Guide to Buying Functional Mushroom Products

Functional mushrooms offer numerous health benefits, but, much like other foods [1], not all products on the market are created equal. This guide will help you make informed choices by highlighting key factors to look for and common pitfalls to avoid, ensuring you get the best quality products.

The numbers in square brackets found in this article are links to the relevant scientific journals and articles that this guide was compiled from.

What Are Functional Mushrooms?

Functional mushrooms, often referred to as medicinal mushrooms, are varieties that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Common types include Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail, Shiitake and Maitake. These mushrooms have been used for centuries for their therapeutic properties. Today, modern science is very interested in functional mushrooms and their bioactive compounds, researching their potential to support health and wellness [2].

Example Benefits of Functional Mushrooms

🧠 Lion’s Mane: Research into Lion's Mane mushrooms indicates their potential to promote nerve growth, enhance memory, and provide neuroprotective benefits, with applications for neurodegenerative diseases. [3] [4]

🧘‍♀️ Reishi: Research into Reishi mushrooms indicates their potential to support immune function, provide antioxidant benefits, reduce inflammation, complement disease therapies and have calming effects on the nervous system. [5] [6]

🛡 Turkey Tail: Research into Turkey Tail mushrooms highlights their potential to boost immune function, support disease therapy, reduce inflammation, and promote gut health. [7] [8]

❤️ Shiitake: Research into Shiitake mushrooms highlights their potential to reduce cholesterol levels, support cardiovascular health, and provide antioxidant protection. [9] [10]

💪 Maitake: Research into Maitake mushrooms indicates their potential to boost immune function, support cardiovascular health, and regulate blood sugar levels. [11] [12]

Forms of Functional Mushroom Products

Functional mushrooms come in various forms, including:

  • Powders
  • Capsules
  • Extracts/Tinctures
  • Whole dried mushrooms
  • Edibles (e.g. gummies, chocolates)

How to Choose the Right Product

Consider Your Health Goals

Identify your primary health goals and choose a mushroom variety that aligns with them. For example, if you want to boost cognitive function, Lion’s Mane might be your best choice. Many consumers choose to take an array of functional mushrooms due to the myriad of bioactive compounds found in the fungi kingdom.

Remember to research these benefits through reliable sources on Google and in scientific studies rather than relying solely on brand claims. Scientific studies can be found through Google Scholar.

Check the Source

Be wary of products labeled with terms like “di tao”, “grown in their natural environment”, or “carefully imported.” These phrases mask the fact that the mushrooms are grown in China, where quality control will not meet the same standards as locally grown mushrooms (remember the “2018 Honey Scandal”?) [13].

If choosing Chinese mushrooms, check for batch testing for heavy metals. Concerns have been raised about heavy metal (lead, mercury, arsenic, etc.) contamination of Chinese products including mushrooms [14] [15]. We are aware of one brand in Australia that can provide test results for every batch they import from China, while others often only have a single, usually old, certificate from their Chinese supplier.

If a brand is claiming they grow the mushrooms, particularly in Australia, check their social media content for proof. We guarantee you'll be surprised how few can provide photos and videos of their "farms". We have even come across brands claiming to be farms who will not share photos as they are concerned the images will be "stolen". Also, be aware that a handful of mushrooms can be bought from a local farm and used for photo shoots, this is a common practice used by brands to mislead consumers.

Why You Need an Extract

Mushrooms have a tough cell wall made of chitin, which humans cannot digest easily [16]. To access the beneficial bioactive compounds within the mushrooms, an extraction process is necessary [17]. Extracts increase the bioavailability of these compounds, ensuring your body can absorb and utilise them effectively [18]. Freeze-dried or dehydrated powders have not been extracted and are not a bioavailable source [19]. Look for extract-powders, liquid extracts, gummies containing extracts, etc.

Brands may claim "cell wall is broken down" whilst simultaneously stating "no extraction" or that the mushrooms have been cooked at low temperatures. The first claim addresses the need for extraction, whilst these latter two claims are to portray a sense of a "natural" product - this is misleading and confusing/confused.

Chitin and cellulose cell walls will begin to break down at 200°c and 240°c respectively [20] [21], therefore low temperatures alone do not aid bioavailability. If these high temperatures were attained the bioactive compounds within the cells would be damaged [22]. This is why comprehensive dual-extractions using alcohol are desired [16].

Understand the Extraction Process

Look for companies that use dual extraction methods, which ensure that both water-soluble and alcohol-soluble compounds are captured. This results in a more potent and effective product [16]. Be cautious of brands promoting high extraction ratios and claiming high concentrations; this is a marketing ploy, and there is no way to verify these claims. Additionally, highly concentrated, non-fractional, extracts will have lost many bioactive compounds during processing [23]. You can read more about this on "The Science" page of our website.

