Mushroom Lies: Why Most Medicinal Mushroom Supplements Are Chock Full Of Grain & Dangerous Compounds, And What You Can Do About It.

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Podcast, Supplements

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Last year, my friend Skye Chilton visited my house. One night, he sat down at my kitchen table and spread out an array of colorful mushrooms, including cordyceps, a mushroom well-known for it's athletic performance enhancing capabilities (and one that I recently tweeted this study about).

“Taste this.” Skye said, as he handed me a standard, commercial cordyceps product. It was tasteless, flavorless and a bland brownish color. I didn't care for it.

Then he gave me another handful of cordyceps. This different blend was a rich, reddish-brown color, and had a powerful, potent, medicinal taste. Within just a couple minutes I felt a surge of energy.

The difference between these two mushroom extracts was noticeable, palatable, and significant.

So what makes one mushroom extract different from another?

Do medicinal mushrooms have different benefits depending on how they are grown, what stage they are harvested in, or where they are sourced?

How do you actually use mushrooms in your daily life?

In today's podcast, you'll get all these answers and more from Skye's father, Jeff Chilton, who wrote a book called “The Mushroom Cultivator: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home“, which Skye gave me after he left my house, and which I realized after I read it is the most comprehensive guide on medicinal mushrooms I've ever seen.

In the 1980's he operated a commercial mushroom spawn laboratory, and in 1989 he started one of the first medicinal mushroom businesses in North America. His company, Nammex, sells certified organic mushroom extracts to nutritional supplement businesses in the US, Canada and worldwide.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-Why you should add mushroom extracts such as reishi, shitaake, cordyceps to a morning cup of coffee…

-The important difference between medicinal mushroom and the kind of mushrooms you eat as food…

-How to cut through the confusion of which mushroom extracts are actually quality and which are a complete waste of your money…

-Why some mushrooms just contain grain, with very little actual mushroom extract…

-An easy way you can use an iodine dropper test yourself at home to see if a mushroom contains a bunch of cheap starch
-The medical condition that some people have which indicates they should avoid eating mushrooms…
-Whether psychedelic mushrooms are safe, or have any helpful utilization…
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
FourSigmaFoods mushroom extracts (the ones Ben uses)
Do you have questions, comments or feedback about medicinal mushrooms? Leave your thoughts below and either Jeff or I will reply.

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

40 thoughts on “Mushroom Lies: Why Most Medicinal Mushroom Supplements Are Chock Full Of Grain & Dangerous Compounds, And What You Can Do About It.

  1. KAY says:


  2. Christine says:

    Important correction for you. Paul Staments wrote the cited book, The Mushroom Cultivator, NOT Jeff Chilton! Kind of important difference for this story.

    1. Roselle says:


      The book, “The Mushroom Cultivator,” is written by BOTH Paul Stamets and J.S. (Jeff) Chilton. See the book cover here…



  3. MZ says:

    Hi! What are your thoughts on Dragon Herbs and their mushroom products?

    1. I'm more a fan of these guys and the mushroom products at

  4. Joseph says:

    I just wanted to purchase dry mushroom / mycelium to make my own tincture, any suggestions

    1. Real Mushrooms (link above) should be able to hook you up.

  5. Georgios54 says:

    I buy my mushroom supplements from a company in the USA and asked them questions regarding the quality of their products after listening to the podcast. Below is the response from the mushroom vendor. I am not knowledgeable enough on the topic to determine the validity of their comments, any response would be appreciated.

    The mushroom powders are primarily mycelium with some fruiting body depending on the species. The mycelium grows on the organic brown rice converting the nutrients in the rice into mycelium and fruiting body. The mycelium does not consume 100% of the rice, so there is always some residual rice left over. With the enzymatic treatment of the rice by the mycelium, the residual rice is very different than the original brown rice, and so it is called "Myceliated brown rice". The mycelium grows on the rice in a way that does not allow for it to be separated from the rice. The benefits to using mycelium include an enhanced bioavailability.

    This cultivation method is preferred for producing a very pure product in terms of microbial levels, but also allows for a high degree of potency, regardless of the presence of residual rice. All US grown, certified organic mushroom nutraceuticals are produced using this technique. Any product containing 100% fruiting bodies is being produced using imported mushrooms, almost entirely from China.

    1. Jeff Chilton says:

      First, if you check, most MOG (mycelium on grain) vendors have only 1 or two products in which they add small amounts of mushrooms. Some claim "primordia", but this is not a mushroom.

      The cultivation method is simple. Put grain into a plastic bag, add water and cook/sterilize it at 250 F; then inoculate it with a sterile mycelium culture. The mycelium grows inside a plastic bag, in sterile laboratory conditions, as unnatural a process as there is. So it is a pure, STERILE, product. Nutritional profile would be almost exactly like the grain used, not a mushroom. Medicinal profile is undocumented.

