Mushroom extract or powder: Which one should you use?

One of the most common questions people ask about medicinal mushrooms is whether they should use mushroom extract or mushroom powder. Or if it even matters which one to choose.

The short answer is that it does matter.

The a bit longer answer, or the key takeaway from the article for those on the run, is:

  • The biggest difference between mushroom powder and extract is the composition of vital ingredients. Powder contains far less polysaccharides and beta-glucans than extract. Powder is less potent and is therefore usually used more as a preventative measure against possible health problems. Mushroom powder still has all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber intact.
  • Mushroom extract has ten times more polysaccharides than powder. So, it’s usually used to support with an existing health problem. Due to the extraction process all the vitamins and minerals from the mushroom are lost.
  • If you’re going to offer medicinal mushrooms as a dietary supplement, you should offer both extract and powder separately and together. This way, your customers can choose the dosage form that best suits their needs and still get all the benefits the mushrooms have to offer.
  • If you’re looking to create a medicinal mushroom product that’s either liquid, like a drink, or potentially mixed with a liquid, like a powder, then you need to use extract. Only it is completely water soluble and won’t clump.
  • Whether you choose to use powder or extract, it’s important to make sure it’s the highest quality possible.

Now, if you want to get into the details of mushroom powder and extract differences, read on.

What is mushroom powder?

Mushroom powder is a fine powder made by grinding dried mushrooms. The finer the powder, the more bioavailable, or better absorbed, it is.

Mushroom powder contains all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in the mushroom. However, it only has about 2-3% polysaccharides because it doesn’t go through an extraction process that would release more polysaccharides from the mushroom.

Polysaccharides and beta-glucans are the ingredients behind the potential health benefits of medicinal mushrooms, such as boosting the immune system, helping with allergies, or managing stress.

Since mushroom powder doesn’t really have much of them, it’s used more to prevent various health conditions from occurring in the first place.

Therefore, if we are interested in really benefiting from these vital ingredients and looking for possible support for an existing health condition, we need to turn to mushroom extract.

What is mushroom extract?

Mushroom extracts have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. They have been particularly popular in Asia, but some species have also been widely used in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Some of the most popular uses include teas, extracts, and tinctures of reishi and chaga to treat various ailments.

Mushroom extract is the result of a coarse mushroom powder that has been exposed to a solvent to release certain ingredients from the mushroom. This is called extraction.

Because of the extraction, which can release for example polysaccharides and beta-glucans from the mushroom, extract is more potent than powder. Mushroom extract contains about 20-30% polysaccharides, up to ten times more than powder.

Extraction loses most of the vitamins, minerals and fiber. But with mushroom extract we are more interested in the polysaccharides anyway, so the loss of other ingredients is not a bad thing.

Because of the greater amount of polysaccharides, mushroom extract is more potent than powder. It is often used as a support in an existing health condition.

You can find mushroom extract in liquid or dried powder form.

Why extraction process is needed

As mentioned, extraction is necessary to make the important polysaccharides and beta-glucans from the mushroom available to the human body.

Polysaccharides and beta-glucans are found in the chitin cell walls of the mushrooms. The human body doesn’t have anything to break down chitin. Therefore, eating medicinal mushrooms or even using the powder is not enough to benefit from the polysaccharides. The chitin has to be extracted for us.

The most common extraction methods are hot water, alcohol, and double extraction. The hot water method is the most popular because polysaccharides and beta-glucans are water soluble. Certain constituents, such as the triterpenes found in reishi and chaga, are not water soluble. They require another solvent, such as alcohol.

If you are interested in how mushroom powders and extracts are made, you can also watch our production videos here.

Which one is better then, mushroom extract or powder?

Short answer: offer both! Longer answer: it depends on how you plan to use them.

Offer both mushroom powder and extract as dietary supplements

If you are interested in offering medicinal mushrooms as a dietary supplement, you should offer both forms. Offer extract and powder as separate products, either as capsules, powder as powder, or extract as a liquid, or all of them, and a combination in one capsule.

By offering different dosage forms, you allow your customers to choose the dosage form that works best for them.

The way medicinal mushrooms work is quite complex, and different people may experience the same mushroom and dosage very differently. For some, the extract is way too potent, and others won’t feel any effect from the milder powder. The perceived “effect” that an individual has after taking some of the mushroom supplements can also vary from species to species.

Finally, offering extract and powder at the same time, say in a capsule, allows the end user to benefit from the vitamins and fiber of the mushroom as well as the polysaccharides.

Mushroom extract is the best choice in functional foods

If you plan to use medicinal mushrooms as part of other foods, such as drinks or in a powder, you should in most cases use extract.

Not only because with extract you’ll get all those polysaccharides into the final product. The main reason for using extract is that it is completely water soluble. So if the final product is a liquid or the end user can mix it with water, you should solely use mushroom extract.

Powder can become lumpy when mixed with water.

No matter the dosage form, ensure they are of good quality

Once you’ve chosen the right dosage for your needs, you need to make sure that the raw materials are of the highest quality possible.

Because believe us, there is a lot of inferior medicinal mushroom raw materials out there. And low-quality raw materials make medicinal mushroom products that will definitely not do anything for your end customers. Expect make them not buy from you again, or worse, lose their interest in medicinal mushrooms altogether.

Therefore, buy only medicinal mushroom raw materials from suppliers who can guarantee that they only use the fruiting body, that they give their mushrooms the time they need to mature, that the production process is GMP certified, that the raw materials are tested several times during the production process…

In fact, we have written an article about how to ensure that the medicinal mushroom raw materials are of high quality and what “high quality” even means. So we recommend that you read it before you start looking for suppliers, so you know exactly what to look for.

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