Medicinal mushrooms have become one of 2020’s emerging wellness trends. We know there is nothing new about medicinal mushrooms, considering they have been consumed as both food and medicine in ancient traditions across the world for thousands of years.
However, given that modern science is now telling us that these superfoods could be the key to unlocking our mind-body health potential, the world of wellness now has its eyes on the Kingdom that predates both animals and plants.
This seems to be the moment for Fungi to truly shine, especially in light of the 2020 pandemic, that has reminded us all about the importance of maintaining a strong immune system. Since scientific research has demonstrated the immune-system regulating properties of a few species of medicinal mushrooms, it seems like a no-brainer to include the mushrooms as part of your health regimen, at minimum for this purpose.
Outside of Traditional Chinese and Japanese Medicine, today medicinal mushrooms fall under the category of natural health product or dietary supplement. While one day we may see mushrooms or mushroom derivatives clinically-validated and made available by doctors to patients for a number of conditions, right now they remain unregulated and treated like food versus medication.
While unregulated products are still held by standards driven by Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration, those standards do not require safety and efficacy testing to be approved. That means as consumers, we must do our homework before buying just any product.
As with all natural health products, there is a range of medicinal mushroom products to choose from, differentiated by formulation, sourcing, packaging, pricing, certifications, and method of consumption (eg. pill, tea, dropper). Here is a criteria list to help you know what to look out for, with the goal of finding the best product, according to your values and needs.
Transparency leads to consumer empowerment. When product labels display safety information in addition to directions and ingredients, it builds customer trust, which is one of the most valuable assets of our time. Look for a product that shares information on ingredient sourcing, the extraction process, and that clearly states risk factors, manufacturing and testing practices, and certifications. If the product lacks this information, proceed cautiously.
Organic is a must when it comes to mushrooms, as they have the capacity to absorb toxins well. Look for a product with an organic certification from a reputable regulatory body, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are now mandatory guidelines for the supplement industry that provide a system of processes, procedures, and documentation to assure a product has the identity, strength, composition, quality, and purity that appear on its label. An additional and arguably superior step is to get third-party product testing, which provides an objective evaluation on the manufacturing process.
If you care about the planet, it’s important to look for a product that honours it. While sustainability can take many forms, in this case, it refers to the mushroom harvesting approach as well as product packaging. From a harvesting standpoint, poor technique can result in damage to the mushroom and surrounding environment, which is costly and unnecessary. Look for a company using sustainable harvesting practices, which generally means they are extracting product from cultivated mushrooms.
When it comes to packaging, we often overlook the need for sustainable practices, especially if the product itself has fulfilled our needs. However, a more optimal approach is to consider end- to-end sustainability, which encompasses packaging. Look for a product that uses biodegradable packaging, compostable films and inks, and/or recyclable materials.
If the future of healthcare is truly an integrative one that prioritizes prevention, healing, and ultimately an improved quality of life, then as consumers we must do our part to support the unregulated companies in the wellness industry who are founded on principles and protocols of trust and safety. The more we choose products from these exemplary companies, the more we help the industry as a whole raise its standard of care for consumers and our planet.