A new anti-aging super antioxidant has captured the scientific community.
It’s called ergothioneine.
Esteemed scientists are calling it an essential ‘Longevity Vitamin’. Studies sing its praise with titles such as, “A Stress Vitamin with Antiaging, Vascular, and Neuroprotective Roles”.
It protects many different bodily tissues (including the all-important mitochondria), may improve recovery from injury, shows promise in boosting physical and mental performance, and most importantly, likely increases healthspan.
Ergothioneine sells for $600,000 per kilogram, making it nearly 10X more expensive than gold!
That recently changed, and it’s now commercially available (and affordable!).
In this post, we will cover the science and health benefits of L-Ergothioneine. As well as the best Ergothioneine supplements if you’re interested in trying the ingredient yourself.
What is L-Ergothioneine
L-ergothioneine is a powerful antioxidant essential amino acid. Our bodies cannot produce it, so we must consume it from diet or through supplementation. Scientists discovered it in the early 1900s in ergot fungus. It’s only produced by fungi and bacteria, and then uptaken into certain foods (plants and mushrooms). Until a major breakthrough in ~2005, however, we knew very little about its role. That 2005 breakthrough was the discovery of special mechanisms in the body to process ergothioneine. More on that in the next section.
Together, its impressive safety profile, broad effects, and biological necessity make it a primary focus of the scientific community.
How it works
Scientists are still working to understand exactly how L-ergothioneine works to elicit such a wide range of benefits. Interest surged again in 2005 when researchers discovered an ergothioneine transporter within cells (abbreviated ETT but preciously called OCTN1). This transporter is exclusively used by ergothioneine and it’s also the subject of ongoing research.
L-ergothioneine is a cytoprotectant, protecting the entire cell against damage. Existing research suggests that ergothioneine stabilizes the genome, and is the most powerful antioxidant discovered.
More research will uncover all the pathways and ways ergo impacts humans.
The current dosage recommendations for ergothioneine vary.
Since it has been shown to be quite safe, higher doses are common.
Most research suggests the best ergothioneine dose is 5-10mg taken 1-3 times daily.
This also depends on your consumption of ergo-rich food sources. Primarily, mushrooms.
For budget and dietary reasons, I personally consume tons of mushrooms and then an additional 5mg of supplemental ergothioneine just once per day, in the morning, and ideally with food.
Natural dietary sources of ergothioneine
Americans average 1-2mg per day from a normal diet. Ergothioneine is naturally present in certain foods. It’s produced by soil microbes, and then uptaken into plants and fungi. Mushrooms tend to have the most, up to 40X more than the next closest foods.
The mushroom species highest in ergothioneine:
|Mushroom Species 🍄
|Ergothioneine (mg/g)* 𐄷
Basically, the more exotic the mushroom, the higher the ergothioneine.
Looking to optimize ergothioneine the natural way?
Penn State researchers found that button mushrooms, the typical type found in your grocery store, have about “12 times more of the antioxidant than wheat germ and 4 times more than chicken liver, the previous top-rated ergothioneine sources.”
Best of all, cooking does not degrade or negatively impact ergothioneine levels.
If you don’t consume 3-15 ounces of white button mushrooms daily, however, you may want to consider supplementing ergothioneine.
So far, I could not find data on negative ergothioneine side effects.
There is no known LD50 or other toxicity discovered.
If new research showing the dangers or side effects of ergothioneine becomes available, I will update this section with a link to the study.
Health & Longevity Benefits of Ergothioneine
Ergothioneine is quickly amassing a body of evidence. It appears to confer many different health benefits.
So far, many of the studies on ergothioneine have been observational.
Levels of this compound seem to be high in areas of high oxidative stress as well as in cells and fluids important to developing infants. Suggesting a protective effect for tissues under heavy biological stress.
But that’s only the beginning.
Health benefits of supplementing ergothioneine appear to be:
- Healthspan increase
- Cellular protection
- Mitochondrial improvements
- Disease resilience
- Athletic performance
- Cognitive enhancement
- Immune health
Let’s explore each benefit and use case individually.
