Understanding Therapeutic Medicinal Mushrooms

We recently had the chance to speak with medicinal mushroom expert, Jme Bonfiglio. Jme is the founder, owner, and formulator of WholeSun Wellness. She is a passionate educator on the health benefits and ecological significance of mushrooms, a researcher into mycological alternatives to plastics, and a community-builder around various mushroom festivals and mycological associations.

Jme Wholesun Kimberton Whole Foods

How were you called to do this type of work?

Natural medicine has always been a big part of my life, and Iโ€™ve always felt connected to fungi and plants. I got my chance to embrace mushrooms when I was offered a job with Host Defense. Since then, my passion has flourished into something more profound and beautiful than before.ย 

In your words, what is so special about mushrooms?

Mushrooms, to me, hold everything on this planet together, including us. Their vast mycelial networks knit together our ecosystems. I am always in awe by everything fungi do for our planet and our bodies. I also believe mushrooms can play a key role in addressing the environmental challenges facing us. They can be sustainable resources for so many industries — farming, forestry, gardening, conversation, medicine, etc.ย 

Tell us about the history of medicinal mushroom use.

Two thousand years ago, mushrooms reigned supreme as powerful sources of physical and spiritual strength that only grew on sacred mountains. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) healers named the mushrooms lingzhi, which literally translates to โ€œdivine mushroom.โ€ Weโ€™re still using the same mushrooms for many of the same reasons today. They are truly an ancient wonder in our modern world. You can also read more about medicinal mushroom use in my article in Utah Stories magazine: โ€œAncient Medicinal Mushrooms in a Modern Age.โ€

wholesun mushrooms kimberton whole foods

How do you turn a mushroom into a supplement?

Essentially, there are only four fundamental steps that go into every mushroom product: farming, extraction, processing, and testing. Each step varies from company to company, but thereโ€™s only one that creates the super-concentrated, guaranteed-clean products of WholeSun Wellness. First off, we grow the mushrooms in their optimal condition on their preferred log. Once the mushroom reaches full potency and peak medicinal properties, the fruiting body is harvested by hand, tested for contamination, and laid outside to dry if uncontaminated. The dry raw material then goes into a hot water extraction chamber. Some mushrooms undergo alcohol extraction as well, depending on the thickness of the cell wall. After the extraction is complete, every bit of material from the extraction chamber is spray-dried into a powder. Companies looking to cut corners add maltodextrin to the extract to speed up the drying process. We use powdered Lionโ€™s Mane instead. Itโ€™s why we can guarantee our products contain no fillers, additives, or excipients. Once the mushroom extract is a powder, we perform multiple quality assurance tests such as DNA verification for genetic quality, pesticide testing that surpasses USP standards, megazyme testing to ensure the beta-glucans are truly medicinal compounds instead of starchy alpha-glucans, and more. If the product passes all of the quality assurance tests, itโ€™s packaged into Prop-65 compliant packaging for retailers and consumers. Ultimately, we oversee the quality of mushrooms from farm to shelf.ย 

What are the benefits of taking a daily mushroom supplement?

Medicinal mushrooms are an incredible superfoodโ€”benefitting athletes, people who want to improve their overall health, and those suffering from chronic illness. Medicinal mushrooms like Chaga, Shiitake, Turkey Tail, Lionโ€™s Mane, Maitake, Reishi, and Cordyceps all have unique health benefitsโ€”whether youโ€™re sick, healthy, or working on holistic mind and body care.ย 

What are some health concerns that mushroom supplements address?ย 

The fantastic thing about medicinal mushrooms is they can touch every body system. Theyโ€™re well-known for aiding a strong and healthy immune system, something we could all use these days. I also turn to mushrooms to support brain and mood health, digestion, energy and endurance, reproductive health, and respiratory health.ย 

Does eating mushrooms provide the same benefits as taking a supplement?

While mushrooms can be a delicious addition to the table, you need to take a quality extract to reap the medicinal benefits. Beta-glucans, the bio-active compounds that have therapeutic benefits, are locked inside the fungusโ€™ tough cell walls. A proper extraction breaks open the cell walls and make the beta-glucans act like soluble fiber, slowing the mushroomโ€™s passage through the digestive tract. Eating a raw mushroom doesnโ€™t provide the same benefit.