What’s The Best Mushroom Powder? 10 Science-Backed Ways To KnowFebruary 21, 2022
What’s the best mushroom powder for you?
That’s going to depend on what you are looking for–there’s no universal answer.
The same way that the best diet for an NFL quarterback is different from a soon-to-be mom going through her first pregnancy…
The best mushroom powder for you is going to depend on your specific needs and objectives.
If you want to increase your energy and focus, a combination of Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane is what you need.
If you want to boost your immune system as much as possible, a good Turkey Tail supplement is the way to go.
That being said, it’s true that no matter what benefit or mushroom you’re looking for, there are common elements for any mushroom powder that make the difference between a waste of money and a healing supplement.
It doesn’t matter that you take Cordyceps to increase energy if the Cordyceps powder is of low quality because you are not going to get any benefits from it.
The quality of the mushroom powder is more important than the type of mushroom or the health benefit you are seeking.
This piece is all about learning how to not get fooled by mushroom supplement companies.
I’ve spent the last few years of my life obsessed over mushrooms and after researching literally every mushroom supplement company and reading hundreds of scientific papers on:
- The healing properties of mushrooms
- Which mushroom is good for what.
- And what makes a high-quality mushroom supplement.
I’ve learned 10 key factors that every mushroom supplement you ever buy should have.
And that’s what you’ll find in this article:
A science-based, 10-point checklist for choosing the best mushroom powder.
That said, if you are looking for specific mushroom supplements, check out these guides:
- Tremella — Best For Skin
- Maitake — Best For Insulin & Weight Manage
The 10-Point Checklist:
Never Again Waste Money On Shitty Mushroom Powders
We will be going into detail throughout the article on the following 10-point checklist backed by science that I use to find the best mushroom supplements:
- High beta-glucan content for the specific mushroom
- No sugars or polysaccharides aside from the beta-glucans
- Made from Fruiting Bodies
- No mycelium content
- No grains, cereals, or fillers
- The Right Extraction Method: Water-Extracted or Dual-Extracted
- 3rd party tested for purity using Megazyme method
- 3rd party tested for bacteria, viruses, parasites, and heavy metals.
- Organic and non-GMO.
- Short label that contains only the mushroom and the specified content of beta-glucans and other active compounds like Triterpenes or Cordycepin
That’s the list.
That’s what you should be looking for when buying mushroom supplements.
The more things you check off that list, the higher the quality of the mushroom powder.
Now, I still encourage you to read until the end because I’m going to arm you with the science, knowledge, and tools that you need to identify the highest quality mushroom powder for any type of mushroom you’re looking for.
And do it without having to trust or depend on what any brand or any blog (including us) has to say.
You’ll be able to make the best decision for you based on what you need without falling for any marketing gimmick or labeling trick.
You’ll be able to spot bullshit from a mile, basically.
Let’s get right into it.
What Looks Like A Beta-Glucan But It’s Actually Not?
#1 From List: High beta-glucan content for the specific mushroom
If there is one thing to look for that’s more important than all other items on our top 10 list it’s Beta-D-Glucans.
As this scientific review of glucans (β-1,3-glucans) says:
“β-1,3-Glucans (hereafter referred to as glucan) are natural molecules able to significantly improve our health.”
Those are the most studied and researched compounds in medicinal mushrooms and they’re the ones that give them a lot of their healing properties.
Don’t get me wrong, medicinal mushrooms are like nature’s health cocktail. They have A LOT of other good stuff in them:
Polysaccharides, triterpenoids, sterols, prebiotics, antioxidant enzymes (lactase, catalase, superoxide dismutase (SOD)), amino acids, polyphenols, proteins, peptides, flavonoids, and digestive enzymes (proteases, lipases) among others.
But you can find some of that in other foods.
And even the ones that are exclusive to mushrooms don’t come in such high concentrations as Beta-D-Glucans, so their positive impact on your health is lower.
Also, there’s not as much research on some of these other compounds as there is on the healing properties of Beta-D-Glucans.
