Mycelium vs. Fruiting Body: Understanding the Medicinal Power of Mushroom Supplements

By Josh Shearer on 03/28/2024

Unlock the full potential of mushroom supplements. Learn about the distinct benefits of mycelium and fruiting bodies, and how to choose the right type for your health goals. To edit this post, navigate to the admin dashboard.


The world of mushroom supplements is burgeoning with tinctures and powders promising a myriad of health benefits. But what lies within these supplements, and does it matter? Understanding the distinction between mycelium and fruiting bodies is key to harnessing the full therapeutic potential of medicinal mushrooms.

Deciphering the Potency of Mushroom Supplements

In the realm of natural wellness, mushroom supplements have emerged as powerful allies in promoting health and vitality. Among the various components of mushrooms, mycelium and fruiting bodies stand out as key sources of medicinal properties. Understanding the nuanced differences between these components is crucial for harnessing the full potential of mushroom supplements.

Mycelium: The Underground Network of Healing?

To grasp the differences, let's first define our terms. Mycelium is the thread-like, underground network of a fungus – think of it as the roots of a mushroom. It functions to absorb nutrients and is essential for the mushroom's growth and survival. While traditionally overlooked, mycelium possesses remarkable therapeutic properties that have garnered increasing attention in recent years.

Key Characteristics of Mycelium

  • Bioactive Compounds: Mycelium is rich in bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides, beta-glucans, and antioxidants, which contribute to its medicinal properties.
  • Adaptogenic Effects: Mycelium exhibits adaptogenic effects, helping the body adapt to stressors and maintain homeostasis.
  • Immunomodulatory Properties: Mycelium stimulates the immune system, enhancing its response to pathogens and supporting overall health.

Fruiting Body: The Above-Ground Powerhouse of Nutrients

In contrast to mycelium, the fruiting body of the mushroom is the visible, reproductive structure that emerges above the surface. It is the part of the mushroom commonly consumed for its culinary and medicinal benefits. Fruiting bodies vary in shape, size, and color, reflecting the diverse species of mushrooms.

Mycelium vs. Fruiting Body: Key Medicinal Differences

While both parts of the fungus offer medicinal value, they possess distinct biochemical profiles:

  • Beta-glucans: These polysaccharides, well-researched for their immune-modulating effects, are found in both mycelium and fruiting bodies. However, fruiting bodies often contain higher concentrations.
  • Triterpenes: These compounds, with potential anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, tend to be more abundant in fruiting bodies of particular mushroom species.
  • Unique Compounds: Certain medicinal mushrooms exhibit unique compounds concentrated in either the mycelium or fruiting body. For example, the compound Erinacine A, linked to nerve regeneration, is primarily found in Lion's Mane mycelium.

Nutritional and Therapeutic Value of Fruiting Bodies

  • Vitamins and Minerals: Fruiting bodies are rich in essential vitamins (such as vitamin D) and minerals (including selenium and potassium), vital for maintaining optimal health.
  • Antimicrobial Activity: Certain compounds found in fruiting bodies exhibit antimicrobial properties, aiding in the defense against pathogens and supporting immune function.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Fruiting bodies contain compounds with potent anti-inflammatory effects, which may alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions.

Which is Better? It Depends.

There's no single "winner" in the mycelium vs. fruiting body debate. The best choice depends on your specific health goals:

  • Immune Support: Fruiting body extracts with higher beta-glucan levels may be more potent.
  • Targeted Benefits: If seeking compounds unique to a specific part of the mushroom, choosing accordingly is crucial.
  • Whole-Spectrum Approach: Some manufacturers combine mycelium and fruiting body extracts for a broader spectrum of beneficial compounds.
  • Concentration of Compounds: Mycelium-based supplements may contain higher concentrations of certain bioactive compounds, offering potent therapeutic effects.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Mycelium cultivation is often more cost-effective than cultivating fruiting bodies, making mycelium-based supplements more affordable for consumers.
  • Sustainability: Mycelium cultivation can be conducted in controlled environments, reducing environmental impact and promoting sustainability.
  • Richness of Nutrients: Fruiting body-based supplements offer a broader spectrum of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, derived directly from the mature mushroom.
  • Culinary Versatility: Fruiting bodies are commonly consumed in culinary preparations, adding flavor and nutritional value to dishes beyond the scope of supplements.
  • Historical Use: Traditional herbal medicine often relies on the therapeutic properties of mushroom fruiting bodies, with centuries of anecdotal evidence supporting their efficacy.

The Importance of Quality and Sourcing

Beyond the mycelium vs. fruiting body question, these factors are vital when choosing a mushroom supplement.

  • Cultivation Methods: Opt for organically grown mushrooms to minimize exposure to contaminants.
  • Extraction Techniques: Look for hot water or dual-extraction methods, which are necessary to break down the tough cell walls of mushrooms and release beneficial compounds.
  • Transparency: Reputable companies provide clear information on mushroom species, parts used, and testing for active compounds.


The realm of mushroom supplements offers exciting potential. Understanding mycelium vs. fruiting body, and prioritizing quality sourcing, empowers you to make informed choices for optimal health benefits.


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