There is a long tradition of using edible mushrooms for things besides food. According to the authors of a June 2020 article in Alternative and Complementary Therapies, people have been using mushrooms as medicine since 450 B.C. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there has been a resurgence in interest in using psilocybin mushrooms to treat mental health conditions like depression.
It comes as no surprise that mushroom extract supplements have started appearing everywhere, even in coffee, given the growing interest in mushrooms as a functional food. These items make a variety of claims, ranging from preventing anxiety to curing cancer.
So, which would be better, coffee or a mushroom capsule? Here is what top scientists and researchers have to say.
What Are Mushroom Extract Supplements?
Mushroom extract supplements are extracts or powders produced from various types of mushrooms. According to Today’s Dietitian, people try mushroom extracts as remedies for a range of conditions, including seasonal allergies, insomnia, cancer, colds, and inflammation.
You can find them in capsules, powders, liquid extracts, mouth sprays, teas, coffees, gummies, and sometimes in combination with other products such as CBD. Some supplements contain extracts from a single type of mushroom, while others combine extracts from several different types of mushrooms.
Different Kinds of Mushroom Extract Supplements
Some of the common types of adaptogenic mushrooms you’ll see in supplements include:
- Lion’s mane
- Turkey Tail
- Agaricus blazei
- Polyporus umbellatus
Possible Health Benefits of Supplemental Mushroom Extract
Taking whole mushrooms has several health advantages. The founder of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Bringing You From Label to Table, Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, claims that mushrooms are low in calories, fat, and substances like sodium and sugar that we’re advised to limit. They also give us access to a variety of nutrients that we would not otherwise acquire. So, adding mushrooms to your diet is a very wonderful idea.
In a study reported in Frontiers in Pharmacology in July 2022, at least 130 possible therapeutic uses of medicinal mushrooms were cited. Yet, reliable human studies linking mushrooms to particular health advantages are scarce.
“The possible advantages are being explored, and there is some promise, but frequently the studies are small, or in animals or cells, and they’re typically short term,” says Samantha Cassetty, RD, a registered dietitian with a New York City address and the coauthor of Sugar Shock. Hence, it is difficult to make any firm statements about long-term safety and effectiveness.
According to a review written in February 2022 for Drug Development Today, more study is required. Yet, the following areas are where mushroom extract supplements show promise:
- Protection of the immune system ─ According to a review in Drug Discovery Today, medicinal mushrooms may have the ability to modify the immune system as well as possess anti-cancer capabilities.
- Protection from heart disease and diabetes ─ According to the Frontiers in Pharmacology study, these two prevalent chronic illnesses may be treated using mushroom extracts.
- Inflammatory effects prevention ─ Certain mushrooms are anti-inflammatory, according to a review that was published in Nutrients in May 2020, but more randomized clinical trials are required.
- The prevention of cancer ─ Also, the Nutrients review discovered that certain extracts and mushrooms have tumor-fighting abilities.
- Combating toxins and pathogens ─ According to a paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, components present in mushrooms may aid the body’s defense against toxins and diseases.
- Assistance with sadness and anxiety ─ Certain varieties of mushrooms are effective at treating these mental health issues, according to the Frontiers in Pharmacology study.
- Skin anti-aging benefits ─ According to a paper that was published in the journal of the Korean Society of Mushroom Science in September 2021, mushroom extracts show promise as components in anti-wrinkle treatments.
- Wound recovery ─ The Journal of Fungi published a study on mice in March 2021 that revealed therapeutic mushrooms had some capacity to quicken wound healing.
- Decrease of fatigue ─ Some mushroom extracts may be able to combat weariness, according to a mouse study that was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry in May 2019.
- Improved athletic ability ─ Certain medicinal mushrooms may increase endurance, according to a small study of long-distance runners that was published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online in June 2021.
- Mental health support ─ A mushroom compound called psilocybin is employed as a hallucinogenic. According to research published in Molecules in May 2021, researchers are investigating if psilocybin aids in mediating emotions and moods and treats depression, migraines, and other medical issues. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, psilocybin is a Schedule 1 substance, making it unlawful to buy, sell, or possess it at the moment in the majority of states.
Can Mushroom Extract Supplements Help With Weight Loss?
According to Cassetty, some mushroom supplements may have prebiotic effects that could change your gut’s flora in a positive way and help you lose weight. Moreover, edible mushrooms are mentioned as a prospective source of prebiotics in the January 2021 book Advances in Probiotics. But, there are other, more thoroughly established approaches to alter your gut flora and lose weight.
If you want to try [a mushroom supplement], you can include it in your wellness toolkit, but it shouldn’t take the place of more tried-and-true techniques, according to Cassetty.
Taub-Dix agrees and emphasizes that if you want to lose weight, you should concentrate on your total diet. So compared to everything else you need to do to lose weight, she claims that mushroom supplements are a drop in the bucket. What else you eat also influences this.
Risks and Side Effects of Mushroom Extract Supplements
The compounds in mushrooms are often concentrated and processed into mushroom extracts and dietary supplements. “If you look at the things that were used [medically] in the past, they didn’t come in jars. It appeared to be emerging from the ground, according to Taub-Dix.
You might wish to take supplements containing mushroom extract, but it’s not obvious which kinds, how much, or for how long. “We’re not entirely sure how much you’ll require. Since the study is murky, Taub-Dix advises consulting a dietician or your healthcare professional.
In addition, you should be watchful of interactions as with any supplement. There is always a chance that a supplement will interact with a prescription drug you are taking or a medical condition you may have, according to Cassetty. For instance, she advises against using extracts containing adaptogens if you have an autoimmune disease because they could boost your immune system. According to MedlinePlus, one kind of fungus known as reishi may interact with drugs for diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood coagulation.
Furthermore, chaga extract could cause interactions. If you have a bleeding disorder or are using blood-thinning medicine, it may increase your blood flow, which could be harmful. A paper in the ASCO Post in July 2019 revealed that chaga extract can enhance the effectiveness of anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications, while further research is required in this area.
If you’re on medicine or have a chronic ailment, Cassetty advises that you consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
What to Look for in a Mushroom Complex Supplement
According to the Frontiers in Pharmacology paper, there are no criteria or procedures for testing fungal products that are accepted worldwide. It is also unknown whether any effects are brought on by a single ingredient or a combination of chemicals because goods vary greatly in how they are made.
There are many other ways to consume mushroom extracts, including tablets, gummies, extracts, coffee, and more. The National Institutes of Health notes that regardless of the type you encounter, supplements are not subject to FDA regulation in the United States. Manufacturers of dietary supplements are obliged to adhere to procedures that avoid adding incorrect components or quantities of ingredients to the product, minimize contamination, and guarantee label accuracy. Supplements that adhere to independent quality standards set by ConsumerLab.com, NSF, or USP are available. Testing, however, does not substantiate a product’s efficacy or safety.
Because supplements are not subject to the same regulations as food, Taub-Dix warns that a bottle of lion’s mane may contain quite different amounts of each pill.
Mushroom extract supplements have shown potential in treating a number of ailments, including stress management, cancer prevention, and inflammation reduction. However, the majority of the research done to far on mushroom extracts has been conducted either in animals or in vitro (using isolated human cells in a petri dish).
Whether these extracts produce the same effects in people is still a matter of debate in science.