A high Beta-D-Glucan concentration means high quality mushroom supplement with all the health benefits you are looking for:
Boost immunity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6662018/
Antioxidant effects https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29491277/
Antitumor effects https://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/jco.2009.27.15_suppl.e15062
Lower LDL cholesterol https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21291810/
Lower risk of heart disease https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26904005/
Effective against obesity https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30667154/
Promote healthy gut bacteria and produce short-chain fatty acids (which are extremely good for your overall health) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286317310070?via%3Dihub
Fight aging and reduce wrinkles https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1463-1318.2005.00268_3.x
Fight infections and parasites even antibiotic resistant bacteria https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9848393/
I told you, like nature’s health cocktail.
What Looks Like A Beta-Glucan But It’s Actually Not?
#2 from checklist: No sugars or polysaccharides aside from the beta-glucans
You can find Beta-Glucans in other foods like grains and oats. And while they are very good for you too, they’re different from the ones found in mushrooms.
Oats and grains have healthy (1-4)-Beta-Glucans, while mushrooms and yeasts have (1-3)(1-6)-Beta-D-Glucans.
Regardless of their differences, all of them are polysaccharides, but there are other polysaccharides aside from beta-glucans, like alpha glucans.
This is important because a lot of brands use this fact to trick consumers.
Polysaccharides are long-chains sugars. Now, don’t get scared.
They are good sugars like starch or beta-glucans because our bodies digest and turn them into glucose (a monosaccharide) slowly.
So they don’t cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that mess with your hormones, energy, and overall health like refined sugars do.
For example sucrose (table sugar), which is a disaccharide.
Well, you can find polysaccharides in any plant.
And some brands are quick to put a high content of sugars or polysaccharides on their labels (maybe as a way to fool consumers?) but these polysaccharides are not necessarily Beta-D-Glucans (or beta glucans) coming from mushrooms.
They can be polysaccharides coming from lots of different sources like oats or rice, which again, not necessarily bad.
But if you are paying for mushrooms, you should get mushrooms, not over-priced oats.
Yet, that’s what you’ll find in most mushroom powders and supplements.
In fact, lots of mushroom supplements have a high content of alpha-glucans coming from oats or rice, instead of the beta-glucans from mushrooms.
Both alpha and beta glucans are polysaccharides, so you can label them both like polysaccharides.
Alpha-Glucans are things like starch (which you can find in grains and tubers) and glycogen (that your liver and muscles store to use as a quick source of energy when needed.)
Mushrooms have very little of it, 3% of the dry weight on average, and most of them not even 1%, as this study shows:
That study found something interesting about the quality of some mushroom supplements you can find on Amazon.
Most supplements have a lot of alpha-glucan content and very little beta-glucan content.
The researchers noted that:
“Most of the products studied are “mycelium propagated on grain.” Bottled products containing encapsulated mycelium/mushroom powder.”
Which is 100% true because the most common source of polysaccharides and alpha-glucans in mushroom supplements, is mycelium on grain.
Is Your Mushroom Supplement Made From Mushrooms?
- #3 Made from Fruiting Bodies
- #4 No mycelium content
- #5 No grains, cereals, or fillers
When you think of a mushroom, what you’re really thinking about is the “Fruiting Body.”
That fruiting body is full of these Beta-D-Glucans and all the other beneficial compounds found in mushrooms.
The mycelium is the “roots” of the mushrooms, what’s underground and supplies the fruiting body with water and nutrients.
(That’s a simplified version but you get the gist.)
And although they have some Beta-D-Glucan content, it’s way less than the fruiting body, about 3-10 times less.
But that’s if you can get the mycelium alone, which is almost ever the case.
Most supplement companies basically put the spores of the mushroom they want to grow in a bag or container full of oats, brown rice, or another grain and once the mycelium starts to grow, they grind everything up including the grain into the powder they use for their supplements.
That’s how you can end up with a lot of sugars or polysaccharides without a high Beta-D-Glucan content.
