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Oriveda's focus is on selling well-researched medicinal mushroom extracts of superior quality.

As a business we are focused on providing our customers with the best possible products, value-for-money and service. We are serving customers in over 85 countries.

Our business is based on common sense and pragmatism. We feel that every claim of quality should be backed up with hard facts.

All our products are tested by independent objective laboratories, not just for safety but in particular for active ingredients. You don't have to take our word for it when we claim premium quality - you can verify it. We share our test reports with our customers.

For some bullet-points just click here.


• Therapeutically speaking, ORIVeDA extracts are the most powerful extracts available worldwide, with guaranteed levels of the most important bioactive components and the highest bioavailability possible. And this is not just a marketing statement.

Our authorized supplement facts labels and Google make it easy to compare our products with others. As said, our Certificates of Analysis from independent third party laboratories are available on request.

• Since we started as a business we have always emphasized the use of extracts, being the only reliable way to accomplish therapeutic effects.

Already in 2012 we started specifying beta-glucans (the main active ingredient of most medicinal mushrooms) on our supplement fact labels. This was a time when 95 % of mushroom supplements had zero specifications (not being extracted) and the rest mentioned 'polysaccharides' at best, a broad term covering a lot of non-bioactive compounds, in the core unsuitable as a quality marker. Currently beta-glucans are widely accepted as a quality marker, using an AOAC-validated test method.

• We are the first ones specifiying cordycepin as a quality marker for Cordyceps and the first and only ones to specify the NGF-promoting compounds for which Lion's Mane is known - the terpenes. In short, we have set and pointed out quality standards since we started. This approach makes it easy for consumers to choose the right stuff and they're less likely to be deceived by marketing tricks. Make sure to check our FAQ for additional details.

• The value-for-money you get with our products is excellent. Not only are our prices often lower than others, but the level of bioavailable active ingredients in our extracts is also much higher, in some instances over three times higher than the best of the rest. So, instead of spending $ 90 on “product X” you only have to spend $ 30 on our product for the same therapeutic potential.
And on top of that, as said before, we guarantee the bioavailability of the bioactives; your body can absorb and digest them 100%, so the therapeutic potential is maximal. And all these claims can be verified - objective third party test results are available on demand.

• In SE-Asia medicinal mushrooms have been used for many centuries. These countries therefore contain probably the best-informed and most critical consumers. We are proud to be able to claim that we are currently the only Western company selling mushroom extracts on a large scale to this region.
• A lot of the research on which our products' reputation is built is available and can be downloaded for free from the resources-section of our site.

• We ship to almost all countries in the world, except warzones.With only a few exceptions, shipping is free for website orders, worldwide. We usually ship orders the next day.

• We offer maximum personal service: we are online 7 days a week and your questions will be answered in great detail. Those questions are important: they help us develop new ideas and products. Keep them coming!

• Our newsletter (2 - 3 times p/year) is offering more than just updates and marketing. We often include complete monographs related to our product-line and include discounts for subscribers. Register today!

To contact us, please use the online form.

ORIVeDA is a registered brand name of ORIGO Holding BV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. All rights reserved.








Shopping For A Mushroom Supplement : Guideline

Which supplement should I choose ?

Everybody will agree that a dietary supplement is only worth considering if it has therapeutic potency. Consumers in general automatically assume that all dietary supplements have therapeutic potency. But this assumption is wrong! A problem often overlooked is bioavailability - can our body actually digest and absorb the product ?

In particular mushroom supplements are problematic - if they have not been subjected to an extraction procedure they are therapeutically useless. Only mushroom extracts are worth considering.

In the past decade science has made enormous progress in mapping the active ingredients of medicinal mushrooms. We now know that in general their main bioactive ingredients are beta-glucans (a specific bioactive type of polysaccharides), triterpenes, polyphenols and phyto-sterols. In a dual extract all these ingredients are bioavailable (resulting in additional synergy), in a hot water extract only beta-glucans and polyphenols are bioavailable.

As a consumer, you can use this knowledge to judge both the objective quality and the value for money of the product you intend to buy.

As said before, to be able to guarantee therapeutic potency the mushroom supplement should be an extract. Extraction makes the product more expensive, but it is essential. Most people cannot digest non-extracted mushroom products properly. The $ 18.99-per-bottle products (not to mention even cheaper products) are without exception non-extracted mushroom products. They are easy to spot: they do not give a breakdown of the bioactive ingredients on their supplement facts label, because these cannot be determined properly in a non-extracted product.

Sometimes they use convincing-sounding but misleading statements such as 'a whole food with its natural ratio of components is always a better choice than concentrations of individual elements, like in extracts'. However, mushroom extraction is never about concentrating specific components (like in herbal extracts), but about making bio-active components bio-available by extracting the indigestible chitin from the mushroom. A statement like that underlines again the fact that most sellers are mostly ignorant about the details of the products they are selling.

Non-extracted products are mostly indigestible (= low bioavailability) and can never deliver therapeutically useful levels of the active ingredients. The producers of these products can also not guarantee the levels of bioactives, making dosing a trial and error process at best. An extensive explanation can be found here. In a consistent quality product the percentages of at least one of the bioactive ingredients is guaranteed and listed on the supplement facts label. The supplement facts label is governmentally supervised and is 100% reliable. Exaggerations or deceiving claims are prohibited.

Summarizing: The only mushroom supplements worth considering are extracts and should guarantee at least one bioactive ingredient (preferably beta-glucans, but usually polysaccharides, part of which are -hopefully- beta-glucans) on their supplement facts label.

In general the best extracts in terms of therapeutic potency are dual extracts (AKA ‘full-spectrum’ extracts - see below) which guarantee several bioactive ingredients on their supplement facts label (e.g. beta-glucans + triterpenes).

Keep in mind polysaccharides also include starch, chitin, dextrin and other therapeutically useless compounds, including fillers. Only beta-glucans are noteworthy bioactive polysaccharides.

What about value for money ?

As an example, take an offer of 100 grams / 3.53 oz. Chaga extract powder for $ 99.95 whereas another supplier might offer 113 grams / 4 oz. for only $ 35. If you only take this fact into account, you might think that the first product is 3 times more expensive. However, the weight should not be the deciding factor here. The deciding factor is the amount of bioactive ingredients you get for your money. It defines the therapeutic potency of the product. It defines whether it is beneficial for you or not (in the therapeutic sense).
Example of a value for money calculation: Product A: 10% polysaccharides; 60 capsules @ 500mg; $ 10. (10% = 50 mg polysaccharides p/capsule) Product B: 30% polysaccharides; 60 capsules @ 400mg; $ 20. (30% = 120 mg polysaccharides p/capsule) Product B is obviously the best value for money. Spend $ 20 on product A and you still have way less bioactive polysaccharides than in product B.
Although it is not compulsory, there is no reason not to list the active ingredients on the label (it is a great selling point!!), except maybe these:
  • It is actually not an extract but a biomass product, a tincture or a dried, ground up and powdered mushroom product. In these products the bioactive ingredients cannot be guaranteed and the bioavailability is so low that you cannot expect noteworthy therapeutic effects.

  • Compared to similar products the percentages of bioactives are so low that it is better for the seller to keep it vague. As said, it is not compulsory to list bioactives on the label.

  • The supplier cannot guarantee the percentages as required by the FDA. This can be the outcome of using cheap or outdated extraction methodology, which is more likely to deliver an inconsistent product quality. An example is using a mix of water and alcohol to perform a single step dual extraction, instead of several isolated extraction steps. You can roughly compare this to cooking the dried mushrooms in vodka.

    These products are often marketed as “xx:1” extracts. Consumers usually interpret this as "8:1 = 8 x stronger than 1:1". Which is not necessarily true. Ratio-claims are deceiving. Not only can a ratio-statement not be validated by an independent third party (unless they’re present during the whole manufacturing process) but it is also completely useless as a valuation tool, unless there’s also a breakdown of the bioactive ingredients and their percentages.As an example, ORIVeDA's Reishi Primo extract is a 35:1 extract with guaranteed over 40% of polysaccharides (90% of which are beta-glucans) and over 5 % of triterpenes. With the specifications of the bioactives included you are able to compare it to other products and make an objective valuation.


NB - Asian products usually do not reveal active ingredients on their labels. They are in general very expensive, not just because they are imported, but because many people automatically assume ‘expensive equals better quality’ and the sellers often abuse this assumption for their benefit.

The Asian suppliers have nothing to gain by the Western style of business transparency; the therapeutic potency of their products is in general low or average at best, just like the majority of the Western products. Instead of using verifiable quality claims they rely on emotional triggers to market their products. A health guru or a person in a white coat is supposed to give the product credibility.

You, as a consumer, should be aware that your emotions are being played. Don’t let that happen - use common sense. Read the supplement facts label. It is objective and you can trust it in general. And don't overlook this: it's not just what is written on the label, it's also what is not on the label that can tell you a lot.

The information makes it easy to compare products and to judge a products’ objective quality. When in doubt, ask for proof. All vendors have Certificates of Analysis (COA), those test results are the final part of the production process. But they usually won't show this certificate to you, because it's 'proprietary information'. Common sense tells us the information should be the same as what is on the supplement facts label and the website, right? So, it's obvious something is wrong. In general you'd better ignore website claims - only the label is actively monitored by the authorities.

Core fact: the majority of supplement sellers provide no detailed information about their product and the amount of bioactives it contains. Most big companies and all multi-level marketing (MLM) companies use this strategy in our experience: instead of investing in quality products they prefer to invest in marketing. It is in the end more profitable, they know 'cheap' usually sells better than 'good'.

Summarizing: Value for money is determined by the amount of bioactive ingredients you get for your money, not by just the weight or the size of the capsules. Knowing what is listed on the official supplement facts label is essential to be able to determine value for money. A product without guaranteed levels of bioactives cannot be valued objectively and as a consumer, you have no clue what you are buying. Accurate dosing is impossible because you don’t know the amount of bioactives in the tablet/capsule.

