Mushrooms are the new health craze. But many types of mushrooms that are reputed to have healthful benefits are difficult to transport and to sell fresh. This is where mushroom extracts come in. They are an easy way to get the benefits of these mushrooms into your kitchen. But what are mushroom extracts? How do you use them? Read on to learn more.
What Are Mushroom Extracts, and Why Use Them?
As the health benefits of mushroom extracts become more and more well-known, many people want to know where to get them, what mushroom extracts are reputed to do, and how to use them.
Mushrooms have been used in Asia for their medicinal benefits for centuries, and they are beginning to catch on in the West. Many of the natural substances in mushrooms that defend against their predators will also support your body’s defense mechanisms.
Mushroom extracts allow you access to many more types of mushrooms than you will find in the grocery store. And the healthful benefits are far more concentrated in extracts than they are in whole mushrooms. Instead of eating a pound of fresh Lion’s Mane, you can add a spoonful of extract to your coffee and get the same benefits.
How Do I Use Mushroom Extracts?
Mushroom extracts are easy to use. You can add mushroom extract to all sorts of foods and drinks, from tea, coffee, and smoothies, to soups and stir-fries. You can add a spoon of Chaga extract powder to your coffee, or some Reishi powder to a stew.
Companies even add extracts to body products, such as shower gels and lotions.
How Is Mushroom Extract Made?
Here is a short overview of how commercial manufacturers create mushroom extracts.
First, raw mushrooms are harvested, dried, and ground into a fine powder.
Then in most cases, the powder is cooked in water. Some mushrooms, however, contain compounds that are not water-soluble. These mushrooms are cooked in alcohol or a water/alcohol mix, as the alcohol will draw out the beneficial substances.
Whichever cooking method is used, the cooking process breaks down the cell walls of the mushrooms, allowing for the extraction of the beneficial compounds (beta-glucans, triterpenes, etc.).
Once the cooking process finishes, the resulting liquid will be filtered, and then packaged in one of three ways:
Liquid Mushroom Extract
The manufacturer can take the liquid and packaged it directly as a liquid mushroom extract.
Powdered Mushroom Extract
To make powdered extract, the manufacturer sends the mushroom extract liquid to a device called a spray dryer, which evaporates all of the liquid, leaving powdered mushroom extract behind.
This powder can be added to coffee or smoothies, or into various food dishes.
Mushroom Extract Capsules
Manufacturers also put the mushroom extract powder into capsules, which you can take like any other pill. Mushroom capsules are a good way to get your mushroom extract powder when you are in a hurry.
What Are the Benefits of Mushroom Extracts
The benefits of mushroom extracts depend on which mushroom was used to make the extract. There are many different types of mushroom extracts, and we cover their benefits in other articles. But here are several mushroom extract examples, to get you started:
Chaga Mushroom Extract
Chaga grows in forests in the northern hemisphere, but only the Chaga that grows on living birch trees has the active compounds needed for maximum health benefits.
- Various studies have indicated anticancer that Chaga may have anticancer properties, especially for colon cancer.
- Chaga’s antiviral properties may also help with less serious viral illnesses such as colds and flu, as well as more serious ones like smallpox.
- Beta-glucans help to lower cholesterol and Chaga contains these.
- Chaga’s phytonutrients, betulinic acid, and polyphenols are believed to help diabetes by lowering blood sugar.
- Studies in laboratory animals indicate that Chaga enhances exercise endurance, increases learning ability and memory, and reduces inflammation. Laboratory test results on humans are still in progress.
Potential Side Effects of Chaga
Chaga may cause an increase in bleeding, so be sure to speak with your doctor, especially if you have an upcoming surgery, or if you have any issues related to excess bleeding.
Chaga extract powder is a great way to get the benefits of Chaga.
You can add Chaga extract powder to all types of drinks. Chaga has a sort of bitter vanilla-like flavor that goes well with many fruits to make cold drinks and smoothies. You can also use it to make healthy snacks with nuts, ice-cream, and cakes.
Following are some Chaga extracts that I like. Generally, I add a smooth of powdered extract to my afternoon coffee.
Liquid Chaga Extract
Naturealm Liquid Chaga Extract. Naturealm harvests its Chaga from birch trees in Alaska. Chaga extract is too bitter to put under your tongue. Best to mix the extract into tea, coffee, soups, or sauces.
Powdered Chaga Extract
Teaveli Premium Chaga Mushroom Powder is best added to coffee or tea, as it is quite bitter.
