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Posted by Nootropics Depot on September 13, 2016
Mushrooms have been used for centuries. The oldest human mummy, dated at over 4,000 years old, was found with a kit that had remnants of Piptoporus betulinus, a mushroom still used today. In Ancient China, special mushrooms, including the reishi fungi, were used as tonics and reserved for royalty. The Egyptians were also one of the first people to use mushrooms. They associated mushrooms with immortality, and included them as a regular addition to the diets of the Pharaohs and royal family. They loved them so much, they called them “sons of the gods” and thought that the storm god Set created them by hurling lightning bolts coated in mushroom-seed to earth. We may no longer believe the mythology behind their arrival on Earth, but modern scientific studies are showing just how many uses mushrooms have, and the amazing compounds found within them.
While the use of beneficial compounds in fungi has been around since prehistory, the modern movement to identify and extract those active ingredients started with Alexander Flemming in 1928, and his discovery of penicillin. Since then, many other beneficial compounds have been identified, extracted from, or synthesized from mushrooms. Let’s take a look at some of the common mushroom extracts and their benefits.
The Cordyceps genus comprises several species of fungi described as endoparasitoids, meaning they essentially grow and feed on other organisms; mainly insects, arthropods, and sometimes other fungi. “Cordyceps” comes from the Greek word kordyle, roughly translating to “club head,” which describes the elongated shape of the fruiting body. The two most common species used today are Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. C.sinensis is traditionally only found in the mountainous regions of the Himalayas, and is highly sought after in traditional Chinese medicine for its rarity and perceived value, but is very difficult to cultivate and hard to find in the wild. C.militaris is more widely distributed, can be cultivated and grown in controlled environments, and also have been reported to contain higher levels of active ingredients than C.sinensis.
Cordyceps have been used throughout traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine and studies suggest that the mushrooms contain several biochemical compounds, including cordycepin, or 3'-deoxyadenosine.
Cordyceps has often been used as an energy booster. If you look at the full name of cordycepin, 3'-deoxyadenosine, you can see a possible reason for why that is. Your body uses ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, for cellular energy. Cordycepin, being a derivative of the nucleoside adenosine, can participate in some similar biochemical processes, and boost ATP levels in the process. Cordyceps may also reduces the buildup of lactic acid, which is the substance that your muscles produce when fatigued. In addition to that, cordyceps may support a healthy metabolism. Cordyceps mushroom is a serious contender for one of the most amazing mushrooms out there, which is no wonder why it is so prized in traditional Chinese medicine.
Black hoof, or Phellinus linteus, has been used for centuries throughout China, Korea, and Japan. True to its name, black hoof mushrooms are shaped like a hoof, and bitter in taste. Phellinus linteus grows naturally in trunks of willow, paper mulberry, and elm trees that are more than 100 years old, and grows for minimum 30 to 40 years to make a fruiting body able to be used for a variety of applications. Because of this, P.linteus is very rare in nature.
The Chaga mushroom, scientifically known as Inonotus obliquus, looks more like burned wood than a traditional mushroom. It grows on birch trees all over the world, including Korea, Russia, and northern areas of the United States. The parasitic conk appears as a black burn due to its high melanin content. This is one mushroom that does not form traditional fruiting bodies, but instead forms sclerotia, or masses of mycelium. The name chaga is derived from the Russian word of the mushroom, which is purportedly derived from the word for the fungus in Komi-Permyak, the language of the indigenous peoples in the Kama River Basin, west of the Ural Mountains.
Chaga has been used in Russian and Northern European folk remedies for centuries. Research suggests that chaga can potentially provide a variety of health benefits, including positive effects on the immune system. Studies show that the mushroom extract could also act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Extracts may also support healthy cellular function. Like its sibling black hoof mushroom, it produced no or low toxicity in tested normal cells. This makes it a promising compound to possibly promote healthy cellular function. Chaga extract has also been shown to scavenge free radicals and protect against oxidative stress, making it a potent antioxidant.
Hericium erinaceus, also known as satyr’s beard and bearded tooth fungus, grows on hard woods as a single body of dangling spines. It is usually found at sites with a long history of beech (Fagus sylvatica) presence where old, collapsing trees and large-diameter limbs are present. Lion's Mane was once reserved exclusively for the Chinese royal family, and is often used in modern Chinese vegetarian cuisine to replace pork or lamb.
Studies of lion’s mane extracts show that it is rich in numerous polysaccharides and may support brain health. Studies have shown that there may be improvement in cognitive abilities if the mushroom is incorporated in to daily diets. Because of this, Lion's Mane Mushroom is one of the most popular nootropic mushroom extracts available.
Grifola frondosa, or maitake mushroom, is commonly known among English speakers as hen of the woods or ram's head mushroom. Maitake is native to Japan and North America, and mainly grows in clumps at the base of trees; especially oak trees. The fruiting bodies appear as clusters of multiple curly or spoon-shaped caps. G.frondosa is a perennial fungus that often grows in the same place for a number of years in succession. It occurs most prolifically in the northeastern regions of the United States, but has been found as far west as Idaho. In Japan, maitake can grow to more than 100 pounds. It is prized in traditional Chinese medicine for its ability to balance out body systems. Maitake extract has been shown to be rich in vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins.
Wolfiporia extensa is a species in the family polyporaceae, and is a wood-decay fungus that is most prized for its sclerotium. The sclerotium, which is a mass of the fungus’ mycelium, resembles a small coconut and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It's used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine to calm the mind. Additionally, studies show that poria contains pachymic acid.
Ganoderma lucidum, also known as Lingzhi, are soft, flat, and feature a red, kidney-shaped cap. First used by the Han Dynasty, red reishi has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It is one of the oldest mushrooms known to be used, with over 2,000 years of history. Hundreds of early Chinese texts refer to reishi as the "mushroom of immortality" or "elixir of life." The generic name Ganoderma derives from the Greek ganos γανος "brightness; sheen", hence "shining" and derma δερμα "skin". It lacks gills on its underside, and releases its spores through fine pores, leading to its morphological classification as a polypore.
Trametes Versicolor, commonly referred to as turkey tail, gained its name from its resemblance to the colorful tail plumage of a wild turkey but is also known as Coriolus versicolor and Polyporus versicolor. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for therapeutic effects as a tonic for thousands of years. The top surface of the cap shows typical concentric zones of different colors. The cap is rust-brown or darker brown, sometimes with blackish zones. The pore surface is whitish to light brown, pores round and with age twisted and labyrinthine.
Tremella fuciformis is a tropical mushroom that grows on hardwoods after a storm. White jelly mushrooms appear as translucent white fungus and is one of the most popular mushrooms used in Chinese medicine and cuisine. It is widespread, especially in the tropics, where it can be found on the dead branches of broadleaf trees. Tremella fuciformis was first described in 1856 by English mycologist Miles Joseph Berkeley, based on collections made in Brazil by the botanist and explorer Richard Spruce. Research shows that the fungi may support a healthy cholesterol and have anti-aging properties.
With their use spanning thousands of years, and the recent scientific push to understand the compounds in them that give their varied effects, it's no surprise mushroom extracts are a big part of many people's supplement regimen. Nootropics Depot offers a wide range of mushroom extracts, in powder and capsules, including two sample packs. If you’re a beginner, consider the common sample pack (featuring cordyceps, lion’s mane, red reishi, and maitake) or the uncommon sample pack (featuring chaga, black hoof, poria, turkey tail, and white jelly) to figure out what works best for you.
Want to learn more about our mushroom extracts? Check out our other mushroom extract blogs: