So what about all those test results that purport to show the medicinal value of these ground-up mycelium and grain powders? It turns out that testing needs to be held to a higher standard because scientific data is easily misrepresented. We’ll explain it as simply as possible here.
The complex polysaccharides in mushrooms are Beta-D-Glucans, and they are the building blocks of the mushroom cell walls. It turns out cereal grains cell walls also have Beta-D-Glucans, however, they are much simpler linear polysaccharides without substantial health benefits. Not all Beta-D-Glucans are the same! But the standard test doesn’t distinguish between Beta-D-Glucans, which is why mycelium grown in cereal grains and ground up can test just as high in Beta-D-Glucans as true mushroom powders.
The good news is there are better tests that can be used. Here’s what we believe is a definitive test for true mushroom content, that can distinguish reliably from mycelium grown on grains.
Test for Ergosterol
Ergosterol is a triterpenoid compound distinct to fungus. In fact, ergosterol testing is used in the US grain industry to test for the presence of fungus! Ergosterol is not only a useful measurement of true mushroom content, it also has anti-tumor and anti-oxidant benefits.
Test for Additional Triterpenoids
Triterpenoids are lipids present in some mushrooms, and another important factor in immunological potency. Research shows that triterpeoids are liver protective, lipid lowering, antioxidant, offer inhibition of histamine release, and are anti-inflammatory. They also support the immune activation of beta-glucans. Not all types of mushrooms have these, but for example in reishi and chaga mushroom, triterpenoids are the bitter taste you will experience.
Test for Starch
Fruiting body mushroom has very little starch. Starch is an alpha-glucan found in grains. Yet mycelium grown on grains tests very high in starch, revealing that most of the “mushroom powder” is actually filler and devoid of active compounds. It has no medicinal value. Laboratory testing confirms that mycelium produced on grain is low in beta-glucans and very high in starch, or alpha-glucans. This is the complete opposite of a genuine medicinal mushroom. The commonly used polysaccharide tests measures both medicinal beta-glucans and non-medicinal alpha-glucans. The test is useless, because it cannot differentiate from the two. Make sure any mushroom products you buy have been tested for beta-glucan levels.
Use a Sophisticated Beta-D-Glucans Test
There are tests such as one developed by Megazyme International that can distinguish between mushroom Beta-D-Glucans and other Beta-D-Glucans. Medicinal Mushrooms contain active beta-glucans. What are they? They are a structural component of the cell walls of a fruiting body mushroom. These are the most important compounds in medicinal mushrooms, as they activate or potentiate both innate and adaptive immunity. Beta-glucans are not degraded by digestive enzymes, so they pass intact into the intestine where our body has specific beta-glucan receptor sites. When beta glucans activate our immune system, the numbers of macrophages, NK cells, and subsets of T-cells are increased and their functions are enhanced. This shields us against cancers, as well as viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. The majority of the research is based on these beta-glucans. High quality medicinal mushroom products will have high levels of beta-glucans, and all beta-glucan levels are verified for our mushrooms.
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