What the Latest Research Says About Mushroom Terpenes

What the Latest Research Says About Mushroom Terpenes

Most botanical enthusiasts know that cannabis contains essential oil-like compounds called terpenes that boost strains with unique fragrances and therapeutic benefits. Yet, consumers might not be aware that functional and psilocybin mushroom species also contain these potent, bioactive ingredients. 

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are the primary components of essential oils. They are a class of compounds responsible for chemovars’ (aka strains) varying aromas and flavors. They are also popular as scent and flavor additives in common products. Along with their aromatic appeal, terpenes deliver therapeutically versatile applications. The multifaceted wellness properties include many kinds of disease-fighting powers, including:

  • Antimicrobial
  • Antifungal
  • Antiviral
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antiparasitic
  • Cancer-fighting effects

Cannabis and hemp enthusiasts might be familiar with prominent terpenes like myrcene, pinene, and linalool for their pain-relieving and calming effects. However, mushrooms have also come into the limelight as an essential source of terpene-like compounds–namely terpenoids. Terpenoids are chemically modified derivatives of terpenes that include additional functional groups, enhancing their diversity and potential biological activities.

Research reveals that “terpenoids are among the most potent bioactive compounds in mushrooms with at least 5 monoterpenes, 70 sesquiterpenes, 44 diterpenes, and 166 triterpenes having been discovered and analyzed for their anticancer, antitumor, antimicrobial properties and effectivity in countering neurodegenerative diseases.”

Terpenes in Functional Mushrooms

Functional mushrooms are a group of fungi that provide nutritional benefits and a wide range of bioactive compounds. These mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for centuries worldwide, with modern research showing their potential to support the immune system, enhance cognitive function, reduce inflammation, and even offer anti-cancer properties. The key bioactive compounds in functional mushrooms include polysaccharides, beta-glucans, terpenes, and terpenoids.

Functional mushroom species tested for therapeutic terpene content include:

  • Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
  • Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
  • Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
  • Niu-Chang-Chih (Antrodia cinnamomea)
  • Ganoderma pfeifferi (Species of the Reishi or Lingzhi mushroom group)

These medicinal fungi feature many distinct terpenes and terpenoids from those found in cannabis and hemp plants, including ganoderic acid, trametenolic acid, and lentinellic acid.

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Health Benefits of Mushroom Terpenes

Mushroom terpenoids play a significant role in the health benefits found in functional mushrooms, from boosting immune system response to displaying powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, terpenes are mushrooms’ largest group of anti-inflammatory compounds, explaining why people in many parts of the world have used medicinal fungi to boost wellness for centuries.

Reishi mushrooms, known as the “mushroom of immortality,” contain over 100 triterpenes (half of which are not found in any other mushroom). This high terpene content likely explains why Reishi are some of the world's most widely used medicinal mushrooms today. One of the most prevalent terpenes in Reishi mushrooms is ganoderic acid, which has a long list of defense-related medicinal benefits, including:

  • Preventing histamine release for treating allergies, asthma, dermatitis, and rhinitis
  • Relaxing vessels and lowering blood pressure 
  • Suppressing the growth of cancer cells
  • Stopping the progression of HIV 

Mushroom terpenes highlighted in other species display equally impressive wellness benefits:

  • Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain high amounts of hericenones. This tiny molecule can pass the blood-brain barrier to improve neurocognitive impairment, promote NGF (nerve growth factor) synthesis, and promote brain cell growth. It also offers antidepressant effects

Terpenes in Psilocybin Mushrooms

Psilocybin mushrooms, or magic mushrooms, are rich in the psychoactive alkaloids, psilocybin and psilocin. However recent research shows that magic mushrooms contain several bioactive ingredients, including terpenes as well. The most prominent terpenes in the Psilocybe mushroom species include:

  • Cubebol
  • Β-copaene
  • Δ-cadinene
  • Germacrene D 

An entourage effect in magic mushrooms

Terpenes in mushrooms don’t function to send people on mind-altering “trips” like psilocybin does, at least not in the traditional sense of causing distorted visions and hallucinations. Still, mushroom terpenes can fall in the psychoactive category because they can bind to and interact with brain receptors

Growing evidence points to mushroom compounds interacting synergistically to produce the most potent effects. This theory, called the entourage effect, once only referred to cannabis compounds amplifying each other’s benefits. Yet recent research suggests psychedelic mushrooms might have their own entourage effect.

  • Mushroom terpenes likely enhance the entire psilocybin mushroom experience, including the psychedelic effects. 
  • Terpenes in mushrooms could offer expanded opportunities for psychedelic-assisted therapy and other treatments currently performed with psilocybin alone.

Terpene Testing in Mushrooms

Terpenes in mushrooms offer a wealth of opportunities for consumers hoping to treat various conditions and boost their overall wellness, making terpene testing a vital step for brands. Laboratories testing mushrooms for polysaccharides and terpenes give people the information they need to achieve specific wellness goals. Consumers should always look for products that verify their content with third-party laboratory testing and that come with a certificate of analysis (COA)

Bottom Line

Mushrooms are a powerful source of novel terpenes, significantly contributing to their medicinal value. Brands must start testing products for terpenes and educate consumers about their presence and what functions they offer. Brands looking to keep consumers informed about their product’s restorative value can start testing with ACS Laboratory today. 

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