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    Host Defense Blog — Mushroom Information

    The Science of Mushroom Anatomy: Mycelium & the Fruitbody

    The Science of Mushroom Anatomy: Mycelium & the Fruitbody

    Host Defense® Talks with the Expert – Jerry Angelini talks about why we use beneficial mushroom mycelium and fermented substrate in ALL of our supplements.

    Jerry Angelini is Head of Science Education at Fungi Perfecti® and Host Defense®. He has a Masters of Science and Rehabilitation Medicine degree from Boston University, and has been trained in Western Herbalism, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. With more than 30 years of experience, Jerry is an invaluable source of knowledge and an important part of our team. We sat down with Jerry to discuss how beneficial mushroom mycelium and the fermented substrate used to grow it play a vital role in the Host Defense® product line.

    The mushroom supplement industry has grown significantly in the last few years. That is in large part because research shows mushrooms to be an effective source of immune support, with different species providing additional support for various body systems. With this category growth has come a lot of misleading rhetoric surrounding the debate on which part of the mushroom is most beneficial. Many companies that just use mushroom fruitbodies in their supplements would have consumers believe that the fruitbody is the only part of the mushroom that offers health-supporting benefits. Some have gone so far as to develop a marketing strategy solely around the idea that mushroom mycelium and the substrate used to grow it, are nothing more than “filler”, claiming that mushroom mycelium and its fermented substrate “offer no health-supporting benefit”. While it is true that mushroom fruitbodies contain immune-supporting beta glucans – which is one of the reasons we include them in some of our formulations –  fruitbody-only products are quite different than Host Defense® products containing mushroom mycelium and cannot be compared for a number of reasons.

    First, there are no published studies addressing direct immune activity in humans that compare fruitbody extract products against Host Defense® mushroom mycelium-based supplements. Host Defense® products have been found to be strongly immunologically active in ex-vivo human blood studies and in human clinical trials. Therefore, the most important factor for choosing Host Defense® is that our mushrooms have been independently proven to strongly engage and balance immune system activity.*  

    Second, Host Defense® uses the mycelium, the fermented substrate, and the fermented metabolites all together. This provides a far greater range of metabolically active compounds than what can be found in mushroom fruitbodies alone. Recent research has shown that in Host Defense® products, the mushroom mycelium and the fermented substrate are both immunologically active and offer a complementary array of health-supporting compounds.* The mycelium robustly engages NK cells, NK T cells, Monocytes, B cells and T lymphocytes. Note that the immune cells associated with allergic reactivity like mast cells and eosinophils are NOT engaged. The fermented rice engages the immune systems’ checks and balances to keep it from overreacting, thereby maintaining our immune response within the “Goldilocks Zone” (not too little, not too much, but just right!). Host Defense® mushroom mycelium-based supplements help support a strong yet balanced immune system.*

    Third, while part of the activity is due to beta-glucan content, there is a range of polysaccharides and other compounds found within Host Defense® products which are also responsible for immune activation and immune modulation. Singling out beta-glucans as the only active compound neglects to take into account the complex chemistry of a whole mushroom product. The beta-glucan rhetoric is about isolation of a single type molecule. Use of mushroom mycelium captures a more extensive range of beneficial compounds. At Host Defense®, we have all of our products verified for identity, purity, composition, and strength by independent labs that use internationally recognized and validated testing methods.

    Fourth, Host Defense® is dedicated to furthering the research on mushroom mycelium and fruitbodies. In December, we collaborated with NIS, Inc., a third-party lab based in Oregon, to publish an open-access, peer-reviewed research article in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine about the immune benefits of mushroom mycelium and fermented substrate. And just this year we published a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Inflammation Research about the efficacy of the Host Defense® MyCommunity, a 17-mushroom species blend that is shown to actively engage the immune system. These are just a few of the many areas that Host Defense® is invested in and committed to researching mycological solutions for human health and educating people about the health-supporting benefits of mushrooms and mushroom mycelium. As part of our foundational value system, Host Defense® is dedicated to furthering research on mushrooms and finding new and innovative mycological ways to support human and planetary health.

