The world of medicinal mushroom supplements is full of muddy waters, and it can be tough for new consumers to decide exactly which supplements are worth a shot. Terms like “dual extract” and “hot water extraction” don’t exactly shed any light on the quality or benefits of the final formula, so we’re here to break it down.
If you’re curious about the difference in dual extract vs hot water extract for mushroom supplements, this is what you need to know:
Table of Contents
Hot water extraction is used to remove beta-glucans from mushroom material.
Alcohol extraction is used to remove flavonoids, triterpenes, and some other minor compounds form mushroom material.
A combination of hot water and alcohol extraction is called "dual extraction," but it isn't always the best method to use for medicinal mushroom products.
What is a Mushroom Extract?
Before we can really break down the difference in different extraction techniques, let’s discuss extracts in general and why they are significant.
An extract is made by taking raw material, (in this case, fungi) and exposing it to a solvent. The solvent breaks down certain components and draws them away from the fungal material. Then, the solvent can be removed, leaving only the desired components behind.
Mushroom extracts are by far the best way to reap the benefits of medicinal mushrooms, many of which are associated with bioactive compounds called beta-glucans. The reason boils down to the bioavailability of beneficial compounds (which you can learn more about by reading “Mushroom Powder vs Extract: What’s the Difference and Which is Best?”). Here’s a brief explanation of what we mean:
In whole mushroom material, beta-glucans are locked away in chitin, the polymer that makes up the fungi cell walls. Chitin is an insoluble fiber, meaning the human digestive system is not very efficient at breaking it down, so most of the beneficial beta-glucans just pass through the digestive system untouched.
In traditional medicine, medicinal mushrooms were used in the form of teas and tinctures–old school concoctions using either hot water or alcohol to extract beneficial compounds. Now, modern manufacturers have perfected the process of extracting beta-glucans (as well as other compounds, like triterpenes) to create concentrated products that carry all of the benefits associated with medicinal mushrooms.
When extracts are created in a lab environment like this, the beta-glucan content is quantifiable and verifiable, meaning you can find products that you can trust to provide the benefits they claim. That obviously relies on your ability to discern quality differences in different formulas, which starts with understanding the difference in products made via hot water extraction vs alcohol extraction, and also single extraction vs dual extraction.
What is Hot Water Extraction?
Hot water extraction is the most common and simple way that mushrooms are extracted. This process has been used for thousands of years and is the exact sentiment behind mushroom tea, a medicinal consumption method that involves steeping dried or fresh mushrooms in scalding hot water to create a nutritious brew of beneficial compounds.
Hot water is very effective at melting away chitin and dissolving beta-glucans, which are water soluble. More specifically, raw mushroom material is heated in water at a temperature between 170–350°F for varying periods of time (mostly depending on the type of mushroom and manufacturers preference). This is usually done in a vacuum chamber to avoid losing any beta-glucans as steam escapes–which is one of the major problems with a simple tea brew.
When this method is used in a laboratory setting, the water can be evaporated away, leaving mushroom powder that is biologically active, otherwise known as mushroom extract. This extract powder is ready to use and chock full of beneficial compounds.
However, some mushroom compounds, like triterpenes, can’t be extracted with just water. That leads us to our next big question:
What is Alcohol Extraction?
Some of the trickier compounds in mushrooms–like triterpenes, sterols, and flavonoids–are not water soluble. Instead, they need to be extracted using an alcohol extraction technique. This is the sentiment behind mushroom tinctures, a product made by soaking mushroom material in alcohol. The alcohol is then consumed because it is assumed to carry the bioactive components from the mushroom material.
In a laboratory setting, though, the alcohol can be removed to create a dry extract, similar to hot water extraction. First, the mushroom material is exposed to alcohol instead of water as a solvent. Generally, ethanol is used because it is plant-based and non-toxic. Alcohol causes the alcohol-soluble compounds to separate from the raw material. Then, the alcohol can be removed, leaving only bioactive compounds behind.
Some mushrooms, like reishi and chaga, contain high amounts of triterpenes and are good candidates for alcohol extraction. Others are more suited for hot water extraction. Sometimes, both methods are used in a technique called dual extraction.
What is Dual Extraction?
Dual extraction refers to the process of using both hot water and alcohol to extract compounds from raw mushroom material. In some cases, this dual extract process may be beneficial, but it depends heavily upon the mushrooms used and the desired outcome for the final product.
During a dual extraction, the material is first extracted with either hot water or alcohol. Then, the other method is used on the same mushroom material to extract remaining compounds. The two extracts are combined to create a potent concentrate.
For mushrooms like chaga and reishi, which contain a high amount of alcohol soluble compounds, this can be useful, but there are some issues to be aware of.
The Problem With Dual Extraction
Water extracts beta-glucans. Alcohol extracts triterpenes and other minor compounds. The problem is that alcohol also harms beta-glucans. Mushroom extract, when exposed to alcohol, ends up with a degraded beta-glucan content. So, in the case of dual extraction where alcohol is used first, there may not be many beta-glucans left over to extract during the hot water phase.
Using the extraction techniques in the other order may be a better idea. First, expose the material to water to extract beta-glucans. Then, expose the same material to alcohol to extract triterpenes and other compounds. Still, small amounts of alcohol may remain in the concentrate liquid. When the two liquids are combined, remaining alcohol may degrade the beta-glucan content of the final product.
So, the big question here is: what’s best? Hot water extraction, alcohol extraction, or dual extraction?
The long answer:
It depends on what type of mushroom product you’re buying and what benefits you’re after. Some mushrooms with a high tri-terpene content may benefit from a double extraction process, many are more valuable when only extracted using a hot water technique. The order in which the extraction processes are used also matters a lot.
The short answer:
If you want to reap the benefits of beta-glucan rich medicinal mushrooms, single, hot water extraction is best.
Which Extraction Method is Best for Specific Medicinal Mushrooms?
If you want it broken down even further, let’s talk about different mushrooms and how they respond to different extraction techniques.
Some mushrooms have medicinal uses that rely on their high beta-glucan content. These mushrooms, like Shiitake, Maitake, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, or Turkey Tail, do best when only a hot water extraction is used. When exposed to alcohol, some of the beta-glucan contents may solidify and filter out. If a manufacturer wants to ensure a specific beta-glucan content (like Lucid, which is guaranteed to contain 25% or more), they use only hot water extraction.
Other mushrooms may have benefits centered around flavonoids or triterpenes. These mushrooms, like reishi and chaga, may be good candidates for dual extraction.
Lucid: Single, Hot Water Extracted Beta-Glucan Greatness
Lucid instant beverages contain hot-water extracted mushroom concentrate (+ a unique blend of brain-boosting nootropics). We chose this technique to effectively extract and preserve the beta-glucans from our unique mix of four powerful mushrooms: Maitake, Cordyceps, Tremella, and Lion’s Mane.
By using only 100% fruiting bodies (and not mushroom mycelium) and an experienced, cGMP-compliant manufacturer, we can guarantee that every bag contains a beta-glucan content of 25% or more. It says so right on the label!
Ready to try out our mushroom+nootropic mix to fuel a productive, healthy, lucid life? Check out one of our three flavor varieties below or read more about our ingredients and why we chose them.