Is Siberian Chaga better than Chaga from other regions ?

The answer is short - it is not.

Chaga has a long history of use in Russia and over there it is found mainly in the coldest regions of Siberia. When Chaga became ‘hot’ in the slipstream of the recent superfood hype, the term ‘Siberian Chaga’ added an exotic not to say romantic/authentic touch to the product. But in fact it is mere marketing, playing the emotions of the potential customer. Chaga develops best in very cold regions and it appears that the more harsh the climate and the swings in temperature, the better the therapeutic quality of the Chaga. However, these conditions are not only found in Siberia, but also in e.g. Finland, the Chinese Changbai region, N-Korea and parts of the N-American continent. Harsh climate + birch forest = high Chaga potential!

In fact, when judging a Chaga product the same rules apply as when judging a mushroom supplement in general (see the first FAQ): check the supplement facts label. Chaga’s main bioactives are, according to science, beta-glucans and betulin / betulinic acid. Look for these on the supplement facts label and you can objectively compare products against each other. Siberian Chaga does not have better therapeutic properties or a higher amount of bioactives as a standard.

The extraction technology used to make the bioactives bioavailable is actually more important. This is obvious when comparing e.g. Russian-made extracts with Chinese extracts.
Lab technician at work in Russian Chaga extraction factory
The Chinese do everything according to their customers wishes, which makes the quality range from very low to very high. Russians use only hot water extraction and are therefore not producing full spectrum extracts (also see the next FAQ). This means the natural synergy found in a full-spectrum product will be missing.

Russian producers are also forced by the Russian Pharmacopeia to use the ‘Chromogenic complex’ as the quality standard for Chaga. This ‘Chromogenic complex’ is an outdated concept from the 1950s which reveals nothing about Chaga’s chemical composition. It is useless as a valuation tool from the modern point of view.

See, as an example, the opening paragraph of this Russian journal - (Translated from Khimiko-Farmatsevticheskii Zhurnal, Vol. 44, No. 3, pp. 35 – 37, March, 2010) where the ‘chromogenic complex’ is described as ‘ a vague concept with no definition of its chemical composition’ and products and protocols based on that (meaning: all Russian Chaga extracts) are described as 'severely out of date’ and ‘not respond(ing) to current requirements '. This article is written by Russian Chaga producers/exporters that apparently want to spread their wings and be able to compete with non-Russian Chaga, using modern scientific concepts, just like the rest of the world.

Scientific research does not use ‘chromogenic complex’ as a starting point, only spectrographic analysis (invented in the late 50s) and other, even more advanced methods such as HPLC. After all, the scientists' goal is to find the exact bioactives responsible for a therapeutic effect. These bioactives can then be listed on the supplement facts label, making it easy for the consumer to determine the quality and value for money of the product, as described earlier.

If you go to PubMed, the worlds largest database of scientific publications and you enter "chromogenic complex chaga" (or something similar) as a search term NOTHING shows up. There is ZERO research using the chromogenic complex in Chaga as a starting point, not even in the most important Russian scientific papers (which are also indexed in PubMed).

Summarizing: Where the Chaga was harvested is not that relevant. When judging a Chaga product the same rules apply as when judging a mushroom supplement in general: check the supplement facts label, or, if possible, the Analysis certificate (CoA) on which that label is based. The products therapeutic potency is a combi of using the proper raw material and optimal processing. Only the levels of acknowledged bioactives matter. High levels means a pure extract. In the end, this determines the therapeutic efficacy, not exotic stories and historic references.

What is a ‘full spectrum extract’ ?

This term used to refer to a mushroom extract containing the full spectrum of therapeutically interesting bioactives in a bioavailable form. Only extracts that have been extracted using both hot water and alcohol extraction (or fermentation) can claim this. These products contain both the water-soluble and the non water-soluble bioactives; in other words, everything that is therapeutically interesting. (During the extraction process only chitin is removed. Chitin is the reason non-extracted mushroom products are indigestible: it locks the bioactives in the cell walls of the mushroom, like a LEGO brick is locked in a LEGO wall.)

However, in the past year we’ve seen several websites where the term ‘full-spectrum’ was used to deceivingly describe a product that was e.g. a combination of mycelia, substrate and fruiting body. A smart play with words, but in essence misleading.

Most medicinal mushrooms were found to have the biggest concentration of bioactives in either the fruiting body or the mycelia, so for most products combining these has no added benefit, although it does indeed sound very ‘complete’ to an ignorant layman. It is just marketing talk. Below we give some examples, to illustrate our point.
Natural Cordyceps. The black 'branch' on the left is the fruiting body, and the caterpillar is filled with mycelia - only the skin is left.
E.g. Cordyceps sinensis fruiting bodies do not contain the marker compounds that are responsible for Cordyceps’ reputation, the nucleosides and the cordycepin. The ancient Chinese already knew this: wild Cordyceps with the highest value is the one with a very small fruiting body and a large ‘worm’ (which is filled with mycelia). Cultivated mycelia of specific strains, chosen for their consistent quality, give the best yield of bioactives.

Reishi, on the other hand is exactly the opposite: Reishi’s marker compounds (the ganoderic acids and other triterpenes) only start developing when the mycelia are about to form a fruiting body (once a year) and are mainly found in the fruiting body.

In old times Reishi’s therapeutic quality was valued by its bitterness. The mycelia are not bitter at all because they contain very little triterpenes. The triterpenes are responsible for the bitter taste.

There are also ‘full-spectrum’ Chaga products for sale that claim to contain a mix of the wild-harvested fruiting body and cultivated (lab-grown) mycelia. This is wrong in more than one way. Chaga is a parasitic fungus, infecting mainly birch trees. Chaga extracts are always mycelia based, because the black growth called Chaga is actually not a fruiting body but a dense, hardened mass of mycelia that comes bursting from the inside of the tree, a few years after infection. It is called a sclerotium.
This is Chaga mycelium cultivated in a petri dish. Small fruiting bodies are forming.
Several of Chaga’s main bioactive ingredients are developing only because of the battle of the fungus with its host; in particular the phyto-sterols and the polyphenols, responsible for the anti-oxidant properties. Lab-grown Chaga mycelia have therefore a completely different chemical composition. Betulinic acid is also absent in lab-grown Chaga mycelia, because in nature the fungus absorbs this from its host, the birch tree. Therefore only dual extracted, wild-harvested Chaga can claim to contain the full spectrum of bioactives.

Apart from all this a key point remains the extraction procedure. No matter what the source or composition is of a particular mushroom product, if it has not been extracted it is best avoided in our opinion. It should also have a breakdown of the main bioactive ingredients on the supplement facts label, as said before. If not, you have in fact no clue what you actually get and whether or not it will be therapeutically effective, as explained before. The proof of quality lies in the scientific facts, not in folk stories.

Dried Red Reishi + mycelium + substrate... 'Full-spectrum' ?


Summarizing: A full-spectrum mushroom extract should contain the full spectrum of bioactives; meaning both the water soluble and the non-water soluble ones. ‘Full-spectrum’ as a term should refer to a dual extract (hot water + alcohol), not to a product containing the full range of a mushrooms growth cycle.

Why this emphasis on extracts ?

When looking for medicinal mushroom supplements you’ll come across these options:
  • mushroom powder (loose, in capsules or in tablets)
  • mushroom biomass powder (a mix of mushroom mycelia -sometimes also the fruiting body- and the substrate it grows in)
  • mushroom tinctures (water and/or alcohol based)
  • dried chunks / strips of mushrooms (used to make tea or soup)
  • mushroom extract powder (loose, capsules, sometimes in tablets)
Medicinal mushrooms have a long history of use; some types (like Reishi and Turkey Tail) have a documented history of over 2000 years. In recent decades science started investigating the therapeutic effects of mushrooms and fungi in general, triggered by the accidental discovery of anti-biotics such as penicillin (1928) and, in Asia, by the reported successes of traditional medicinal systems (like TCM and Ayurveda). Many successful drugs have been discovered this way. Specific immune-related effects of 39 mushroom products compared.  The black bars show the effects of the extracted and the white bars the effects of the non-extracted products.
Scientific research and traditional use is always using extraction (hot water, hot alcohol (=ethanol) and other types of solvent extraction) when researching mushrooms, to overcome the problem of the poor bioavailability of raw/dried mushrooms. A 2015 study performed at Bastyr University clearly showed the differences in therapeutic potential between extracted and non-extracted mushroom products. See the picture.
Specific immune-related effects of 39 mushroom products compared. The black bars show the effects of the extracted and the white bars the effects of the non-extracted products. The differences are striking.


Many people think that herbs and mushrooms are similar, structure-wise, but they are wrong. Herbs are plants and mushrooms are not. Herbs are made of cellulose, structurally speaking. Cellulose degrades in alcohol (which is the reason why herbal tinctures are successful).

Mushrooms, however, are chitin based. Chitin is probably the hardest natural material found on earth - it is also the main building block of e.g. lobsters’ claws and insect's exo-skeleton. Chitin does not degrade in alcohol or water. (Which is the reason why mushroom tinctures are mostly useless, therapeutically speaking - also see below). Most people cannot digest unprocessed mushrooms or mushroom products - they lack the enzyme chitinase in their stomach, needed to break down chitin. The bioactive ingredients are embedded in the chitin, like LEGO bricks in a LEGO wall, and in order to benefit from them the chitin should be removed. Heat is very effective to ‘melt’ the chitin and set the embedded bioactives free, thus making them bioavailable.
Cultivated Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies as an ingredient in Chinese duck soup.
A hot water extraction is probably the most common and cheapest process to create a therapeutically useful mushroom product. Mushroom teas or mushroom soups are in the core crude hot water extracts.

Still, extraction costs money, so many supplement producers skip this step, knowing that 99% of their potential customers will be unaware of the limited bioavailability of their products. It seems like a harsh thing to say, but it is a verifiable fact that most supplement sellers don’t really care about helping people. They are running a business, and their main focus is trying to make money. Cutting costs is a good way to improve the profit margin.