      Some residual rice? My independent lab tests show up to 60% residual grain in MOG. Do your own iodine-starch test. Be sure to include a dried mushroom in your testing for reference. If a mycelium product is 60% starch, it can only be 40% mycelium since mushrooms and pure mycelium contain next to no starch. Now think about what you are purchasing.

      Myceliated brown rice is different? Where is the proof? Starch is starch.

      MOG producers all claim a high degree of potency. Ask them for an analysis. You will discover that MOG producers do not test for active compounds so can prove none of their potency claims. Rather they will talk about the thousands of compounds discovered by scientists. Disingenuous at best.

      Mushrooms cannot be economically produced in the US for use as supplements. Sterile mycelium on grain is cheap to produce. This is a fact, sad, but true.

      People have choices. I simply believe they should be educated, informed choices.

      1. Georgios54 says:

        Jeff, thank you for your response, I agree claims without analysis are meaningless.
        I just ordered some of your mushrooms looking forward to trying them.
        Keep up the good work!

  6. Flick says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Just prior to listening to your discussion with Ben I purchased a reishi extract from Herb Pharm. I heard you say that anything made in the US is mycilium on grain so I decided to research a bit further. Herb Pharm’s website shows that they source their reishi from China. I haven’t done the iodine test yet, or had a chance to purchase your product so I have nothing else on which to base the current product.

    2 questions;

    1 are you familiar with this brand’s reputability?

    2 are there detrimental health effects from using said type of extract?

    Thanks for your time and sharing the wealth of information!

    1. Jeff Chilton says:

      Thank you clarifying this. And you prove my point. The mushrooms come from China. The liquid extract is manufactured here. But you have to be very vigilant. Most products say mushroom on the label even though they are mycelium on grain. You did the right thing and dug deeper.

      I know Herb Pharm, they have been around for a long time and they pay attention to quality.

      Liquid extracts seem like a good delivery system, but be careful, some are really watered down. And be on the look out for the mycelium on grain liquids.

  7. Pedro_Zorza says:

    Hi Jeff, I listened to your discussion. I am surprised to hear you say there are no clinical or research articles on mycelium. There have been many studies which have used solely mycelium. Second, what are the dangerous compounds you mention in your title? I seemed to have missed this. In regards to the iodine test, it simply verifies there are starches! It does not negate the level of mycelium? True? I look forward to learning more! Thanks!!

    1. Jeff Chilton says:

      Hi Pedro

      Listen very carefully since I would never say that there are no studies on mycelium. There are hundreds of such studies on Pure Mycelium. This is the key. Pure Mycelium, not MOG (mycelium on grain). Two totally different materials. MOG is mostly grain. Taste it. Taste the MOG reishi. It is sweet, not bitter. Taste them all and you will be tasting the grain or rice.

      My analyses (done in independent commercial labs) clearly show high levels of starch, up to 70%. Mushrooms and pure mycelium have next to no starch. Where is the starch coming from in the MOG products? The grain. Why are there few beta-glucans? Very low amounts of mycelium in that grain. Final answer: There are almost no research studies on MOG.

      Ben answered your second question already.

      But Pedro, here's another key. Ergosterol. Fungi have ergosterol. MOG showed consistently low levels of ergosterol compared to mushrooms, sometimes 100x lower. Why. Because MOG is mostly grain with low levels of mycelium.

      Please read my White Paper and get all these facts in great detail, I'm sure you'll really like it. It's on the nammex website.

      1. Pedro_Zorza says:

        Thanks so much for the response! This is complicated…You say mycelium grown and fermented on water is Pure Mycelium. Yet, you also say there are no precurors on grain substrates. Are there precusors on water? There have been many studies on both fermented on water and grown on grains mycelium, which demonstrate activity, Please help me understand the difference! Also,when testing for carbohydrates, would polysaccharides be classified as starches or carbohydrates?

        1. Jeff Chilton says:

          Not complicated at all. Pure mycelium is grown in a liquid nutrient solution. However, many important precursors are still not in the nutrient broth. Reishi mycelium grown this way does not have major triterpenes. Please read my White Paper for more information on this subject. Also read more about fermentation technology.

          Please cite the references you speak of to studies done with mycelium grown on grain. I'd love to see them. The few studies on MOG that I've seen are actually sponsored by the company making the MOG product.

          Thanks Pedro

  8. Jeff Chilton says:

    Ok, now I’m really stoked that Mahayana has done a starch test. Pretty fun and very revealing. You mentioned another company. I don’t mention names, but they grow mycelium on oats. Starch test anyone?

    If these products say produced or grown in the USA, you can be certain they are mycelium on grain and very starchy with little fungal material.

    See for our products in their pure unblended form. And they have the our reishi extract and Cordyceps. Like Ben says, this Cordyceps is awesome!

  9. noels007 says:

    Nice I see Jeff Chilton commenting! Jeff, what is the most popular reishi product containing your mushrooms. Also what product has the new corydcepts in it? Thanks a great listen!

