Whether you’re a mushroom-aficionado or you’re new around here... this article will show you why mycelium is living proof that not all heroes wear capes. Scientists are increasingly discovering the health benefits of mycelium - and today, we’re going to take a deep dive into why we use brown rice as a medium to grow it.
But first, let’s uncover what mycelium actually is…
What Is Mycelium?
Just like your favourite barista at your local coffee shop, mycelium is the unsung hero of the earth.
To get an idea of what we’re talking about… have you ever let some food go mouldy and noticed that stringy, fibrous structure spreading faster than you can say “gross”?
Well, that forgotten food is mycelium in action (oh, and we’re not here to judge the state of your cupboard – it’s all in the name of science).
Put simply, mycelium is the vegetative part of the fungus. And if we were to liken fungus to a plant - mycelium would be the roots, and the mushroom would be the flower.
Mycelium also consists of Hyphae (branches of filament) that take in small molecules of food from the environment. The mycelium then excretes enzymes that break down this food, giving it the ability grow through the soil as a vast network - looking like an enormous railway system! All aboard the fungi train!
Mycelium also recycles nutrients, breaks down molecules and plays a major role in the carbon cycle.
We don’t mean to be dramatic, but it’s responsible for life as we know it.
And let's not forget, mycelium is what gives us the fully mature mushroom that we all know and love. And recently, the health benefits of mushroom mycelium has become a hot topic among scientists, mushroom farmers and nutritionists alike – and there is varying opinions on how best to grow it.
So let’s take a closer look at why we choose to grow our mycelium on brown rice…
Why Do We Use Brown Rice To Grow Mycelium?
Ah, where would we be without fermentation? No beer, no spirits, and no sauerkraut… now that is not a world we want to be in.
But what does fermentation have to do with mushroom mycelium?
Well, when mycelium is grown for use in powders and supplements, like at Natura Mushrooms, food sources such as brown rice are often used. This is because the mycelium needs to eat the rice (in the same way it goes out into the forest and eats nutrients from soil and logs). During this process, the mycelium becomes entwined with the brown rice substrate.
Like any great love story – two become one.
Because of this, fermented brown rice is often present in our final product. There has been backlash against this in the mushroom world, claiming mycelium based products are ineffective or pumped full of fillers.
But here’s the exciting part: a recent study has found that mushroom mycelium and its fermented substrate have potential health benefits. The study compared mycelium cultured rice and plain rice – and the findings shook the world of fungi-fans.
The results suggested that mycelium, along with its brown rice substrate, is a nutrient powerhouse… and when consuming supplements that only contain the fruit body, you may be missing out on some extraordinary benefits…
What Are The Health Benefits of Mycelium?
Mushroom mycelium is finally entering the limelight and the health benefits are vast: from supporting brain health to increasing energy to improving immune function. But for today, we'll focus solely on the benefits of mycelium and its brown rice substrate…
A study by NIS Labs tested whether the immune boosting properties of mycelium were due to the mycelium alone or it’s combination with the brown rice. Incredibly, the study found that the combination of the two was what led to immune-activating bioactivity.
In other words, mushrooms and brown rice are the perfect concoction for boosting immune health. You see, mycelium-based products increase and activate white blood cells. And these blood cells are what fight viruses and bacteria, and help to protect you from illness.
Not only that, mycelium and brown rice substrate regulate immune cell compounds for a balanced immune response. This means your body is able to better identify and give the proper response to an outside threat. Isn’t that phenomenal?
Mycelium is also more digestible than the mature mushroom body - which means that incorporating this (along with the fermented substrate) into your diet will boost overall gut health.
Now, it’s important to note that the benefits of mushroom mycelium extend far wider than what we could cover in this article – and we’ll be exploring this in upcoming posts – as well as diving into our different mushroom types.
And while more and more studies are surfacing about the benefits of using mushroom mycelium in our everyday lives, there's still so much we don’t know about its extraordinary benefits.
Perhaps the greatest mystery is why humans have ignored mycelium for so long – given its vast underground network that supports entire ecosystems. But finally, the forgotten fungi are taking the stage – and we’re booking front row seats.
If you’re looking for mushroom powders that are grown using a brown rice substrate, try our Turkey Tail, Reishi or Lion’s Mane products. These strains are grown on our off-grid farm in Gippsland, Victoria.
Written by Shane and Ash, the scientists, mushrooms farmers and garden enthusiasts behind Natura Mushrooms.