Healthspan & longevity
Oxidative stress is one of the nine (currently) recognized hallmarks of aging. Substances that buffer this, should therefore increase lifespan and potentially even healthspan.
One fantastic recent paper pegs the ingredient as important as the other key targets of anti-aging therapeutics,
“This review aims to define the pivotal role of [ergothioneine] in major signalling pathways in ageing such as insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signalling (IIS), sirtuin 6 (SIRT6) and mammalian target of rapamycin complex (mTOR) pathways”
That study summarizes ergothioneine’s longevity mechanisms:
- Anti-senolytic (see this guide to senolytic supplements)
- Healthy cellular signaling
- Mitochondrial function
- Prevents DNA damage
Other studies confirm similar pleiotropic benefits.
Some scientists are already calling it a “longevity vitamin”.
One ergo-rich extract supplement showed a remarkable ability to preserve movement ability with age.
Overall, since it targets multiple pathways associated with aging, the healthspan-enhancing properties of ergothioneine look promising.
Antioxidants were among the first anti-aging supplements. This class of compounds protects cells against free radicals and oxidative stress. Oxidation causes cells to become dysfunctional, “infects” their neighbors, and encourages systemic inflammation.
Antioxidants are the antidote, stopping the cascade of damage. A few of the most popular antioxidants are:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
It appears that ergothioneine can preserve the body’s store of the above antioxidants so that levels remain high.
Additionally, ergo protects the skin against UV damage. Too much UV exposure usually increases levels of free radicals and DNA damage, ultimately increasing disease risk.
Finally, ergothioneine’s antioxidant actions protect cellular energy production and mitochondria. All with a super long half-life of 30 days!
Neuroprotection & cognition
Strong epidemiological evidence correlates ergothioneine and brain health.
This makes sense, as it can cross the blood-brain barrier and act as a neuroactive cytoprotectant. Impaired brain cells cause cognitive decline.
A 2016 study carried out in Singapore discovered that the people that aged fastest correlated with the lowest blood ergo levels. Reduced ergothioneine also had a measurable increase in cognitive impairment.
This recent study of rodents and humans found,
“Oral administration of ERGO has antidepressant activities in mice… Furthermore, repeated oral administration of ERGO and ERGO-containing food extract tablets enhance memory function in mice and humans, respectively. ERGO also protects against stress-induced sleep disturbance and neuronal injury induced by amyloid β in rodents.”
Other animal studies concluded that it protects against “neurotoxins and improves the symptoms of cognitive impairment, depression, and epilepsy”.
Although there haven’t been any quality studies on healthy users, the neuroprotection and reduced neuroinflammation afforded by ergothioneine should improve cognitive performance.
In addition to having a protective effect against neurodegeneration, ergo helps protect against other conditions as well.
Especially neurological conditions and CNS diseases.
New research is investigating it as a potentially promising therapeutic for any conditions related to excess oxidative stress:
- Cardiovascular & liver conditions (Ischemia-reperfusion injury)
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Other diseases pathogenically associated with oxidative stress
Data suggest correlations between disease and low ergo levels, “This compound can accumulate at high levels in the body from diet and may play important physiological roles in human health and development, and possibly in prevention and treatment of disease. Blood levels of ergothioneine decline with age and onset of various diseases.”
Since ergo works by protecting cells, logically it should help a struggling body reduce further damage so it can prioritize rebuilding.
Mitochondria are the energy generators of the body. Poorly functioning mitochondria result in the biological equivalent of a power shortage. Certain systems (necessary for immediate survival) get prioritized while others must go offline.
Yet these now offline systems are the ones that mitigate chronic conditions and improve long-term survivability.
The dysfunction that leads to a biological energy crisis is excess oxidative stress, and certain tissues are more susceptible than others. Tissues with the highest concentrations of mitochondria, for example, are most damaged by low ergothioneine levels.