In fact, as opposed to mycelium alone, mycelium on grain has about 10-30 times fewer Beta-D-Glucans and other beneficial compounds than the fruiting bodies.
(We’ll talk about the optimal amounts of Beta-D-Glucans in a bit.)
Usually, supplements made from fruiting bodies exclusively have over 25% Beta-D-Glucans, those made with mycelium alone don’t make it to 10%, and those with mycelium on grain are around 1-3%.
You can often identify mycelium content in mushroom supplements because it’s labeled as:
- “mycelial biomass”
- “mycelium of X mushroom”
- “X mushroom full spectrum”
- And even “grain spawn.”
It’s easy to see why companies would use mycelium on grain as opposed to fruiting bodies:
You can get more quantity of powder or supplement that you can label as “mushroom” in less time (mycelium grows faster than fruiting bodies) for cheaper (grains are cheaper than mushrooms and the growing costs are fewer because you spend less time growing the mycelium than you do growing fruiting bodies) but by doing that supplement companies are sacrificing quality for bigger profits.
As a rule of thumb you want to stay away from mushroom supplements with high mycelium content, and remember that a good supplement has a short label.
All the ingredients you should read on the label are the type of mushroom with the concentration of beta-glucans and in some cases the concentration of other compounds.
Like cordycepin for Cordyceps and triterpenes for Reishi.
Ideally, you want to verify what the label says with lab test results.
Companies that are not afraid of proving their claims and the quality of their products should have the lab test results available if you request them by contacting customer support.
So a high-quality mushroom supplement should be made entirely from fruiting bodies and have a high-content of Beta-D-Glucans verified by 3rd party lab tests results.
Is that it?
Almost, but not quite.
Lobsters, Mushrooms, & The Bioavailability Problem
Checklist Item #6: The Right Extraction Method
Beta-D-Glucans in mushrooms are inside the cells of mushrooms, and the cell walls are made from a fiber called “chitin” (the same material lobster shells are made of) which our bodies can’t break down.
If you eat a raw mushroom, you are not going to get much beta glucans, if any.
So to get the Beta-D-Glucans, you need to extract them from the cells.
To do it, high-quality manufacturers put the fruiting bodies into hot water at 80-175ºC (depending on the mushroom) to break the cell walls made of chitin and extract the beta-glucans into the water.
(Even soft mushrooms like Shiitake are prepared as a hot water extract or a tea when used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to extract the healing compounds out of them.)
The liquid is then transferred into a chamber and turned into the powder (sometimes tincture) you find in high-quality mushroom supplements to concentrate the beta-glucans and other compounds and get rid of all the other stuff that, while useful, is not as “medicinal.”
That’s called Hot Water Extraction.
And that’s how you can get high-quality and quantity beta-glucans, you couldn’t get such high concentrations by cooking mushrooms at home, not even if you drank the water.
Besides Hot Water extraction there’s also Alcohol Extraction.
Some companies use ethanol to also get the alcohol soluble compounds out of the fruiting bodies terpenes (specifically, triterpenoids), sterols, and flavonoids, which are the main non-water-soluble active compounds present in some mushrooms.
In some cases, you’ll see hot water extraction and alcohol extraction or Dual Extraction so you get both water and alcohol-soluble compounds, but that depends on the mushroom.
For most supplements, the ideal is Water-Extracted.
Now, both the water and air used for the process should be purified, you can see if that’s the case on the lab test result:
If supplements test negative for bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals, you can be pretty sure that the extraction was done with purified air and water.
Sometimes, companies do 2 lab tests: One for beta-glucan content and quality, and another one for bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals.
So if on the test results you see there’s only 1 of those things and they claim to be tested for all, you can ask them for the other test to make sure.
The Ideal Label For Your Mushroom Powder
Checklist #7: 3rd party tested for purity using Megazyme method
Checklist #8: 3rd party tested for bacteria, viruses, parasites, and heavy metals.
Checklist #9: Organic and non-GMO.
Checklist #10: Short label that contains only the mushroom and the specified content of beta-glucans and other active compounds like Triterpenes or Cordycepin
Alright, let’s wrap this up.