After reading this it will be obvious that if you want a maximal therapeutic effect and you want your money’s worth a well-prepared extract is the only option. Making your own tea or DIY home extraction is unfortunately not very effective and relatively expensive (the yield of bioactives is at least 10 times lower when compared to a multistep dual extract prepared in a dedicated factory). Biomass products, tinctures and mushroom powders are in comparison a waste of money, unless your main objective is to stimulate your bowel movements (chitin is a dietary fiber). Cultivated red Reishi, sitting on top of its mycelium + saw dust substrate. This dried brick is harder then concrete - see this link.

Ground into a fine powder, this is basically what you'll consume if you choose a non-extracted 'full-spectrum' Reishi extract. Sounds good ?

Summarizing: A mushroom supplement should be extracted, because only extracts can deliver therapeutic effects. Scientific research and traditional use is always using extraction (hot water, hot alcohol (=ethanol) and other types of solvent extraction) when researching mushrooms, to overcome the problem of the poor bioavailability of raw/dried mushrooms.

Liquid extracts and tinctures

In a liquid extract or tincture the main ingredient is always the liquid. This can be water, alcohol or something else, but it is a liquid that has no therapeutic potency in itself. It is only a carrier for the actual active ingredients, and contrary to popular belief liquid extracts do not have better bioavailability, although they might be digested faster (but this has nothing to do with bioavailability). tincturebottles To jump straight to the conclusion, all liquid extracts and tinctures are offering a ridiculously low value for money. Even without knowing how much bioactives are actually present in the product (we're not aware of any liquid mushroom product that specifies any bioactives, not even polysaccharides) this is very obvious.

First, take into account that all powdered extracts exist in a liquid phase before they are dried, because the extraction method used is almost always -liquid- solvent extraction (water and/or alcohol). An dried extract in powder form contains max. ± 4 - 9% of moisture, whereas a liquid product usually contains at least 85% of moisture (= liquid).

Second, a basic calculation: a 50 ml bottle completely filled with dry powdered extract can contain about 19 grams of extract powder (easy to verify - fill a 50 ml measuring cup with extract powder and weigh it before and after filling it). This equals around 63 capsules @ 300 mg. If you calculate the price per capsule of a specific product you can already do the math.

But, don't forget that in this example we actually left out the liquid - we're just comparing a 50 ml bottle filled 100% with powdered extract against powdered extracts in capsules. If you introduce the liquid (85-95% of the contents, usually) the value for money gets truly bad.

If 15% of the bottle contents is actual extract that means a 50ml bottle will contain ± 2.85 grams of extract (15% of 19 grams). Taking the Oriveda Chaga extract powder as an example, 2.85 grams will cost ± $ 2.84 ($ 99.95 p/100 grams, incl. shipping). A 50 ml bottle of liquid Chaga extract might cost as much as $ 60 - $ 90.
Summarizing: A liquid extract/tincture will be at least 21 to 31 times more expensive than a good quality powdered extract. Apart from that, there are no liquid extracts/tinctures that specify any bioactive ingredients, such as beta-glucan or triterpenes. The therapeutic potential is minimal at best.
(Thank you Duncan Moss, for asking the question -see below- that led to us adding this final paragraph !!)

Product reviews and testimonials

The majority of people do not share their reasons for buying a particular product with the seller and most don’t bother to share the results, even when they are good. The normal review rate was found to be ± 2% of all sales. In order to get testimonials and reviews on their website, the seller has to offer an additional trigger, such as a discount or a chance to win something worthwhile. This automatically corrupts the testimonial system.

People tend to write overly positive reviews, to increase their chances of winning the potential price or to get more discounts. testimonialsA Apart from that, testimonials are impossible to verify - the reason why it’s easy and tempting to write your own testimonials as a company. This is done a lot. And negative testimonials are usually non-existent.

Another point is that testimonials can be abused to make indirect health claims for products, which is illegal.

For all these reasons the use of testimonials in marketing is prohibited in the EU, which seems like a good thing.

That aside, it is easy to see after analyzing websites with a lot of testimonials on them (100s to 1000s) that almost without exception these websites are using testimonials to mask the fact that they actually have no verifiable quality claims about their products to share (the key word here is ‘verifiable’, of course).

Their supplement facts labels do not guarantee bioactives or are missing altogether. Many of these websites are MLM-companies, which are solely relying on testimonials, because the main focus for everybody involved in an MLM-setup is making money, not offering high quality products.

Many people go to Amazon.com to purchase supplements. On Amazon third party sellers are allowed to offer customers discounts in return for product reviews. The initial goal was to offer potential customers more information and background. But instead this led to the development of 'professional reviewers'.

The whole concept is now completely corrupted and became unreliable. In particular because Amazon is using these 4- and 5-star reviews as a guideline for their 'Best Sellers' lists. If a seller has a lot of positive reviews their products will show up on the first page in search results, which is the best thing that can happen to you on Amazon. More sales, more money !

If you plan a purchase on Amazon and the seller has 100s of reviews, it is advisable to check the reliability of the seller and these reviews on this website.

logo-blue2-6f9123d565f6012dd43a9e46e9683d5b This link shows the quality of Oriveda Chaga reviews, as sold on Amazon, and, just to compare, here is a product that is clearly abusing the system to manipulate search results and ranking.
Summarizing: Testimonials and reviews as found on websites in general cannot be trusted and are not a reliable way to value a product.. On Amazon the reviews can at least be tested for their reliability, which is good. Also see this link for an extensive test; the test team from Lab Door have been comparing objective lab data against subjective consumer reviews for the same products. An interesting read !

Beta-glucan : Yeast or Mushroom ?

One of the most important bioactive compounds in medicinal mushrooms are (1>3)(1>6)Beta-D-glucans, which are bioactive carbohydrates (a type of polysaccharides). Beta-glucans are considered important because they can trigger certain receptors in the immune system without any side-effects popping up. They have the ability to modulate our immune function; to boost it when it’s low and get it back in line when it’s over-reacting (e.g in case of allergies and many auto-immune problems).

Considered a true natural BRM (Biological Response Modifier) beta-glucans are an exceptional powerful tool to gain and maintain good health and quality of life.


Medicinal mushroom extracts are not the only suppliers of beta-glucans, though. Beta-glucans are also found in e.g. oats, barley and yeast. In 1997, the FDA even approved of a claim that a daily intake of at least 3 g of beta-glucan from oats decreased saturated fats and reduced the risk of heart disease. Yeast-derived beta-glucan is popular in particular because it is relatively cheap. One of the most common sources of beta-glucan for dietary supplements is baker’s / brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). This particular yeast is available in huge quantities, almost for free, because it is an industrial waste product. Most of it is usually sold as a cheap animal feed supplement. The majority of beta-glucan supplements are based on this yeast-derived beta-glucan. Sometimes the question comes up what is ‘better’ : the yeast-based beta-glucan supplements or the mushroom extracts where beta-glucan is the main bioactive ingredient. The answer can be found in research, if you know where to look for it. After reviewing the available research our conclusion was that mushroom beta-glucan has significantly more therapeutic potential and yields much better results. Although the exact mechanism is still a subject of discussion, the reason is most likely that mushroom-based beta-glucan molecules have a more complex structure, have a much higher molecular weight and part of mushroom beta-glucan is linked to proteins/peptides. A combination which has also shown promising immunological effects (such as in Coriolus PSP -Turkey Tail- and Reishi).
One of the main researchers investigating beta-glucans and their therapeutic potential is Vaclav Vetvicka Ph.D. (University of Louisville, USA). He published many papers on the subject.
In recent years Vetvicka got commercially involved with a leading manufacturer of yeast beta-glucan, leading to an impossible to miss bias in his test results, unfortunately. In his most recent papers when comparing supplements against each other the mushroom products are either non-extracted (such as Host Defense) or low potency, impure products from countries such as Korea or Hungary. No wonder his preferred product always 'wins'. That being said, in his older publications he is comparing well-known good quality products against each other. Although in our opinion these papers are flawed in several ways (like: samples were not tested for actual beta-glucan content ? other immune-modulating compounds present were not taken into account ?) there are interesting results. Beta-glucan: Silver-bullet-or-hot-air (2010) is a research paper where 16 commercially available beta-glucan-containing supplements were tested for efficacy. Two of these were mushroom-only (PSK and Maitake Gold), one was a barley-based product, one was a mix of mushroom- and yeast-derived beta-glucan. The remaining 12 were all yeast-based. The product that had the best score overall was the yeast-based Glucan #300 (Transfer Point), followed very closely by the Maitake extract. However, what was left out in the conclusion is that the Maitake extract (Maitake Gold) contains only ≥ 20 % purified beta-glucans (revealed in B2B communication), whereas Glucan #300 guarantees ≥ 83 - 86% of beta-glucans. In other words, the Maitake product only had 1/4 of the beta-glucans found in the yeast-based product. This was not taken into account during testing. Taking this into account and looking at the test results again it is obvious that both the Maitake product and the PSK product (≥ 15 % beta-glucan) will outclass all others easily. Compared against the number one of the list the difference in therapeutic potential is minimal even though the beta-glucan content is only 1/4 of that number one, Transfer Point’s Glucan #300. Another research paper is An Evaluation of the Immunological Activities of Commercially Available β1,3-Glucans (2007) which shows a similar outcome. Summarizing:
    • the existing research shows mushroom extracts containing ≥ 20% beta-glucan to be almost as active as yeast-derived beta-glucan supplements with a purity of ≥ 83 - 86 %. In other words, to achieve a similar effect on the immune system you get from taking a high-quality mushroom extract you’ll have to take ± 4 x the amount of yeast beta-glucans.
 
    • Mushroom extracts contain much more bioactive ingredients than just (1>3)(1>6)beta-D-glucans, including other types of bioactive beta-glucans, sterols, triterpenes and trace minerals. Glucans linked to peptides /proteins (proteo-glycans and polysaccharide-peptides) are also present. It is very likely there is a synergy between these bioactives, increasing the therapeutic potential.
 