    At Host Defense®, we follow the science. And years of industry-based research, along with both internal and third-party testing, tells us that mycelium-based mushroom supplements offer potent immunological support. In addition, research also confirms that the fermented substrate used to grow Host Defense® mycelium is also immunologically active. That’s why we use mushroom mycelium in ALL of our products – because it works!*



    *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

    Mushrooms and the Immune System

    Mushrooms and the Immune System

    From cognition and mood support to energy and stamina, each mushroom species used in Host Defense® Mushrooms™ supplements offers a unique range of potential health benefits. But one thing that each species has in common is the ability to offer immune support. One of the great things about beneficial mushroom mycelium supplements is their ability to support an engaged and balanced immune response.*

    How do mushroom mycelium supplements support the IMMUNE SYSTEM?

    • The immune system is activated by polysaccharides, terpenes, and other compounds found in mushroom mycelium and fruitbodies.*
    • Each beneficial mushroom species contains a wide variety of nutrients and compounds to support our natural immunity.*
    • The variety and multitude of nutrients found in mushrooms is the key to immunomodulation.*


    • Immunomodulation is the regulatory adjustment of the immune system to bring it into balance.
    • Immune cell modulation is important because we don’t want to simultaneously activate every immune cell at full strength. 

    Beneficial MUSHROOMS are immunomodulators:*

    • Mushrooms regulate the immune system to support long-term health by maintaining a balanced immune response.* 

    HOST DEFENSE® supplements can be used every day to help:

    • Augment and regulate the body’s immune system.*
    • Provide support for daily environmental stressors.*
    • Provide polysaccharides to increase the activity & impact of NK cells and macrophages.* 

    We’ve compiled a chart to quickly reference the range of benefits provided by some of the most popular beneficial mushroom species: Agarikon, Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, Maitake, Reishi, and Turkey Tail:

    Mushroom Benefits at a Glance

    *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.

    What Is the Stamets P Value® System?

    What Is the Stamets P Value® System?

    An unavoidable fact that affects all life on this planet—including humans and fungi—is that we age. When we are young, the number of downstream cell divisions is vast, but incrementally declines as we grow older. Recently, cell division limiting factors have been attributable to a shortening of telomeres, the protective region at the end of the chromosome, and the role that the enzyme telomerase plays in the repairing and replication of chromosomal DNA. These models serve to explain what we all know: as we age, we become less vital and more susceptible to disease.

    The same is true with mushroom strains. In the 1980's, I developed the proprietary Stamets P Value® system for tracking the age of strains, as measured by their successive growth over a nutrient-filled petri dish. When a strain is first isolated from a mushroom in the wild, and getting the mycelium to grow from the mother mushroom onto a petri dish, it is labeled P-1. After a week or so, the strain will be transferred to a new petri dish which is then designated as P-2, and with each successive transfer, the P Value increases accordingly. This has proven to be an important method for both maintaining strains at peak vitality. The P Value system is key to providing our customers with fungal strains with the greatest efficacy and genetic vitality.

    Mushrooms have immune systems just like people. Over the years, I have received mushroom cultures from fellow mushroom enthusiasts, with no information on their age. Often these cultures would suddenly slow in their growth, become more susceptible to disease or even stop growing altogether. Strains that were progressively cultured from low P Values out-performed the very same strains that had high P Values. The strains that we isolate here at Host Defense are kept close to their wild genetic origins, maintaining exceptional vigor and disease resistance. We are able to keep the P Value low by making sufficient backups of the cultures during the original culturing, and storing pure master cultures under deep refrigeration in our mycological laboratories. In essence, most of our mushroom strains are genetically just a few weeks old, even though some of the rarer strains may have been isolated decades ago.

    In mushroom culture, small mistakes make for big problems. Even today I am surprised at how unfamiliar many culture libraries are with the importance of maintaining young cultures. Amongst the general public, most people do not realize that a small fragment of tissue, the size of your little finger nail, is expanded into hundreds or even thousands of pounds of fungal biomass in a short period of time. Unless the strains have sufficient vitality, they will often fail to produce healthy, vigorous mycelium, containing all the beneficial compounds found in identical strains growing in the wild. What this ultimately means is that the consumer may be getting a product that is far inferior to ones grown from younger strains of mushrooms.

    With Host Defense's nearly four decades of experience, a verifiable chain-of-custody, and the use of stringent quality-assurance tools such as the P Value system, we strive to provide the highest quality products available in the world today. From the Forest, to Our Farm, to You™.

    —Paul Stamets

    For educational purposes only. © 2013 Paul E. Stamets and Fungi Perfecti, LLC, All rights reserved.