Where Does Gaia Herbs Source Its Mushrooms From?

Published on May 15, 2024

By Gaia Herbs

Gaia Herbs

One of the questions we frequently get asked at Gaia Herbs is where and how we source the organic mushrooms that can be found in our best-selling mushroom supplements, such as our Lion’s Mane Capsules or our Immune Mushroom blend. 

Many of our product pages state that we source our mushrooms from a trusted supplier in China, which may raise even more questions. 

To further answer the why and how behind our mushroom sourcing practices, we have a guest blog post from Bill Chioffi, Chief Operating Officer at Nammex (North American Medicinal Mushroom Extracts), our mushroom supplier:

Gaia Herbs and Nammex have a long history of sourcing certified organic mushrooms. [I was] introduced to the founder of Nammex Jeff Chilton by Gaia Herbs’ founder when I served as production manager for Gaia Herbs in 1998. At the time, Nammex was the only supplier of whole, dried organic Reishi mushroom and we sourced that for extraction. Fast forward 25 years, and I find myself in the honorable position of serving Gaia Herbs on the other side of the relationship with mushrooms.

Nammex was founded by Jeff Chilton in 1989 after an established career as a commercial mushroom grower and author of the classic book on mushroom cultivation titled “The Mushroom Cultivator.” During the 1990s, Jeff traveled extensively in China, attending conferences and visiting mushroom research institutes. It became readily apparent that the tradition, research, reliable supply chain, and sustainable cultivation methods in the mountains of China provided a logical place to produce high-quality functional mushrooms with geo-authentic practices. 

Jeff then worked closely with Chinese producers to ensure quality and Nammex developed rigorous testing measures to accurately portray mushroom identity and beneficial compounds. In 1997, contracting with the OCIA, Jeff organized the first organic certification workshop in China for mushroom growers. We continue to work closely with growers to ensure that Nammex products are grown in proper conditions without using any agricultural chemicals.

(photo-Jeff Chilton-Reishi Mushroom Farm-Zhejiang, China)

The Nammex base in Zhejiang province is the birthplace of Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) mushroom cultivation, the first species brought into cultivation from the wild over 800 years ago. The Qingyuan Mountain region is recognized by the FAO as one of China's 17 key regions of global significance for biodiversity. Sustainability has always been a key element in Nammex’s educational efforts and we celebrate the role of mushrooms as nature’s premier recyclers and carbon-capturing organisms working in consort with plants.

Consumers should be aware that not all mushrooms sold in the US marketplace are labeled properly and there are many products that combine a solid grain substrate with the vegetative body of fungi called mycelium, yet refer to it as a Mushroom. Gaia Herbs uses the Mushroom (fruiting body), which is the stage of fungi that has been consumed and used in TCM, as well as the part of the fungal organism sold in grocery stores and markets across the world. It is important to read your labels carefully.

(Organic Cultivated Reishi Mushroom-Photo-Adam Chilton)

All of Nammex’s mushrooms are grown in natural environmental conditions, and not in an enclosed warehouse. Plenty of natural light and fresh water is available and practices using wood logs and sawdust mimic the preferred substrates of these mushrooms in the wild. All our species are organically grown and subject to the same strict requirements for cultivation tracing the quality parameters with analysis from the farm to the processing and finished products. 

(Organic Cultivated Turkey Tail- Photo Credit- Adam Chilton)

Turkey Tail Mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are featured in Gaia’s new offerings and a prime example of how tradition and quality have worked to support sustainability efforts in the commercial production of mushroom extracts. In the first year of production Nammex farmers produced 80,000 kg of Fresh Turkey Tail and in 2023 the number rose to 300,000 kg or 661,000 pounds. 

Turkey Tail is one of the highest species in beta-glucans and a known biological response modifier. Our cultivation initiative relieves pressure on the wild material and also alleviates the variable quality found in wildcrafted sources, which predominate in the market. We could not institute these kinds of projects without the support and insistence on responsible sourcing from partners like Gaia Herbs. 

(Organic Cultivated Lion’s Mane-Photo Credit-Adam Chilton)

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a wildly popular mushroom also featured in Gaia’s new offerings. These mushrooms grow naturally on deciduous trees and are cultivated on sawdust logs which produce late in the fall when temperatures are cooler. On our last visit to these farms Adam and Skye Chilton got to do some harvesting of these beautiful specimens in Fujian province. 

Some of the mushrooms that we source from Nammex include:

  • Lion’s Mane: brain and cognition support
  • Reishi: adaptogen for longevity support, immune and heart health
  • Turkey Tail, Chaga: immune support
  • Cordyceps: energy support

To learn more about sourcing mushrooms from China and other misconceptions about functional mushrooms, check out this blog post from 2021: Mushroom Facts: 4 Common Myths About Mushrooms & Mushroom Supplements, Debunked.