Mycelium vs Fruiting Body: Whats The Difference?

Mycelium vs Fruiting Body: Whats The Difference?

Mushrooms are a fascinating organism that has captivated humans for centuries. The fruiting body and mycelium are integral components of the mushroom's life cycle, each fulfilling distinct roles despite their contrasting structures and appearances. Although the fruiting body is more commonly recognized, the mycelium also holds significant importance in the growth and development of mushrooms. Together, these elements contribute to the overall existence and lifecycle of mushrooms. We'll examine the distinctions between mycelium and fruiting bodies in this article, as well as their separate functions in the growth of mushrooms and their contributions to the numerous health advantages of these fascinating organisms.

What Is Mycelium?

Mycelium is a network of thread-like structures called hyphae that make up the vegetative part of the mushroom. It grows underground or within the substrate, and it's responsible for absorbing nutrients and breaking down organic matter which are essential for the growth of the fungus. Mycelium lays the groundwork for the growth and development of mushrooms. Without it, the formation and maturation of these organisms would be impossible. It serves as a foundation that's central to the overall health of the mushroom. As such, its presence and functions are imperative. Without mycelium, there would be no mushrooms.

What Is Fruiting Body?

In contrast, the fruiting body of a mushroom is situated aboveground and is responsible for producing spores, it is the reproductive organism of the fungi. It is the recognizable part of the organism that we typically think of as a mushroom. The fruiting body's purpose is to disperse spores, which will grow into new mycelium and eventually new fruiting bodies. Mushroom species can be distinguished by their distinct fruiting body shapes, colors, and textures. These variations are useful in identifying different species.

What's The Difference Between Mycelium and Fruiting Body?

Mycelium is the vegetative part of a mushroom, composed of thread-like structures. In contrast, the fruiting body is the visible, spore-producing component of the fungus. Fruiting bodies exist to expand mycelium and create new forms of it and more fruiting bodies via reproductive processes, while mycelium provides the foundation for fruiting body growth. Both mycelium and fruiting bodies are integral to the mushroom life cycle.

How Do The Fruiting Body and MyceliumBenefit From Each Other?

The mycelium and fruiting bodies benefit each other in several ways. The mycelium provides nutrients and water to the fruiting body, allowing it to grow and develop. In return, the fruiting body produces spores, which the mycelium uses to spread and establish new colonies. This symbiotic relationship is essential for them to reproduce and it ensures the survival and proliferation of the mushroom organism.

The fruiting body of the fungi (mushroom) are powerhouses of bio-active compounds known as primary and secondary metabolites. When working with the pure fruit body you are getting constituents produced by the fungi and no filler. While the fruit body contains polysaccharides and various other phenols, sterols, and terpenes, they are distinguished by their significant levels of ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant associated with potential advantages in mitigating the risk of chronic ailments like heart disease and diabetes.*

Mycelium has shown to contain compounds that are not commonly found in fruit bodies, however the only significant research on mycelium has been done on isolated mycelium that has been purified and extracted. The research available on the benefits of mycelium does not align with the products that are commonly available on the market. 

What Type Of Environment Is Best Suited For The Growth Of Mycelium and Fruiting Bodies?

Mycelium and fruiting bodies develop differently depending on the species of mushroom. However, mycelium and fruiting bodies generally flourish in a dark, cool, and humid environment.

Mycelium cultivation thrives in temperatures between 18 to 25°C (64 to 77°F), giving rise to fruiting bodies that flourish between 12 to 18°C (54 to 64°F). Mycelium requires a high level of relative humidity to thrive, typically between 70 and 90%. Fruiting organisms, on the other hand, require a humidity level between 60 and 80%.

For mycelium production it is often easier to grow multiple species in similar condition, which make ‘spawn’ blocks cheap and easy to produce. It is much harder to get the fungi to fruit, which is why most companies only sell a myceliated grain product.

