Edible mushrooms have a long history of being used for purposes other than food. People have been using mushrooms medicinally as far back as 450 B.C., according to the authors of a June 2020 article in Alternative and Complementary Therapies. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in psilocybin mushrooms to treat mental health disorders including depression, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Given the recent interest in mushrooms as a functional food, it’s no surprise that mushroom extract supplements have been popping up all over the place — including in coffee. These products claim to do everything from staving off anxiety to fighting cancer.
So, is a mushroom capsule or coffee just what the doctor ordered? Here’s what the research, and leading experts, have to say.
What Are Mushroom Extract Supplements?
Mushroom extract supplements are extracts or powders produced from various types of mushrooms. According to Today’s Dietitian, people try mushroom extracts as remedies for a range of conditions, including seasonal allergies, insomnia, cancer, colds, and inflammation.
You can find them in capsules, powders, liquid extracts, mouth sprays, teas, coffees, gummies, and sometimes in combination with other products such as CBD. Some supplements contain extracts from a single type of mushroom, while others combine extracts from several different types of mushrooms.
Common Questions & Answers
Mushroom extract supplements may potentially treat health conditions including depression, seasonal allergies, insomnia, cancer, the common cold, and inflammation. So far, though, most research is limited to animal or cell studies or small human studies, so further research is needed.
Some studies suggest this mushroom can help treat depression, but data is limited, so it is not recommended over more studied treatment options.
There’s a possibility that mushroom extracts could support the microbiome, the body’s system of healthy bacteria, and that may play a role in weight management. But there are more proven methods for weight loss.
Mushroom coffee, which is brewed from ground coffee beans and ground mushrooms, may contain adaptogens that could help control the physical effects of stress. It typically has less caffeine than regular coffee, so may it be good if you’re sensitive to caffeine.
Supplements should not be used in place of traditional healthcare, but if you are interested in trying them, discuss doing so with your healthcare provider.
Different Kinds of Mushroom Extract Supplements
Some of the common types of adaptogenic mushrooms you’ll see in supplements include:
- Lion’s mane
- Turkey Tail
- Agaricus blazei
- Polyporus umbellatus
Potential Health Benefits of Mushroom Extract Supplements
Whole mushrooms have solid health benefits. “Mushrooms themselves are low in calories and fat and in nutrients we’re told to cut back on, like sodium and sugar,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, the creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table. “They also provide us with a wealth of nutrients we don’t otherwise get. So mushrooms themselves are pretty amazing to add to your diet.”
Medicinal mushrooms have been credited with at least 130 different therapeutic applications, according to a report published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in July 2022. But solid research on humans that ties mushrooms to specific health benefits is hard to come by.
“The potential benefits are being studied, and there is some promise, but oftentimes the studies are small, or in animals or cells, and they’re usually short term,” says Samantha Cassetty, RD, a registered dietitian based in New York City and the coauthor of Sugar Shock. “So it’s really hard to say anything definitively in terms of long-term safety and efficacy.”
More research is needed, according to a review published in February 2022 in Drug Discovery Today. That said, mushroom extract supplements show promise in the following areas:
- Support for the immune system The Drug Discovery Today review found that medicinal mushrooms may help modulate the immune system and have cancer-fighting properties.
- Protection against diabetes and heart disease The Frontiers in Pharmacology study reported that mushroom extracts might help fight these two common chronic conditions.
- Anti-inflammatory effects A review published in Nutrients in May 2020 found that some mushrooms fight inflammation, though randomized clinical trials are needed.
- Protection against cancer The Nutrients review also found that certain mushrooms and extracts have tumor-fighting properties.
- Fighting infections and toxins The Frontiers in Pharmacology report stated that components found in mushrooms might help the body resist infections and toxins.
- Help with anxiety and depression The Frontiers in Pharmacology report also found that some types of mushrooms treat these mental health conditions.
- Anti-aging effects on skin Mushroom extracts show promise as ingredients in anti-wrinkle products, according to a report published in the journal of the Korean Society of Mushroom Science in September 2021.
- Wound healing Research done on mice that was published in the Journal of Fungi in March 2021 found that medicinal mushrooms had some ability to speed wound healing.
- Fatigue reduction A study on mice published in May 2019 in the Royal Society of Chemistry found that certain mushroom extracts may fight fatigue.
- Enhanced athletic performance A small study of long-distance runners published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online in June 2021 found that certain medicinal mushrooms could boost endurance.
- Mental health assistance Psilocybin is a mushroom extract that’s used as a psychedelic. Researchers are studying whether psilocybin helps mediate emotions and moods and treat depression, migraines, and other health conditions, according to research published in Molecules in May 2021. Psilocybin is a Schedule 1 substance, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which means it’s currently illegal to sell, purchase, or possess it in most states.
Can Mushroom Supplements Help With Weight Loss?
Cassetty says that some mushroom supplements may have prebiotic effects that could shift the microbiome in your gut in a favorable way, and that could play a role in weight management. And the January 2021 book Advances in Probiotics points to edible mushrooms as a promising source of prebiotics. But there are other, better-researched ways to shift your gut microbiome, not to mention lose weight.
