Mycelium vs Fruiting Body Extract in Mushrooms: Which Is Better?

Published on March 15, 2024

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

If you’re interested in functional mushroom supplements, you may be confused by names like “mycelium” or “fruiting body” on labels. 

In this article, we’ll explain the differences between the two, plus give an overview of the benefits of functional mushroom supplements & how to find a high-quality product.

Mycelium Versus Fruiting Body Extract in mushrooms: Which Is Better?

A Brief Overview of Functional Mushroom Supplements + Benefits

Wild and functional mushrooms such as Shiitake, Lion’s Mane, and Reishi have been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine and other forms of herbal folklore.

Mushrooms and fungi are unique in the plant kingdom in that they contain specific plant compounds, such as: 

And other nutrients that target key aspects of bodily function.

Common Functional Mushrooms and Their Benefits

  • Lion’s Mane: Known as “the smart mushroom,” Lion’s Mane is a nootropic that may support cognitive function, gut health, a positive state of mind, and immune function.REF#3715 REF#3716 REF#3717 REF#3718 REF#3719
    • Reishi: Known as “the king of mushrooms,” Reishi is an adaptogen and one of the most-studied mushrooms. It may support immune, heart, cell, metabolic, liver, and cardiovascular function, inflammatory response, gut health, and longevity.REF#3720
    • Cordyceps: Also known as the “zombie mushroom,” this adaptogenic fungus may support cell, immune, kidney, liver, and sexual function, gut health, energy, and stamina.REF#3721
    • Shiitake: This tasty mushroom has been shown to promote immune, heart, cardiovascular, and cell function, normal cholesterol, gut health, and inflammatory response.
    • Maitake: Also known as “hen of the woods,” Maitake may support REF#3722, normal immune regulation, cell and metabolic function, gut microbiota diversity, normal cholesterol, and blood pressure.
      • Turkey Tail: There are approximately 12 Turkey Tail-based drugs approved by the State Administration of Food and Drugs (SAFD) for clinical use in China.REF#3723 It has been shown to support immune regulation, normal blood lipids and cholesterol, normal metabolic and liver function, gut health, and normal inflammatory response.REF#3724 REF#3725 REF#3726
      • Chaga: Also known as Cinder Conk or Black Massmushroom (which accurately describes its appearance), Chaga may support cell, immune, metabolic, and liver function, gut health, inflammatory response, and normal cholesterol.REF#3727 REF#3728 REF#3729 REF#3730

      More research is needed to understand how mushrooms may work and benefit health. 

      However, their long history of traditional use and growing popularity has made them the subject of many studies.

      It’s also created many questions about the best mushrooms and mushroom supplements to take and which forms (mycelium or fruiting bodies) are best.

      Mycelium vs. Fruiting Body Extract—What’s the Difference?

      All mushrooms have a specific life cycle.

      They start as spores, which germinate and grow mycelium beneath the surface, which bears a fruiting body

      Then the cycle repeats.

      Mushroom mycelium is a root-like system of tiny threads beneath the surface that wrap around or bore into tree roots, nourishing the fruiting body.REF#3731

      When bound together, mycelium creates what’s called a “mycorrhizal network,” which connects individual mushrooms together to transfer water, nitrogen, carbon, and other minerals. 

      This is why some people consider wild mushrooms “the original internet” or “woodwide web”, referring to their vast networks of mycelium.

      Fruiting bodies are the stem and cap of the mushroom.

      Each part of the mushroom contains various beneficial plant compounds and nutrients.

      So, which is better? We’ll explore that next.

      Mycelium vs. Fruiting Body Extract—Which Is Better (and Why)?

      As discussed, fruiting bodies and mycelium contain common and unique compounds that may benefit health.

      Many experts favor using the fruiting bodies instead of mycelium due to research showing higher concentrations of bioactive compounds, such as beta-glucans and triterpenes, in the fruiting bodies.REF#3732

      Fruiting bodies also have a much longer history of use in humans (going back thousands of years in Asia, for example), while mycelium is a relatively new ingestible.

      However, other research, such as a study conducted on Lion’s Mane, showed beneficial compounds in both the mycelium and fruiting body.REF#3733

      Ultimately, both parts of the mushroom may have potential benefits depending on the species, with most having more concentrated nutrients in the fruiting body vs. the mycelium.

      Which is Better: Mycelium or Fruiting Body?

      As you’ve just learned, they both have benefits.

      However, generally, fruiting bodies are considered superior due to: 

      • Studies showing higher concentrations of beneficial compounds
      • Their long history of traditional use
      • Issues with sourcing pure, high-quality mycelium

      The problems surrounding mycelium sourcing come from issues with mycelium products being more grain than mycelium.

      Here’s a quick explainer.

      Cultivated mycelium needs a substrate on which to grow, such as rice or oats. In nature, it consumes dead leaves and wood.

      In an ideal situation, the mycelium would consume all the substrate, and the cultivator would sell a pure mycelium end-product.

      However, in some cases, mycelium products are a mixture of grain and mycelium—and sometimes more grain than mycelium.

      This results in an inferior product versus a whole mushroom fruiting body.

      For this reason, many reputable supplement companies choose to use fruiting bodies vs. mycelium, which are more reliable and consistent in purity.

      How to Source High-Quality Mushroom Supplements

      Mushroom supplements are widely available as beverages, tinctures, powders, or capsules.

      However, not all mushroom supplements are created equal.

      For example, a 2017 report published in Nature tested 19 batches of Reishi supplements and found only five actually contained what was promised on labels. Meaning, they only contained a certain element of Reishi.REF#3734

      Most of these supplements were sold on large e-commerce sites.

      Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in the supplement industry, which is why it’s so important to source products from reputable companies that manufacture under Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) guidelines as put forth by the FDA.

      Here are some other things to consider when choosing a functional mushroom supplement:

      • Look for organic, cultivated, or wild-crafted species harvested at peak potency. If wild-crafted, be sure they are ethically harvested. Certain mushrooms, like Chaga, are endangered in specific areas of the country
      • Ensure they are tested for purity and contaminants. Mushrooms are natural bio-remediators, meaning they absorb toxins. Therefore, it is best to buy from companies who employ purity testing for heavy metals and other contaminants
        • Ensure they are tested for identity. Although rare, functional mushrooms can be mistaken for other species, including poisonous varieties, in the wild
        • Consider whole fruiting body vs. mycelium. This is a personal choice. However, most research has been done on whole fruiting bodies vs. mycelium, which is consistent with traditional use
        • Look for products that guarantee a certain level of Beta Glucans (the main active component in mushrooms). Labels should also tell you how much mushroom extract is in the bottle—the higher the concentration, such as 400-450 mg, the more economical and effective

        If you’re interested in taking mushroom supplements, always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you have a pre-existing condition, are taking any medications, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a history of allergic reactions.

        Want to Learn More About the Benefits of Mushrooms and Mushroom Supplements?

        The world of wild and functional mushrooms is a fascinating one that captivates the imagination and inspires a sense of hope and wonder in the power of nature.

        If you’d like to learn more about these ancient functions foods, check out the following articles:


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