Fruiting Body Mushrooms vs. Mycelium: All About Mushroom Extracts & Benefits

Functional mushrooms have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese herbalism and have been incorporated into many holistic health practices. More recently, these mushrooms have become increasingly popular as they support both physical and mental well-being.

While we may regularly consume mushrooms for their nutritional value, functional mushrooms have mental and physical health benefits that extend beyond their nutritional composition. The health benefits of functional mushrooms are accessible in the form of mushroom gums, mushroom powder, capsules and other mushroom supplements.

Interested in exploring the fantastic health benefits of functional mushroom supplements? Continue reading. This guide will teach you how to choose the best mushroom extracts, detailing the critical differences between the mushroom fruiting body and the mycelium!

Types of Mushrooms: Learn the Basics

Before we discuss the differences between mushroom fruiting bodies and mycelium extracts, we need to understand what these terms mean.

What is the mushroom fruiting body?

The mushroom fruiting body is the part of the functional mushrooms that we all know. Includes mushroom cap, stem, gills, skirt, scales and volva. A real mushroom that you can buy for your average stroganoff is just the mushroom fruiting body.

The fruiting body is the reproductive structure of the organism and is the part that is visible when we go to pick mushrooms or cook mushrooms for our meals. When the entire mushroom fruiting body performs its reproductive function, it releases tiny spores into the air, which attach to substrates and develop into mycelium.

What is mushroom mycelium?

Many people do not know what mushroom mycelium is, as it is the hidden part of the mushroom structure. Similar to a flower or plant, mushroom mycelium roots protrude from the stem base of the mushroom fruiting body.

From there, it spreads to the soil and feeds on plant matter in the vegetative stage of the mushroom’s life cycle. The mycelium then connects a mushroom network and interconnects with the plant matter and concentrates nutrients using enzymes.

The largest organism on earth is a 2,000-year-old mycelial network spanning 890 hectares.

Another fact is the interconnection between some of the mycelium of mushrooms and other plants. A small group of mycelial fungi called mycorrhizal fungi can collect nutrients by attaching to other plants. The relationship between these mycelium fungi and other plants is symbiotic, linking plants throughout the forest in an exchange of sugars and nutrients. The mycelium ensures the health of the fruiting body, but it also serves a much greater purpose, providing the health of all the plants in the area.

The mycelium has a strong defense mechanism against pathogenic microorganisms, distributing enzymes to the substrate and the fruiting body of the mushroom to protect itself from competitors.

Differences between mushroom fruiting body and mycelium

Now that we’re familiar with the makeup of functional mushrooms, let’s dive in and highlight some of the key differences between the mushroom fruiting body and the mycelium. Differentiating the fruiting body and mycelium will help you determine which mushroom powder or mushroom supplements will best suit your needs.

  • The fruiting body is the reproductive structure of the mushroom, while the mycelium is the vegetative body of the mushroom.

  • The fruiting body of the mushroom produces spores and the mycelium usually does not.

  • We usually cook using the fruiting body and eat the fruiting body, while the mycelium is not consumed in normal meals, except for Tempeh.

  • The mycelium grows underground, while the fruiting body grows above ground.

  • The fruiting body is isolated, but the mycelium is interwoven with the plant matter from which it draws nutrients. When growing mushrooms, farmers often grow them on a wooden substrate or on a substrate consisting of rice, oats or other grains.

Although both the fruiting body and the mycelium perform different functions and have different structures, both contain biologically active compounds that can be used in mushroom extracts. However, the fruiting bodies contain a significant amount more than the mycelium.

Active compounds and benefits of the fruiting body

Functional mushrooms have nutritional value and can provide the body with valuable vitamins and minerals. Let’s discuss some beneficial bioactive compounds found in the fruiting bodies of functional mushrooms.

Beta-Glucans and Immunity Balance

Beta-glucans are polysaccharides found in the cell wall of the mushroom fruiting body. Beta-glucans play an essential role in supporting natural immune function. Because of this quality, the fruiting body can act as your bodyguard against evil, which can be helpful during seasonal transitions.

It is important to understand and be able to differentiate between the different types of beta-glucans. Mushrooms specifically have 1,3 1,6 β-glucans. Other plants/grains usually have 1,3 1,4 β-glucans, which do not support the natural immune system.

Many mushroom supplements may advertise whole grain products that are “full of beta-glucans.” So if you choose fruiting bodies in your mushroom extracts, make sure they contain the right kind of beta-glucans.

Triterpenoids and liver support

The triterpenoids in the mushroom fruiting body may act as a soothing balm for the liver. Your body can naturally protect your liver from damage caused by alcohol and other liver-damaging substances. Triterpenoids found in mushroom extracts may help support this natural process. Other health benefits you can get from triterpenes include helping with post-workout inflammatory support and defense against occasional stress.

Ergosterol and vitamin B12 support

Ergosterol is a fungal sterol found in the fruiting body of mushrooms and is similar to vitamin D. The fruiting bodies of functional mushrooms also have a rich amount of vitamin B12. Many vegans and vegetarians struggle to get their supply of vitamin B12 without supplements, as this vitamin is added to the grains fed to cattle and is thus present in dairy and beef products. The fruiting body of a functional mushroom can be an excellent natural source of vitamin B12 for vegans and vegetarians.

