Mushrooms have been consumed all around the globe for millennia—and not just because they’re a delicious food. The oldest human mummy, dating back to the Neolithic period, is said to have been found with mushrooms in his medicine kit.1 Fortunately, modern science has recently rediscovered what our ancestors wisely assumed long ago: Many fungi offer a wealth of health benefits.
But which mushrooms are some of the most health-promoting? And how can you best incorporate them into your wellness routine—what makes a high-quality mushroom supplement? Read on for the answers, and let Solaray be your fungi guide.
What Are Mushrooms?
Mushrooms aren’t plants, rather they belong to the fungal kingdom. Currently, more than 100,000 species of mushrooms have been identified worldwide, though only a small fraction of those are edible or used as traditional remedies.2
Fungi lack chlorophyll and therefore can’t photosynthesize light into energy, the way plants “eat.” Instead, to feed themselves, fungi absorb nutrients from the environment around them through a massive web of filaments called hyphae. 3
Depending on the mushroom, its environment might be within the soil, on a damp log in a forest, among tree branches, or even on insects such as carpenter ants. Ultimately, mushrooms build a root-like colony of these hyphae—known as mycelium—that is typically hidden from sight.
Since mushrooms can’t produce seeds, they distribute spores to reproduce. During its lifecycle, a fungus’ hyphae eventually mature into a structure that produces spores. We call this the fruiting body, or the part of the organism (cap, stem, gills) living above ground. In other words, the fruiting body is what we typically refer to as the mushroom itself and what we eat, though the whole mushroom organism also includes the mycelium threads at its base.
This sometimes-edible fruiting body releases the fungus’ spores into the air and wind; often they’re carried by animals. The spores search for a suitable place to land, and then the cycle begins again.
Mushroom Production and Cultivation: Solaray’s Careful Process
It’s actually rather difficult for fungi to exist and subsist. In nature, the conditions must be absolutely ideal for all the above to happen, which is why mushrooms are highly prized and hunted in the wild. Thankfully, mycologists (fungal biologists) have developed the technology to cultivate mushrooms, even indoors, growing mycelium in a controlled environment.
At Solaray, we’re relentlessly committed to sourcing only the most sustainable and highest-quality ingredients for all our products, including our mushroom supplements. When it comes to our line of mushroom formulas containing fermented organic mushrooms, we feel confident we use some of the world’s finest fungi.
Every mushroom we source for these products grows under optimal conditions, in a sterile facility with state-of-the-art high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration. The potencies of each mushroom strain are maintained using cryogenic storage, which preserves the fungal cultures and their bioactivity.
Our growers cultivate the mycelium on Certified Organic, gluten-free whole oats that have been steamed and pressure sterilized. After cooling, the oats are inoculated with the pure mushroom strains and then sealed in bioreactor growing bags equipped with air filters to further help exclude any contaminants while still allowing the cultures to breathe.
The mushrooms continue to grow in bioreactor bags for 30 to 80 days, until the mycelium have consumed all the oats and the grains vanish, leaving behind a solid mycelial biomass. Growers harvest this mass right as the fruiting bodies begin to develop to ensure the highest levels of nutrients. Then, it is instantly dehydrated at a low heat to preserve all the active beneficial constituents of each mushroom species.
Why Oats? Why Fermentation?
Oats have a higher nutritional content and are also easier for fungi to digest than other growing substrates, thus allowing the mushrooms to absorb more nutrients. Oats themselves also contain many of the compounds responsible for mushrooms’ health benefits, such as beta glucans (more in a minute). And, as mentioned above, they enable us to offer gluten-free formulas.
Anti-nutrients are compounds found in a variety of foods, including mushrooms, that bind to nutrients and interfere with their absorption. The fermentation process helps to free these nutrients and allow the body to use them.
One of the Top Mushroom Health Benefits
Solaray has identified and uses eight different types of mushrooms that provide myriad health benefits: Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, Maitake, Reishi, Royal Agaricus, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail. Our Mushroom Complete formulas, in both capsules and powder, contain a special blend of all eight.
While each species offers its own unique benefits for well-being, there is one big overall wellness benefit of mushrooms we want to discuss here.*
Beta Glucans Support Immune Health*
The cell walls of mushrooms (as well as oats and other cereal grains) contain naturally occurring polysaccharides called beta glucans. Glucan receptors have been identified on various immune cells in the body, and research suggests the beta glucans in mushrooms may provide nutritive support for healthy immune function.*2
Remember, we grow our organic fermented mushrooms on oats. Since mushrooms absorb and retain the nutrients of the substrates on which they grow, our mushrooms are also absorbing beta glucans from the oats, providing additional support for you.
Though they didn’t have the science to know it then, the ancient Egyptians were seemingly aware of mushrooms’ immunity-supporting properties.* They believed them to offer immortality and be so sacred that they proclaimed them reserved for royalty only.4
Choosing Quality Mushroom Supplements: The Importance of Lab-Verified Mushrooms
Solaray places a heavy emphasis on stringent and rigorous testing to ensure our supplements’ purity, potency, and identity. As with every Solaray product, all of our mushroom supplements are lab verified at our state-of-the-art in-house lab in Ogden, Utah.
In addition to purchasing lab-verified products, it is important to know how the mushrooms in your supplement were grown. As we shared at the beginning of this quick guide, all of our fermented organic mushrooms, also used in our SharpMind nootropics line, are cultivated in a highly controlled, GMP environment right here in the United States.
With Solaray mushroom supplements, you can feel confident you’re getting clean, efficacious formulas you can count on and feel good about taking.
- Paul Stamets and Heather Zwickey, “Ancient Remedies Meet Modern Science,” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 13, no. 1 (2014): 46-47, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684114.
- Chiara Cerletti, Simona Esposito, and Licia Lacoviello, “Edible Mushrooms and Beta-Glucans: Impact on Human Health,” Nutrients 13, no. 7 (2021): 2195, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8308413.
- Fungi: Life History and Ecology, UC Museum of Paleontology, University of California Berkeley, https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/fungi/fungilh.html.
- Ahmed Abdel-Azeem et al. “The Conservation of Mushroom in Ancient Egypt Through the Present,” The First International Conference on Fungal Conservation in the Middle East and North of Africa, October, 2016, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320991848_The_Conservation_of_Mushroom_in_Ancient_Egypt_through_the_Present.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.