Ergothioneine protects mitochondria via its antioxidant mechanisms. Furthermore, ergo is one of few antioxidants that can penetrate the membrane to deliver intramitochondrial protection.
It’s stronger and longer lasting than most other mitochondrial protectors like glutathione and melatonin too.
Adaptogenic mushrooms have a long history of safe physical performance enhancement.
I personally notice that the mushroom, cordyceps, for example, is a powerful ergogenic aid. As I shared in my Real Mushrooms Review, while using cordyceps I notice greater endurance and more stimulant-free energy.
So far, one mouse study showed that ergothioneine improves aerobic performance, time to exhaustion, and muscle recovery. All without impairing beneficial signaling that leads to adaptation and performance gains.
Since it protects cells, ergo should also help mitigate damage caused by overtraining/under-recovery.
I’d like to see more research on ergothioneine and exercise in humans, so for now I prefer cordyceps for athletic performance.
Inflammation & immunity
Inflammation and immune system functioning are closely (inversely) linked.
Many medicinal mushrooms markedly decrease inflammation and simultaneously improve immune status. They act as classic adaptogens, modulating immunity. Boosting underactive immune systems, and blunting overactive immunity.
Preliminary data suggest that ergothioneine could improve both immunity and inflammation. It seems to have an immune balancing effect, helping quell cytokine storms associated with lethal respiratory illness.
Another rat study reached similar conclusions, ergothioneine decreases lung injury and lung inflammation.
A different study found that ergo has anti-inflammatory effects in the brain.
I hope to see more research into the inflammation and immune-modulating effects of ergothioneine because right now the evidence is still weak.
Skin & hair
Ergothioneine is already making a name for itself in the beauty industry.
Skin, hair care, and other cosmetic products use the ingredient as a preferred antioxidant due to its excellent protective properties. For skin protection, you can either ingest it orally or apply it topically to the skin (better effects). Topical application is superior to counter free radical damage and also to help with complexion.
Excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is well known to cause DNA and skin damage. It’s one of the core mechanisms of skin aging.
Ergothioneine seems to improve wrinkles and blemishes. An older study found that it can even help repair DNA after exposure to UV light.
Another one found that it is more skin protective than traditional antioxidants like CoQ10. Learn more about how extraordinary CoQ10 is in my review and unlock the healthy you.
One rabbit study suggested that ergo might be a potent addition to help skin and wounds repair faster.
Ergothioneine also indirectly improves hair quality due to many of the previously discussed mechanisms. It seems promising enough that one biotech company filed a patent on “topically applied L-Ergothioneine (Ergo) to maintain and improve hair and nail health, growth, and natural coloring.”
Cardiometabolic refers to the intersection of the cardiovascular and metabolic systems of the body.
This combination is vital to generate energy and distribute it throughout the body.
Existing research associates ergothioneine with a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease.
A mid-2022 diseased mouse study found that it improves the body’s ability to convert glucose into fuel.
Generating biological energy results in a significant generation of harmful free radicals. Ergo can help protect metabolism and mitigate this inevitable side effect.
Another review, “…highlights the cellular and molecular mechanisms of action of ergothioneine and its potential as a Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine for the promotion of cardiometabolic health and the management of the most common manifestations of cardiometabolic disease”.
Helping both diseased states and also playing a preventative role.
Best Ergothioneine Supplements & Products
L-ergothioneine supplements come in powder, capsules, and as an ingredient within skincare products.
Mushrooms are bioaccumulators, meaning they soak up and concentrated heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and any other environmental toxins. Whichever product you choose, you’ll want to make sure it’s organic to avoid those.
Also, make sure the label lists the medicinal “fruiting body” of the mushrooms (rather than cheap “mycelium” filler). That way you get maximum potency without any junk.
I personally use Real Mushrooms’ ERGO+ supplement because it contains a therapeutic dose of 5mg of L-ergothioneine per serving. They derive it from yeast as well as extracts from Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms. Not only do you get plenty of ergo, but plenty of other beneficial bioactive compounds from the mushrooms too.
