Medically reviewed by Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD, BCGP, BCPS.
Mushroom supplements have grown in popularity rapidly in the past few years due to the paradigm shift within the nutritional supplement industry toward research-backed ingredients and honesty, integrity, and transparency of labeling from suppliers and distributors, and the demand thereof by consumers.
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Users of mushroom extracts seek these supplements for a variety of reasons: immunity, energy, cognition, motivation, physical performance, anti-aging, and more. Thankfully, clinical evidence abounds for all these effects from medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries. This is a prime example of a fusion of Eastern and Western medicine, where modern scientific research is corroborating and confirming the historical anecdotes surrounding these functional food supplements.
Here we’ll look at my top 3 recommendations for the best mushroom supplements of the year and the differences among them.
In a hurry? Here’s the gist:
1. Freshcap Thrive 6
2. Real Mushrooms 5 Defenders
3. Naturealm Sacred 7
Best for Immunity: Real Mushrooms 5 Defenders
Best for Cognition: Freshcap Thrive 6
Best Budget Option: Naturealm Sacred 7
Honorable Mention: Genius Mushrooms
1. Freshcap Mushrooms Thrive 6 Mushroom Extract
Thrive 6 from Freshcap Mushrooms is a mushroom supplement blend of the following 6 mushrooms: Chaga, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Maitake, Turkey Tail. Thrive 6 uses only organic, hot-water-extracted, whole fruiting body mushrooms sourced from Nammex, the premier source for mushrooms in North America.
Thrive 6 contains no added mycelium, grain, or fillers; just 100% real mushrooms, with a guaranteed beta-glucan content of at least 28%. Beta-glucans are the bioactive compounds in mushrooms responsible for their benefits. Thrive 6 is USDA certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, and paleo.
Due to its third-party lab-tested and verified beta-glucan content of at least 28%, its use of whole fruiting bodies from Nammex, and its support of both immunity and cognition (as well as energy levels and physical performance with its inclusion of Cordyceps), Thrive 6 would be my #1 choice for the best mushroom supplement out right now and gets the “Best for Cognition” award. Read my comprehensive standalone review of Thrive 6 here. You can find Thrive 6 mushroom powder from Freshcap here (Use code TRYMUSH15 at checkout for 15% off through March 31, 2021).
Use code OPTIMIZE at checkout for 10% off.
Prefer capsules instead? Find them on the Freshcap website here.
2. Real Mushrooms 5 Defenders Mushroom Extract
5 Defenders is a blend of 5 immune-boosting mushrooms from Real Mushrooms. The 5 mushrooms are Chaga, Reishi, Turkey Tail, Shiitake, and Maitake. Like Thrive 6, 5 Defenders uses only organic, hot-water-extracted, whole fruiting body mushrooms sourced from Nammex, the premier source for mushrooms in North America.
Real Mushrooms was founded by Skye Chilton, son of Nammex founder Jeff Chilton, so the mushrooms are quite literally straight from the source. 5 Defenders is analytically tested and verified to have at least 20% beta-glucans and less than 5% starch (alpha-glucans in the form of glucose). 5 Defenders is certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan.
5 Defenders, as the name suggests, is primarily focused around immunity. While you should get some energy-boosting and anti-fatigue effects from the mushrooms in 5 Defenders, it does not contain Lion’s Mane or Cordyceps, which are directly responsible for augmenting cognition and physical performance. For that reason, 5 Defenders takes 2nd place and the “Best for Immunity” award. Read my more comprehensive standalone review of 5 Defenders here.
Use code OPTIMIZE at checkout for 10% off.
Prefer capsules instead? Find them here.
3. Naturealm Sacred 7 Mushroom Extract Powder
Sacred 7 is a blend of 7 equally-weighted mushrooms from Naturealm. It includes Chaga, Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, and Turkey Tail mushrooms. Think of Naturealm Sacred 7 as basically a combination of Thrive 6 and 5 Defenders. You’re getting both immunomodulatory and cognition-boosting effects. Because the weighting is spread evenly across 7 mushrooms though, you get comparatively less of each of those, so you may want to increase the dosage a bit.
Like Thrive 6 and 5 Defenders, Naturealm’s mushrooms are sourced from Nammex, so you’re getting 100% whole fruiting body mushrooms with no added grain, mycelium, or fillers. Sacred 7 is guaranteed to have at least 20% beta-glucans. The battle for 2nd place was close; 5 Defenders slightly edges out Sacred 7 in my mind because Real Mushrooms is within the Nammex family and has been around longer than Naturealm, and Thrive 6 has a higher guaranteed beta-glucan content than both 5 Defenders and Sacred 7 (>28% compared to >20%).
Because of these reasons and because it’s not yet available in capsule form, Naturealm Sacred 7 takes 3rd place. Note though that at the time of writing, it is the most affordable option in terms of price per gram, so it also takes the “Best Budget Option” award. Read my more comprehensive, standalone review of Sacred 7 here.
Honorable Mention: Genius Mushrooms
Genius Mushrooms from The Genius Brand is a blend of Reishi, Cordyceps, and Lion’s Mane mushrooms. It is focused primarily on cognition, energy, and physical performance, and not so much on immunity (though you should still get some immune-boosting benefits from the Reishi). I wrote a dedicated review on Genius Mushrooms here.
The product is highly-reviewed on their website and on Amazon, but there are a few reasons why it doesn’t beat the above mushroom supplements in my opinion. First, I can’t find any information on where they source their mushrooms. I reached out to The Genius Brand requesting that information and they provided a pretty vague response:
“Our mushrooms are sourced from a private farm here in the United States!”
– Genius Brand Customer Support
Secondly, their stated beta-glucan content is lower than the above options: 15%. Thrive 6 guarantees at least 28% and 5 Defenders and Sacred 7 guarantee at least 20%.
Lastly, only 2 of the 3 mushrooms are whole fruiting bodies; the Cordyceps in there is mycelium. Without getting too technical, we know that mycelium and myceliated grain are suboptimal forms of mushroom supplements compared to whole fruiting bodies. You can read more about fruiting bodies vs. mycelium in my Thrive 6 review. Interestingly though, The Genius Brand is still claiming that the mycelium is at least 15% beta-glucans and less than 5% starch.
At the time of writing, Genius Mushrooms is also more expensive per serving than all the above options.
Popular brands Host Defense and Four Sigmatic were not included due to questionable quality and/or the use of mycelium. I acknowledge that I could be wrong about that assessment. Unsurprisingly, in my research, those brands seemed to have comparatively more complaints of GI distress.
Update April 2020: Paul Stamets himself has admitted that Host Defense uses myceliated grain and that the Host Defense products are upwards of 60% useless starch. They provide no specs or guarantees of ingredients or bioactive compounds. No thanks.
Medical Disclaimer: While I love diving into and extracting useful information from clinical research related to health, fitness, supplements, and more, I am in no way a medical expert. The content on this website is for informational purposes only; it is not professional medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the statements on this website have been evaluated by the FDA. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Read my lengthier medical disclaimer here.