If you’re new to the functional mushroom field, all the lingo can feel overwhelming. Mushroom powder vs mushroom extract, single extraction vs dual extraction, fruiting body vs mycelium–these are all terms to describe how different mushroom products are made.
As convenient as it would be to say “All mushroom products are the same! It really doesn’t matter.”–that’s just not true. In fact, there is a huge difference between these different manufacturing techniques and formulas, and they play a heavy role in just how biologically active the final product will be.
More specifically, they affect the final beta-glucan content of each mushroom formula. Beta-glucans are the biologically active compounds that give medicinal mushrooms their health benefits. Some mushroom products on the market contain no beta-glucans at all, but they don’t exactly market themselves that way, which leaves uninformed consumers in a bit of a tough spot.
No worries, though. We’re going to break down everything you need to know about the difference between mushroom powder vs mushroom extract to help you make an informed decision. Let’s start with the basics:
Table of Contents
Mushroom extract is a biologically active, concentrated version of the beta-glucans and other beneficial compounds found in many mushrooms.
Whole mushroom powder is packed with fiber, protein, and vitamins and is more suitable for use as a nutritional supplement.
Both mushroom powder and mushroom extract have their place, but the quality heavily impacts the benefits of each product.
What is Mushroom Extract?
An extract is made by taking raw material and exposing it to a solvent in order to remove certain specific compounds and create a concentrate. In the case of mushrooms, either water or alcohol is used to create a mushroom extract, or a concentrated form of the beneficial compounds found in various species of mushrooms.
Mushroom extracts can be made using a single extraction or dual extraction process. Extracts focus on the mushroom’s active ingredients, which can include beta-glucans, polysaccharides, triterpenes, and other compounds that are believed to have a wide range of health benefits.
Different mushroom species have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, and modern research has confirmed many of their therapeutic properties. For example, extracts of reishi mushrooms have been shown to have immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory effects, while extracts of shiitake mushrooms have been shown to have anti-cancer and cholesterol-lowering effects.
Mushroom extracts can be found in a variety of forms, including powders, capsules, and liquid tinctures. Some are sold as single-species extracts, while others contain a blend of different mushrooms, known as “mushroom stacks,” for a broader range of health benefits.
What is Mushroom Powder?
Mushroom powder is simply the powdered form of whole, dry mushrooms. The entire mushroom is dehydrated and ground into a fine powder. The resulting powder can be used as a natural flavoring and nutritional supplement in a variety of recipes, including soups, stews, sauces, and seasonings.
Just like extracts, mushroom powders may be made from many different types of mushrooms, including shiitake, lion's mane, reishi, maitake, cordyceps, and more. Each type of mushroom has its unique flavor and nutritional profile, and different powders can offer various health benefits, such as immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
Mushroom powder is often touted as a superfood due to its high nutritional content. Mushrooms, even in dried form, are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, potassium, and selenium. It is also low in calories and fat, making it a great addition to a healthy diet.
However, mushroom powder is not a viable way to reap the medicinal benefits of the bioactive components found in many functional mushrooms. That’s why mushroom extracts exist, and why they are the most popular form of mushroom supplements used for health purposes. Let’s discuss:
Why Do We Need to Extract Mushroom Compounds?
So, if mushroom powder contains the whole mushroom, doesn’t it contain the bioactive components, too? The answer is yes, mushroom powder also contains the beta-glucans and triterpenes found in mushroom extract, but it isn’t bioavailable to the body.
Here’s what we mean:
In the mushroom, the bioactive compounds are locked away in the chitin, the cell wall layers that make up the mushroom tissue. Chitin is the same material that makes up the exoskeletons of crustaceans and shellfish. It is an insoluble fiber that cannot be broken down by the human digestive system.
Fortunately, chitin is not really that difficult to break down during the extraction process. Hot water does the trick. So, the bioactive components inside the chitin can be extracted by introducing the mushroom material to hot water. Then, the water can be removed, leaving behind the bioactives behind. This is what’s referred to as a “single hot water extraction” process. Of course, some manufacturers boast about their “dual extraction” process, and we’ll break down the difference later.
For now, what you need to know is this:
Mushroom extract is a biologically active concentrate filled with mushroom-derived beta-glucans. Whole mushroom powder contains all of the nutrition, but is not biologically active.
What’s the Difference in Single and Dual Mushroom Extraction?
So, hot water extraction, otherwise known as single extraction when referring to mushroom products, 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.
