So you’re probably a fan of coffee or at least tea. Did you know that one type of mushroom extraction is very similar to how those drinks are made?
“How is that possible?” you may ask. Surprisingly, your favourite caffeinated beverage and medicinal mushrooms have a lot more in common than you think.
Here we’ll take a deep dive into the main forms of mushroom extraction.
What is Mushroom Extraction?
As the name implies, mushroom extraction is a type of, well, extraction. But what is an extraction?
To put it in general terms, extraction is the process of removing certain components from a substance or material. These separated components are known as the extract.
A high-level example is the mining industry. To obtain valuable minerals, miners must forcibly remove them from the surrounding rock. The minerals are considered the extract in this process.
Unfortunately, mushroom extraction isn’t as easy to see (or as sparkly). For this type, we have to touch on the wonderful world of chemistry.
The mushroom extraction process involves separating certain chemical compounds from the mushroom. This is accomplished by placing the mushroom in a solvent.
To get the most out of this process, we recommend drying and then chopping or grinding the mushrooms beforehand. This increases the surface area exposed to the solvent.
Through this method, the compounds will dissolve in the solvent. Afterwards, the leftover fungus can be tossed out in favour of the mushroom-infused solvent.
Why is Extraction Needed?
You may be wondering why we go through this much effort at all? Why can’t you just eat a mushroom whole and call it a day?
You can thank a little compound called chitin for that.
You may already know chitin from crustaceans. Chitin is what makes their shells so tough, after all.
But what does that have to do with mushrooms? Surprisingly, the fungal cell walls of mushrooms also contain chitin. Do you know what else lives in the cell walls? All the bioactive compounds we want to get.The bad news is that we as humans can’t digest chitin. That in itself doesn’t mean we can’t eat mushrooms, but it does mean we miss out on the majority of the beneficial compounds, such as beta-glucans.
The good news is that extraction allows us to get around our anti-chitin biology.
The solvents in mushroom extraction are responsible for breaking down the chitin. Once the bioactive compounds are free, they can dissolve in the solvent.
Now we have full access to the compounds. Problem solved!
3 Mushroom Extraction Methods
Method #1: Hot water extraction
Here’s the section for you coffee and tea fans. Those two beverages are perfect examples of hot water extraction. Another common form of this method is bone broth.
In those examples, the raw materials are ground coffee beans, tea leaves, and meat bones. In the case of mushroom extraction, the raw material is, well, mushrooms.
The mushrooms are added to a pot of water. Once the water starts to boil, the temperature is lowered to a simmer. The duration of the simmer varies depending on the recipe. Typically it is left for anywhere between 30 minutes to a couple of days.
Afterwards, the leftover mushrooms are tossed. Only the mushroom-infused water will remain at the end. Some people use spray drying to turn the extract into powder, while others leave it as is.
The main benefit of hot water extraction is it dissolves any water-soluble polysaccharides. These polysaccharides include beta-glucans, aka the compound known for its immunomodulatory properties.
The drawback of this method is that hot water extraction will not extract any non-water-soluble properties. If you want to get any of those, a different method is required.
Method #2: Alcohol extraction
Alcohol extraction is another common mushroom extraction process. This method is also commonly used for botanical extraction. Overall, the method has a broad range of applications.
The mushrooms are added to a container of food-grade alcohol. You can leave them to soak for anywhere between 1 to 6 weeks.
We also recommend stirring or agitating the mixture in some way every once in a while. This will increase the surface area exposed to the alcohol.
Alcohol extraction is great for extracting any alcohol-soluble compounds. These compounds include the following:
This method is especially useful for certain mushrooms, like Reishi and Chaga. These medicinal mushrooms have benefits that can only be unlocked by alcohol extraction.
The drawback of alcohol extraction is that water-soluble compounds cannot be extracted.
Method #3: Dual extraction
Dual extraction utilises both hot water and alcohol extraction. This method is best for certain types of mushrooms.
Whether you use hot water or alcohol extraction first depends on the recipe. Either way, whatever raw material remains from the first extraction is used for the second one.
After both extraction processes are complete, you combine the two mushroom-infused liquids into one batch.
The most significant benefit of dual extraction is that you can obtain both water-soluble and non-water-soluble compounds. Because of this, this method is commonly used if you want a full-spectrum mushroom tincture.
A drawback is that sometimes polysaccharides precipitate in the alcohol if the hot water extraction is done second. This results in fewer beta-glucans.
Another drawback is that dual extraction takes a lot longer than doing just one extraction.
30 min – 3 days
2 – 6 weeks
3 – 7 weeks
As you can see, mushroom extraction comes in a couple forms.
Here at Doseology we use alcohol extraction. By using this method, we get the best of both functional mushrooms and botanicals at the same time.
If you’re interested in alcohol extraction based products, check out our products here at Doseology!