  • Mushroom extracts contain mostly soluble beta-glucan, whereas yeast beta-glucan is mostly insoluble. Soluble polysaccharides (such as mushroom-beta-glucans) bind to bile acids in the small intestine, making them less likely to enter the body; this in turn lowers cholesterol levels in the blood. They also attenuate the absorption of sugar, reduce sugar response after eating, normalize blood lipid levels and, once fermented in the colon, these soluble glucans produce short-chain fatty acids as byproducts with wide-ranging physiological activities. Insoluble glucans such as found in yeast have a more limited therapeutic potential.

The conclusion therefore can only be that mushroom extracts are to be preferred over yeast-derived beta-glucan supplements. They achieve a similar immune-modulating effect at a significant lower dosage and on top of that have many other beneficial health effects not found in yeast beta-glucan products.
Last minute addition: one of our customers sent us the following statement. It is more proof of the baffling ignorance one can come across on the internet:
"[...] many advocates believe Beta glucan extracted from yeast is the most potent form you can get. The main difference appears to be that mushroom-based Beta glucan is absorbed in the stomach while yeast-based Beta glucan is absorbed through the intestines. [...]"
The statement was quoted from the cancerdefeated website. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the digestive system. NOTHING is absorbed in the stomach. The stomach works like a large blender. It only prepares food for further digestion/absorption and 'processing' in the intestines. See this link for a brief description of the digestive process. Statements such as these prove again how important it is to do your due diligence before spending your money. Marketeers will say anything to sell their product, and the internet is mostly unsupervised - as a customer you are unprotected.

The Immune System - The Foundation Of Our Health

If you've ever visited an anti-quackery website, you might have noticed that one of the standards they use to define a 'snake oil' product is that it claims to help for a lot, if not all health problems. Our immune system, if we could bottle and sell it, would definitely be classified as 'quackery' using that standard, and it would probably never receive a FDA stamp of approval.

It lacks a so-called 'single identifiable active ingredient' which can define the 'mechanism of action‘. Since the main action of e.g. medicinal mushrooms is balancing the immune function and, by doing so, restoring health and quality of life, they are very suspect in the eyes of the anti-quacks. Too good to be true = snake oil = quackery. Although these anti-quacks are often right, they are wrong this time.
Let's see how the immune system operates.



The Anatomy of the Immune System


A simplified overview of the immune system


We share the planet with countless pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. The immune system is the human body’s defence against these 'foreign invaders'. Consisting of a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs, the immune system involves a sensitive process of checks and balances within the body that produce an immune response that is prompt, accurate, effective and self-limiting. As a result, scientists believe that a healthy immune system can be compared both in scope and complexity to the workings of our brain and nervous system - and it is every bit as important for survival.
How does the body’s immune system function? What are the main factors that influence its ability to fight infection and disease? Here's a layman’s explanation.

The ability of the immune system to protect the body is based on an incredibly elaborate and dynamic regulatory-communications network. A complex network of cells, tissues and organs stationed throughout the body passes information back and forth, like clouds of bees swarming around a hive. This includes the lymphoid organs because they are concerned with the growth, development, and deployment of lymphocytes - the white cells in the blood that are the key operatives of the immune system. Lymphocytes come in several varieties -- we'll explain those below.


Lympocytes (orange) attacking cancer cells

Scanning Electron Microscopic image.


Apart from the blood and the lymphatic vessels that carry lymphocytes to and from the other structures in the body, lymphoid organs include the bone marrow, thalamus, lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, adenoids and the appendix. There are about 600 lymph nodes (or glands) most of them clustered around the neck, groin, and armpits. As lymph flows through the body, it filters the body of disease. During an examination, doctors often feel the lymph nodes in the neck to see if they are swollen. Swollen lymph nodes mean that the nodes are producing additional white blood cells because the body is fighting an infection.

Cells destined to become immune cells are, like all other blood cells, produced in the bone marrow, the soft tissue in the hollow shafts of long bones. Here, they develop into two major types of lymphocytes called B cells and T cells. While B cells complete their maturation in the bone marrow, T cells migrate to the thymus, an organ that lies high behind the breastbone, where they multiply and mature into cells capable of producing an immune response. Once they have matured, some lymphocytes congregate in immune organs or lymph nodes while others use the blood circulation as well as a body-wide network of lymphatic vessels to travel widely and continuously throughout the body.


Macrophage (orange) attacking E-Coli bacteria (green)

Scanning Electron Microscopic image.


Another type of white blood cells called macrophages (which can be translated as 'big eaters') reinforces the work of the lymphocytes because they engulf and digest micro-organisms and antigens.

Along with white blood cells, the immune system employs a complex system of small, bean-shaped lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, abdomen, and groin to create lymphatic routes for the body. Each lymph node contains specialised compartments that house platoons of B cells, T cells, and other cells capable of sparking an immune response. Clusters of lymphoid tissue can be found in many parts of the body, such as around the mucous membranes lining the respiratory and digestive tracts that serve as gateways into the body. They include the tonsils and adenoids and the appendix. Further, the immune system deploys the spleen, a fist-sized organ at the upper left of the abdomen, as a filter for the blood. In the spleen, B cells become activated and produce large amounts of antibodies. Also, old red blood cells are destroyed in the spleen.


Activating the Immune System


The immune system has many different types of cells acting together to take care of unwanted infections and altered cells. Cytokines are the chemicals produced by these cells in order to communicate and orchestrate the attack. Binding to specific receptors on target cells, cytokines recruit many other cells and substances to the field of action. Cytokines also encourage cell growth, promote cell activation, direct cellular traffic, and destroy target cells.

Cytokines include interleukins and growth factors, but another cytokine - interferon - is considered especially important because it can boost the immune system’s ability to recognise foreign invaders.

In humans, there are three major classes of interferon: alpha, beta and gamma. Because interferon is considered an effective anti-viral agent, and is important both for orchestrating and stimulating the immune system response, it is used to treat Hepatitis C and other diseases. Moreover, researchers have shown that pharmaceutical interferon, given in daily doses, can prevent infection and illness.


Vials of Interferon.


However, pharmaceutical forms of interferon can cause side effects such as nosebleeds and are not considered useful in treating established colds.

While researching medicinal mushrooms, it became evident that some of them are immune-regulators, substances that can quiet or activate the immune system, depending on the particular circumstances. An immune-regulator quiets an overactive immune system, and it increases activity when the immune system is sluggish. Basically, an immune-regulator triggers the production of white blood cells when the system is under-active, and it lowers their number when the system is overactive (allergies, various auto-immune diseases, etc.).

Cordyceps sinensis e.g. was found to stimulate the production of interferon. More about the specific effects of medicinal mushrooms in a later article..


How the Body Mounts an Immune Response


The immune system is considered one of the most sophisticated systems in the human body because it displays several remarkable characteristics. The central duty of the immune system is to distinguish between what belongs to the body - 'self' - and what doesn’t belong to the body - 'non-self'- .

For this reason, every cell that originates in the body has distinctive molecules - identification papers, so to speak - that mark it as 'self'. But when the immune system encounters an antigen - the substance that announces the cell or organism is 'non-self' - the immune troops move quickly to eliminate the intruders.

What happens is that the presence of the antigen signals interferon or another cytokine to trigger an immune response by either the B or T cells. When the foreign microbe presents an antigen on the surface of one of these cells, the B or T cells multiply and produce antibodies that specifically bind to that antigen.


Patient with psoriasis.
Psoriasis is an auto-immune disease.


This trigger response then leads to other parts of the immune system engulfing and killing the invading cells or to what is known as the 'complement destruction cascade', where serum proteins called 'complement' bind to the immobilised antibodies and destroy the bacteria by creating holes in them.

Whenever T cells and B cells are activated, some turn into 'memory-cells' that enable the immune system to remember previous experiences and react accordingly. Thus, if a person were to contract chicken pox, the immune system would produce memory cells for this disease, resulting in future immunity. Long-term or 'specific' immunity can be naturally acquired by previous infection or artificially acquired by vaccines made from infectious agents.

Problems in the immune system come in two varieties. When the immune system is under-active, it makes you susceptible to infections, cancer, and other illnesses. When it is overactive, it may create allergies and autoimmune reactions.

Auto-immune means the immune system is overstimulated and mistakenly attacks the body. Diseases such as diabetes, lupus, psoriasis and lymphoma are autoimmune diseases. AIDS, hepatitis, the flu, and colds, on the other hand, are associated with a weakened, under-active immune system.


Factors that affect the Immune System


A foetus already has an immune response and once born, he or she has a fully intact natural immune response. That system is stimulated after birth (more 'acquired' immunity) and reaches its peak at the onset of puberty, between ages 11 and 15 (sometimes later, if a child lives in a hygienic environment).


When we age our immune function starts to decline.
Many old age related diseases are related to this.
A well-functioning immune system is essential for a good quality of life.


Then, starting at age 35 or so, the immune system starts making mistakes. Some parts are active while others are lazy, and some parts may overdo it and perhaps cause autoimmune disorders.

After age 50 a steady decline sets in, leading to all kinds of old-age diseases.

While the elderly produce the same number of lymphocytes as their younger counterparts, their configuration is different leading to less vigorous and less effective infection-fighting cells.

To be blunt, the human body is not supposed to live long past that age. Nature wants you to make room for subsequent generations after your fiftieth birthday.

At the same time, research points to psychological stress, lack of adequate sleep, poor diet and lack of exercise as factors that affect the immune system.

Because stress produces many different effects on the endocrine systems, including the well-known fight or flight response, scientists hypothesise that the abilities of the immune system are diminished after frequent activation of the autonomic nervous system in the case of chronic stresses.

