaining healthy blood pressure and circulation.
Lower sodium intake
Sodium and high blood pressure often go hand in hand. Sodium causes the body to retain excess fluid, which can increase blood pressure. To decrease your sodium intake, consider adding mushrooms to your meals.
Mushrooms are naturally low in sodium – an entire cup of white button mushrooms has just five milligrams of sodium. They offer savory flavor that reduces the need for added salt to keep your blood pressure low. A study from the Culinary Institute of American and UC Davis shows that swapping half of the meat for mushrooms in a traditional ground beef recipe can maintain flavor while reducing sodium intake by 25%.
Decrease the risk of cancer
A review of 17 cancer studies from 1966 to 2020 shows that eating just 18 grams of mushrooms (equal to about a 1/8-cup or two medium mushrooms) a day may lower your risk of cancer by as much as 45%. Mushrooms are a powerful source of ergothioneine, an amino acid and antioxidant that prevents or slows cellular damage.
Some mushroom varieties (such as shiitake, oyster, maitake and king oyster) have higher amounts of ergothioneine. But researchers found that incorporating any variety of mushrooms into your daily diet will lower your risk of cancer.
Slice three mushrooms (or one portabella), expose them to sunlight for at least 15 minutes and enjoy. Eating a little more than one cup of maitake mushrooms achieves the same goal without the need for sun exposure.
Plant source of vitamin D
Mushrooms are one of the few non-animal sources of vitamin D. When they are grown, exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from sunlight or a UV lamp, mushrooms increase their concentration of vitamin D. In fact, you can even do this at home by leaving mushrooms out on the counter in direct sunlight for 15-120 minutes; studies suggest this simple act may result in levels of vitamin D2 as high as 10mcg per 100g fresh weight.
May support gut health
Compounds in mushrooms, including beta-glucan, appear to act as prebiotics, fuelling the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and promoting a favorable gut environment. This is important because a healthy gut plays an important role in maintaining our immune defenses, digesting our food as well as communicating with the brain through nerves and hormones.
Risks and Side Effects of Mushroom Extract
Possible Mushroom Supplement Side Effects
Mushroom supplements have many potential benefits. From nutrients like B vitamins and minerals to a wealth of bioactive compounds, some that are species-specific, mushrooms have a lot to offer. As with any natural product, however, there are a few things you should consider.
Source of Mushroom Supplement Products
Since wild mushrooms are fungi that grow in nature, they may be affected by the environment in which they are grown. Fungi serve as decomposers at the end of the food chain where they break down dead plant and animal material. As bioaccumulators, they may collect and accumulate toxins, heavy metals, and pesticides from their growth environment over time.
In order to ensure the safety and purity of your mushroom supplement product, you must consider the source of the mushrooms. Look for a source of functional mushroom supplements that are cultivated and processed under controlled conditions that eliminate dangerous toxins, heavy metals, and pesticides from their products. This will help protect you from the side effects of these dangerous substances.
Daily Dosage for Optimal Results
Though mushrooms are a natural food product, it is important to know the recommended daily dosage to optimize benefits. Too much of a good thing may cause side effects, while too little may result in a failure to achieve the desired response. Even overeating certain foods may cause temporary side effects, especially digestive upsets.
Mushroom extract supplements show promise in treating a range of conditions, from fighting cancer to reducing inflammation to combating stress. But most of the research performed on mushroom extracts so far has been studied in vitro (using isolated human cells in a petri dish) or in animals. The science is still spotty as to whether these extracts have the same results in humans.