Beware of Products Containing Rice

Sounds ridiculous right? A lot of products use “myceliated substrate”, which means the mycelium is grown on grains like rice and this makes up the bulk of the end product. These products often contain a significant amount of rice, reducing the purity and effectiveness of the mushroom compounds.

Many "Australian grown" products are rice-based and contain around 70% rice [24]. These products are worded to sound like mushrooms and are priced the same as actual mushrooms. Check the ingredients list (watch out for “primordia”, “whole food powder”, “myceliated brown rice”, etc.).

If choosing these products,, decide if the price justifies this method of "growing". A 2000mg serving made up of 70% rice is well below an effective dose [25].

To ensure you receive the full benefits of functional mushrooms, it is important to look for products that clearly specify the extraction method and the composition, ensuring minimal inclusion of the substrate used during cultivation.

Freeze Drying and Its Implications

Freeze drying is often used by rice-based brands to promote their "superior" products and is marketed as "expensive".

However, freeze drying is employed because these products are cooked excessively to sterilise the rice that has been sat at room temperature for weeks growing mycelium. Freeze drying the cooked slurry is a cost effective form of dehydration when working at scale. This “cooking” process will, of course, degrade the quality of the mycelium (and the rice!).

Furthermore, freeze drying has been shown to have detrimental effects on bioactive compounds in fungi [26] [27] [28].

Who Performs the Extraction Matters

Look for products extracted by professionals, i.e. biotechnologists with higher education qualifications in this field. These experts ensure the extraction process is performed correctly, preserving the bioactive compounds and ensuring the product's efficacy [29].

Many brands employ herbalists for these roles who will likely lack the deep understanding of not only extraction, but the preservation and delivery of molecules. Needless to say, a mushroom farmer or brand owner isn’t qualified to perform extractions to a high level of potency and bioavailability either.

Read Reviews and Testimonials

Customer reviews and testimonials can provide insights into the product’s effectiveness and any potential issues. However, be aware of brands with thousands of (obviously paid-for [30]) 5-star reviews. Check the authenticity of reviews and use your intuition.

Understanding Labels and Ingredients

What to Look for on the Label

  • Mushroom species name (e.g., Hericium Erianceus is the true Lion’s Mane)
  • Part of the mushroom used (fruiting body vs. mycelium, substrate and primordia)
  • Additional ingredients (rice, flavourings, sweeteners, etc.)
  • Extraction method (e.g. dual-extraction)
  • Country of origin and the “Kangaroo logo”

Importance of Purity and Absence of Fillers

Ensure the product contains just mushroom extract without any fillers, binders, or artificial additives. Pure products will provide the most health benefits and value for money [31].

Explanation of Common Terms

  • Fruiting Body: The part of the mushroom that grows above ground and produces spores.
  • Mycelium: The root-like structure of the mushroom that grows below ground.
  • Myceliated Substrate: A mixture of mycelium and the substrate it was grown on, usually rice.
  • Bioactive Compounds: Natural substances that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition.
  • Bioavailability: The proportion of a nutrient or bioactive compound that is absorbed and utilised by the body.
  • Dual-Extraction: Extraction using both water and alcohol to make both water and alcohol soluble bioactive compounds bioavailable.

Dosage and Usage Tips

Recommended Dosages

For most functional mushrooms, the recommended dosage across scientific literature is 1000mg of extract per day [25]. Lower doses can be ineffective, while higher doses can have detrimental effects on the liver. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and consult with a healthcare professional if needed.

How to Incorporate Them into Your Daily Routine

  • Powders: Mix into smoothies, coffee, or recipes.
  • Capsules: Take with water, like a supplement.
  • Extracts/Tinctures: Add to beverages or take directly.

Traditionally Reishi is consumed an hour before bed, other mushrooms are taken in the morning. But this is not hard-science, finding what works for you is the important thing.


Common Questions and Concerns

Addressing Common Myths and Misconceptions

Myth: All mushroom products are the same.

Fact: The quality, purity, and potency can vary greatly between products.

Myth: Imported mushrooms are always inferior.

Fact: While not always true, many imported mushrooms, especially from China, may not meet high-quality standards. If choosing a mushroom that isn't grown in Australia, e.g. Chaga, look for North American or European sources.

Myth: Mycelium is superior to fruiting body.

Fact: Mycelium contains some very interesting compounds that may be useful to humanity. This field of study is in its infancy and scientific literature on bioactive compounds in mushroom fruiting bodies outweighs that of mycelium. Due to the adulteration of products with rice, mycelium containing products will be inferior at this point in time.


Potential Side Effects and Interactions

Most functional mushrooms are safe, but some individuals may experience allergic reactions or interactions with medications. Consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement.


By being informed and discerning, you can choose high-quality functional mushroom products that provide the health benefits you seek. Look for purity, reliable sourcing, and transparent marketing to ensure you’re getting the best possible product.

If you want to discuss any of these points further, we're always happy to talk mushrooms. Drop us a message in the chatbox, send us an email or contact directly through social media.