For example, a large study comparing the parents of children with cancer with parents whose children were relatively healthy showed that chronic psychological stress might reduce the immune system's reactions to hormonal secretions that were normally used to fight the inflammatory response.
Regarding the link between sleep and the immune system, research summarised by the National Sleep Foundation finds that sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and the flu (both caused by a virus). It is also not uncommon for people who suffer from sleep deprivation to suffer from other problems including diabetes, asthma or a second sleep disorder. Another example is the ulcer.


Helicobacter pylori bacteria on the surface of the human intestine
Scanning Electron Microscopic image



Many people believe ulcers are directly caused by stress. This is not true; ulcers are caused by the Heliobacter Pylori, a nasty bacteria (identified for the first time in 1982) that lives in our stomach, but is not causing problems in 80% of those infected with it. But if we are under stress of whatever nature, this stress might affect our immune system. Which can make a 'harmless' bacteria turn into a potentially life-threatening one (stomach cancer might also be caused by the Heliobacter Pylori). Another example of the importance of a well-functioning immune system.

The role of nutrition in determining the strength of the immune system has also been widely studied. According to a number of studies, both undernourished people and those who are overweight or obese are at greater risk from infections. At the same time, research suggests that reducing the amount of fat in the diet may increase immune activity. For these reasons, nutritionists recommend a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. In one placebo-controlled study of healthy elderly adults, daily consumption of a multivitamin- multi-mineral supplement already resulted in fewer days of infection-related illnesses.

Dosing Medicinal Mushrooms


Most people automatically assume that the daily dose as recommended by the supplier on the product label makes sense and is rooted in research.
During our investigation of the available scientific research we found that this assumption is in general not justified. The majority of dose recommendations appears to be arbitrary.




The therapeutic potential of a mushroom product is based on the amount of beta-glucans, triterpenes, etc. that are present. These are known as "bioactive ingredients". Only high-quality extracts do list guaranteed levels/percentages of those bioactive ingredients. Apart from being informative this information is also an excellent valuation tool.

Non-extracted mushroom powders or tinctures are unfortunately indigestible for most people and therefore cannot guarantee therapeutic effects, nor can they guarantee bioactive ingredients because this is not possible in unprocessed non-standardized natural products.(1)

The dosage recommendation as given by the producer should ideally be based on the therapeutic potential of the product, just like with prescription drugs. After all, the main reason for a consumer to choose and to take a supplement is to achieve a certain therapeutic effect, and a therapeutic effect can only be achieved when the right amount (= correct dose) of bioactives is taken. Scientific research showed over and over again that the therapeutic effect of e.g. beta-glucans is dose-dependent, and the concentration of pure and bioavailable beta-glucan in a product and the dose show a strong relation to immunological effects.(2)


Example
In one case the optimal dose for many immunological parameters was found to be around 5 - 10 mg of beta-glucan/kg/day, with the highest dose causing reductions in some immunological reactions (2 : Deng.).
Using this guideline, an 80 kg person needs 400 - 800 mg of pure beta-glucan per day. The effective dose of beta-glucan within a mushroom product is determined by the quality of the source and the purity of the extract, which in turn is based on the extraction method that has been used.

(Note: this specific research tested a highly purified Maitake extract. Supplements don't have this level of purity, so a higher dose is needed. Also, Maitake beta-glucan is structurally different from other mushroom's, therefore this dosage-indication cannot be extrapolated just like that to other mushrooms).


Unlike the example mentioned above, the majority of scientific research unfortunately does not check the details of the product they are investigating. They usually describe how they extract the mushroom and how much is given to the subject (people, animals) but fail to map the active ingredients present in the extract they are investigating.

This is truly a missed opportunity, because with natural products such as mushrooms the potency can vary significantly depending on where they are found / have been cultivated and in what conditions they’ve been developing. Also, it is a missed opportunity to establish a link between the type and amount of specific bioactives and the accomplished therapeutic effect.

That makes often seen dosing recommendations such as “2 teaspoons daily” in fact meaningless, since you have no clue how much active ingredients are in those teaspoons.


Example
In an animal model using dogs with cancer: the dogs were given a purified Coriolus versicolor extract (similar to what we offer under the name PSP-50). The results clearly showed that the life expectancy increased with the dosage. The dosage used was 25, 50 or 100 mg/kg/day. The product-specs were 38 % polysaccharides (unknown percentage of beta-glucans).(4).


ORIVeDA mushroom supplements have a high purity and therefore a high therapeutic potential. Not much is needed for daily immune support.
Based on the existing scientific research and the level of purity of our products (all are fractionated) we recommend ± 1 gram mushroom extract daily (3 capsules @ 300 mg/350mg, or 2 capsules @ 500mg, with around 25 - 40 % beta-glucans) for standard immune support and when used as a prophylactic. Only our Reishi has a recommended dosage of 2 capsules @ 300mg daily, because of its unusual high purity.

For specific health conditions the dose should be significantly higher, up to 8 or even 12 grams daily. The instruction leaflets included with our products give more details about this. Some trial and error will always be involved, though; just like with prescription drugs.

Still, some people might need less and some might need more, depending on age, weight and their general health-condition. In general -healthy- people below the age of 35 need less (e.g. 2 capsules daily), while when you're over 50 more might be necessary for the desired effect (at least 2 grams daily). The reason behind this is that the immune function of humans is optimal before the age of 35, and declines significantly after 50, which can lead to all kinds of 'old-age related' ailments (5).


Low potency products


The most easy way to determine the daily dosage for the more common low potency extracts is to use ORIVeDA's products' potency as a benchmark. Why ? Well, all ORIVeDA products list a large spectrum of bioactive constituents, including beta-glucans, whereas other extracts in general only list polysaccharides, if anything at all. Although all beta-glucans are polysaccharides, not all polysaccharides are beta-glucans! Despite that, knowing the percentage of polysaccharides is still better than nothing.

(To keep it simple we are not taking into account other potency factors, such as dual extraction vs. hot water extraction only, or the level of purity).

As an example, the standard daily dose for a Chaga supplement with ≥ 15% polysaccharides should be ± 3.4 grams at least, to achieve similar therapeutic effects as the ORIVeDA Chaga extract ( ≥ 50% polysaccharides). 3.4 x 15 % = 51 %.

The producer of this specific product however recommends only 2 - 6 capsules (@ 400 mg) per day (0.8 - 2.4 grams), which will be too little for most people.

This does not even take into account that low potency products are per definition less pure. The percentage of polysaccharides that can be classified as beta-glucans will not be 25- 40 % (like in the ORIVeDA products); the crucial final step of fractionation (which makes the product more pure but also much more expensive) is not included in the extraction process of these crude extracts. If it was, the product would show a much higher percentage of polysaccharides as well.


Summarizing:

Most mushroom supplement sellers appear to be ignoring the scientific data or are unaware of them. As shown in the example, their recommended dosages are on average too low to achieve a significant therapeutic effect in most people. It will take more time and more capsules to get the same results you get with the ORIVeDA product. Or, there might be no effect at all, and you might mistake the placebo-effect that comes with all drugs and supplements for the desired effect.

In the end, it will just cost you significantly more money to get the desired results.


Why are most dosage recommendations so low ?


We are guessing here, but one reason might be marketing. Marketing means playing the customer's emotions. Oriveda is using science-based marketing (using hard verifiable facts only), but we are the only ones. Marketing aiming at basic sentiments and emotions is the standard. We still have to meet the first seller that is using the levels of active ingredients as a base for their dosage recommendations like we do in this article. Not surprising, considering the majority does not list or does not know the levels of active ingredients to start with.

"American made!" "In historic times reserved for the elite only...." "4600 years ago already highly valued..." "215 phytonutrients..." "supreme quality.." - these are all examples of "emotion-targeted" marketing. A person in a white coat or a celebrity might be recommending the product, most of the time automatically associated with "trust-worthy". "Patented" or "patent-pending" is another popular one - but most people are not aware of the fact that "patented" is never equal to "scientifically validated" - it is only indicating a unique way to do something.

It tells you nothing about the actual quality of the product, its intention is only to trigger positive associations in the potential customer that will make him/her decide to buy the product.

Having to choose between a $ 50 bottle with 60 daily servings of 1 capsule or one with 30 daily servings of 2 capsules and no further information to consider most people will go for the first one, because it appears to be a better value for money. Unfortunately, it's not that simple, as will be clear by now.


As an example, we came across an European producer that was marketing its 'XXXX' beta-glucan products as follows:

Despite their suggestion, there is no explanation why their products should be 100 - 1000 times better - it is just mushroom beta-glucan, extracted using generic methods (according to their own documentation).

In fact, in this particular case the EFSA (European version of the FDA) decided that this product could be considered completely safe (and was allowed to be sold without restrictions in the EU market as a food additive) 'because the potency was so low that it was likely more useful to just consume the mushroom itself'.

The daily dose as recommended by the producer was 0.0417 mg/kg/day. Compare that to the outcome of the scientific research mentioned before (5 - 7 mg/kg/day) - that is 144 times higher!!

A fine example of an arbitrary dose recommendation for a low potency product, marketed as being 'better' (and suggesting better value for money) but without any backup of why it is supposed to be better.


Conclusion:

The dosage recommendations for mushroom products in general appear to be arbitrary and not rooted in scientific research. For the producers the deciding factor appears to be to give the customer the idea he's getting excellent value for money (so it will make him buy the product), not to help him normalize his health by providing him with good advice and good quality.


