The Truth About Mycelium in Mushroom Supplements: Beyond the Grain Myth

In the world of mushroom supplements, one persistent myth is that mycelium-based products are primarily composed of grain and therefore less effective than those made solely from the mushroom's fruiting body. This misconception often leads to the belief that mycelium lacks potency and that fruiting body extracts are superior. However, the reality is that mycelium offers a wealth of bioactive compounds, providing significant health benefits. In fact, combining mycelium and fruiting body can create a more potent supplement. This article will dispel the grain myth, highlight the benefits of mycelium, and explain why the claims about beta-glucans and fruiting body extracts can be misleading.

1. Understanding Mycelium and Fruiting Body

What Are Mycelium and Fruiting Body?

Mycelium: This is the vegetative part of the mushroom, consisting of a vast network of fine, thread-like structures called hyphae. It grows underground or within a substrate like sterilized grain or wood and is essential for nutrient absorption and decomposition.

Fruiting Body: This is the above-ground part of the mushroom that most people are familiar with. It is the reproductive structure that produces spores and is often harvested for culinary and supplement use.

Why Use Mycelium?

Mycelium and fruiting bodies offer different profiles of beneficial compounds. Mycelium is rich in unique proteins, enzymes, and bioactive compounds that are not found in the same concentrations in the fruiting body. When mycelium is grown on a substrate like oats, it transforms the substrate and integrates it into its structure, enhancing its nutritional profile.

2. Disproving the Grain Myth in Mycelium Supplements

The Source of the Grain Myth

Critics argue that mycelium supplements are primarily made up of residual grain, diluting the concentration of beneficial compounds. This misconception arises because mycelium is often grown on a grain substrate. However, this overlooks the significant transformation that occurs during the growth process.

The Truth About Mycelium and Grain

During cultivation, mycelium breaks down and digests the grain substrate, incorporating its nutrients into its own structure. Research shows that properly cultivated mycelium contains minimal residual grain and is packed with beneficial compounds. Advanced processing techniques ensure that any remaining grain is negligible.

A study from the Journal of Medicinal Food found that mycelium-based supplements are rich in polysaccharides, antioxidants, and other bioactive molecules, proving that the grain myth is unfounded. For instance, mycelium was found to contain up to 60% polysaccharides, a significant component known for its immune-boosting properties.

3. The Unique Benefits of Mycelium

Rich in Beta-Glucans and Polysaccharides

Mycelium is an excellent source of beta-glucans and polysaccharides, compounds known for their immune-modulating properties. These substances help activate and regulate the immune system, making it more effective at fighting infections and diseases.

According to research published in Food Science and Biotechnology, mycelium contains high concentrations of beta-glucans, sometimes even exceeding those found in the fruiting body. For example, the study found that mycelium could contain beta-glucan levels ranging from 25% to 35%, which are critical for supporting immune health and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Abundant in Antioxidants and Phenolic Compounds

Mycelium is also rich in antioxidants and phenolic compounds that protect against oxidative stress and cellular damage. These substances are crucial for preventing chronic diseases and promoting overall health.

A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry highlighted that mycelium contains a diverse range of antioxidants, contributing to its strong protective effects. Specifically, mycelium showed antioxidant activity comparable to that of high-quality fruiting body extracts, with phenolic content reaching up to 200 mg per 100 grams of dried mycelium.

Packed with Enzymes and Unique Proteins

Mycelium produces a variety of enzymes and proteins that enhance its nutritional and therapeutic value. These include digestive enzymes like proteases and amylases, which aid in nutrient absorption, as well as antimicrobial and antiviral agents that bolster the immune system.

A comprehensive review in Mycobiology detailed the wide array of enzymes and bioactive compounds found in mycelium, emphasizing its multifaceted benefits. Mycelium was found to contain up to 15 different enzymes and over 20 unique proteins that contribute to its health-promoting properties.

Moreover, a study published in Scientific Reports discovered that mycelium of Cordyceps militaris contained 38 unique proteins that were not found in the fruiting body. These proteins play crucial roles in stress response and metabolic processes, underscoring the nutritional and functional richness of mycelium.

4. The Synergy of Mycelium and Fruiting Body

Complementary Profiles of Bioactive Compounds

Combining mycelium and fruiting bodies in supplements offers a broader spectrum of health benefits. The mycelium’s rich profile of polysaccharides, antioxidants, and enzymes complements the fruiting body’s concentration of beta-glucans and other therapeutic compounds.

Research suggests that this combination maximizes the range of bioactive compounds available, leading to a more comprehensive and effective supplement. For example, a combined mycelium and fruiting body product can provide up to 80% more beta-glucans and a 50% higher antioxidant capacity compared to fruiting body-only products.

