Medicinal mushrooms are high in antioxidants, Vitamin D and B and are adaptogens - they help our body adapt to environmental stresses. There are many body and brain benefits experienced when we add medicinal mushrooms into our daily nutritional regimen, but it's important to be aware of their quality. Like many types of food, there is a spectrum of quality and if you ingest the low quality types they may be potentially harmful. Similar to learning where your fruits, veggies and meat come from and how clean these foods are free from pesticides, etc. it's important to learn about the medicinal mushrooms you add to your coffee, your tea and your food.
5 Quality Questions to Ask About Your Medicinal Mushrooms
1. Are your medicinal mushrooms certified organic? If yes, then there are no synthetic materials like pesticides used in the growing process.
2. How were they grown; on a natural substrate like a log in a natural environment or in a sterile environment on a non-natural substrate like a cereal grain or rice? Most USA grown medicinal mushrooms are grown in grain or rice. It's cheaper to produce grain-spewn as they call these mushrooms, but there are minimal amounts of the beneficial medicinal compounds and high levels of starch. If you are following a Paleo/Keto diet the high levels of starch (sometimes 65% of the mushroom is starch) can be detrimental to your diet. Choose mushrooms grown in natural food base materials such as protein enriched sawdust and hardwood logs - and mushrooms grown with natural air flow, sunlight and fresh, purified water.
3. Is your mushroom a powder or an extract?
Mushroom powders typically have less potency than extracts. Therefore, to obtain maximum benefits out of your medicinal mushrooms, you want to use mushroom extracts. For most mushrooms, a simple hot water extract is used to concentrate mushrooms. For mushrooms that are not water soluble (Reishi and Chaga), double extraction is used that combines alcohol and water.
4. Are they tested for heavy metals, myotoxins and contamination?
Since most medicinal mushrooms are grown in China, it's important they are tested for heavy metals - and grown in the highlands above the air pollution. To be certified organic, they must be tested for pesticides. Since we are talking about mushrooms, microbial testing for mold, bacteria and yeast must be conducted.
5. Is the whole mushroom used? If your medicinal mushroom states that it is mycelium then that means the whole mushroom wasn't used. Mycelium is the underground vegetative fungus of a mushroom - not the whole mushroom! You want the whole "full spectrum" mushroom since mycelium do not have as much medicinal compounds.