Functional or Medicinal Mushrooms:
What’s in a Name?

The line between functional vs medicinal mushrooms is unclear. Myzel Organics decided to label our products as ‘functional mushrooms’ to reflect their adaptogenic properties, and also, to avoid misrepresenting the potential of our products.

What Was the Inspiration? Functional Mushrooms vs Medicinal Mushrooms?

When our Co-Founders brainstormed about the future of Myzel, they anticipated that the adaptogenic power of mushrooms would change the wellness industry’s approach to holistic health. 

From nutraceutical applications in supplements and cosmetics, to food applications in functional foods/beverages and meat substitutes, the potential for mushrooms seemed limitless. 

Growing Market Demand for Functional Mushrooms

At that time in 2021, the forecast data confirmed growing interest in non-psychoactive mushrooms, with global market projections anticipated to reach $115.8 billion in revenue by 2030. 

The players were widely distributed, often cultivating functional mushrooms in Asia Pacific. That meant most mushrooms would be shipped around the globe before they reached their destinations in Europe and North America. 

Did it make sense for producers of beverages or supplements to pay for the cost of international shipping to include mushrooms in their products? 

We didn’t think so. That’s part of the reason Myzel settled on our Wainfleet, Ontario facility: to reduce the environmental impact and provide the North American market with a more local and sustainable option.

But what would we call the product we grew? Functional mushrooms or medicinal mushrooms?

What to Call the 5th Kingdom?

For the first year of our operation, we tested the waters with both terms.

Keyword research told us that almost twice as many people searched for ‘medicinal mushrooms’ than ‘functional mushrooms’. 

Medicinal Mushroom Functional Mushroom keyword research results

As it turns out, there’s twice as much content on the internet offering details and products related to functional mushrooms. What gives?


Definition of Medicinal Mushrooms per the FDA

A quick search in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Warning Letters database shows the agency is cracking down on misinformation about the use of the term “medicinal mushrooms”.

Specifically, they’re on the lookout for under-researched claims about medicinal mushrooms.

Consistency is Key

The FDA approves new drugs on the basis of scientific data demonstrating a drug is safe and effective.

However, the FDA does not approve dietary supplements. For naturally occurring supplements, like mushrooms, the variation between each batch requires constant re-testing to ensure safety and continued efficacy. Not all batches of mushroom supplements are the same. Growing conditions vary (like the growth medium, the weather outside), which influences the contents and conditions of naturally occurring substances. 

For pharmaceutical substances, made in a lab with consistent conditions each time, this variability is avoidable. In fact, it’s desired.

Medicinal Mushrooms: Burden of Proof is on the Producer

That’s one of the reasons why the company making a supplement is responsible for product safety. That company can control production conditions, order Certificates of Analysis (COAs) to ensure safety, and run clinical trials to ensure marketing claims are accurate and do not mislead consumers. 

When a company claims its products are intended for use as drugs, they must have valid scientific data and FDA approval to make these claims. Otherwise, they will be deemed “Unapproved New / Misbranded Drugs”.

Dried Reishi
When is a Mushroom Medicinal?

Most recommendations for medicinal mushrooms come from in-depth clinical research, either from an academic study or a private clinical trial.

The outcome of these studies will provide detailed information about:

  • Laboratory and animal studies
    • Including side effects & benefits
  • Clinical trials in humans
    • Including side effects & benefits
International Standards on the Term Medicinal Mushroom Vary

Medicinal mushrooms have been approved as a standard cancer treatment in Japan and China since the 1990s. In both markets, medicinal mushrooms have been safely used to treat cancer alongside radiation or chemotherapy for decades.

At Myzel, we strive to honor the rule of law in North America. Yet we also acknowledge that evidence about the efficacy of mushrooms in treating medical conditions abounds in scientific literature and cultural knowledge. 

What Does Myzel Sell: Functional Mushrooms vs Medicinal Mushrooms?

Myzel choses to label our products as functional mushrooms.

Functional mushrooms offer the potential for adaptation and holistic health. They are purchased and consumed based on secondary research, traditional knowledge, and anecdotal evidence. 

Given the organic and natural production methods required to grow mushrooms, we don’t expect our mushrooms to be FDA approved anytime soon. 

Yet, we believe that functional mushrooms can influence holistic health and provide a viable ingredient for humans, pets, and livestock. 

About Myzel’s Functional Mushrooms

All of Myzel’s functional mushrooms carry adaptogenic properties that improve overall health and help a body recover from the effects of stress. 

According to Merriam-Webster, an adaptogen is:

a nontoxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning

Adaptogens are not limited to mushrooms. They are naturally occurring in many foods and beverages, including turmeric, burdock, black pepper, green tea, and so many other foods.  

The popularity of mushrooms as a source of adaptogens is largely due to the sheer range of properties offered by each species. Some of the adaptogenic properties of functional mushrooms include: 

Traditional Apothecary

Decreased effects of stress (Chaga, Maitake, Reishi)

Enhanced immune system (Almond, Reishi, Shiitake)

Reduced inflammation (Reishi, Turkey Tail)

Healthy digestion (Maitake, Shiitake)

Increased energy (Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane)

Our research indicates that most mushrooms offer multiple possible benefits, making them among the most versatile sources of adaptogens on the planet. 

Yellow warning sign set before a dark sky

A Warning: Functional Mushroom Education Required!

Functional mushrooms are not intended to replace prescribed medicine or treat specific conditions. When consumed to proactively improve overall health, personal education is recommended. When addressing specific ailments, the team at Myzel recommends seeking licensed medical advice.

Functional mushrooms, like any natural ingredient, can have unanticipated effects. Over use or improper use can lead to adverse side effects like nausea, constipation, and insomnia. As with all supplements, we recommend that you discuss your interest in functional mushrooms with a medical professional prior to use. 

It’s All in the Name!

What’s the difference between functional and medicinal mushrooms?

The name!

These mushrooms do not differ as two separate species. They differ only by the scientific evidence collected and proofs established time-after-time. 

Both functional mushrooms and medicinal mushrooms are packed with bioactive compounds and nutrients. Mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides, ergothioneines, carotenoids, and macronutrients like selenium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B6

At Myzel, we’re waiting for the completion of proprietary studies to demonstrate the potential for mushrooms. 

Until we secure claims from these studies, we’re labelling our mushrooms “Functional Mushrooms”.

Functional Mushroom Vs Medicinal Mushroom

Table comparing functional mushrooms and medicinal mushrooms

Disclaimer: Myzel Organics choses to differentiate between Functional Mushrooms and Medicinal Mushrooms for regulatory purposes. This is our own unique perspective based on our understanding of CFIA and FDA standards. All opinions are uniquely our own.