Statins and encouraging healthy cholesterol support

The fruiting body of a functional mushroom contains lovastatin, which belongs to a group of active compounds called statins. Statins are beneficial active compounds that can support the body’s natural cholesterol management systems within normal limits. Functional mushrooms may support the body’s cardiovascular system.

How to choose your mushroom extract

Keeping all this information in mind, you need to choose the best mushroom extract with mushroom fruit. Reading about the mushroom extracts you are about to buy is essential to ensure you are getting the best products from a reputable brand. Here are some steps to help you choose the best functional mushroom extracts.

Read labels and focus on 1,3 1,6 beta-glucans

If you buy functional mushroom products, you should know that the extract in them provides 1,3 1,6 β-glucans from the fruiting bodies of functional mushrooms. 1,3 1,6 Beta-glucans are a valuable part of the body of a mushroom fruit, and you should look for mushroom supplements high in these bioactive compounds.

One of the key differences between mushroom mycelium and fruiting bodies is that fruiting bodies contain up to 500 times more 1,3 1,6 β-glucans. Mycelium extracts tend to be lower in 1,3 1,6 beta-glucans, so it is essential to check to see the number of 1,3 1,6 beta-glucans in the product.

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Daily 10 Mushroom Mix Products | Mushroom revival

Determine if your extract is made from mycelium or fruiting body

The mycelium and fruiting bodies of functional mushrooms have different health benefits and bioactive compounds. However, since the mycelium is attached to the plant matter on which it feeds, many mycelium extracts are considered to be complexed with up to 80-90% oat filler rice on which the mycelium was grown. Many mycelium extracts are derived from mushrooms grown on oat or rice substrate, so you can expect to see rice or oat included in the mushroom supplement.

You need to check if your extract is made from mycelium, fruiting body or a combination of the two. Even if it is a combination of mycelium and fruiting bodies, it is important to understand that the mushroom supplement will be much fresher and weaker, with only a small fraction of the beneficial compounds you want to get from functional mushrooms.

There is a lot of debate about whether mycelium extracts or fruiting body extracts are best, and you could choose a combination of mycelium extracts and fruiting body extracts. However, it is always best to know exactly what you are getting from functional mushroom supplements.

Many companies advertise their products as “full spectrum”, saying they use all parts of fungi (spores, mycelium, fruiting bodies, substrate, etc.) and market it as a good thing. But imagine you were buying an apple pie and the company filled the pie crust with dirt, roots, stems, leaves, bark, twigs and apples and then advertised it as a full-spectrum apple pie that was healthier for you. You would really want to buy the 100% apple fruit pie right?

It is the same with mushroom supplements, you want to choose the supplement with 100% mushroom fruiting bodies without other cheap filler ingredients which lowers the production cost for the company giving them higher profits.

Check your carbohydrate or starch levels

As we mentioned, mushroom mycelium is often attached and inseparable from the substrate, but even if it were pure mycelium, it is significantly weaker than pure fruiting bodies. Pure mycelium without fillers is still problematic as it has a fraction of the beneficial compounds compared to real mushrooms.

You should check the carbohydrate or starch levels to know the amount of mycelium in your mushroom supplements and choose products with 100% fruiting bodies.

Avoid extracts that mention mycelial grains and biomass if you want the fruity body

If you’re just looking for a functional mushroom fruiting body extract, you need to know what terms indicate the presence of mushroom mycelium. If the product mentions cereal mycelium substrate or biomass, this indicates that it contains mycelium extract and not pure fruiting body.

Avoid passages that lack specific information

If the manufacturer of the product does not provide sufficient information about what is in the product, this will indicate that the product is of low quality. A lack of transparency could also indicate that the product does not have the quality mushroom extracts you are looking for – a VERY important red flag. Therefore, avoid quotes that lack specific information and look for products that provide the following details about the product:

  • Information about mushrooms – are they organic? Are there lab results?

  • Information on mushroom supplements – is it kosher? Is it suitable for vegans and vegetarians? Is it gluten free?

  • Information on specific compounds – you need to know if the mushroom extract consists of fruiting bodies or mushroom mycelium and if it contains any water-stressed mycelium.

Buy mushroom supplements that are 100% USDA certified organic

The last thing you want when using mushroom supplements to improve your health is to ingest traces of harmful pesticides. Pesticide residues are harmful to the body and the use of pesticides in agricultural practices is extremely harmful to the natural environment. So, to protect your body and the planet, you should only choose 100% USDA certified organic products.

Always buy from a trusted source

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The mushroom fruiting body is the stem and cap of the mushroom, while the mycelium is the underground network of the mushroom. Fruiting bodies and mycelium are mushroom extracts that you can buy. However, the fruiting bodies have a significantly higher amount of beneficial compounds compared to the mycelium. You want to look for pure mushroom fruiting body products and not granular mycelium or combined mycelium and fruiting body products.

At AdaptogenShrooms, we believe that mushrooms including fruiting bodies, adaptogenic mushrooms and more can revitalize your overall well-being to make you feel your best. Find your perfect mushroom match and check out our wide selection of products to start your functional mushroom supplement journey today!

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