  10. JeffChilton says:

    To be clear, I said one "couldn't" get mushroom supplements that were produced in the USA because like many products made in North America, they are more expensive to make or in this case grow. China is very efficient and has hundreds of years of experience growing mushrooms. They have a hard working labor force and are upgrading their machinery regularly. As a commercial mushroom grower, I understood this immediately when I visited farms in China in the 1990's. I organized organic production because I wanted them to produce a higher quality product that would meet Western standards. I chose to work with them because I knew that mushrooms, not mycelium, is the real medicinal part of the fungus.

  11. Darcie says:

    2 questions:

    What are the dangerous compounds Ben refers to in the title? I don’t remember hearing about them in the podcast.

    Jeff, you said that the reason we shouldn’t get “mushroom” supplements that say “made in the USA” is that it’s not economically viable for growers in the US to sell their dried mushrooms, so they use the mycelium-on-grains. Why does China not have the same problem with regard to the economics?


    1. All the added fillers and grains that he discusses are the dangerous compounds! Jeff can pipe in on your question regarding Chinese economics, I'm sure.

    2. Real Mushrooms says:

      See Jeff's comment below Darcie.

  12. Jeff Chilton says:

    Are mushrooms grown in the USA worthless? This is the confusion that has been created in the marketplace. USA grown supplements sold as mushroom are almost entirely “mycelium on grain/rice” yet they are labeled as mushrooms. Mycelium on grain is not mushroom. It is entirely different. The label on the front says “….Mushroom” when in fact it has no mushroom in it. Look carefully at the Supplements Facts panel on the back. But even then, many supplements don’t even reveal the grain present. Do the iodine test if you are uncertain. It will absolutely confirm the presence of starch from the grain.

    1. mahayana1 says:

      thanks much for the research and insight into this…just did the iodine starch test on a chaga product i was taking made by planetary herbals and its positive for starch (dark black). Label says 'organic chaga mycelium, chage fruiting body, and wildcrafted chaga fruting body'…looks like it is made in CA. question: where can i get 'the real deal' in terms of chaga, cordyceps and reshi?? i noticed you have 'real mushrooms' on amazon…do you have other products? have you heard of what do you think of them? i am studying the four sigma foods products–ben says they are legit? ideally prefer pill form as powders are sometimes hard to get down….thanks again for the great info!

  13. Brian_Beaven says:

    So all mushrooms grown in the USA are worthless? Does that include Paul Stamets's Host Defense organic mushrooms from Olympia, WA? I thought most mushrooms were grown with wood chips and cow manure, not grains.

    1. Real Mushrooms says:

      Hi Brian,

      The confusion lies exactly within your question. They have you confused thinking "mushroom" when in fact it's mycelium on grain. Products made in North America are primarily not made from mushrooms. There are rare cases where "fruiting bodies" are added in but it is in very small quantities.

      North American suppliers are not growing mushrooms, they're growing mycelium on grain. This can be seen on some products if you look at the supplements panel. Read the supplement panel carefully. If labelled properly (some are not) it will say something along the lines of "mycelium", "mycelial biomass", "myceliated brown rice".

      The growing medium is irrelevant. Mushrooms and mycelium can be grown on a variety of materials. Grain is typically used because it is very cheap.

      The main issue to note is that North American made products are mycelium on grain and not mushrooms.

  14. Palma says:

    Ben! What a collection of great questions! You open a well of information in your guests, like no one else!

  15. zurt17 says:

    Hi Ben,

    Recently you mentioned the four signma products in your home making chaga post. Do you know if their products are grain based grown?

    1. Their products are NOT grown on grain. You're safe. ;)

      1. hammy410 says:

        Is there any information out there on the amount of Beta-glucans, Triterpenes, etc in the Four Sigma products? I have looked through the website but am unable to find any information. Real Mushrooms has the information on every products page. Thanks for any information you have.

        1. larilaurikkala says:

          We ensure and test that all of our mushroom extracts always contain at least 30% polysaccharides. Our cordyceps extract has 40% polysaccharides.

          In addition to the really high polysaccharide levels, our chaga and reishi extracts have a minimum of 2% triterpenes thanks to the state-of-the-art dual-extraction process.

          You can read a lot more about our products here:…

          / Lari, Product manager @ Four Sigma Foods

          1. Real Mushrooms says:

            You should test for beta-glucans. Polysaccharides include starch.

          2. Brian says:

            Lari, the link you provided does not exist. I am doing my due diligence and looking for authentic wholesale medicinal mushroom extracts that i use in chocolate bars and tonic drinks. Thanks, Brian

      2. Pestodude says:

        So FOUR SIGMA uses Cordyceps Militaris?

        1. larilaurikkala says:

          We use the Cordyceps sinensis CS-4 dual-extract, that is grown by the liquid fermentation method that Jeff talks about in the podcast, thus allowing us to have 100% mushroom extract without any grain or starch. We test each batch to contain 40%+ polysaccharides (15%+ beta-glucans) and 15%+ cordycepic acid, which are the most important components of the cordyceps mushroom.

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