Use the exclusive Real Mushroom coupon code URBAN for 10% off
Powerful Ergothioneine Stacks
Although there’s little information on the best ergothioneine stacks, based on the principles of biosynergy, we can assume that it combines well with other medicinal mushrooms.
Benefits may include better absorption, stronger effects, or fewer side effects (if any).
Lions Mane + Ergothioneine. The cognitive enhancement stack that promotes neurogenesis and synergistic neuroprotection. Lions Mane is great for learning and memory. I’d add both of these to my supplement regimen should a detailed DNA analysis show increased susceptibility to neurodegeneration.
Cordyceps + Ergothioneine. Cordyceps mushroom is excellent for sports performance, recovery, and cellular energy generation. This is one of few mushrooms that I actually feel. Athletes looking for an ergogenic aid may want to consider this stack as neither mushroom blunt the beneficial hormetic effect of exercise.
Glutathione + Ergothioneine. A stack of two powerful antioxidants both with distinct advantages. Glutathione is very poorly absorbed, so you’ll want to choose a product from my review of quality liposomal glutathione supplements.
CollaGenius + Ergothioneine. CollaGenius is my favorite overall mushroom supplement. It’s a functional mushroom extract that contains the equivalent of 1.2 pounds of real mushrooms per serving. It’s just lacking ergo. For a great preventative health stack, I’d combine CollaGenius with ergothioneine.
Tips to boost the benefits of your ergothioneine
Longevity supplements can get confusing:
Are you wasting money?
Is there significant overlap (and also gaps) in the pathways the supplements activate?
Is the product making a difference?
What if you can simplify your life, take fewer products, and get better effects?
This is all possible, and it comes down to this…
A well-designed longevity stack.
Ideal formulations contain multiple ingredients. Each targets and improves different facets of biological aging.
Keeping you looking and feeling younger and performing optimally.
Together, a multi-supplement formula is more effective than the sum of the parts. This is called the entourage effect, and it’s best understood as the “1+1=3 effect”. And, this powerful ingredient biosynergy often comes with fewer side effects.
So I designed a simple “Longevity Upgrade Cheatsheet” to summarize the benefits of 30+ popular longevity supplements as well as provide my universal essentials. Download it here…
Ergothioneine Mushroom Supplementing: Final Verdict
Ergothioneine is a forgotten mushroom. Although it was discovered in the mid-20th century, it’s making a resurgence.
This is because in 2005, researchers discovered a transporter dedicated to moving ergothioneine within the body.
In fact, it’s so important that some researchers have dubbed it “Ergothioneine: A Stress Vitamin with Antiaging, Vascular, and Neuroprotective Roles?”
Others call it “a new super antioxidant”.
Some people (like myself) get a therapeutic dose from consuming tons of mushrooms daily.
For most, however, that’s not reliable or practical.
Since there are no safety concerns, perhaps a higher dose unobtainable through food alone makes sense.
For that reason, in addition to eating lots of mushrooms, I’ve started supplementing ergothioneine daily.
Supplementing ergothioneine is far easier, and it isn’t nearly as expensive as most longevity supplements.
I’ve scoured the market for the best ergothioneine supplements, and there aren’t many high-quality products.
The one I personally use and recommend is Ergo+ made by Real Mushrooms. Click the button below to start enjoying the benefits of ergothioneine.
Use the exclusive Real Mushroom coupon code URBAN for 10% off
Make sure to use the code, and report your experience back here.
Have you used ergothioneine powder, capsules, or a different form of supplement? Let me know your experience in the comments below!
Ergothioneine is a newly discovered essential amino acid sometimes called a "longevity vitamin". Low levels are associated with degenerative conditions and injury. Most of us don't get enough in our diet. This review of the science and benefits will help you understand if egothioneine is the right supplement for you.
- Essential new amino acid
- No known side effects
- Longevity benefits
- Advanced supplement
- Few suppliers