References


(1)
Bioavailability of Medicinal Mushroom Supplements
(2)
• Harada T, Miura N, Adachi Y, Nakajima M, Yadomae T, Ohno N. Effect of SCG, 1,3-b-D-Glucan from Sparassis Crispa on the Hematopoietic response in Cyclophosphamide Induced Leukopenic mice. Biol Pharm Bul 2002;25: 931-9
• Carolyn J. Torkelson et. al. - Phase 1 Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor (= Coriolus versicolor) in Women with Breast Cancer. ISRN Oncology, Volume 2012, Article ID 251632
• Babineau TJ, Hackford A, Kenler A, Bistrian B, Forse RA, Fairchild PG, et al. A phase II multicenter double-blind ran- domized placebo-controlled study of three dosage of an immunomodulator (PGG-glucan) in high-risk surgical patients. Arch Surg 1994;129:1204-10.
• Dalia Akramienė et. al. - Effects of b-glucans on the immune system. Medicina (Kaunas) 2007; 43(8)
• Deng, G., et al. - A phase I/II trial of a polysaccharide extract from Grifola frondosa (Maitake mushroom) in breast cancer patients: Immunological effects. J. Canc. Res. Clin. Oncol., 135: 1215-1221
(3)
• Carolyn J. Torkelson et. al. - Phase 1 Clinical Trial of Trametes versicolor (= Coriolus versicolor) in Women with Breast Cancer. ISRN Oncology, Volume 2012, Article ID 251632
(4)
Dorothy Cimino Brown and Jennifer Reetz - Single Agent Polysaccharopeptide Delays Metastases and Improves Survival in Naturally Occurring Hemangiosarcoma. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2012, Article ID 384301
(5)
• Burns, E.A. - Effects of aging on immune function. J Nutr Health Aging. 2004;8(1):9-18
Aging changes in immunity
The Immune System in the Elderly: A Fair Fight Against Diseases? • Suzanne C. Segerstrom, et. al. - Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychol Bull. 2004 July ; 130(4): 601–630
• Ann O'Leary - Stress, Emotion and Human Immune Function. Psychol Bull. 1990 ; 108(3): 363-382
• Firdaus S. Dhabhar - Enhancing versus Suppressive Effects of Stress on Immune Function: Implications for Immunoprotection versus Immunopathology. Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology, Vol 4, No 1 (Spring), 2008: pp 2–11

How Chronic Stress Hurts Our Health

What is stress ?


Stress is mostly based on ’perception’ and therefore it is subjective. In other words, what is perceived as ‘stressful’ is what causes stress. Most people will associate stress mainly with being very busy and feeling pressured, which causes mental anxiety. They’re right, but there’s more to it.

Stress at its core is a defensive response to external factors. Physical, mental and environmental triggers all can and do cause stress or symptoms of stress. Stress is a constellation of events, consisting of a stimulus (the stressor) that causes a reaction in the brain (the perception of stress; anxiety) which in turn activates physiologic fight-or-flight systems in the body (the stress response).

Acute stress (defined as lasting minutes to maybe a few hours) can actually have beneficial effects on the immune system, but chronic stress (defined as lasting several hours daily for weeks, months or years, even) can create havoc in our body and mind. If the stress is chronic the stress response will get exhausted, and eventually will lead to unpredictable and unbalancing effects on our health and well-being. The physical side-effects of stress are mainly caused by chronic -mental- stress.

Physical stressors have been defined as external challenges to homeostasis (homeostasis is, simply put, the healthy balance between all bodily functions; this balance should be as constant as possible for optimal health and well-being) and mental stressors can be defined as ‘the anticipation, justified or not, that a challenge to homeostasis looms’. This ‘anticipation’ is what triggers several fight-or-flight systems in the body; this is what we call the ‘stress response’.


Chronic Stress


Chronic stress is everywhere. It has become a part of our life to such an extent that we no longer notice it as such. In general chronic stress was found to suppress and dysregulate natural and adaptive immune responses through a wide variety of mechanisms.
Science associates stress with increased arousal or anxiety, increased blood pressure, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and suppression of the immune response (also see the publications listed earlier in this newsletter). It has also been linked to seasonal and general depression, the postpartum period, chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia syndromes, allergies, ulcers and even cancer, to name just a few.

Some common examples of stress:

  • Hard and continued physical labor
  • Unusual and continued high levels of physical exercise (e.g. professional and semi-professional athletes are more likely to develop health problems because of that)
  • Unusual levels of mental pressure, including but not limited to being busy continuously, having to make decisions all the time, being forced to multitask, and experiencing never-ending triggers from external sources, such as living in an urban environment (noise, pollution, visual stimuli).
Since it is very difficult, not to say almost impossible for most people to evade or escape stress the key question is ‘How do we deal with it ?’

How can we adapt easily and without too much effort to the never-ending barrage of external stressors ?


Stress Management on the Mental Level


As mentioned earlier, stress is for a big part rooted in ’perception’; what is perceived as ‘stressful’ by one individual is perceived as ‘nothing special or everyday routine’ by another.

Wouldn’t it be great if this subjective experience could be controlled, preferably in a natural way ?

Meditation, T’ai Chi and yoga are examples of traditional do-it-yourself stress-control, but they take time. Paradoxically, that same feeling of stress and anxiety one is trying to reduce can be a barrier when trying to get in the mood for doing these exercises.


Yoga is a great way to release stress

Stress Management on the Physical Level


If stress is starting to affect your physical health, you are entering a potentially dangerous spiral. Probably the first people to look into the subject were the Soviets in the 1940s, although their goal was formulated somewhat differently. It started with Order No 4654-p of the People’s Commissars Council of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (March 4, 1943).

It concerned research work ‘with the purpose of finding […] tonic substances’ for both soldiers and persons working in the Russian defense industry during the Second World War.
Tonic substances that would increase ‘the state of non-specific resistance’ under conditions of stress. They wanted to improve the ability of people to adapt quickly and easily to external triggers of whatever nature, turning them into super-soldiers.

That’s when the term ‘adaptogens’ was coined.


Stalin himself ordered the research that would lead to the discovery of adaptogens

Adaptogens

As originally defined, an adaptogen was a substance that had to:

  • show some non-specific effect, such as increasing bodily resistance to physically, chemically, or biologically harmful agents or factors;
  • have a normalising influence on a ‘disturbed / diseased’ (pathological) state, independent of the nature of that state; and
  • be harmless in itself and does not disturb the body function at a normal level.

Adaptogens are part of a new class of metabolic regulators that increase the ability to adapt to and avoid damage by external/environmental -stress- factors. Since 1997, the term ‘adaptogen’ has been used as a functional term by Russian health-regulatory authorities, and in 1998 this term was allowed as a functional claim for certain products by the United States’s FDA. The primary site of action of adaptogens appears to be the HPA (the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) which is responsible for the release of cortisol as a reaction to stress; and their secondary sites of action are the liver and specific components of the immune and cardiovascular systems.

Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms as a class are without exception adaptogens. They meet in general all requirements; they are all:

  • non-toxic and non-habit forming;
  • aiding in normalisation of your body chemistries
  • increasing your body's ability to cope with physical stress, emotional stress, stress-related imbalance and environmental stressors and their sustained after-effects
  • working in a synergistic manner; they are increasing your body's ability to fight off illness before it sets in
The unbalancing effects of stress on the physical body can be minimised and compensated by using a premium mushroom extract or a functional blend of several of such extracts.

The main goal is here to normalise/rebalance the immune-function as it is easily unbalanced/suppressed by chronic stress of whatever nature. And since the immune function is the core of our health and well-being, this is no doubt the most important target on the physical level of stress-management.

In all medicinal mushrooms, the main immune-modulating compounds are a specific group of bioactive polysaccharides known as beta-glucans. Research has shown repeatedly that these beta-glucans can bind to specific receptors of our immune system and by doing that they evoke important immunological effects. These effects include both boosting (in case of underperformance) and reducing (in case of over-performance - think allergies, and many auto-immune diseases) effects. Which is why beta-glucans are also called natural Biological Response Modifiers (BRM’s).

Research proved that mushroom beta-glucans are the most powerful type of beta-glucan from a therapeutic point-of-view. This is most likely due to the much more complex structure and the higher molecular weight of these glucans as compared against beta-glucans from oats, barley and yeast. The general bioavailability is also significantly better, because a higher percentage is water-soluble. (Also see our dedicated article on this page about beta-glucans from different sources, complete with all the science).

We have designed our CCCE® beta-glucan formula based on these facts. All three types of beta-glucan are present in their most pure form, and have been combined with a Cordyceps militaris extract optimised for cordycepin, to improve vitality and liver- and kidney-protection. See the dedicated page for more background.

Ashwaganda

Withania somnifera - also known as Ashwagandha , ‘Indian Ginseng’ and ‘King of Ayurveda’ – has been used in India since 6000 BC as a general health tonic and for treating a variety of health issues ranging from anti-stress to increasing memory.

Modern day researchers have been validating the reported benefits of Ashwagandha by running human trial studies that meet the most stringent rules of experimental testing – e.g. randomized double blind placebo controlled (RDBPC) trials – to investigate and validate the ancient claims and benefits of using Ashwagandha.

The Multiple Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been clinically documented to have the following benefits:
  • Reduces experiential and biochemical indicators of stress
  • Anti-anxiety herb (Anxiolytic)
  • Therapeutically effective as an adaptogen in treating nervous exhaustion
  • Improves self-assessed quality of life
  • Protects cardiovascular system
  • Memory enhancer
  • Immunomodulator – helps to normalize the immune system
Researchers in a randomized double-blind placebo controlled experiment investigated the effects of Ashwagandha in reducing stress and anxiety and in increasing the general levels of well-being in stressed-out adults.

A total of 64 participants suffering from chronic stress were selected for this research and randomly divided into 2 groups of 32 each: the treatment group received Ashwangandha and the placebo group were given capsules that contained a neutral substance. After 60 days of treatment the Ashwagandha group showed a reduction of 27.9% of serum cortisol (a biological marker of stress) compared to 7.9% in the placebo group. This study also measured ‘Social Dysfunction’ and ‘Depression’ – the Ashwagandha group had reductions of 68.1% and 77.0% compared to the placebo group’s -3.7% and -5.2% (the minus sign indicates that the symptoms actually got worse for the placebo group from the baseline that they started with).

