In my two earlier blogs I explained what medical mushrooms are, and how they differ from poisonous mushrooms, or psychedelic mushrooms, and how many medical mushrooms are also highly prized edible mushrooms. Briefly, mushrooms are a fungus, which is related to yeast, mold, and mildew. They live off of dead or dying materials by secreting digestive enzymes that break down the dead matter into nutrient for the mushroom.
Their cell wall contains structural components called beta glucans that are immunomodulating compounds when animals ingest them. They also may contain other molecular components which give them their medicinal properties. Molecules are found in the mushroom such as triterpenes, ergosterol, alkaloids and a very small amount of alpha glucans, otherwise known as starch.
It is the actual mushroom that we see growing on a dead log, for instance, which is called the “Fruiting Body”, which contains the most amount of these medicinal compounds. Mushrooms have a life cycle, and during the vegetative phase of the life cycle the spore, or mushroom seed, grows tubes called hyphae which eat through the material they are on with these enzymes they secrete at their tips, and grow into a nest-like mass of hyphae that is called the mycelium.
MYCELIUM versus FRUITING BODY and the MUSHROOM LIFE CYCLE
The mycelium functions like the roots of the mushroom, deriving nutrients from its food source, also called the substrate, and once the fruiting body is formed, the mycelium (like the roots of a tree) provide it with nourishment. Once the fruiting body reaches a certain point of maturation, it produces these spores, which then fall onto the food material that the mushroom is growing on, and they germinate and grow their own hyphae that then grows into mycelia and then produces the fruiting body which matures and drops its spores, and round and round again the life cycle goes.
Until recently, in the past 30 years, mushrooms had to be cultivated on wood or other natural food sources or collected in the wild, and the fruiting bodies were harvested and dried for medicinal use. New methods of cultivation have been used that are able to economically grow much larger amounts of mushroom material, in the form of the mycelium, but not with fruiting bodies. Mycelium normally will grow on woody material and dead leaves and other such materials as are found in nature, it has been discovered that mycelium will also grow very well on cooked grain. This has revolutionized the production of mushroom compounds and many manufacturers today are using this technique to manufacture tons of mycelial mushroom extracts.
PROBLEMS WITH MYCELIUM ON GRAIN
There is a problem though with this material. Because the mycelium grows into the grain, virtually becoming part of it, it is impossible to separate the mycelium from the grain. So mycelium grown on grain products typically contain 50% carbohydrates. This may affect the outcome of your use of these grown on grain mycelia products for medicinal purposes. For instance, with cancer patients, for whom medical mushrooms can provide substantial benefit, their diets are supposed to contain very little carbohydrate, since its known that simple and complex sugars are used by cancers as nutrients for their growth. Certainly for diabetics this can also have an impact on the regulation of their blood sugar by adding carbohydrates the dog or cat don’t need.
The other problem with mycelia grown on grain manufactured into extracts is that they don’t have the same high concentration of beta glucans and other medicinal compounds that make mushrooms medicinal.
The single best source for the medicinal compounds found in mushrooms comes from the fruiting bodies. This is an important fact for you to know, so you can ask the manufacturer if the mushroom extract comes from the fruiting bodies or was it mycelium grown on grain?
HOT WATER EXTRACTS versus ALCOHOL EXTRACTS
The other thing you will want to look for when you are trying to source a potent medicinal mushroom product is whether its been hot water extracted or alcohol extracted. Studies have found that the alcohol extracts don’t have the same medical potency that the hot water extracts do. Sometimes the hot water extracts are sold as powders, other times they may be in capsules, or blended with glycerin in a liquid format.
WHAT ARE SOME GOOD BRANDS of MUSHROOM EXTRACTS?
Next blog I want to suggest specific brands of mushrooms I have found to work really well in my cancer and immune system problem patients, and in myself as well. Remember that all you are learning here for your pet can also be applied to yourself.
Don’t forget to share the immune wealth contained within medical mushrooms with your pet!
Dr. Rob Silver