I’m obsessed with mushrooms. Not the magic kind. Nor culinary.
Tiny doses of these mysterious substances confer greater whole-body health.Adaptogens are super plants (and mushrooms) that protect the body and mind against physical, chemical, emotional, or biological stress. Click To Tweet
Adaptogenic mushrooms are chockfull of antioxidants, balance the immune system, boost the brain, ward off degenerative disease, and bring you into healthy balance.
Before you fill up your Amazon cart with random mushrooms, there are some crucial details to know about mushroom supplements. I’ve tried all the big, heavily marketed brands. I’ve also sampled some of the smaller, lesser-known products.
Several companies stand out above the rest. Regardless of who you choose, today I’ll help you spot the highest quality mushrooms (that work) and review why I choose Real Mushrooms above the rest.
In a hurry? Pickup Real Mushrooms with discount code URBAN for 10% off.
How to Choose High-Quality Mushroom Supplements
First, what are mushrooms?
You might lump them together with plants, but mushrooms are in the fungi kingdom. Humans have evolved alongside mushrooms and fungi, yet we’ve largely ignored them until recently.
“Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health.Paul Stamets
The best supplements are only useful if your body can digest and absorb them.
Real Mushrooms is dedicated to producing the highest-quality mushroom supplements. Their certifications speak for themselves:
Pressed for time? Choose Real Mushrooms and know you’re getting good stuff.
When evaluating products, ask the following two questions:
- What’s inside
- What’s not inside
What You DO Want Inside Mushroom Products
Like all plants and fungi, the medicinal compounds inside mushrooms (alkaloids) concentrate when grown properly.
Of particular interest (but not limited to) are bioactive compounds like beta-glucans and triterpenes,
Mushrooms have many helpful nutrients, including beta-glucans for immune enhancement, ergothioneines for antioxidative potentiation, nerve growth stimulators for helping brain function, and antimicrobial compounds for limiting viruses.”Paul Stamets
When I scan mushroom labels I look for the following:
- Extraction method (some bioactives require hot water while others extract best in alcohol)
- Beta-D-glucans percentage (more is better)
- 100% extracted from fruiting bodies (greater potency)
What You Do NOT Want Inside Mushroom Products
Mushrooms are bioremediators. They soak up everything in the environment around them, including toxic chemicals.
You don’t want heavy metal toxicity from a bunk product. Indeed, mushroom expert Paul Stamets agrees:"If you do not know where the mushroom products you are consuming are grown, think twice before eating them." Click To Tweet
Make sure that the manufacturer has undergone third-party lab testing. I ask for a copy of the report.
When checking products, their labels, and third-party testing, I’m wary of:
- Heavy metals
- Starch levels (waste of money)
- Grains (waste of money)
- Mycelium (less potency)
Pay close attention to heavy metal levels on third-party reports. If they cannot procure lab testing, steer clear!
My Experience With Real Mushrooms
Guests visiting my apartment mistake it for an Amazon warehouse. Okay, not quite, but you get the idea.
I’m conflicted: on one hand, I love the bold promises of various supplements. On the other, I wonder if all these pills, powders, and ingredients do more harm than good.
I’ve returned to Real Mushrooms for several reasons:
- Great customer service. When I had a problem with a pouch not resealing, they made it right.
- Highest quality products. The mushroom industry is shady. Real Mushrooms doesn’t cut corners like the rest, resulting in more potent products.
- Big sales throughout the year. I do most of my stocking up around Black Friday and get amazing deals.
I also wish they’d do a few things differently:
- Some pouches don’t seal well at all. An airtight seal is necessary to prevent oxidation and moisture.
- Powders sometimes clump.
- The products are expensive.
- Products don’t mention levels of certain active ingredients (like cordycepin in their cordyceps).
- Custom formulas. I’d prefer lions mane and cordyceps in one pouch.
