$26.7 billion

value of the global functional mushroom market in 2021

Mushroom supplements are hot. As Grand View Research reports, the global functional mushroom market size was valued at $26.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 10.8% from 2022 to 2030, fueled by the numerous health advantages functional mushrooms offer. 

With the surging demand, though, there comes a bit of controversy. As WholeFoods Magazine has reported, in June 2023 North American Reishi Ltd (Nammex) filed a Citizen Petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting that the agency "address the mislabeling of dietary supplements and functional foods as 'mushroom' or containing 'mushrooms' when they contain other fungal parts, and do not contain 'mushrooms' as claimed, or fail to disclose added grain ingredients."   

Outlining its reasoning, Nammex said it has been advocating for full transparency in product labeling and urging companies to identify ingredients from fungi according to the part of the fungal organism from which they are derived. This, Nammex said, is consistent with FDA’s labeling requirement for botanicals, yet the company added that there is ambiguity in FDA’s labeling regulations and compliance policies. opted to file the petition in an effort to raise public awareness, request guidance, and secure increased attention from FDA to ensure industry compliance. 

“Given the explosive growth the mushroom category is undergoing and entry of new companies marketing products with fungal ingredients that may not be aware of the regulatory requirements, it made sense to undertake this action now," said Nammex Founder Jeff Chilton. "We hope to raise awareness of the mislabeling problem that exists today in the U.S., and obtain FDA regulatory guidance on the labeling of mushrooms and other fungal ingredients to ensure truth-in-labeling. When consumers buy a product labeled as 'mushroom,' they should feel confident that they are getting a genuine mushroom product.”

Not everyone agreed with the action. In a show of unity, the makers of Host Defense Mushrooms, Fungi Perfecti, LLC, along with M2 Ingredients Inc., Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc., and Monterey Mushrooms Inc., jointly issued an open letter response to the petition. Calling the stance put forth in the Citizen's Petition a "puzzling opinion," these companies maintained that Nammex petition "obfuscates and misrepresents the use of well-established mycological definitions that impact responsible consumer messaging about mushroom products."

In his response to the Citizen Petition, Paul Stamets, Member & Founder, Fungi Perfecti, LLC said, "As mycologists, scientists, and industry experts, we are concerned by the public confusion being created and spread by this Citizen Petition about widely accepted and settled terminology, and are moved to collectively write this open letter in response so that industry policies will be grounded in scientific accuracy. This is critical for clear and sound regulations. We advocate for truth and scientific accuracy in labeling. In our opinion, the proposals being advocated by Nammex in their Citizen Petition do neither."

In August 2023, the Natural Products Association (NPA) filed a Citizen Petition to FDA requesting that the agency: 

  • Amend 21 C.F.R. § 101 to incorporate labeling aspects based on the American Herbal Products Association’s (AHPA) labeling guidance for mushrooms; and/or 
  • Commit to exercising enforcement discretion until the Agency provides guidance or publishes a regulation concerning a standard of identity for dietary supplements or ingredients from fungal ingredients, including mushrooms, mycelia and fruiting bodies. 

“Mushroom dietary supplements are extremely innovative and as the business grows, require a standard nomenclature,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., President and CEO of NPA. “By requesting that the FDA incorporate AHPA’s labeling guidelines or exercise enforcement discretion until the Agency publishes its own standard of identity regulation, we aim to protect domestic farmers who continue to be economically harmed by foreign entities damaging the credibility of this evolving market.” 

The popularity of mushroom supplements also has led unscrupulous players to counterfeit products. In April 2023, Fungi Perfecti reported the discovery of multiple unauthorized accounts on Amazon.com selling counterfeit products using the brand name Host Defense Mushrooms. Fungi Perfecti conducts routine brand control efforts, and during this process the company began investigating several unauthorized sellers. Fungi Perfecti spotted irregularities in both product packaging and contents inside the capsules, and the company worked within Amazon.com's brand control systems to restrict sales of counterfeit Host Defense products.

While experts work to sort out such issues to help ensure credibility and consumer trust, consumers continue to embrace functional mushrooms and the science-backed benefits they offer. “Edible mushrooms are more than just part of a delicious, nutritious meal; they also deliver a unique set of nutrients with wide-ranging health benefits,”  Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, Sr. Director of Research & Development as well as the National Educator at Bluebonnet Nutrition, explained to WholeFoods readers. “Mushrooms are a source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and an impressive array of large molecular weight and protein-bound polysaccharides—the most popular being β-glucans.”

Mushrooms to Know

You can find information on the latest science and innovation surrounding a wide range of mushrooms on WholeFoodsMagazine.com. Here is a sampling of the latest.

Lion’s Mane: This mushroom is prized for cognitive health, since it can promote neuronal cell growth, Bill Chioffi, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Nammex, has explained to WholeFoods Magazine. “A recently published study found new biologically active fungal compounds called hericine in the lion’s mane mushroom, which demonstrated potent axon outgrowth and neurite branching. The mushroom extract significantly enhanced recognition, memory, and hericine promoted neuritogenesis at very low concentrations. Interestingly, the researchers also found that lion’s mane polysaccharides also exerted a neurotropic activity.” Nammex offers a lion’s mane mushroom powder. Three randomized human clinical trials found the powder can reduce anxiety and depression in four weeks, improve mild cognitive impairment, and increase cognitive function in healthy adults

Reishi: While ashwagandha is probably the most well-known adaptogen on the market, adaptogenic mushrooms are seeing growth and increased consumer awareness, says Dr. Michael Lelah, Chief Science Officer, NutriScience Innovations. “More studies are needed, but preliminary findings—plus fungi’s long history as a natural healer—are promising.” Chioffi notes similar: “Because stressors both exogenous and endogenous continue to increase their impact on human health and adaptogens address these in non-toxic and normalizing manners, we foresee more development with these natural products and their inclusion in a variety of delivery formats from beverages and foods to the more traditional dietary supplement deliveries. We also foresee the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine and reverence for the power of Reishi mushroom being validated by its widespread, safe and effective use in foods, beverages, dietary supplements and cosmetic products.”

Chaga: “It has been revered for thousands of years for immune support and one of the key components and marker of a quality chaga mushroom is betulinic acid,” says Paul Schulick, Founder & CEO, For The Biome. “Chaga takes betulin from the birch tree. If you want to have the most healing form of chaga, you want to ensure it contains betulinic acid. Betulinic acid is a highly potent antioxidant that will protect cells throughout your body, but is also proven to protect against immune threats and strengthen the immune response. It is also capable of enhancing dopamine and acetylcholine to support cognitive function.”

Cordyceps: This mushroom has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to enhance physical performance, improve respiratory health, support healthy aging, and modulate the immune system, says Nirmal Nair, Founder and CEO, Sempera Organics, Inc. “Cordyceps is a natural fit for a multi-pronged approach to sports nutrition formulations, or in combination with Lion’s Mane for a stronger sports nutrition proposition. Cordyceps could be used in supplements supporting the immune system and those focused on healthy aging.”

More on Mushrooms

Read Mushrooms: Superfood Superstars for more stand-outs, including maitake, shiitake, tremella, poria, and more.