Value for money - buying mushroom supplements

As an example, take an offer of 100 grams / 3.53 oz. Chaga extract powder for $ 99.95 whereas another supplier might offer 113 grams / 4 oz. for only $ 35. If you only take this fact into account, you might think that the first product is 3 times more expensive. However, the weight should not be the deciding factor here.

The deciding factor is the amount of bioactive ingredients you get for your money. It defines the therapeutic potency of the product. It defines whether it is beneficial for you or not (in the therapeutic sense).

Example of a value for money calculation:

• Product A: 10% beta-glucan; 60 capsules @ 500mg; $ 10. (10% = 50 mg beta-glucan p/capsule)

• Product B: 30% beta-glucan; 60 capsules @ 400mg; $ 20. (30% = 120 mg beta-glucan p/capsule)

Product B is obviously the best value for money. Spend $ 20 on product A and you still have way less bioactive beta-glucan than in product B.

Although it is not compulsory, there is no reason not to list the active ingredients on the label (it is a great selling point!!), except maybe these:

  • It is actually not an extract but a biomass product, a tincture or a dried, ground up and powdered mushroom product. In these products the bioactive ingredients cannot be guaranteed and the bioavailability is so low that you cannot expect noteworthy therapeutic effects.
  • Compared to similar products the percentages of bioactives are so low that it is better for the vendor to keep it vague. As said, it is not compulsory to list bioactives on the label.
  • The supplier cannot guarantee the percentages as required by the FDA. This can be the outcome of using cheap or outdated extraction methodology, which is more likely to deliver an inconsistent product quality. An example is using a mix of water and alcohol to perform a single step dual extraction, instead of several isolated extraction steps. You can roughly compare this to cooking the dried mushrooms in vodka.

These products are often marketed as “xx:1” extracts. Consumers usually interpret this as "8:1 = 8 x stronger than 1:1". Which is not necessarily true. Ratio-claims are deceiving.

Not only can a ratio-statement not be validated by an independent third party (unless they’re present during the whole manufacturing process) but it is also completely useless as a valuation tool, unless there’s also a breakdown of the bioactive ingredients and their percentages.As an example, ORIVeDA's Reishi Primo extract is a 35:1 extract with guaranteed over 25 % of beta-glucans and over 5 % of triterpenes. With the specifications of the bioactives included you are able to compare it to other products and make an objective valuation.

NB - Asian products usually do not reveal active ingredients on their labels. They are in general very expensive, not just because they are imported, but because many people automatically assume ‘expensive equals better quality’ and the vendors often abuse this assumption for their benefit.

The Asian suppliers have nothing to gain by the Western style of business transparency; the therapeutic potency of their products is in general low or average at best, just like the majority of the Western products. Instead of using verifiable quality claims they rely on emotional triggers to market their products. A health guru or a person in a white coat is supposed to give the product credibility.

You, as a consumer, should be aware that your emotions are being played. Don’t let that happen - use common sense. Read the supplement facts label. It is objective and you can trust it in general. And don't overlook this: it's not just what is written on the label, it's also what is not on the label that can reveal a lot.

Specifications make it easy to compare products and to judge a products’ objective quality. When in doubt, ask for proof. All vendors have Certificates of Analysis (COA), those test results are the final part of the production process. But they usually won't show this certificate to you, because it's 'proprietary information'. Common sense tells us the information should be the same as what is on the supplement facts label and the website, right? So, it's obvious something is wrong. In general you'd better ignore website claims - only the label is actively monitored by the authorities.

Core fact: the majority of supplement vendors provide no detailed information about their product and the amount of bioactives it contains. Most big companies and all multi-level marketing (MLM) companies use this strategy in our experience: instead of investing in quality products they prefer to invest in marketing. It is in the end more profitable, they know 'cheap' usually sells better than 'good'.

Summarizing: Value for money is determined by the amount of bioactive ingredients you get for your money, not by just the weight or the size of the capsules. Knowing what is listed on the official supplement facts label is essential to be able to determine value for money. A product without guaranteed levels of bioactives cannot be valued objectively and as a consumer, you have no clue what you are buying. Accurate dosing is impossible because you don’t know the amount of bioactives in the tablet/capsule.