What Are Beta-Glucans?

What Are Beta-Glucans?

Today’s medicinal mushroom supplement industry is a bit like the Wild West of old. Fresh new companies are racing into the fold like it’s a gold rush. Regulations are scarce. Product claims are bold. And most consumers have no idea how to separate the good from the bad and ugly.

At Troop, we understand that as consumers become more educated, the demand for more transparent and reputable companies and products rises. So in the spirit of an educated consumer, today we’re here to explain what exactly beta-d-glucans are and why they’re an important piece to the medicinal mushroom puzzle.

An Alpha Among Betas

Beta-d-glucans are a specific type of polysaccharide—complex, long-chain sugars— and are considered to be the most bioactive and medicinal of the many polysaccharides found inside the cellular walls of mushrooms, mycelium, yeast, and certain bacteria.

All polysaccharides are not created equal. Potatoes, cereal grains, and rice have high polysaccharide contents. But you’re probably not interested in forking over $40 for a small bottle of pulverized rice in capsules.

Among other things, one of the most important qualities you want in a medicinal mushroom supplement is a high concentration of beta-d-glucans. Every mushroom species has a different beta-d-glucan content, but the two mushroom species with the highest beta-d-glucan content are Reishi and Turkey Tail, with approximately 50 percent of the mushroom — by dry weight — composed of beta-d-glucans.

So, what are these highly desirable beta-d-glucans good for?

In a nutshell, they strengthen your immune system response to diseases like autoimmune disorders and various types of cancer, as well as external pathogens like, say, a virus. These miraculous benefits are possible because beta-d-glucans activate the various cells — T-cells, NK-cells, B-cells, and Phagocytes — that comprise the immune system.

Without getting too deep in the weeds, we’ll take it one step further. What you want to look for in a medicinal mushroom supplement isn’t just a high concentration of beta-d-glucans. Specifically, you want 1,3 and 1,6 beta-d-glucans, the numbers representing different branching structures of different beta-d-glucans.

Don’t worry, understanding the exact details of the structures isn’t important. Just remember 1,3 and 1,6 and look for companies that test for and provide the concentrations of those compounds in their products.

Your Betas Need to Be Bioavailable

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that while beta-d-glucans may be present in medicinal mushrooms, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bioavailable. That’s where the art and science of extraction comes into play.

To extract the beta-d-glucans, the fungal cellular walls composed of chitin must be broken. This is no simple task. Chitin is also what forms the exoskeletons of insects like ants. In other words, it’s pretty dang strong! To break this powerful bond, a hot water extraction is necessary.

Most medicinal mushroom extract products on the market are dual extractions, meaning that both a hot water extraction and a solvent-based—typically high proof ethanol alcohol—extraction was performed. Then, the resulting liquids were combined.

The hot water extraction is geared toward extracting the beta-d-glucans. The solvent-based extraction is for extracting another class of medicinal compounds in medicinal mushrooms known as terpenoids (Read about terpenoids in our article “What Are Medicinal Mushrooms”).

Why’d we take you down this little mycological rabbit hole? Because some companies advertise micronized (“nano-particles”) powdered medicinal mushroom supplement products in an effort to convince consumers their product is superior in terms of absorption by your body. But the beta-d-glucans in these products are still inside the fungal cellular wall and when you take a supplement like this, it’s most likely going to pass through your body without the chitin bond being broken. In short, those beta-d-glucans stay locked away and your body doesn’t get that beta boost.

Our products, made from a dual extraction of 100% mushroom fruit bodies grown in the U.S., not only get you the beta-d-glucans and terpenoids your body wants. They’re also an easy, tasty addition to your daily supplement routine. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and #trytroop today.

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