Mycelium and fruiting bodies can be damaged by mold and bacterial growth brought on by excessive moisture. In addition to temperature and humidity, substrate type, light exposure, and air circulation affect the growth of mycelium and fruiting bodies.

To maximize growth and health, it is necessary to consider each of these factors. Providing the proper environment for the mushroom species you are cultivating is essential for optimal growth and yield.

Biologically Active Compounds From The Mycelium and Fruiting Body

Beyond aiding mushroom growth, fruit bodies (mushrooms) and mycelium contain bioactive metabolites with potential health benefits.

  1. Beta-glucans:

Beta-glucans are complex polysaccharides that exist abundantly in the cell walls of fungus. These compounds have immunomodulatory properties, effectively stimulating and enhancing the immune response to bolster resistance against infections.*

  1. Triterpenes:

Triterpenes are a diverse group of organic compounds found in many fungi. They possess various biological activities, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties. Some examples of triterpenes include ganoderic acids in Reishi mushrooms and betulinic acid in Chaga mushrooms.*

  1. Polysaccharides:

Apart from beta-glucans, other polysaccharides found in the mycelium and fruiting bodies contribute to their medicinal benefits. These polysaccharides may have immune-enhancing, antioxidant, and antimicrobial effects. They also act as prebiotics, supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.*

  1. Phenolic compounds:

Mushrooms contain phenolic compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, such as flavonoids, tannins, and phenolic acids. By safeguarding cells from inflammation and oxidative damage, these compounds help deter diseases and promote overall well-being.*

  1. Sterols:

Sterols are lipid-like compounds present in fungal cell membranes. They have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and cholesterol-lowering properties. Ergosterol is a well-known sterol found in fungi, which can be converted into vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.*

  1. Enzymes:

Mycelium and fruiting bodies of fungi contain various enzymes, including proteases, lipases, and polysaccharide-degrading enzymes, that serve as a defense mechanism against pathogens. This makes them an effective barrier against microorganisms that are hazardous. These enzymes have potential applications in improving digestion, nutrient absorption, and promoting overall gut health.*

  1. Amino acids and peptides:

Fungi are rich sources of essential and non-essential amino acids. Mushrooms can create bioactive peptides, which possess attributes that are both antimicrobial and antioxidant, and even have immunomodulatory properties. These compounds may contribute to the overall health benefits of consuming mycelium and fruiting bodies.*

Scientific studies indicate that bioactive metabolites in mushrooms may have applications in cancer research, neuroprotection, and cardiovascular health. To fully utilize the potential of mushrooms, it's important to understand the differences between mycelium and fruiting bodies and their roles in producing these compounds.*

What Is The Nutritional Value Of Culinary Medicinal Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia

The nutritional value of culinary medicinal mushrooms fruiting bodies and mycelia can vary depending on the species and growing conditions.

Mushrooms generally, are a low-calorie and low-fat addition to a balanced diet. They are, in fact, an excellent source of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. For instance, button mushrooms are superb sources of Vitamin D, whereas shiitake mushrooms abound in copper, potassium, and B vitamins.

Mycelia, on the other hand, is often only used in supplements rather than culinary uses. Mushrooms abound in beta-glucans, a compound found to promote immune-boosting benefits. Additionally, they contain other active ingredients like ergothioneine and polysaccharides.

Nonetheless, it is vital to note that while mycelium supplements can offer similar advantages, they may not provide the same nutritional value as whole mushrooms. Therefore, it's advised to use mycelium supplements in moderation.

How To Use The Fruiting Body and Mycelium

Mushrooms have been used medicinally for centuries. Mycelium and fruiting body are two sections of the mushroom that are often used for their medicinal properties. Here are a few examples of how mycelium and fruiting body can be used to obtain their health benefits:

  1. Dietary supplements:

Mushroom supplements are available in the form of capsules, powders, and liquid extracts. 100% fruit body extracts ensures that you are getting the pure constituents from the fungi with no filler. These supplements can be consumed daily to support health and wellness. 