I spend a lot on supplements. So I think long and hard about the expensive ones. At around $0.50 per serving, Real Mushrooms products aren’t outrageous nor cheap. But I keep coming back to them.
If I ever decide to scale back, I’ll stick to my favorite two products (in order):
- Lions mane
Recently, I’ve moved toward broad full-spectrum supplements, and away from isolates. I want to get the most nutritional bang for my buck.
I’ve tried 5+ brands and plan to stick with Real Mushrooms.
The Real Mushrooms Product Lineup
Real Mushrooms offers various popular mushroom products. Only one blend, and the rest are specific mushrooms.
I’ll explain the benefits of each mushroom, and how I personally use the products. I prefer powders, but each mushroom also comes in pill form.
You can get Real Mushrooms products on Amazon (here), or from their website (see below) for better prices.
Real Mushrooms 5 Defenders
Mushroom Dose: 200mg each (1000mg total)
Their flagship product. 5 defenders is a blend of Chaga, Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake, Turkey Tail. All in one.
Real Mushrooms didn’t cut any corners and extracted each mushroom the right way to maximize the potency and value.
I get the benefits of five mushroom species in a single gram of powder.
A 2019 study suggests that mushrooms—particularly Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake—taken together have synergistic effects.
Wide range of mushrooms
Easy & convenient
Low-dose of each mushroom compared to buying individually
My carry-on always has a pouch of 5 Defenders handy. I like the convenience of having broad-spectrum mushrooms when I burden my immune system with travel. Since I don’t love the taste, I’ll toss 5 Defenders back with some water.
I consider 5 Defenders my mushroom insurance policy.
Real Mushrooms Reishi
Mushroom Dose: 1000mg total
Unique: Triterpenes > 4%
Nicknamed ‘the herb of immortality’ and ‘queen of mushrooms’, Reishi is the ideal anti-aging mushroom.
Reishi has been used in Asian medicine for hundreds of years to treat aches, pains, allergies, “qi”, immunity, cancer, sleep, and inflammation.
Recent research supports the incredible properties of Reishi,
“[Reishi contains] approximately 400 different bioactive compounds, which mainly include triterpenoids, polysaccharides, nucleotides, sterols, steroids, fatty acids, proteins/peptides and trace elements which has been reported to have a number of pharmacological effects including immunomodulation, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, chemopreventive, antitumor, chemo and radio protective, sleep promoting, antibacterial, antiviral (including anti-HIV), hypolipidemic, anti-fibrotic, hepatoprotective, anti-diabetic, anti-androgenic, anti-angiogenic, anti-herpetic, antioxidative and radical-scavenging, anti-aging, hypoglycemic, estrogenic activity and anti-ulcer properties. Ganoderma lucidum has now become recognized as an alternative adjuvant in the treatment of leukemia, carcinoma, hepatitis and diabetes.”
Benefits of Reishi:
- Reduced anxiety, depression, and fatigue and improved quality of life in breast cancer patients.
- Reduced insulin resistance.
- Reduced inflammatory markers and restored kidney function in kidney disease patients.
- Suppressed the growth of more adenomas (benign tumors with the potential to become malignant).
- Boosted the immune systems of late-stage cancer patients.
- Improves sleep in rats.
Lighter taste than most mushrooms
I combine Reishi with turmeric, almond milk, and sometimes raw local honey. I’ll sip on my homemade evening golden milk latte (caffeine-free) as I wind down.
Real Mushrooms Lions Mane
Mushroom Dose: 1000mg total
My personal favorite, lions mane is the ultimate brain boosting mushroom.
The Chinese have used it for thousands of years. It’s great for nerve growth.
Brain aside, lions mane helps regenerate the nervous system.
Others love the product equally as much. Throughout the internet you’ll encounter hundreds of five star reviews.
Benefits of lions mane:
- Reduces brain inflammation.
- Balances immune function.
- Strengthens microbiome.
- Exhibits anti-cancer effects.