Ashwagandha’s efficacy in reducing serum cortisol levels helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety – these reductions then improve the general well-being of the individual.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea, also known as golden root, rose-root, and artic root has been used for centuries by ancient civilisations, starting with the Greeks and Vikings for treating fatigue and increasing physical and mental strength. Tibetan and Chinese medicine have been using Rhodiola since 300 AD to detoxify and increase blood circulation. Since 1748 several European countries (Iceland, Greece, France, Sweden, Germany, Norway, and Russia) started documenting using Rhodiola for enhancing fertility, alertness, mood, and longetivity.

Rhodiola was one of the first herbs classified as an adaptogen by the Soviets in the 1940’s. See this extensive monograph for in-depth information.

Scientific Evidence of Using Rhodiola

During the past 20 years many clinical studies (testing humans taking Rhodiola) have confirmed many of the ancient claimed benefits of using Rhodiola and have also discovered additional applications for promoting physical and cognitive vitality.

Clinical research has suggested the use of Rhodiola for:
  • Improving symptoms due to Stress
  • Enhancing Physical endurance
  • Reducing Depression and Anxiety
  • Ability to Concentrate and increase Attention during burnout and stress-related fatigue
  • Treating Mood disorders
  • Improving the efficiency of Short-term Memory (temporary memory/working memory)
  • Reducing Mental Fatigue

Stress Protection and Reducing Fatigue

Rodiola rosea is a true adaptogen and is used to enhance mental and physical performance – especially reducing mental fatigue and stress related to the challenges of daily life and dealing with 'fight-or-flight' responses.

Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi) has been traditionally used for many centuries in India for enhancing poor memory, treating a variety of cognitive functions, and for increasing longevity. The Caraka Samhita, a 6th century Ayurvedic text describes in detail the applications of Bacopa for treating various mental ailments, especially those related to focusing, concentration, and memory.

During the past couple of decades this herb has drawn the attention of many researchers, eager to test these ancient claims.

There is a world-wide trend showing longer life-spans in general, but this has also increased the prevalence of age-related dementia and other cognitive impairments (speed of processing information, short-term and working memory, ability to focus and concentrate, and rational reasoning). This makes this herb and its active compounds all the more interesting from a scientific point of view.

Scientific Evidence of Using Bacopa

Many animal studies showed that using Bacopa improves memory and learning new information, so it is not surprising that controlled (random, double-blind, and placebo participants) human clinical trials validated these outcomes and much more.

There is scientific evidence to suggest that taking Bacopa may have the following cognitive benefits:
  • Improves memory
  • Decreases the rate of forgetting newly acquired information
  • Reduces distractibility
  • Increases attention
  • Improves mental control and logical memory
  • Decreases symptoms of anxiety and stress
  • Greater retention of visual information and memory
  • Lowers depression

Focused Attention and Retention of New Information

Global information overload is challenging our cognitive functions and stressing our brains to retain new information. Taking Bacopa on a regular basis, as the clinical trials suggest, will help reduce cognitive stress and anxiety caused by the overwhelming demands on our memory in daily life. Bacopa may also facilitate the processing of new information by improving the functionality of memory and a more focused attention.

L-Theanine

Tea, second to water, is the most consumed beverage since its discovery in China 5000 years ago. Tea has been used by ancient oriental cultures for medicinal purposes and as a general health tonic – especially for its calming and relaxing effects.

Tea leaves contain a unique, naturally occurring amino acid called L-Theanine. Research has shown it may be responsible for the ’relaxation’ effects and for reducing stress.

The latest research on L-Theanine suggests that due to its unique chemical structure it acts as a ‘gatekeeper’ in the brain by screening irrelevant stimuli from awareness – this blocking of unnecessary stimuli may be responsible for increasing mental alertness and selective attention. Several studies have revealed that L-Theanine increases the activity of alpha brain waves – these waves are known for arousing the general state of mental alertness with calmness. This suggests that L-Theanine enhances ‘Relaxed-Alertness’: making it easier to focus on immediate tasks that require concentration and attention.

Scientific Evidence of Using L-Theanine

During the past decade the cognitive benefits of L-Theanine have been well researched in order to determine the validity of the existing claims and investigate the various unique neuro-protective properties responsible for cognition, mood, attention and stress.

Numerous scientific studies have suggested using L-Theanine for promoting the following benefits:
  • Reducing Stress (anti-stress levels)
  • Mood-enhancing – feeling less anxious and stressed
  • Feeling more calm and contentedness
  • Improving attention (focused awareness) and concentration – mental alertness
  • Increasing relaxed states during mental activities of focusing attention
  • Improving sleep quality in individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Calm-Awareness

L-Theanine induces alpha brain waves which help by increasing mental focus during challenging tasks and activities that require greater concentration and attention – and most importantly accomplishing this goal without paying the price of becoming edgy, hyper or tense.



Conclusion


The combination of ORIVeDA CCCE® with ORIVeDA CONSCIO® is no doubt the best toolset currently on the market to manage chronic stress and the destructive and unbalancing effects this chronic stress has on our general health and our quality of life.

It is recommended in particular for those people that experience chronic stress and have no easy or functional way to escape it.

It is also recommended for those that want to age gracefully, taking into account that after the age of 50 the immune function and our cognitive functions start declining quite quickly, which can have an enormous impact on the quality of life.

These supplements are part of a new class of premium dietary tools. They are true natural biological response modifiers, designed using science but rooted in tradition.

Reishi - The Quest For Quality

Introduction


When we decided to add Reishi to our product line, we asked ourselves the following questions:

  • Why should one choose a Reishi extract instead of, for example, a Chaga extract ?
  • After we know the answer to that, what properties should the best Reishi product possible have ? (because that is what we were after)
  • What other Reishi products are currently available and how good are they ?

The first two questions could be answered quickly.
We discovered that what makes Reishi stand out from other medicinal mushrooms is the combination of bioactives; polysaccharides (both ((1>3)(1>6) beta-d-glucans and protein- and peptide-linked polysaccharides) and triterpenes, many of which are unique for Reishi. (see our Reishi monograph for all details - here)

These ingredients appear to have a powerful synergistic effect when combined, so it was obvious our product should be a full-spectrum dual extract with optimal percentages of these bioactives in a bioavailable form.

In order to achieve that, the source material should be red Reishi fruiting bodies, cultivated on wood logs (also known as 'duanwood': meaning 'original wood', the same wood Reishi grows on in nature). Research showed that this combi produces the highest level of bioactives.

It was not easy to come up with a Reishi product that outclasses all others, because there are literally 100s of them, with prices ranging from a few to hundreds of dollars. Even more confusing: suppliers' prices for Reishi products with almost identical specifications could vary as much as 600% (!) from one supplier to the other. How was that possible ?

To get an answer to these questions and to ensure we would get the best and most pure product, in line with our other mushroom extracts, we had to do a lot of research. This took considerable time, but it was worth it - not only did we learn a lot but we can now supply our customers with the best Reishi product for a reasonable price.

Reishi being cultivated in bags with wood chips and sawdust. For superior Reishi cultivation on wood logs is the only option, though.


Mapping the competition


Non-extracted products


Example of a Reishi tincture supplement facts label. There is no indication of bioactive ingredients, so the consumer has no idea what he is buying.


Our first step while researching the competition was to separate the extracts from the non-extracted products and tinctures.

Non-extracted mushroom products are mostly indigestible for humans, so their therapeutic potential is minimal. (See this article for the details about this.)

Tinctures without a specification of bioactives on the supplement facts label can also be classified as having limited therapeutic potential - most, if not all of them are just non-extracted Reishi powder in alcohol and/or water with an unverifiable therapeutic potency.

Unverifiable, because the producer cannot and does not guarantee any bioactives. There is not a single Reishi tincture that has specifications of the bioactives on the supplement facts label. In terms of therapeutic potency tinctures are the worst, right after non-extracted products. A detailed explanation why mushroom tinctures are best avoided in general can be found here.

The main idea seems to be that extraction will happen in the bottle over time. This won't work well - see this link for an explanation and also see the description of extraction, elsewhere in this article.


Hot water extracts


In line with our other mushroom extracts, we wanted a full-spectrum Reishi product, in particular because, as said before, our research showed that what sets Reishi apart from other medicinal mushrooms is the combination of bioactive polysaccharides and triterpenes, several of which are only found in Reishi.

Triterpenes are non-water soluble, so all hot-water-only extracts could be discarded as well - hot water extracts do not contain the non-water solubles (triterpenes, sterols) in a bioavailable form.

Filtering these out took care of a lot of the remaining (mostly cheaper) extracts but, surprisingly, also included all Japanese Reishi products. Japanese Reishi products are without exception all very expensive but offer surprisingly little value for money (for more info about how to determine the value for money, go here).
For some reason the Japanese only use hot water extraction. On top of that many add additives and fillers - more about that later. Despite their reputation (the result of good marketing), Japanese Reishi products do not live up to the expectations.


Supplement containing hot water extracted Reishi - the Reishi fraction is standardised at 10% polysaccharides


None of these sellers pointed out the limitations of their hot water extract (no triterpenes). Many were actually emphasising the Reishi triterpenes on their websites as a reason to choose a Reishi product.

In fact, the sellers offering non-extracted or biomass products were doing exactly the same - more proof that reading the -governmentally supervised- supplement facts label is essential if you do not want to be fooled. Even better: ask for a Certificate of Analysis !


Dual -full-spectrum- extracts


With the non-extracted products and the hot-water-only extracts filtered out there were still quite a few Reishi extracts left in the competition.

One of the best competitors (probably the best - we were not able to find a more potent product) was a product called ReishiMax ($ 1.25 -1.48 per gelatin capsule). The specifications are 20:1 extract, with 13.5% polysaccharides and 6% triterpenes. (None of the competitors are specifying the beta-glucan fraction, like ORIVeDA does).

ORIVeDA's specifications (35:1 extract, over 25% beta-glucans and over 5 % triterpenes) are significantly better in comparison, and the value for money is just amazing: $0.63 per vegetarian capsule.

On top of that ORIVeDA's Reishi Primo is GMP and ISO certified and shipping is included in the price.

