The Production Process
By Aldo Hakman, Head Research & Development
The process of creating a good mushroom extract starts with growing strong and healthy mushrooms. What goes in is what comes out. It all begins with acquiring the right strains. Every mushroom has many different strains. Reishi for example comes in the colors of Red, Purple, Black, Tiger and even in different forms that either grow antlers, conks and many forms and colors in between. Each one has a different chemical make up, and along with that different potencies and medicinal qualities. We have a huge collection of spores from many different kinds and strains of mushrooms and we find great joy in experimenting what strains grow best and make the most effective medicines.
Once the right strain is chosen, a process of ‘breeding’ begins. A solution of spores from a strong specimen called a ‘Liquid Culture’ is spread upon a plate of agar solution with the right nutrients this specific mushroom loves. In time the mycelium starts to grow and it can be seen that some grow much faster than the others. We take some of those winning Hyphae (a single strain of mycelium) and put them in a new plate of agar solution. Another race begins! This process is repeated several times until the strongest genetics can be selected like the winner of a world cup championship. The whole process is done in a sterile environment to prevent any contamination.
The next step is all about optimising the substrate mixture. The substrate is the food the mycelium feeds on to become strong and healthy and later develop nice fruits (which are the actual mushrooms we use). The composition of the substrate is not only crucial for a healthy growth of the mushrooms but also determines what and how many active compounds the mushroom will produce. This is a whole research in itself and there is no definitive best composition. Does the mushroom like grains, which grains, or rather wood, what kind of wood, when to harvest these etc etc. Although much about this is known, small changes in for example using horse manure instead of cow manure or even rhino manure acquired from the zoo can make a big difference in the end quality of the product.
Once a good composition for the substrate is chosen, the mycelium can start growing. Here the most important thing is to keep a steady temperature that this specific strain prefers. We have a special Mycelium nursery which is basically a clean room with a continuous flow of sterile air and temperature control.
When the Mycelium babies are grown strong and healthy, which can be seen when the mycelium has consumed most of the substrate and a big white block has formed, it is time to move to our specially designed growing container. The container is a computer controlled growing environment where parameters such as light, temperature, amount of O2 and CO2 can be controlled. Also this environment is completely sterile to prevent any contamination. Even the humidity is controlled by means of ultrasound technology that creates a mist of water that is first treated by UV light to create a sterile and homogenous humid environment.
We harvest the mushrooms fresh to go into the last step of the process. The actual extraction of the mushrooms. By using them fresh and extracting immediately on site no loss of actives that would otherwise happen during drying takes place. The challenge of extraction is that the Chitine cell walls are very hard to ‘open up’. Most of the times producers use great heat, pressure or even harsh chemicals to free the important actives from the cells. We have developed an extraction procedure which is based on a combination of hydro and alcoholic extraction steps using ultrasound. The ultrasound technology helps to free the actives we are looking for and is able to do so under much less aggressive circumstances so a much broader spectrum of active components are preserved.
In the next step the different fractions are concentrated in a high vacuum environment so the solvents used (water and alcohol) can be evaporated at low temperature and high speed to preserve heat and oxygen sensitive actives. The fractions are then combined and where necessary homogenised until a stable, highly concentrated full spectrum liquid extract is obtained. We choose to keep the extracts in a liquid state because of several reasons. Dry extracts are much more prone to reactions with air like oxidation. Since mushrooms can be very good sources of high amounts of anti-oxidants that make up an important part of the medicinal value, this would be a shame of our product.
Human Intake of the Mushroom Supplements
Furthermore, we believe it is very important to taste what we consume. Many actives are absorbed in the mouth and throat and immediately introduced into the bloodstream without having to go through harsh environments like the acid stomach or the basic intestines. Also, the taste already activates different processes in the body. Bitter for example stimulates the excretion of bile, important for the digestion of the product. Your taste tells your body exactly what’s coming to optimise absorption.
Why is there alcohol in these supplements?
The extract is stabilised with alcohol which helps to preserve the medicines without using any chemical preservatives or heat treatment. Also the alcohol helps to keep several non water soluble actives nicely in solution, and it helps with the absorption process. Sometimes people ask questions concerning the alcohol. Because the small amount of alcohol consumed when using the recommended dose is even less than found in a ripe fruit and has many advantages we chose to create the products like this.