- Increase neurogenesis, reduce cognitive decline, and even regrow damaged nerves.
- Supports brain health by stimulating BDNF and NGF.
- Reverse mild cognitive decline in the elderly.
- Help nerve-damaged rats regenerate destroyed nerves and regain their ability to walk.
- Improve the Functional Index Measure in patients with dementia.
- Reduce anxiety and depression in women.
- Improves mood and focus.
- Good source of antioxidants.
Excellent for supporting brain regeneration
Promotes nervous system repair
Safe and effective nootropic
Contains all non-water soluble components
Lions mane may reduce libido
I like lions mane as an ideal morning coffee booster. It has a mild, earthy flavor. I use the lions mane/caffeine combination to stimulate creativity and learning.
Real Mushrooms Chaga
Mushroom Dose: 1000mg total
Reishi is the medicinal mushroom queen, but chaga is proclaimed the king. I’ve heard chaga referred to as “black gold”
Russians and Northern Europeans have used chaga medicinally for centuries. If you’re looking for a potent source of antioxidants, chaga tops the list with an ORAC score of 146,700.
Benefits of chaga:
- Inhibits oxidative DNA damage
- Extremely high in antioxidants
- Strong anti-viral effects.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Potentially potent anti-cancer effects.
- Improves athletic endurance.
Especially high in antioxidants
Flavor reminiscent of dark chocolate
Reduces sickness symptoms
Helps with belly bloat
Doesn’t mix well
Chaga can stand alone as a tea. In fact, it was a coffee substitute during World Wars I and II. Some mushroom supplement companies mix powdered Chaga into their coffee blends. I’ll add Chaga into salad dressings for rich and savory taste.
Real Mushrooms Turkey Tail
Mushroom Dose: 1000mg total
I get my turkey tail from friends into mushroom hunting. Apparently, it’s everywhere. I haven’t seen nearly as much research on this mushroom compared to the others.
Their turkey tail is the only Real Mushrooms product I haven’t tried. Friends that have mentioned that it is overpriced. It also doesn’t mix all that well. Most people are better off choosing a different mushroom product.
Benefits of turkey tail:
- High in antioxidants
- Can stimulate the immune system by enhancing macrophage and natural killer cell function
- Contains a high number of gut-healing prebiotics
- Potential anti-cancer effects
- Powerful anti-flu supplement
- Shows potential against HIV microbes.
- Enhances athletic performance
- Improves digestion
Strong immunity booster
Good for gut health
Leaves sediment in bottom of cup
Real Mushrooms Cordyceps-M
Mushroom Dose: 1000mg total
Cordycepin: 0.1% – 0.4% per batch
After lions mane, cordyceps is my next favorite.
I don’t “feel” most supplements. Cordyceps is different. When I’m tired, one scoop energizes my workouts.
Real cordyceps is extremely rare and expensive. Far more so than gold! Most cordyceps on the market is fake or low-quality.
Benefits of (real) cordyceps:
- Strengthens adrenals.
- Increases klotho anti-aging protein.
- Scavenges free radicals.
- Anti-aging effect in mice.
- Improves cardiovascular function.
- Increases endurance.
- Reduces stress in rats.
Contains all non-water soluble components
Does not use Ophiocordyceps sinensis mycelium
Powerful energy booster
Sometimes can be too stimulating
Cordyceps is a key booster in my homemade preworkout. I’ll mix it in along with the other ingredients. The taste is mild. I would not recommend cordyceps in the evening as it is the most stimulating mushroom for me.
Real Mushrooms Compared to Other Brands
There are a few dominant players in mushroom supplements.
If you browse long enough you’re sure to encounter these.
A quick note: wild mushrooms are expensive. Almost all companies source from in-house grown mushroom suppliers.
Nammex is the highest quality, affordable mushroom supplier.
Unless you can afford $20,000 per kilogram wild Cordyceps, make sure that whatever brand you choose sources from Nammex.