So a high-quality mushroom supplement should be made entirely from fruiting bodies, (no mycelium, grain or cereals) and have a high-content of Beta-D-Glucans verified by 3rd party lab tests results, and be organic, non-GMO, and tested for bacteria, viruses, parasites, and heavy metals.
Almost… but still not quite.
Listen, I told you choosing the right mushroom supplement for you was a bit complicated. But I promise you we are at the end.
The only thing left is getting clear on what “high content of Beta-D-Glucans” means.
Because that’s going to vary from mushroom to mushroom. And we can’t forget that other mushrooms have other compounds aside from beta glucans that are also extremely good for your health and you can’t find in any other food (at least no in useful amounts.)
So let’s get clear on what concentration of these healing compounds you should look for based on the mushroom you choose:
- Chaga >8% Beta-glucans — Best For Antioxidants & Gut Health
- Reishi >20% Beta-D-Glucans and ideally >1% of Triterpenes — Best For Sleep, Relaxations, & Longevity
Triterpenes derived from Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) have been shown to protect the liver, fight cancer and cancer metastasis, have antiviral and antioxidant properties, reduce cholesterol and protect against atherosclerosis.
- Lion’s Mane >25% Beta-glucans — Best For Focus
- Turkey Tail >30% Beta-glucans — Best For Immunity
You can learn more about the top Turkey Tail supplements to boost immunity here:
- Cordyceps >25% Beta-glucans and ideally >0.3% of Cordycepin — Best For Energy & Athletic Performance
Cordycepin matters because as this study points out:
“Main constituent of the extract derived from this fungus comprises a novel bio-metabolite called Cordycepin (3′deoxyadenosine) which has a very potent anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.”
To learn more about Cordycepin, what Cordyceps can do for your health, and which supplement best fits your needs you can read this article:
- Tremella >10% Beta-glucans — Best For Skin
- Maitake >20% Beta-D-Glucans — Best For Insulin & Weight Management
The reason why we recommend to look out for those concentrations is two-fold:
- You can be pretty sure that any supplements with those concentrations of beta-glucans are pretty high-quality, made from fruiting bodies, and not grown on mycelium
- Because by taking the usual daily dose of mushroom supplements (1-2g) you’ll be getting the amount of beta-glucans that research shows is effective and if you take supplements with lower concentrations you may fall short, at which point, you’re just wasting money.
In human studies, the tested (and suggested) daily dose remains in the range of 100–500 mg for stimulation of the immune system https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6479769/#B21-molecules-24-01251
That said, you may want to sacrifice beta-glucan content in exchange for other good compounds and combine different mushrooms to get the best of both worlds.
Let’s look at different supplements from the brands Freshcap and Real Mushrooms (two of the best ones you can find in my opinion.)
Freshcap’s Reishi has >27% Beta-Glucan while Real Mushrooms’ has 15%. At first, it may seem that Freschap is better, but Freshcap has 1.4% Triterpenes while Real Mushrooms has 4% which is insanely high.
You are not going to get such high concentrations of Triterpenes in other mushrooms aside from Reishi or other supplements aside from Real Mushrooms’.
So in that case, it may pay off to get Reishi from Real Mushrooms, and then to make up for the lower beta-glucan content, you can get Turkey Tail from Freshcap because it has 35% which is insanely high beta-glucan content.
In case you want to take a look:
But again, as a rule of thumb, you want to lean towards high beta-glucan content for ANY mushroom supplement, just be aware of other good compounds like Triterpenes from Reishi and Cordycepin from Cordyceps when making your choice.
Chaga supplements usually have lower beta-glucan content than the rest.
Does that mean that Chaga isn’t worth it?
Not exactly, it depends on your needs.
Chaga is one of the most potent antioxidants you’ll ever come across. It contains an extremely high ORAC value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) making Chaga one of the highest antioxidant foods on the planet.
So you have to get clear on what you are looking for and choose the best mushroom or combination of mushrooms that will help you achieve your goals.