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Mushrooms are currently experiencing a surge of interest in the Western world. This newfound fascination encompasses various aspects such as the cultivation of edible mushrooms, the exploration of psychedelic mushroom therapy (which we never use!), and the development of mycelium-based meat substitutes. Alongside these trends, the medicinal possibilities of fungi have also captured widespread attention not just for humans but for our four-legged friends as well. As individuals increasingly strive to enhance their pet’s overall health and well-being, the market for nutritional supplements has witnessed a proliferation of diverse products. Among these offerings, one can find an abundance of mushroom-derived powders, capsules, and extracts.

However, prior to considering adding these supplements to your pets diet, it's important to recognize that not all supplements branded with mushrooms are of equal quality. In fact, according to numerous mycologists and experts in the industry, the discrepancies between these products are quite substantial.

This blog serves as a preliminary guide to assist you in navigating the realm of mushroom-based supplements. (After all, for those unfamiliar with mycology, the intricacies involved might come as a surprise.)

Fundamental Concepts

The kingdom Fungi is believed to be among the most diverse collections of life forms on our planet, second in only to insects. Contrary to common perception, the recognizable cap and stem that peopletypically associate with 'a mushroom' consists of the “fruiting body”. The majority of this fungal organism exists beneath the surface, in a rather complex system and this network is known as the “mycelium”. To help you, visualize the fruiting body as the apple and the mycelium as the apple tree. In order for a mushroom to reproduce, a suitable environment must be located to allow the spores to find a hospitable place to germinate. These spores (hyphae) extend outwards in a tree-like pattern, seeking water and nutrients. This intricate network is known as the mycelium. Shifts in humidity and temperature can prompt the mycelium to compact and initiate the formation of a mushroom.

While mushrooms are fundamentally structured from mycelium, it's vital to recognize that supplements derived from the fruiting body are not identical to those originating from mycelium. It is extremely important to acknowledge the differences.

Limitless Health Benefits

Ancient cultures were quick to discern the numerous health advantages that mushrooms offer. Beyond their culinary use, these fungi have held a revered place in Traditional Chinese Medicine for millennia. The cultivation of Shiitake mushrooms, for example, can be traced back to 12th-century China. To this day, China remains the primary global producer of mushrooms.

Interestingly, China has pioneered not only the scientific exploration of medicinal mushrooms but also innovative methods of their cultivation. Unlike the United States, where indoor, climate-controlled environments dominate commercial mushroom production, China's approach centers on low-tech, outdoor strategies that foster efficient and sustainable growth of medicinal mushrooms. Growing outdoors ensures the hardy reliance on the maturation of the mushrooms, which in turn offers abundantly more polysaccharides than the indoor grown funghi. It's worth noting that the ability to cultivate mycelium from isolated species has only been realized over the past century.

The Path of the Fruiting Body

Now, let's delve into the controversy surrounding different approaches to crafting mushroom supplements—specifically, those derived from fruiting bodies versus those originating from mycelium.

In the realm of mushroom cultivation, pure mycelium serves as the seed, introduced and grown on carrier materials like millet, rye, or wheat, known as "grain spawn."

Furbabies Pet Products chooses to use mushrooms only cultivated from hard leaf tree stakes,

fallen wood, branches, and sawdust logs, thus bypassing extra starch found in grains, with the exception of the Cordyceps, which in the wild grows on insects. This is a very interesting mushroom, and widely discussed due to the series, The Last of Us, and I’ll discuss these mushrooms in an upcoming blog.

The process of growing mushrooms using wood substrates undergoes a weeks- or months-long process of mycelium colonization. Once matured, they are harvested, dried, and extracted, often using hot water and alcohol. The resulting medicinal mushroom extract is entirely derived from the mushroom, free from grain fillers.

Conversely, mycelium-based supplements lacking the recognizable features of mushrooms involve cultivating mycelium on grain, which is then dried and ground into mushroom powder. While this process is simpler and faster, the resultant product pales in comparison to authentic mushroom supplements. It essentially comprises a blend of grain with some added mycelium.

Many mycologists argue that extracting medicinal mushroom supplements from fruiting bodies is the most effective, natural, and time-tested method. They assert that these supplements are 100% mushroom-based, offering superior quality and concentrated medicinal compounds. Moreover, the accumulated wisdom of generations of healers who have exclusively worked with mushroom fruit bodies lends further credence to this approach. Jeff Chilton, a forerunner in ethnomycology, emphasizes that the mycelial structure of the mushroom fruit body is more intricate than vegetative mycelium and produces unique compounds. While mycelium contains similar nutritional value, it lacks the concentration found in fruit bodies.

Many mycologists refer to the fruiting body as the “mushroom”,

which tells you a lot!

Advantages of the Fruiting Body

Chilton underscores that medicinal mushrooms and their extracts consistently boast high

levels of beta-glucans, typically ranging from 30% to 40%. In contrast, mycelium grown on grain presents significantly lower levels, typically around 5% to 7% or even none at all. Furthermore, medicinal mushrooms lack starch and instead produce glycogen as their storage carbohydrate, setting them apart from mycelium products, which can contain 35% to 40% starch due to the incorporated grain.

Nammex, a leading industry player, conducted extensive studies of commercial products, unveiling the stark nutritional discrepancies between authentic mushroom/fruiting body products and mycelium products.

The mycological community remains divided on this issue. Paul Stamets, a prominent mycologist and entrepreneur, advocates for mycelium-based products, citing their potential benefits and innovative techniques. However, experts like Jeff Chilton challenge these assertions, advocating for fruiting body-based supplements and pushing for enhanced quality control measures in the industry.

Navigating the Landscape

Amidst the rapid growth of the medicinal mushroom market, consumers must exercise discernment to ensure they receive optimal benefits from their supplements. Reading labels meticulously is paramount, with a focus on products derived from fruit bodies and high polysaccharide content. Approach the term "full spectrum" cautiously, as it can be used as a marketing ploy.

Physical examination can offer valuable insights. Authentic medicinal mushroom/fruiting body supplements emit a distinctive, robust aroma and exhibit rich color. In contrast, mycelium products tend to be mildly sweet in scent and paler in color, often due to their grain content.

It could be noted that if a company doesn’t state if their products utilize fruiting body or mycelium, one can safely ascertain that the latter is being used. Those of us who go the extra mile, and expense, to offer the fruiting body will certainly tell you.

In Closing The discourse and confusion surrounding medicinal mushroom supplements engages vastly differentperspectives, as you have seen, mycologists can’t agree. Some believe using a mixture of fruiting body and mycelium is best while others strongly advocate for using the fruiting body only. We take our research very seriously and contacted a number of mycologists, globally. As well, we read reams and reams of research. We then made our informed decision to use the fruiting body from mushrooms grown in the most ideal substrates and environment.

We pride ourselves in undertaking the research on your behalf, and presenting you with the finest products available:

FurBabies Pet Products’s mushroom supplement line is derived entirely from mushroom fruiting bodies including Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), and Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris) Interested in learning more? Contact us


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