Here’s how Real Mushrooms stacks up against the others. To compare, I matched cordyceps powder between each brand.
Real Mushrooms vs. Host Defense
I used Host Defense products before Real Mushrooms.
Invented by the well-known mushroom expert Paul Stamets, Host Defense produced mushroom supplements decades before the competition. They’ve been in business for over 40 years.
On the surface, the two companies are quite similar. They have one large difference:
Host Defense uses mycelium where Real Mushrooms uses (superior) fruiting bodies.
Recall from earlier that fruiting bodies are better researched, more potent, low in starch, and completely grain-free.
I’d rather not spend my money on grain fillers.
If you’re looking for quality, effectiveness, and value, Real Mushrooms wins.
Real Mushrooms vs. Nootropics Depot
Nootropics Depot (ND) holds its own against Real Mushrooms.
At first blush, it seemed far cheaper. To accurately compare the two, I had to standardize the servings and product size. Price-wise, they come out the same. Unless you use the “subscribe and save” option on Real Mushrooms which saves an additional 15 percent.
I like that Nootropics Depot indicates Cordycepin levels.
Both use hot water extraction and whole fruiting bodies.
If they are indeed grain-free, I would like to see Nootropics Depot list that along with their starch percentages.
The Real Mushrooms team has 40 years of mushroom cultivating experience, so I prefer them. When they’re out of stock I might consider ND.
Real Mushrooms vs. Oriveda
I wanted to like Oriveda. Navigating their website was hard enough.
When I visited their site I was informed that I am currently unable to order directly through them since I am located in the USA. Instead, I’d have to find a reseller.
I like that they’ve assayed and published the active ingredient breakdown of their cordyceps:
You may notice that some bioactive ingredients are considerably below the others.
For example, both Nootropics Depot and Real Mushrooms contain beta-glucan levels of >25 percent.
Of all the products compared, their product lists the most cordycepin, one key primary active ingredient in cordyceps supplements.
If you’re in search of the absolute highest cordycepin, adenosine, or other nucleosides levels, Oriveda is the best bet.
Assuming you can stomach the extreme price of $72.95 for 120 capsules. I’m not convinced that the huge jump in price is worth the greater cordycepin.
Real Mushrooms Product Comparison Table
|Product||Specialty||Servings||Cost||Mushroom Dose||Mushroom Type||Extraction Method||Certifications||Beta-Glucans||Starch|
|5 Defenders||Complete||45||$34.95||1000mg (200mg each)||100% whole fruiting body||hot water / alcohol extract||USDA Organic, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegan, Kosher||>20%||<5%|
|Reishi||Longevity||45||$34.95||1000mg||100% whole fruiting body||hot water / alcohol extract||USDA Organic, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegan, Kosher||>15%||<5%|
|Lion’s Mane||Cognition||60||$29.95||1000mg||100% whole fruiting body||hot water extract||USDA Organic, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegan, Kosher||>25%||<5%|
|Chaga||Digestion||60||$29.95||1000mg||100% whole fruiting body||hot water extract||USDA Organic, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegan, Kosher||>8%||<5%|
|Turkey Tail||Immunity||45||$34.95||1000mg||100% whole fruiting body||hot water extract||USDA Organic, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegan, Kosher||>30%||<5%|
|Cordyceps||Performance||60||$29.95||1000mg||100% whole fruiting body||hot water extract||USDA Organic, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Vegan, Kosher||>25%||<5%|
Real Mushrooms: My Preferred Mushroom Brand
You can go wrong with mushrooms. Bad products are worse than none at all.
To choose a quality mushroom supplement, look for:
- Quality ingredients and preparations methods
- Free of common contaminants
The wrong extraction methods can negate any medicinal, healing benefits.
Do your research before choosing a product. I’ve had good experiences with Real Mushrooms, but they’re not the only brand.
While the prices on the Real Mushrooms website are usually lowest, they also sell on Amazon: