The number of distinct mushroom species is a matter of debate — with estimates ranging from 30,000 to 1.5 million. What is not disputed, however, is the close relationship between mushrooms and humans, and the many benefits mushrooms can provide for overall health and wellness. Human culture has evolved with mushrooms and many societies have relied on mushrooms to provide a wholesome food source. Over thousands of years of trial and error, many cultures have also discovered health benefits associated with consuming mushrooms. These health benefits are almost as broad as those found in the plant kingdom and range from immune and respiratory support to promoting healthy liver and brain function. Societies soon discovered mushrooms can boost vitality, wellness, endurance and even sexual function. Today, more than fifty years of research has confirmed that mushrooms are indeed a unique class of natural therapeutics capable of addressing a wide range of health concerns.

Mushrooms and Humans
Mushrooms were long conceived to be members of the plant kingdom, but closer inspection revealed that they share more similarities with animals. Hence, they were assigned their own kingdom — the fungal kingdom. While plants manufacture their own food source from the sun (photosynthesis), mushrooms must find and absorb their food from their environment — just like humans! Mushrooms must also adapt to their environments and protect themselves. In doing so, they produce a large array of protective compounds designed to defend against any invaders — also like humans.  Incredibly, when humans consume these novel mushroom-derived compounds, our defenses against the environment are also enhanced.

The Mushroom Life Cycle
The mushroom life cycle includes three distinct phases: mycelium, fruiting body, and spore. Mushrooms spend most of their life as mycelium, extracting nutrients from their environment and protecting themselves from invaders. Many beneficial compounds known as extracellular compounds are secreted by the mushroom during this critical life process. As the mushroom readies to reproduce, most species form a fruiting body — a structure most people would refer to as the actual “mushroom” since it’s the part of fungi most readily visible. Many species’ fully formed fruiting bodies end their life cycle with the rebirth of the mushroom — when spores are formed and released to begin the life cycle anew. Before being released, spores are equipped with their own arsenal of protective compounds and nutrients, which will allow them to survive harsh conditions and thrive in new environments.