“If you want to try [a mushroom supplement], you can add it to your wellness toolbox, but it doesn’t replace more proven methods,” Cassetty says.
Taub-Dix concurs and points out that you need to focus on your overall diet if you want to lose weight. “Mushroom supplements are a drop in the ocean compared to what else you have to do to lose weight,” she says. “It depends on what else you’re eating.”
Risks and Side Effects of Mushroom Extract Supplements
Mushroom extracts and supplements usually process and concentrate the ingredients in mushrooms. “If you look at what was used [medicinally] years ago, it wasn’t coming in a jar. It was coming right out of the ground,” Taub-Dix says.
It’s unclear which types of mushroom extract supplements you might want to take, what the dosage should be, or how long you should take them. “We don’t really know how much you need. The research is unclear, so it’s a good idea to check with your healthcare provider or dietitian,” Taub-Dix says.
And, as with any supplement, you need to be cautious about interactions. “There’s always a potential for a supplement to interact with a medication you’re taking or a condition you have,” Cassetty says. She doesn’t recommend extracts that contain adaptogens for people with autoimmune conditions, for example, since they could stimulate your immune system. For example, one type of mushroom, called reishi, could interact with medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood clotting, according to MedlinePlus.
Chaga extract may also trigger interactions. It may improve your blood flow, which could be dangerous if you’re taking blood-thinning medication or have a bleeding disorder. While more research is needed, a report in the ASCO Post in July 2019 noted that chaga extract can boost the effects of anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs.
“I tell people with any supplements, if you’re taking medication or you have a chronic condition, check with your doctor,” Cassetty says.
What to Look for in a Supplement
There are no internationally recognized standards and methods for testing fungus products, according to the Frontiers in Pharmacology report. Additionally, products vary significantly in how they’re prepared, and it is unknown whether any effects are caused by a single ingredient or a combination of ingredients.
Mushroom extracts come in a range of forms, from pills to gummies to extracts to coffee and more. But no matter what type you come across, like all supplements, they aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the National Institutes of Health. Supplement manufacturers are expected to follow practices that prevent the wrong ingredients or the wrong amounts of ingredients from getting into the product, reduce contamination, and ensure labels are accurate. You can choose supplements that meet independent quality standards from ConsumerLab.com, NSF, or USP. But testing doesn’t prove that a product is safe or effective.
“Supplements are not regulated the same way food is, so a bottle of lion’s mane could be very inconsistent, with one pill containing more than another,” Taub-Dix says.
Mushroom extract supplements show promise in treating a range of conditions, from fighting cancer to reducing inflammation to combating stress. But most of the research performed on mushroom extracts so far has been studied in vitro (using isolated human cells in a petri dish) or in animals. The science is still spotty as to whether these extracts have the same results in humans.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Lucius K. Medicinal Mushrooms: Current Use in Clinical Practice. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. June 2020.
- Panda SK, et al. Medicinal Mushrooms: Clinical Perspective and Challenges. Drug Discovery Today. February 2022.
- Abdel-Azeem AM, et al. Endophytic Fungi as a New Source of Antirheumatoid Metabolites. Bioactive Food as Dietary Interventions for Arthritis and Related Inflammatory Diseases. 2019.
- Lowe H, et al. The Therapeutic Potential of Psilocybin. Molecules. May 2021.
- Hetland G, et al. Antitumor, Anti-inflammatory and Antiallergic Effects of Agaricus blazei. Mushroom Extract and the Related Medicinal Basidiomycetes Mushrooms, Hericium erinaceus and Grifola frondosa: A Review of Preclinical and Clinical Studies. Nutrients. May 2020.
- Man Chugh R, et al. Fungal Mushrooms: A Natural Compound With Therapeutic Effects. Frontiers in Pharmacology. July 2022.
- Yoon KN, et al. Melanin Synthesis and Skin Wrinkle Inhibitory Effects of the Medicinal Mushroom Ganoderma applanatum. Korean Society of Mushroom Science. September 2021.
- Mapopung S, et al. Skin Wound-Healing Potential of Polysaccharides From Medicinal Mushroom Auricularia auricula-judae (Bull.). Journal of Fungi. March 2021.
- Shen Q, et al. SiBaoChongCao Exhibited Anti-Fatigue Activities and Ameliorated Cancer cachexia in Mice. Royal Society of Chemistry. May 2019.
- Thongasawang S, et al. Applying Cordyceps sinensis to Boost Endurance Performance in Long-Distance Runners. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online. June 2021.
- Amidor T. Ask the Expert: Mushroom Extracts. Today’s Dietitian. December 2018.
- Balakrishnan K, et al. Edible Mushrooms: A Promising Bioresource for Prebiotics, Advances in Probiotics. January 2021.
- Reishi Mushroom. MedlinePlus. August 2022.
- Bao T, et al. Chaga Mushroom. The ASCO Post. July 2019.