There's a fairly distinct visual difference between what is in the picture above and an actual mushroom. How and why a mushroom goes from a distinct looking cap to a sticky brown powder is a very important process in reaping the full benefits of mushroom health. There is a also a lot of debate within the fungi world about whether this process is even necessary.
But let's get down to the facts...
What is mushroom extraction?
A mushroom extract is a substance that is separated from the whole mushroom by the use of some sort of solvent, usually either water and/or alcohol. These extracts then usually are sold in either a powder or liquid form.
To extract mushrooms, it is usually a 1 or 2 step process.
If only hot water extraction is used, then the mushrooms are submerged in boiling or close to boiling water for anywhere from 12-24 hours to break down the tough fiber in the mushroom and release the beta glucans and other health compounds. The resulting mixture is dried out and either separated from the mushroom solids if a concentrated extract is desired.
In dual extraction, mushrooms are first submerged in an alcohol solvent for weeks at a time to release the fat soluble compounds, and then are hot water extracted to release water soluble compounds. These two mixtures are then combined to create a dual extraction.
Sometimes the leftover solids from the mushroom extraction are combined in the final product to create a 1:1 extract (1 pound of dried mushrooms to 1 pound of extract), or other times they are discarded to create a concentrated extract. Whether or not a mushroom extract is concentrated or not typically depends on the type of mushroom and its use. There are still plenty of health compounds in mushroom solids so it can be beneficial to keep them.
Why do we need to extract mushrooms?
The reason that we need to separate the components of a mushroom is because mushroom are about 70-90% water and a tough fiber called chitin. If we just eat a raw mushroom, it is very difficult for our bodies to absorb all of the beneficial health compounds because most of them are still bound into the fibrous materials in the mushroom.
Also, given that there is so much fiber and water we would need to consume way more mushrooms than feasibly possible to get the desired health benefits. By extracting the mushrooms, we need to consume only a few teaspoons instead of heaps of raw mushrooms!
Make sure that you purchase mushroom extracts and not dried mushoom powders. These ensures that you get to enjoy the desired health benefits!