“What’s the deal with fruiting bodies vs mycelium?” you may be asking. The question is valid considering the debate about them.
With the growing interest in medicinal mushroom supplements, it’s even more important to distinguish between the two.
Here we will discuss the difference and the science fruiting bodies vs mycelium. After all, if you don’t know what your mushroom supplement is made from, how are you supposed to know if it’s right for you?
Fruiting Bodies vs Mycelium: What is the Difference?
The fruiting bodies vs mycelium debate comes down to one key aspect: which extract is better?
For centuries, the differences didn’t matter. Why? Well, only fruiting bodies could be harvested for use. At the time, mycelium in nature was often so ingrained in its substrate that it was impossible to make use of it.
More recent advances in technology allowed us to start growing mycelium in labs. Now, we have the power to use mycelium extract.
The invention of mycelium extract multiplied the options for supplements. This leads to the question: which one do you use?
Before we can get into the nitty gritty of fruiting bodies vs mycelium, you have to know why we’re extracting in the first place.
The Goal of Extraction
According to the Merriam-Webster definition, the verb extract means “to treat with a solvent so as to remove a soluble substance.” In other words, you use something like water or alcohol to separate certain substances from the original material.
For functional mushrooms, the extraction process involves boiling the sample in either water or alcohol, depending on the mushroom used. After everything, you end up with what is accurately named an extract.
But what’s so special about an extract, you may ask? Well, fungi in particular contain a variety of beneficial compounds.
Key bioactive compounds of medicinal mushrooms include:
- Beta-glucans – support immunity, antibiotic, and antiviral
- Triterpenoids – liver protective, lipid-lowering, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and histamine-release inhibitor
- Ergosterol – antitumour, antioxidant, and precursor to Vitamin D2
- Statins – lowers cholesterol in high doses
While you can get these compounds from eating a mushroom whole, it’s not the most efficient method. As well, some functional mushrooms, to put it bluntly, taste absolutely terrible in their regular form.
To get around the taste and to get a concentrated dose of bioactive compounds, we use extraction.
Now that you have the basic information down, let’s get onto the main event of fruiting bodies vs mycelium.
Fruiting Bodies: The Mushrooms of Fungi
In this corner, we have fruiting bodies!
What are Fruiting Bodies?
Contrary to its name, a fruiting body is not technically a fruit. However, they do play a very similar role in fungi.
Fruiting bodies are the spore-producing structures that happen during the reproductive phase of the fungus’s life cycle. They only form if the environmental conditions are just right.
The fruiting bodies that appear above ground are called ‘epigeous’, while the ones that form underground are ‘hypogeous’. You know the epigeous ones as their common name, mushrooms.
These mushrooms are used in fields like mushroom foraging and academic mycology for identification purposes.
While mushrooms can spread their spores via the air, hypogeous fruiting bodies rely on animals to spread their spores. These animals, known as mycophages, feed on the fungi and the spores are later pooped out in a different location. An unconventional but effective transportation method.
Did you know that the largest fruiting body recorded is from Phellinus Ellipsoideus on Hainan Island in China? It measured 10.85 m (35.6 ft) in length and weighed between 450 to 760 kg (992 to 1675 lb). That’s one big mushroom!
How do you get fruiting body extract?
First off, you have to grow your fungi from spore onwards. Generally, a substrate, such as grain and sawdust, is the base for the spore to grow into mycelium. However, the resulting fruiting body is the only part used.
After the fruiting body is formed, it’s a fairly straightforward process of harvesting, drying, and extracting. For the extraction phase, hot water or alcohol (or both) is used depending on the situation.
As you can see, the fruiting body method is 100% mushroom.
- 100% mushroom based – Higher concentration of compounds & nutrients
- An abundance of key bioactive compounds – 30 to 40 percent of beta-glucans on average
- Higher quality – No additives present that could contaminate the extract
- Time-consuming – The mycelium needs to form and have ideal conditions to form fruiting bodies, which can take a while
Mycelium: The “Roots” of Fungi
And in this corner, we have mycelium!
What is Mycelium?
Just like fruiting bodies are close to but not quite fruit, mycelium is like a plant's roots, but also not. The mycelium is the mass of branching, thread-like hyphae that are found in or on soil and other substrates.
Like roots, mycelium absorbs nutrients from the surrounding environment. The biggest difference between regular roots and mycelium is the absorption process. Fungi secrete enzymes that break down the food source (usually plant material) before being absorbed.
This decomposition process is vital in ecosystems as it reintroduces organic matter into the soil and releases carbon dioxide back into the air. In fact, plants and fungi interact so much that many have co-evolved to rely on each other.
To form mycelium, you only need one spore of mycelia. However, two spores are needed to reproduce and form fruiting bodies.
A mycelium colony can range from being invisible to the naked eye to thousands of acres in size. The largest recorded case of mycelium is a specimen of Armillaria. Within Oregon’s Malheur National Forest, there is one that covers around 8.8 km² (5.5 mi²).
Did you know that mycelium has been used as a construction material for furniture, bricks, and artificial leather? Pretty useful for a simple fungus!
Similar to the fruiting body method, the mycelium method starts with a substrate. In this case, it's usually grain. After the mycelium has grown, the whole product of substrate plus mycelium is dried and ground into a powder.
The reason the substrate is included is that the mycelium is too ingrained in it to the point that they’re incredibly difficult to separate.
This method is simpler and faster; however, there isn’t as much mushroom.
- Nutritional value – Mycelium contains beneficial nutrients and compounds
- Simple & Fast – Once the mycelium is fully formed, it can be processed immediately
- More substrate, less mushroom – Not as highly concentrated due to the high amount of leftover substrate
- A lot less of the key bioactive compounds - only 5 to 7 percent or even lower on average
Conclusion: How to Choose
Now that you know everything about fruiting bodies vs mycelium, which one do you choose? Well, that depends on what benefits and type of mushroom you’re looking for.
Overall though, fruiting bodies are best if you want as many beta-glucans as possible. Mycelium is less beneficial, but can be useful in certain situations.
Here at Doseology, our tinctures use the fruiting body method. We do this to ensure a highly concentrated product chock full of health benefits. Check out our products today and see why we love fruiting bodies!