Sayan Siberian Organic Chaga Mushroom Powder is more expensive, but high quality and very popular.
Activa Naturals Chaga Capsules Activa Natural Chaga Capsules are an easier way to take a daily dose of Chaga.
Reishi Mushroom Extract
Reishi, (also known as lingzhi), is a fungus that grows in hot and humid areas.
Medicinal uses of Reishi Mushrooms date back to at least 2000 BCE with descriptions of it in ancient Chinese texts as ‘a tonic against aging.’
Below are some reputed benefits of the Reishi mushroom.
- Scientific studies show that Reishi Mushrooms boost the immune system
- Reishi mushrooms show promise in the fight against cancer, with Reishi suggested as a complementary cure to usual cancer treatment.
- Tests show Reishi reduces fatigue and lessens depression
- Reishi contains natural anti-oxidant properties
- Reishi may help improve your cholesterol levels
- Tests in animals have shown evidence that beta-glucans in Reishi mushroom extract both encourage activity in the immune system and produce an ‘antitumor’ effect.
- Studies show reishi mushrooms decrease blood sugar in animals.
Potential Side Effects of Reishi
Reishi mushroom extract may interact with blood pressure medication. Be sure to speak with your medical practitioner before trying Reishi. Pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding should also avoid Reishi.
Some people have reported upset stomachs after taking Reishi mushroom extract. If this happens, stop taking it.
You can buy Reishi extract in the form of capsules, powder, or liquid. Here are some of my favorite options.
Liquid Reishi Extract
Northspore Liquid Reishi Extract. The easiest way to take reishi is to put a droplet of liquid extract under your tongue. Northspore makes an expensive but high-quality extract. You can also mix the extract into tea, coffee, soups, or sauces. Done right, the bitterness won’t be a problem.
Herb Pharm Liquid Reishi Extract. For those on a budget, Herb Pharm makes a cheaper Reishi liquid extract which is quite good.
Powdered Reishi Extract
Terrasoul Superfoods Red Reishi Powder is a quality product for a decent price. You can mix a spoon into your coffee or into a smoothie.
NusaPure’s Veggie Capsules I like NusaPure’s Reishi Veggie Capsules for quality at a good price.
Cordyceps Mushroom Extract
Cordyceps is perhaps one of the least attractive of all mushrooms, and its amazing life has been the subject of documentaries. It is a parasitic fungus that grows on insects. These fungi attack their host and sprout long stems that grow through the host’s flesh until they sprout out of the body.
The Chinese have long used these fungi (and the remaining part of the insect) for a variety of health problems, fatigue, and as an aphrodisiac.
Researchers have discovered more than 400 species of Cordyceps. So far though, they have only focused on the benefit of two of these species: Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps Militaris.
- Tests show that Cordyceps may help suppress cancer cells in mice. Tests also indicated that Cordyceps may stop lymphoma and melanoma. Researchers believe that Cordyceps may show promise as a tool for combating many types of cancer.
- In China, Cordyceps is already an approved treatment for arrhythmia (unusual heartbeat).
- It appears that Cordyceps can simulate insulin, thereby keeping blood sugar levels down, which may help to alleviate the symptoms that come with Type 2 Diabetes.
- Cordyceps increases endurance, and hence increases the ability to exercise more, better and with improved results
- Studies show that Cordyceps contains many beneficial antioxidants, which help to fight cell damage
- Research indicates anti-aging properties and improved memory in older mice during testing, as well as improved sex drive.
Potential Side Effects of Cordyceps
Like other medicinal mushrooms, Cordyceps slows blood clotting, so make sure you tell your doctor if you are scheduling surgery.
That said, the Chinese, who have been using Cordyceps for centuries, identify it as a safe, natural drug. The Chinese continue to use Cordyceps for medicinal purposes.
Liquid Cordyceps Extract
Life Cykel Cordyceps Mushroom Extract with Kakadu Plum. I like to add a few drops to my afternoon coffee along with some Chaga powder.
Powdered Cordyceps Extract
Real Mushrooms Certified Organic Cordyceps Mushroom Powder is one of the better extracts, and doesn’t cost too much.
Fresh Nutrition Organic Cordyceps Capsules. These capsules are the #1 choice on Amazon.
As you can see, there are many benefits to mushroom extracts, and they have been used for many centuries for medicinal purposes. Research indicates that there are many more potential benefits to be discovered.
In addition, there are many other types of mushroom extracts than the ones that I have written about in this article. Please share your favorites in the comment section below!
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