If you’ve been shopping around for mushroom products, you’ve probably stumbled upon terms like “hot water mushroom extract” and “dual mushroom extract.” Turns out, these aren’t just fancy words used by mushroom farmers. They refer to how each product is made – which ultimately impacts how it works on your body. So let’s take a look at choosing a mushroom powder vs extract…
Mushroom products come in all shapes and sizes. We have pills, tinctures, extracts and powders… It’s enough to make your head spin.
So, let’s start from the beginning… What is an extract?
An extract is when you take a raw material and apply a solvent to it, which is usually water or alcohol. The solvent then dissolves some of the compounds, which in scientific terms, draws out the goodness.
So what’s the point of dissolving mushrooms, instead of just, well, eating them?
Why Do We Extract Mushrooms?
Did you know that mushrooms on their own are incredibly hard for the human body to digest?
They have a tough cell wall containing chitin, which locks in nutrients like polysaccharides, terpenoids and proteins (more on these in a minute). Chitin is the same compound that’s found in crustacean shells, insect shells and fish. In other words, rock-hard stuff.
That’s why medicinal mushrooms are often extracted. We need to break down the chitin wall to get to the good stuff (as the saying goes, the best things in life don’t come easy).
By extracting mushrooms, we dissolve some of these active ingredients and release their powers. This increases their bioavailability – which is a fancy way of saying that it’s easier for our body to absorb.
But hold up. We want to make one thing perfectly clear: We’re not saying mushrooms have to be extracted in order to be beneficial. When used in cooking, they’re still loaded with powerful health benefits – but it’s always best to cook them (as heat will help to break down the chitin wall).
The Different Types Of Mushroom Extraction
So now you know what extraction is, lets take a look at the different types…
One of the most common ways to create a mushroom extract is through hot water extraction – which has been used in Eastern countries for thousands of years. It works by heating the raw mushrooms with water to dissolve medicinal compounds. The water then evaporates, leaving a delicious and nutritious mushroom powder.
On the other hand, alcohol extraction uses alcohol instead of water in this process. That’s because some medicinal compounds play a little hard to get. They don’t dissolve in water, so we have to use alcohol to draw them out.
Finally, dual extraction refers to when mushroom growers use both hot water and alcohol to dissolve medicinal compounds. This will result in a final product where both water-soluble and alcohol-soluble ingredients in the mushroom are available for your body (winning).
Now, we know what you’re thinking – why does anyone bother with single extraction if dual extraction gets all the benefits?
Well, before you ditch hot water extraction – it’s important to know that they both have different benefits and interact with your body in different ways.
Benefits Of Hot Water Extraction
It’s no secret that Chinese culture is ahead of the game in terms of natural medicine. They’ve been brewing mushroom tea for thousands of years to draw out the nutrients – so you could say they know a thing or two about hot water extraction. So how does it work?
Hot water extraction works to dissolve polysaccharides. These are a group of carbohydrates that can have anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-tumour properties. In other words, they’re a powerhouse for your immune system.
The main polysaccharide found in mushrooms are beta-glucans. And aside from boosting immunity, they can also lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar and boost gut health. For this reason, mushrooms that are high in beta-glucans, (like Turkey Tail, Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps) hot water extraction will do the trick.
But then there are those cheeky compounds that need a little more ‘oomph’ to dissolve.
Benefits Of Dual Extraction
As we mentioned earlier, dual extraction involves two different types of extraction methods: most commonly water and alcohol. Dual extraction helps to break down compounds that aren’t soluble in water.
One of these compounds is terpenoids – a group of natural compounds found in many living things. Terpenoids that are found in mushrooms have been celebrated for their antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects (to name a few). Reishi and Chaga are rich in terpenoids, so using dual extraction for these mushrooms is a great idea.
Ok, But What About Mushroom Powder?
We’ve spoken a lot about single and dual extraction. So are we saying that mushroom supplements on their own (without extraction methods) aren’t good for you?
You can also find mushroom powders on the market, which are made by drying out the mushroom and grinding them up. This can be added to any food or drink of your choice for a delicious and nutritious kick.
Mushroom powders are also a great way to consume chitin (remember the tough cell wall we spoke about earlier?) Chitin is a great source of insoluble fibre and antioxidants.
Insoluble fibre can promote a healthy gut, reduce constipation and lower the risk of some diseases.
What Method Do We Use At Natura Mushrooms?
Just like there’s more than one way to peel an orange, there’s more than one way to take your mushy supplements. And they’re all beneficial for different reasons. It’s best to explore the benefits of each to determine which product is right for you.
Here at Natura Mushrooms, we have mushroom supplements to suit everyone. We currently use a combination of mushroom powders, hot water extraction and dual extraction.
Written by Shane and Ash, the scientists, mushrooms farmers and garden enthusiasts behind Natura Mushrooms.