Practically all the shops in the market that sell reishi are selling reishi extracts. Unfortunately they do not know what kind of extract they are selling and its origin, because this information is not included in the label. Here we clarify the issue and the implications of all this.
1- The kind of extract:
At any pharmacy, herbalist's or shop, ask what kind of reishi extract they have: Is it a methanoic extract? Is it hydroalcoholic? Is it an extract in ether?... We know that each extract is different! (link)
Each of these extracts concentrates certain things and therefore will only have the virtues of that that it is concentrating! Tip: Do not consume an extract that does not indicate its origin, that is, which solvent has been used to produce it. I will give a real example:
A person who gets colds regularly and has low defenses goes to the herbalist's shop in his neighborhood to ask the specialist who provides consultation there. He recommends him reishi and echinacea, echinacea no longer than 3 months, because it can cause dependence, he can have reishi continuously. According to what the specialist said, he goes to the area where he can buy products and the shop assistant sells him an reishi extract 1:20, considering it is the most effective because it is very concentrated. As it usually happens, the product label does not say anything about this, but he is taking a reishi extract in ether.
The specialist has advised him well, the shop assistant has sold him the most concentrated extract they have, considering it to be the most effective and, big mistake! Because of the ignorance of the origin of the extract, which is not indicated on the label, the result of the reishi consumption will be just as a placebo, that is, it will affect practically nothing in your immune system. And I will explain why:
A reishi extract in ether concentrates mainly fatty acids (oils) and polar molecules that dissolve in them. It is a great extract for external use, added to skin creams, to nourish and moisturize, but the solvent used for the extraction does not concentrate the substances considered active on the immune system: betaglucans and immunomodulatory proteins. It will not be effective for the patient's problem (if it worked, it would be due to the 15% efficacy attributed to placebo effects on the whole).
In a nutshell: the extracts are enormously different depending on which solvent has been used in their production. If the label does not indicate the origin of the extract, we do not advise its consumption, because its properties are unknown.
In another post we will discuss the types of commercial extracts and their virtues in more detail.
2- Origin of reishi extracts:
The origin of reishi extracts in the market can be:
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms)
- Ganoderma lucidum (mycelium).
As we can see, the label of both products will include the text: extract of Ganoderma lucidum. If it does not clarify if it comes from mushroom or mycelium, it will probably come from mycelium, which is much cheaper to cultivate (it feeds on water with sugar, basically), and therefore is more present in the market.
The difference between one and another lies in the initial raw material used to produce the extract. In one case it is fungus, mycelium (Ganoderma lucidum), and in the other case, it is mushroom (mushrooms of Ganoderma lucidum).
The differences in composition and properties between them are enormous. For example, taking into account the content of polyphenols, that concentrate most of the antioxidant virtues of the product, when comparing Ganoderma extracts coming from mycelium and from mushrooms, the amount of polyphenols vary from undetectable in the first case to 7.82% in the second, while the quantity of polysaccharides, where immunoglobulin beta-glucans are found, range from 1.1% to 29.7% respectively, according to Chang’s research in 2010.
Another research team compared them too (Bhardwaj et al, 2016) 2. He studied dozens of different chemical molecules by using a technique called ultra-pressure liquid chromatography together with a 4-pole tandem mass spectrometry analyzer, and concluded that they are products with big chemical differences, totally differentiated. In consequence, both extracts have different properties and are not comparable.
To sum up: mycelium extracts are enormously different from mushroom extracts. If on the label of the product it is not indicated that it is a mushroom extract (from reishi), we do not recommend its acquisition, because it may be mycelium extract. Also, a pure mushroom extract can be an excellent product, but we must take into account what we discussed in point 1: it depends on the kind of extract (solvent used for extraction).
1- Chang STB, J.A. Safety, quality control and regulational aspects relating to mushroom nutriceuticals. 2010.
2- Bhardwaj, A., et al., Screening of Indian Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Agaricomycetes): A UPC2-SQD-MS Approach. J Pharmacopuncture, 2016. 18(2): p. 177-89