The use of beneficial mushrooms and mushroom mycelium in the form of supplements – capsules, extracts, powders, etc. – has increased significantly in recent years. Further, the proven efficacy of mushrooms and mushroom mycelium for supporting immunity and overall wellness has become well-documented in scientific communities and well-known in the natural products industry. This increase in popularity has also given rise to the spread of misinformation about the use of fruiting bodies, mushroom mycelium, and the cultured substrate used to grow mycelium.
Newly published, peer-reviewed research in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine not only shows the health-supporting benefits of mycelium, but also substantiates the immunological activity found within the cultured substrate itself.
When mushroom mycelium is grown for use in supplements, grains such as brown rice are commonly used as a food source, or ‘substrate’. Mushroom mycelium digests the rice substrate by secreting enzymes to break down the grain, which increases the mass of mycelium while reducing the presence of grain. During the growth process, the grain substrate becomes enmeshed with and inseparable from the mycelium. Removing what is left of the grain substrate is not practical at production scale, and so some fermented substrate is generally included with pure mycelium in mycelium-based mushroom supplements.
Because some fermented substrate remains in the final mycelium-based product, some distributors of mushroom ingredients have suggested that mycelium-based products are largely composed of “fillers” and “lack immunological components”. However, newly published, peer-reviewed research in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine contradicts those claims. Our researchers at Fungi Perfecti® teamed up with third-party immunology experts at Natural Immune Systems, Inc. (NIS) to investigate the health benefits of both the mushroom mycelium and the fermented rice substrate on which mycelium used in Host Defense® products is grown.
These findings are truly exciting and propel the mycelium and fermented substrate conversation forward, negating misinformation of immunological “inactivity”. Not only does the mycelium and the fermented substrate concurrently activate different aspects of the immune system, these findings also suggest that the rice is not simply a filler. The rice is the starting material, but during the fermentation process a biotransformation occurs, altering the substrate, which gives it health-supporting properties.
Co-author Paul Stamets notes, “In my scientific opinion, mushroom products not incorporating mycelium are at a decided disadvantage, given the results of recent research.”
In contrast to mushroom mycelium and its fermented substrate, the same immune assays were performed on brown rice substrate that was not fermented by mushroom mycelium. With the plain, unfermented rice, no significant immune activity was detected.
Renee Davis, R&D Director at Fungi Perfecti®, states "We've long known of the exceptional bio-transformational qualities of mushroom mycelium—the enzymes and novel small molecules are capable of significantly altering the chemical character of its substrate. The results are incredibly exciting to us as a research team, and we are proud to contribute to the scientific community in a way that moves the conversation forward."
Paul Stamets & Fungi Perfecti, LLC
Founder and Chief Science Officer of Fungi Perfecti®, Paul Stamets has been recognized for decades as a leading innovator in the field of mycology, with a focus on revealing the health-supporting properties of mushrooms. As a renowned researcher and author of six books and numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers, Stamets' Host Defense® Mushrooms™ formulations have long been the most sought-after and highly valued within the dietary supplement industry.