Mushrooms have been a source of fascination in humans for thousands of years. They have been used in traditional medicine for more than 2000 years that we are aware of and probably much longer.
Until the last 150 years, we knew very little about fungi, which is surprising for how important they are to nearly every aspect of life. With the increased interest in fungi over the last twenty years for food, environmental clean-up, and medicinal use, many new resources have been used to study them. What we discovered is that we knew a lot less than we thought and there is a fantastic world waiting to be explored.
The estimated 2 - 3 million species of fungi that exist come in a vast array of shapes and sizes. Many of them are edible and delicious, many more of them have strong medicinal properties*. Overall, less than 10% of the estimated species have been named and categorized let alone studied.
While we don't understand every aspect of fungi yet, we do know that the identified medicinal fungi contain a complex array of beneficial compounds. These compounds through their complexity can support our immune systems, act as adaptogens, and help balance the function of important systems in our bodies*.
The complexity of fungi is what has made them so successful and resilient in nature and what creates their strong medicinal properties. Fungi produce their own anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal compounds to protect themselves in their environment. They also "breathe" air, expel carbon dioxide, as well as produce their own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight—like we do.
Many isolated elements of fungi are currently used in pharmaceuticals and we are sure that there will be many more in the future. While isolated components have their place, it is really the blend of all the polysaccharides, ergosterols, triterpenoids, and other acids they produce that make fungi so powerful. Each species of fungi has their own unique combination of medicinal elements.
Medicinal polysaccharides called beta-glucans are a very trendy topic at the moment. All of the medicinal mushrooms contain beta-glucans, it is part of their cell wall structure. Each species has its own variation of beta-glucan, these are one important part of what fungi have to offer. Keep in mind that they are not the only medicinal component of fungi and as important as they are, they are likely more effective in combination with the full range of medicinal constituents of the fungi.
As you read and research more about medicinal mushrooms on the Internet, you will find a lot of different opinions. Mushrooms grown on wood vs. mycelium on grain. Marketing hype that "our 3500:1 ratio is the most potent on the planet" or "We've discovered the strain of Reishi used by the Emporer of the Ming dynasty!" Much of this comes from the inherent need to create fear or desire to get people to buy products. Some of this definitely comes from the fact that we still have so much to learn about fungi. Overall, it can be very confusing and annoying to sort through.
At Profungi we try to keep a balanced perspective and stay grounded in what we do. While we believe in our processes and the quality of our ingredients, there are other companies that make quality products as well. If you are looking for something we don't make, or want to try a different product, here are links to some companies we respect.
If you find the world of fungi as interesting as we do and you want to learn more, here are some great resources for you to check out.