  1. Cooking:

Mushrooms are a versatile ingredient in cooking and can be used in a variety of dishes. The fruiting body of mushrooms, such as portobello or shiitake, can be used in stir-fries, soups, and stews. Mycelium is not often used for culinary purposes, however, it can be used in Tempeh and other forms of mushroom-based sauces or seasonings.

  1. Tea:

Mushroom tea is a traditional way of consuming mushrooms, and it's an easy way to consume traditionally prepared with the  fruiting body. Simply simmer chopped mushrooms in water for 1-2 hours minutes, strain, and enjoy.

  1. Topical applications:

Mushrooms have been used topically for their anti-inflammatory properties. Mushroom extracts can be added to skincare products, such as face creams and serums, to promote healthy skin.

  1. Immune support:

Both mycelium and fruiting bodies contain compounds that can support immune function. Consuming mushroom supplements or tea can help support the immune system and protect against illnesses.* However, there is no significant evidence that mycelium grown on grain, which make up most of the current supplement industry, have the same benefits as mushroom fruit bodies.

Overall, understanding the differences between mycelium and fruiting bodies is important for unlocking the full potential of mushrooms. Whether consumed as supplements, used in cooking or skin care products, or consumed as a tea, it is best to use the fruiting body of the mushroom over the myceliated grain. Pure mycelia is also a great resource but it is difficult to produce large volumes and not often readily available.. Incorporating mushrooms into your diet and skincare routine can help promote overall health and wellness.

Are Both Mycelium and Fruiting Body Found In Mushroom Supplements?

Most of the ‘mushroom’ supplements commercially available are not mushrooms at all, rather they are myceliated grain labeled as mushrooms. To get the greatest benefit from your supplements ensure you get a pure fruit body extract, as the fruit body is rich in pure constituents produced by the fungi. With myceliated grain products you often get many of the starches from the grain and not as many of the beta-glucans from the fungi, you are also getting a diluted product.

Myceliated grain products being labeled as “Mushroom” supplements is largely misleading, because Mushroom specifically refers to the fruit of the fungi, the reproductive organism that we are familiar with for food and medicine. Mycelium on its own has many potential benefits, but it is really difficult to find pure mycelium supplements. Furthermore, if a product claims to contain BOTH mycelium and fruit body, it is often mostly myceliated grain.

Both mycelium and fruiting bodies (mushrooms) can be found in mushroom supplements. Some mushroom extracts and powders may only contain one or the other, while others may contain both. To find the best supplement that fits your needs, read the label and research carefully. It's paramount to purchase from reputable sources to guarantee both quality and safety. Remember to also consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement plan.


In conclusion, both mycelium and fruiting bodies have their own unique benefits and use in supplements, cooking, skincare, and health support. It is important to keep in mind that all of our traditional use as mushrooms for health are with the fruiting body, what is commonly recognized as the mushroom. 

The fruit body is a concentrated bio-factory and has pure compounds coming directly from the fungi, where mycelium is virtually impossible to separate completely from it’s substrate. All of the scientific studies that are using mycelium are using pure mycelium grown in a liquid broth and extracted with various solvents. Mycelium products commonly availabil are not produced this same way, and do not yield the same dietary and health benefits. 

Understanding the differences between the two can help individuals make informed decisions when purchasing mushroom supplements or incorporating mushrooms into their diet and lifestyle. It is always important to seek advice from a healthcare professional before initiating any new supplement regimen and to purchase supplements from reputable sources to guarantee safety and quality. With its numerous health benefits, mushrooms are a valuable supplement to complement any health and wellness routine.

Final Thoughts

At Feral Fungi, mushrooms are our expertise. We pride ourselves in creating premium mushroom extracts with locally sourced US ingredients in Oregon. For those who seek to enhance their diet with the unparalleled advantages of mushrooms, Feral Fungi is your ultimate solution. Trust us to provide you with the best mushroom products on the market.



*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Our product has not gone under clinical trial and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease such as heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, or any other diseases listed in this article. 


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