Mushrooms keep popping up everywhere with mystical properties, from coffee to chocolate.
And as the number of fungal products on the market rises, the mushroom mycelium is a crucial component that frequently gets overlooked. But what is mycelium on mushrooms, and why is it so important?
Most of us associate the umbrella-shaped structure with a mushroom. However, the fungi kingdom is diverse, and many species may never give rise to this umbrella. As a result, many people mistakenly think a mushroom is an entire fungus when they see one. The mushroom, however, only serves as a component or organ for a few species to disperse spores so they can reproduce.
Then what is the rest of the fungus if the mushroom is the fruiting body? And what gathers the nutrients so that the fruiting body can produce fruit? The answer is mushrooms mycelium!
The vegetative body or root system of a mushroom is called mycelium. It is a dense mass of hyphae or thread-like tissue filaments. As the fungus grows, these web-like structures penetrate the substrate on which it is growing. The mycelium's job is to locate and decompose food sources in the substrate and gather nutrients and water for the mushroom's eventual formation.
So, let’s talk about this part of the mushroom that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. We will also let you in on the mushroom mycelium benefits and how it can be incorporated into our lives.
Mushroom And Mycelium
Contrary to popular belief, mushrooms are made up of three different parts. The one we are all familiar with and consume is known as a mushroom fruiting body, which comes in various forms. The mushroom's spores (the seed) are located beneath the mushroom's fruiting body or cap and aid reproduction.
The mycelium, or the “wood wide web,” comes next. Mushroom mycelium is the thread-like body of a fungus that is frequently buried underground or found inside decaying logs and stumps. The fungus's central part or body forms the visible fruiting bodies to assist reproduction.
All mushrooms come from mycelia; however, not all mycelia fruit mushrooms. Mycelia are most prevalent in forests, fields, and heavily wooded areas. Some mycelia are microscopic, while others span over thousands of acres.
The hyphae unite to create a network of long fibers that grow underground and feed on organic matter. It is the primary stage in the life cycle of a mushroom and the longest-living component. The numerous, intricate filaments are only one cell wall thick but immensely powerful, despite their small size.
Mycelium navigates through an occasionally hostile ecosystem as it grows for months, years, and possibly centuries. It can extend its range through a habitat populated by millions of microbes, interacting chemically with the surroundings and developing sophisticated chemical responses to any problems it faces.
Mycelium Mushroom Benefits
People occasionally believe the mycelium is nothing more than a root system created to support a fruiting body because of its delicate, filamentous appearance. Although the vast network of mycelial filaments beneath the surface is simple to ignore, it's critical to realize that mycelium serves as the organism's primary mode of function.
Scientific studies, focused research, and widespread use in holistic treatment plans show that human beings can also gain from the significant health-supporting power of mushroom mycelium when it is harnessed in the form of supplements.
Here are the reported health benefits of mycelium and mycelium-centered products:
- Increase innate immune cells for defense.
- Upregulate immune cell compounds for a balanced immune response.
- Activate white blood cells for immune strength.
Specific mushroom mycelium health benefits include:
- Reishi mushroom mycelium supports longevity, brings calmness, and helps to release tension.
- Mycelium from Chaga(1) maintains overall health and vitality while combating cancer and supporting healthy stress and immune response.
- Lion's mane(2) mycelium enhances cognitive health, brings focus and mental clarity, and clears a foggy mind.
Now, what are the other benefits of mycelium?
In addition to promoting health, vitality, and immune responses, mycelium also promotes the well-being of the local ecosystem. By assisting in the process of decomposition and regeneration, mycelia also contribute significantly to the ecosystems in which they live. Mycelium also breaks down and absorbs nearby organic matter into nutrients that can be absorbed and used as food through hyphae.
Uses Of Mushroom Mycelium
Mycelium from mushrooms is constantly being used in inventive and novel ways by scientists and inventors. The potential of mycelium in a variety of applications outside of their natural environment is still being fully realized. Here are some uses of mushroom mycelium:
1. Alternative to meats
Yes, mycelium is edible! Food from mycelium can be grown in just nine days and has fibers and a consistency similar to that of meat. It is better for us and the environment if mycelium is used to produce nutritious, wholesome food.
As opposed to conventional meat production, mycelium growth emits less carbon and uses less water and space. In addition, all nine essential amino acids are present in mycelium meat substitutes, making them a great source of protein and free of allergens.
2. Mycelium textiles
Mycelium is being grown and converted into materials that offer eco-friendly substitutes for synthetic leather and textiles using specialized methods. The end products are durable textiles with an animal leather appearance and feel. Designers have already used mycelium leather to create footwear, bags, phone cases, clothing, and other items.
Utilizing fungi to remove waste from the environment is known as mycoremediation. Mycelium-produced enzymes are used in the mycoremediation process to break down the substrate (in this case, waste and pollutants) and create products safe for consumption. How? Mycelium digests food sources before ingesting the nutrients, unlike other living things. The fungi can eliminate nonbiodegradables through this process, including hydrocarbons, plastics, crude oil, and nuclear waste.
FAQs Mushroom Mycelium
Is Mycelium Mushroom Safe?
Most mycelium is entirely edible and safe to eat. It can also be grown in artificial, controlled environments for human consumption.
What Does Mycelium Do To The Brain?
Lion’s mane mycelium clears brain fog and enhances focus, memory, and cognition. Reishi mushroom mycelium helps calm the mind and adapts the body to stress.
What Is Mushroom Mycelium Used For?
Mushroom mycelium is popularly used in health supplements. It can also be used as an alternative to meat or in producing leather-like mycelium textiles.
Mushroom mycelium benefits range from improved immune function to a sharper mind. Apart from the health benefits, mycelium also maintains the ecosystem and can be used to produce eco-friendly food and garments. Therefore, mushroom mycelium has enormous benefits to both the people and the planet.
- Anti-cancer effect and structural characterization of endo-polysaccharide from cultivated mycelia of Inonotus obliquus, (1)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16458328/
- Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines, (2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5987239/