The HongKong Consumer Council compared 26 Reishi supplements several years ago (Choice magazine #286, August 15, 2000), to determine their value for money.


Choice magazine is the leading publication dedicated to consumers' interests in Hong Kong


The amount of polysaccharides (excluding starch and dietary fibers) was used as a basis. All products were tested in an independent laboratory, because only 4 out of 26 actually listed the percentage of polysaccharides on their label. None of the supplements mentioned triterpenes as their focus.

Two of these four contained only around 3/5 of the indicated amount. The supplements ranged in price from $2.84 to $89.

Using the determined percentage of polysaccharides as a guide, the price differences were just baffling; ranging from a modest $ 4.39 to a whopping $ 365.10 per gram polysaccharides, meaning a price difference of about 83 times!!

In case you are interested: you'll need ± 9-10 capsules of ORIVeDA's Reishi Primo to get 1 gram of polysaccharides. The cost per gram would be $ 6.32, and you can count on a good amount of triterpenes as well.

The majority of the remaining Reishi products (that might be dual extracted - this is not always clear) are not specifying bioactives on their supplement facts label, but are using statements like '15:1 extract' instead. This can be considered a potentially deceiving 'quality marker': it only indicates a reduction in mass or volume, nothing more.

There is also no way to verify a claim like this. Simply drying and powdering a mushroom can already achieve a 10:1 ratio, because the main component (up to 90%) of many mushrooms is water. Common sense tells us that unless it is backed up with further specifications this is no reliable indication of quality.

The reason why this 'ratio-indicator' is nevertheless used a lot soon became clear to us, though, when we were looking for a reliable supplier and investigated their extraction procedures - see below.


Example of a 'ratio' extract. If you read this label fully it also tells you (but does not guarantee you: the statement is not in the 'facts' box!) that it is a 10% polysaccharide extract.
It also -deceivingly- suggests the presence of other constituents like triterpenes, but these are not bioavailable because this is just a basic hot water extract.


Suppliers


Most suppliers do cut some corners while trying to find a balance between quality and price. Their main motivation is usually 'the cheaper the better', not the therapeutic quality of the product.

Instead of using Reishi fruiting bodies grown on wood logs (considered the best method) they use fruiting bodies grown on sawdust or bioreactor-grown mycelia (mycelia = the mushroom's 'roots'). Some actually do use the wood log method ('duanwood Reishi') but then use a flawed extraction method to cut costs (see the 'Extraction' paragraph; below).

The products resulting from these methods are at best a compromise both in terms of active ingredients and therapeutic potency. However, they are cheap, in particular the bioreactor-method (aka 'deep layer cultivation') produces cheap source material, because mycelia develop exceptionally fast. Combined with hot water extraction you'll get a product similar to the majority of what is currently available. A cheap compromise of what it can be. Smart marketing is then used to make up for the lack of verifiable therapeutic quality.

More details about cultivation can be found in our monograph - here.

This Reishi is cultivated on wood logs, which are buried in nutrient-rich soil.


Extraction


Reishi has a very low yield of triterpenes, much lower then e.g. Chaga, a similar 'woody' mushroom. To get a good percentage of triterpenes AND a good percentage of polysaccharides, lengthy, labor intensive and therefore expensive multi-step extraction procedures are needed. (We leave hot water-only extracts out of the discussion - these are a compromise per definition, as explained before.)

Many producers of dual extracts, however, also make compromises during the extraction phase to keep the production costs low: they use e.g. a mix of water/ethanol to perform the extraction - the higher the percentage of ethanol in the mix, the higher the percentage of triterpenes and the lower the percentage of polysaccharides, and vice versa.

This single-step extraction works reasonably well but it results in a relatively crude extract with low purity. These 'dual extracts' are usually marketed as 'xx : 1' extracts - the actual percentages of polysaccharides/triterpenes are low and fluctuate significantly between production batches, so for competitive and legal reasons it is better to leave those details out.

Instead, a lot of emphasis is placed on the fact that this is 'duanwood Reishi' or a similar property.

Chinese engineers at work in an extraction room


Determining polysaccharide and triterpene percentages is not expensive at all and a high level of those on the supplement facts label is an unbeatable selling point. Logic tells us the only reason not to mention those percentages is because the outcome is less than impressive. The supplement seller chooses to keep it vague, for marketing reasons.

The best (but also the most expensive) option is a three step extraction process, with hot water and ethanol extraction executed separately, followed by alcohol precipitation. The first two steps step can be repeated several times, if necessary.

The hot water extraction should ideally be performed under pressure, because extended exposure to heat will cause disintegration of the polysaccharides' molecular chains over time, rendering them therapeutically useless. Performing the hot water extraction under pressure (16-20 kg/cm2) prevents this from happening, resulting in a high yield of bioactive polysaccharides (beta-glucans). A third step (essential for a high grade of purity) is alcohol precipitation, removing low molecular weight polysaccharides, useless protein, etc.

ORIVeDA is using this proprietary multi-step extraction protocol, followed by spray-freeze-drying to ensure no ethanol/alcohol residue is left and a finely powdered extract with a high bioavailability and purity will be the result.


Additives


Specifications of a Japanese Reishi product. A 13:1 'extract'.

Additives are listed, but surprisingly none of the bioactive Reishi ingredients, such as triterpenes, polysaccharides or glucans are specified


Triterpenes are oily and a high percentage (over ± 8%) will cause problems when the desired result is a powdered extract.

To prevent this and/or to increase the percentage of polysaccharides suppliers add e.g. dextrin, malt-dextrin or starch to the product, usually just before the drying phase. These additives are also polysaccharides but without therapeutic value. Most of the time they are not specified on the label.

We've come across Reishi products where up to 30% of dextrin had been added. The supplement facts label stated "35% polysaccharides" which is accurate in itself but leaves out the fact that these are mostly non-mushroom polysaccharides and therapeutically worthless.

A specific Japanese -hot water- extract (Toi Reishi) contains only 25% of Reishi extract and 75% of dextrin! At ± $ 1 per capsule (@ 250mg) not really good value for money, at least in our opinion.

There is a simple DIY-test for those that want to test for this adulteration themselves: open a capsule and mix the extract powder with a bit of boiled water to make a liquid solution. Then add a few drops of iodine. If the solution changes color (blue, red) it contains non-mushroom polysaccharides. test your mushroom extract for purity

Another additive found in Reishi is Maltitol, a mild sweetener, which is probably added to mask the intensely bitter taste of a Reishi extract. Many if not all of the cheaper Reishi extracts (but also all Japanese Reishi products we know of) contain dextrin and/or Maltitol or some other sweetener. Lactose, sucrose and rice powder are also very common.

Synthetic acids are sometimes added to increase the level of triterpenes in Reishi. The determination of triterpenes is done in a laboratory using spectrography (UV/VIS) and specific synthetic acids will show up in the same spectrum as the Reishi triterpenes when tested.

We know this is done by several producers to improve their product specifications and their profit margin - although this is pure fraud. Their low price is usually a giveaway - it is impossible, even in a low income country like China, to produce a good quality Reishi extract for only a few dollars.
Some producers will even admit it when asked directly.


Conclusion


We had to conclude, again, that 'cheap supplier' or 'cheap product' usually means a significant compromise when it comes to quality and potential therapeutic potency. On the other hand, 'expensive' is not a guarantee for quality either - as the Japanese products proved. And don't forget the 'value for money test' done by the HongKong Consumer Council…

For more general information about mushroom extracts, how to choose the right one and how to determine the value for money please read this link.


What about Reishi spore products ?


Broken spore and the spore oil products are relatively new Reishi products.
They are described as containing 'the essence of Reishi's therapeutic power', so these were one of the first options we investigated when we started to look for a Reishi product.


Reishi spore oil capsules


A Reishi spore is tiny: 5-8 microns in size, only visible with a microsope. Each spore contains a microscopic amount of 'spore oil', mostly triterpenes.

You'll need about 1000 kg Reishi mushrooms to collect 1 kg of spores. The spores are 'cracked' and the oil extracted using something called 'supercritical CO2 extraction'. This is an expensive process and the yield is very very low. Around 20,000 kg of Reishi is needed for 1 liter of spore oil.

Spore products are therefore always very expensive. Three to four dollars for a small capsule is about the absolute minimum. If you're charged less, it is most likely a non-pure or plain fake product.

We decided not to include Reishi spore products in our product line, the main reason being that the bioavailability of isolated triterpenes is very low. The solubility is almost zero, making absorption by the body (and therefore an actual therapeutic effect) questionable when taken orally. Questionable, also because almost no research has been done so far with spore oil products (we couldn't find anything at all, to be honest) and in both China and Japan these products are therefore frowned upon.

Another reason to be cautious is the amount of fraudulent products on the market, because so far there is no objective quality standard for spore products.

A Reishi spore (magnification ±40.000) and, on the right, after it has been 'cracked'
using supercritical CO2 extraction


The Hong Kong Consumer council tested 16 Reishi spore products (Choice magazine #375, January 2008). All claimed over 99% of broken spores (higher is better) but half of them had only a fraction of the indicated broken spore rate - the lowest was 5% instead of 99.9%.
Six of the samples claimed to be 100% Reishi spores without any additives, but when analysed were found to contain Reishi mycelia, fillers and vitamin E(!), none of which were listed on the label. Furthermore, several samples contained much less than the indicated quantity per capsule. One sample was spoiled and contained oxidized oil.

Also, already in 2005 the Consumer Council issued a report describing among others the case of an eldery patient that developed liver poisoning after daily consumption of a Reishi broken spore product for a month. This is most likely just an incident and one does not know what exactly did happen and whether or not this connection is justified, but despite that, we believe it's better to be safe than sorry.

In the interest of our potential Reishi customers ORIVeDA decided to stick with a therapeutically proven useful, well-researched, time tested and reliable full-spectrum product that provides significant more value for money and covers a broader therapeutic spectrum than a broken spore product.