Anatomy of a Mushroom

There are thousands of varieties of this incredible fungi, however, we know a few functional and edible mushrooms that are highly regarded for their traditional medicine applications over centuries. These incredible fungi have survived in times even before humans existed and have come to be known as functional or medicinal mushrooms at present. It is the polysaccharides, polyphenols and carotenoids in functional mushrooms that have shown anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Understanding the anatomy of a mushroom is crucial to fully grasping the potential uses of each segment.

What you identify as the cap and the body of the mushroom is called its fruiting body and the web of roots underground that accesses the resources to create the actual fruiting body is called mycelium.  The fruiting body is more complex than a simple tiny umbrella-shaped structure. It mainly consists of the cap and the stalk, which act as the reproductive parts of a mushroom.

What we see most commonly above the ground is the top curve called the Mushroom Cap which offers the fruiting body a protective covering. Caps can have scales, striations and warts on them and come in different shapes and sizes ranging from bell to flat. Different varieties of mushrooms have different shapes of curves and the distance between the edges of the cap.

Under the cap is where we find the gills of the mushroom’s fruiting body also called pores or lamellae scientifically. The pattern of gills is unique to each fruiting body and differs across all mushroom bodies and types. The gills facilitate the release of small, thick-walled structures called Spores, which are small seeds that help in the reproduction of mushroom type.

Under the gills, is the stem of the mushrooms also known as the stipe or the stalk. It offers a base for the cap to stand upon while connecting it to the mycelia in the ground.

Some stems have rings which are also called volvas or bulbs which are the leftover tissue formed over the growth phase of the fruiting bodies. Rings help offer added protection to gills and spores during their existence.

Away from the naked eye is Mycelium which forms a thread-like web of hyphae helping the fruiting bodies grow and reproduce while it works on forming an underground connection with other mushrooms. Mycelium is a complex network of underground filaments which function similarly to the roots of a plant offering it a solid standing support while also connecting it to other mushrooms underground. The Mycelium helps in breaking down and digesting the organic matter and offering the essential minerals to the fruiting body.

Recent research has brought to light that the benefits of the functional mushrooms that we seek in terms of Beta-glucans and Polysaccharides are found in abundance in the fruiting body, while Mycelium is proving to be beneficial in increasing the Nerve Growth Factor NGF levels and improving cognition. There has been a long-standing debate on which is better, the fruiting body or the mycelium. While both the fruiting body and mycelium form the basic composition of any mushroom type, it is the fruiting body which seems to have 15 times more active compounds in comparison to mycelium as per general research reports.

The fruiting bodies in mushrooms are likely to contain essential bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides, indoles, polyphenols, carotenoids and vital nutrition in terms of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. The fruiting bodies in a mushroom are also a rich source of minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and trace minerals, including iron, selenium, copper, and zinc.

At Organic Mushrooms, we use the fruiting bodies of certified naturally grown mushrooms to unlock the most beneficial compounds like beta-glucans and improve bioavailability. Our health supplements are created by treating the fruiting bodies of revered functional mushrooms through patented double and triple extraction methods. Organic Mushrooms health supplements are 100% organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and are produced in Canada from start to finish ensuring quality and authenticity.

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