You’ve seen it on the supplement shelf at your local grocery store: powdered mushroom supplements. It begs the question: Does freeze-drying, then pulverizing a mushroom leave the important bits intact?
That’s a valid question. Canned, cooked, processed, and dried foods often have a much different nutrient profile than the raw foods they came from. Many people, from those trying to increase their immune health to Silicon Valley executives microdosing psychedelics, are all hoping that beneficial effects of mushrooms are passed on when the mushroom is ground down into a fine powder.
Many of the beneficial aspects of mushrooms are preserved in mushroom powders and supplement capsules.
It has been shown many times that mushrooms are powerful immune system modulators, carry anti-cancer and anti-viral components, and can be used to alleviate certain symptoms of diabetes! It is also hypothesized that certain fiber molecules and antioxidants in mushrooms can affect the gut microbiome in a beneficial way. There are many health benefits to medicinal mushrooms!
Not surprisingly, many of the studies that confirmed various aspects of the many beneficial properties of mushrooms were conducted with freeze-dried, powdered mushrooms. With a dried, encapsulated powdered dose, consistency is ensured throughout the study. Species found in the meta-review above that had at least one beneficial health effect include portobello/crimini, shiitake, oyster, enokitake, white elf mushrooms, Lingzhi mushrooms, and others.
While not all nutrients and minerals are preserved in the freeze-drying process, it seems that some of the most important ones are still available. That being said, few mushroom supplement formulas have been specifically evaluated for their effects.
Specific Evidence for Mushroom Supplements
While there is a lot more clinical research that needs to be done on people with specific conditions, there are a few cases where powdered mushrooms have been tested specifically for a variety of reasons.
To Increase Vitamin D Levels
Mushroom powder made from UV-exposed mushrooms was found to effectively raise vitamin D blood serum levels. This specific study was done in high school athletes and found no differences between mushroom powder supplements and traditional vitamin D supplements. This has been found in many studies, across many species of mushrooms. The key seems to be that the mushrooms were exposed to UV-light before they were freeze-dried and ground up. This is apparently what activates vitamin D production in many mushroom species.
To Decrease Fat Creation
While this research still has quite a ways to go, researchers have shown that ReishiMax – a brand-name powdered reishi mushroom blend – was capable of changing how adipose cells proliferate. In English: certain mushroom powders can change how your body stores and utilizes fat.
Clinical trials have yet to be conducted on humans, other researchers have shown that reishi (Lingzhi) mushrooms worked to reduce obesity in laboratory mice! Considering that powdered mushrooms are only one step away from whole food, this seems like a promising weight loss tool.
To Ease Anxiety and Improve Creativity
The FDA recently fast-tracked psilocybin as an aid to many forms of cognitive-behavioral therapies. However, some people are already experimenting with the mind-altering effects of psilocybin.
One study examined the “self-reported” success of psychedelic microdosing. Survey participants – all who claimed to be self-administering sub-hallucinogenic doses of psilocybin in the form of mushroom powders – claimed two very interesting outcomes:
- Microdosing was seemingly effective in boosting creativity, openness, and symptoms of ADHD.
- Traditional hallucinogenic doses of psilocybin were preferred for dealing with anxiety and depression
Granted, these are self-reported results by people not qualified as physicians. Still, it is very interesting to see that many people are already using psychedelic microdosing and that they find it effective. While these results could be due to the placebo effect alone, psilocybin’s activation of serotonin receptors on the brain suggests that even very small doses are doing something.
Should You Try Powdered Mushrooms?
While the answer is complicated and depends on every person’s desired health outcomes, diet, exercise routine, and a myriad of other factors, the short answer is that it probably won’t hurt you. Supplements are often less effective than their raw counterpart, though powdered mushrooms seem to carry many of the same benefits as fresh mushrooms.
There are years – maybe decades – before powdered mushroom supplements can be fully tested and evaluated for their claims, though new products enter the market every day. This says as much about consumer demand as it does about supplement regulation. The same can be said about powdered psychedelic mushrooms and recognizing their potential for mental health.
Shiitake, Reishi, Oyster, Lion’s Mane, and many other species of mushroom have shown specific health benefits. Powdered versions of these are likely to carry many of the same components, though they may have been slightly altered by the drying process. Though each metabolic pathway and bodily interaction is different, it’s safe to say that, in general, these supplements probably do at least some of what they say they do.
Culinary-medicinal mushroom powders contain very little risk to their use, though not all benefits have been clinically evaluated. Users of psychedelic mushroom powders should be warned that even though psilocybin has been given a special designation by the FDA, the drug is still classified as a Schedule I and is considered illegal. As of this writing only Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz had decriminalized the possession of psilocybin, in conflict with federal law.