Hygieia Biotech

Locking the Health Benefits of a Hidden Antioxidant–Mushrooms


How much we know about Mushroom?

Mushroom is a common and delicious food on our table like Cream of mushroom soup, pasta, sauce. But is it just for tasty?  

Edible mushrooms used for food dates back to ancient times and it also have a long-term history in traditional medicine especially in China. China is rich in edible mushroom resources and is one of the first countries to cultivate and utilize edible mushrooms.

Medicinal mushrooms or extracts from mushrooms that are thought to be effective for anti-cancer, anti-tumor, lowering blood pressure, immunomodulation etc. So it’s no surprise that mushroom extract supplements have been such popular nowadays.

There are some common types extract from mushrooms like Reishi, Shiitake, Lion’s mane, Chaga, Maitake etc.

But today we are going to talk about a new star on top of all them—L-Ergothioneine.

What is L-Ergothioneine?

L-Ergothioneine (Ergothioneine) is an amino acid derivative that was first discovered in 1909 in the ergot fungus (Claviceps purpurea). However, it is not limited to this fungus alone.

Ergothioneine is also found in various dietary sources, including certain mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, and porcini, as well as some other plant and animal tissues. Interestingly, humans cannot synthesize ergothioneine on their own, so it must be obtained from external sources.

How Ergothioneine works as a super star?

Although it is already used in cosmetic products for skin care, in the realm of nutrition and wellness, scientists and health enthusiasts are continually uncovering its remarkable properties in recent years, a naturally occurring antioxidant with a range of potential health benefits.

Let’s delve into the world of ergothioneine and explore why it’s worth paying attention to.

Super antioxidant

What makes ergothioneine particularly intriguing is its potent antioxidant properties. As an antioxidant, partly because of the stability of its thione form which predominates at physiological pH (Fig. 1) , making it resistant to autoxidation.

It plays a vital role in protecting cells from oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to various diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders. Ergothioneine acts as a scavenger, neutralizing free radicals and preventing cellular damage.

Figure 1: Is ergothioneine a ‘longevity vitamin’ limited in the American diet?

Enhances the function of organs with high metabolic activity

Ergothioneine is known for its ability to accumulate selectively in specific tissues and organs. High levels of ergothioneine have been found in organs with high metabolic activity, such as the liver, kidneys, and bone marrow, as well as in the eye lens, erythrocytes, and immune cells.

This suggests that ergothioneine may play a crucial role in protecting these tissues and supporting their optimal function.


Research on ergothioneine is still in its early stages, but preliminary studies have revealed promising findings. Some studies suggest that ergothioneine may have anti-inflammatory properties, potentially contributing to the prevention or management of chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, ergothioneine has been linked to improved cognitive function and may help protect against age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.


Ergothioneine’s role as an antioxidant and its unique accumulation in specific tissues have also sparked interest in its potential anti-aging properties. Oxidative stress and cellular damage are thought to accelerate the aging process, and by neutralizing free radicals, ergothioneine may help slow down this process and promote longevity.


Ergothioneine is a fascinating compound with promising antioxidant and health-promoting properties which holds great promise.

While more research is needed, early findings suggest that ergothioneine may have significant implications for human health, particularly in combating oxidative stress, inflammation, and age-related conditions.

Any dosage recommended?

Incorporating ergothioneine-rich foods into your diet may be a simple and natural way to enhance your antioxidant defense system. Mushrooms, in particular, are an excellent dietary source of ergothioneine.

However, for those who may have dietary restrictions or limited access to certain foods, ergothioneine supplements are also available.

It is Novel Food in EU and it’s 30mg/day for general population (excluding pregnant and lactating women).

And in USA, Ergothioneine is granted GRAS under the conditions of its intended use by the FDA in 2018 for use in foods at 5 mg/serving.

As with any dietary supplement, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before adding ergothioneine supplements to your routine. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific health needs and help ensure you are taking an appropriate dosage.


Hobbs CJ. (1995). Medicinal Mushrooms: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing & Culture. Portland, Oregon: Culinary Arts Ltd. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-884360-01-5.

Sullivan, Richard; Smith, John E.; Rowan, Neil J. (2006). “Medicinal Mushrooms and Cancer Therapy: translating a traditional practice into Western medicine”. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine49 (2): 159–70.

Tanret M (1909) Sur une base nouvelle retiree du seigle ergote, l’ergothioneine. Compt Rende 149, 222–224

Hartman PE (1990) Ergothioneine as antioxidant. Methods Enzymol 186, 310–318

Cumming BM, Chinta KC, Reddy VP, et al. (2018) Role of ergothioneine in microbial physiology and pathogenesis. Antioxidants Redox Signal 28, 431–444.

Cheah IK, Halliwell B. Ergothioneine; antioxidant potential, physiological function and role in disease. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012;1822(5):784-793. doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2011.09.017

Halliwell B, Cheah IK, Tang RM, et al. Ergothioneine – a diet-derived antioxidant with therapeutic potential. FEBS Lett. 2018;592(18):3357-3366. doi:10.1002/1873-3468.13296

Dubick MA, MacKay D, editors. Ergothioneine: An Underappreciated Antioxidant in Nutritional Medicine. Nutr Clin Pract. 2021;36(2):235-438. doi:10.1002/ncp.10723

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