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. Instead, these tricky compounds rely on the alcohol extraction process. Some mushrooms, like reishi and chaga, contain high amounts of triterpenes and are good candidates for alcohol extraction.
Now, some manufacturers include a second step to create what’s known as a “dual mushroom extract.” This is usually a combination of hot water and alcohol extraction, which is thought to unlock the full spectrum of beneficial compounds to create a potent mushroom extract. But, there’s a glaring problem with dual extract mushrooms:
Dual Extraction Has One Major Drawback
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, while 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 trick is understanding what type of mushroom product you’re buying, what benefits you’re after, and being able to discern the difference between mushroom formulas.
Which is Best: Whole Mushroom Powder vs Mushroom Extract
For many consumers, it comes down to a single question–what is the best form of mushrooms for supplemental use? The truth is that both mushroom powder and mushroom extract have their place–but a high-quality mushroom extract is the best way to reap medicinal benefits from functional mushrooms.
And if you’re hoping to reap the benefits of beta-glucans, the complex carbohydrates in mushrooms that are behind various anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-tumour properties, you want a mushroom extract that is hot water extracted and not exposed to alcohol, which can degrade the beta-glucan content.
How to Use Mushroom Extract vs Whole Mushroom Powder
If we haven’t made it clear already–different mushroom formulas are used in different ways and for different reasons. Depending on whether you choose a whole mushroom powder or mushroom extract, you’ll need to adjust your routine accordingly.
For a mushroom extract powder, you can usually take a dose once daily for optimal benefits. Extract powders are ready to use and can be mixed into beverages, foods, or added to capsules. Because the extract is biologically active, there’s no limit to how you can consume it.
You’ll also find that extract doses are rather small. The powder is concentrated, so a dosage may range from a teaspoon to a tablespoon depending on the particular formula. Follow the dosage information given on the package unless a healthcare professional tells you otherwise.
Whole mushroom powder is more of a dietary supplement. You can also add it to foods and drinks to reap the superfood benefits of mushrooms. However, if you want to try to unlock some of the bioactive compounds, you need to cook with the powder or mix it into hot water. Exposing it to heat is key.
You’ll also find that the dosage for a mushroom powder is higher. Much of the whole mushroom powder is bulk fiber and carbohydrates, so a single dose is larger than an extract dose.
Mushroom Powder vs Extract Quality
When it comes to quality, you need to be much more meticulous about choosing an extract product. The process for making mushroom extract is more rigorous and beta-glucans are more volatile than mushroom powders made to be used as nutritional supplements. Either way, quality does matter, and there are some things you need to understand about choosing good mushroom supplements.
Here’s what to consider:
Fruiting Body vs Mycelium
Mushroom products can either be made from fruiting bodies, mycelium, or a combination of the two. The topic is pretty complex, but we’ll try to simplify it:
Mycelium is the underground web of “roots” that helps to sustain the mushroom’s life. The fruiting body is the “mushroom,” or the stem, cap, and gills portion of the fungus. Fruiting bodies contain over 90% of the organisms beta-glucan content, so the best extract products are made from 100% fruiting body.
On the other hand, mushroom mycelium is useful as a food product and is often used as a vegan meat alternative, so if you’re choosing a whole mushroom powder for nutritional purposes, it may be a good option.
Many mushroom powders and extracts are paired with other ingredients. This may be other supplements or flavors and sweeteners. Our Lucid beverages, for instance, also contain a stack of brain-boosting nootropics and either Colombian Coffee, Masala Chai, and Japanese Matcha. No matter what you choose, make sure that the flavors and other ingredients match your preferences and dietary needs.
Guaranteed Beta-Glucan Content
This only applies to extracts, but it's a huge defining factor between good and bad supplements. Look for a mushroom extract product that lists a guaranteed beta-glucan content, ideally of 20% or more. Lucid’s beta-glucan content is always guaranteed to be at least 25% or more. If a brand doesn’t list their beta-glucan content, it's because the product doesn’t contain any beta-glucans or hasn’t been tested.
Finally, look at the manufacturing quality of mushroom supplements before you buy. Ideally, choose a supplement that’s made in a cGMP compliant facility by experienced extraction technicians.
If you want to take full advantage of the "functional" side of functional mushrooms, consider a mushroom super-blend like our Lucid Coffee, Chai, or Matcha powders. It takes full advantage of the benefits of these superfood mushrooms by pairing Cordyceps, Maitake, Tremella, and Lion's Mane, plus powerful nootropics, like BCAA's, L-Theanine, Alpha-GPC, and more.