Superior Absorption and Bioavailability

Supplements that include both mycelium and fruiting body often offer superior absorption and bioavailability of nutrients. The mycelium’s complex network structure and enzymatic content can enhance the body's ability to absorb and utilize these beneficial compounds.

A study in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that nutrients from mycelium were more readily absorbed by the body, providing higher bioavailability compared to fruiting body-only products. The study indicated that mycelium-enhanced products could increase the absorption rate of polysaccharides and beta-glucans by up to 30%.

5. Why Some Companies Perpetuate the Myth

The Appeal of Fruiting Body Extracts

Some companies promote the idea that fruiting body extracts are superior because they can isolate and measure specific compounds like beta-glucans. This focus on measurable beta-glucan content makes it easier to market the product as being potent and effective. Beta-glucans are indeed valuable, but they are not the only beneficial compounds in mushrooms.

The Misleading Beta-Glucan Gimmick

Listing high beta-glucan content on the label is often used as a selling point to suggest superior quality. However, this can be misleading because it overlooks the holistic benefits provided by the full spectrum of bioactive compounds in mycelium. Research indicates that the health benefits of mushrooms come from the synergy of multiple compounds, not just isolated beta-glucans.

For instance, a study published in Food & Function showed that supplements featuring a broad range of mushroom compounds, including those from mycelium, provided more balanced and comprehensive health benefits compared to those focusing solely on high beta-glucan content.

Lack of Comprehensive Scientific Backing

While there are studies highlighting the benefits of high beta-glucan content, the majority of scientific research supports the combined benefits of mycelium and fruiting body. The whole mushroom approach provides a fuller range of bioactive substances that contribute to its therapeutic effects. Companies focusing only on fruiting body extracts may not provide the complete health potential that mushrooms offer.

6. The Role of Substrate in Mycelium Quality

Transforming the Substrate into Nutrient-Rich Mycelium

Mycelium has the unique ability to transform the substrate it grows on. During growth, mycelium breaks down the substrate, integrating its nutrients and enhancing its own profile. This process significantly changes the chemical composition of the substrate, enriching it with additional bioactive compounds.

A study published in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology demonstrated that mycelium grown on grain substrates showed a significant increase in polysaccharides, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds, proving that the substrate contributes positively to the quality of the mycelium. For instance, the mycelium's polysaccharide content increased by over 40% during the colonization of the substrate.

Ensuring High-Quality Mycelium Supplements

High-quality mycelium supplements are produced with rigorous cultivation and processing standards. Genius Mushrooms, for example, uses organic, USA-grown mycelium and fruiting bodies, ensuring minimal residual substrate and maximum potency. This careful cultivation process preserves the integrity and benefits of the mycelium.

When choosing supplements, look for products that provide transparent information about their cultivation and processing methods. This transparency guarantees that you receive the full spectrum of benefits from both mycelium and fruiting body.

7. Spotlight on Key Medicinal Mushrooms


Cordyceps, particularly Cordyceps militaris, is highly valued for its ability to boost energy and athletic performance. The mycelium of Cordyceps is rich in cordycepin and adenosine, compounds that enhance cellular energy and improve endurance. Genius Mushrooms features Cordyceps mycelium, harnessing these benefits to support sustained energy levels.

Lion's Mane

Lion's Mane is renowned for its cognitive benefits. The combination of mycelium and fruiting body in supplements like Genius Mushrooms provides a rich source of hericenones and erinacines, compounds that support nerve growth factor (NGF) production and promote brain health. This blend enhances mental clarity and memory.


Reishi is often called the "Mushroom of Immortality" due to its adaptogenic properties that help the body cope with stress. Genius Mushrooms include both Reishi mycelium and fruiting body, offering a comprehensive profile of triterpenes, polysaccharides, and peptidoglycans. These compounds support immune function and overall well-being.

Turkey Tail

Turkey Tail is known for its potent immune-boosting properties. It contains high levels of polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP), which are critical for enhancing immune responses. The combination of Turkey Tail mycelium and fruiting body provides a robust defense against infections and diseases.


The myth that mycelium-based mushroom supplements are primarily grain and less effective than fruiting body-only products is not supported by scientific evidence. Mycelium is a rich source of beta-glucans, antioxidants, enzymes, and other bioactive compounds that offer significant health benefits. When combined with the fruiting body, mycelium provides a more comprehensive and potent supplement.

By transforming the substrate it grows on, mycelium enriches its nutritional profile, making it a powerful addition to any health regimen. Understanding the true nature of mycelium and its benefits allows consumers to make informed choices and harness the full power of mushrooms for their health.


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