Founded by biologist and mycotherapist Catalina Fernández de Ana Portela in 1998, the family-owned biotech company now operates in many countries such as France, Portugal, Italy, the UK, Ireland, and Germany.
Discussing the secret to the firm’s longevity, Sophie Barrett, mycotherapy advisor at the firm tells NutraIngredients much of its success comes from its focus on scientific substantiation.
“The company allocates 62% of its profits back into research and development, mainly in gastrointestinal health, immunology, oncology, musculoskeletal, and mental health.
“It's constantly reinvesting and innovating and making sure there's that clinical research to back up the medicinal mushroom products.”
According to Barrett, all finished products are evaluated for efficacy, and they currently have approximately 15 different active clinical trials evaluating the health benefits of their supplements and products.
Barrett explains that the company has been predominantly trading direct-to-practitioner but it is seeing increased interest from retailers and direct consumer sales as consumers get more engaged with the health benefits.
She states: “The pandemic was a key moment where people were at home, and they were starting to do their research.
“People realised they had to be more resilient and more resourceful and to find ways of improving their health when perhaps they can't get an appointment with the GP.
“They did a lot of their own research and realised that there was this ancient traditional use of mushrooms in traditional Chinese medicine.
“I think this influenced the interest, and then a few brands emerged who were more accessible in terms of price point that had very good branding and social media.”
Knowing the difference
Barrett suggests that the increase in well-branded popular mushroom supplement companies has helped rather than hindered what Hifas da Terra has set out to achieve.
She states: “Raising the profile of medicinal mushrooms, in general, is so important. These companies have been great cheerleaders for a natural product.
However, she notes some major differences between what Hifas da Terra strives for through its research, commenting that education is still paramount for the consumer.
She explains: “I’ve looked at a lot of different brands’ labelling and there's a big distinction between a product that's going to be therapeutic and one that’s not.
“Many medicinal mushroom brands only mention the overall polysaccharide percentage, which could encompass alpha-glucans or other constituents,” she explains.
However, she notes that this information is insufficient. To ensure the desired therapeutic effects, it's important to have a standardised quantity of specific beta-glucans in the product.
Barrett explains that her primary goal is to educate people about identifying valuable traits in medicinal mushrooms and explaining that these mushrooms should ideally be cultivated on wood, just as they would grow naturally.
This cultivation method on wood chips enhances the polysaccharide count, reducing starchiness and increasing the presence of bioavailable compounds crucial for therapeutic effects, she explains.
She states: “Our focus is on achieving a consistent quantity of specific beneficial compounds, such as β-(1,3 and 1,6) D-glucans.”
The firm has one of the largest medicinal mushroom strain banks in Europe, allowing them to select strains providing specific health benefits.
Its catalogue hosts approximately 40-50 products and focuses on health areas such as healthy ageing, cognitive health, cardiovascular health, immune support, and sleep.
A vast majority of the supplements are capsule based which have remained a firm favourite with consumers thanks to the convenience factor, as Barrett explains: “People are time poor, and it’s easy to take capsules.
“They can keep their capsules by their bedside and take them without thinking about it on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning.”
Hifas da Terra's popular ‘functional’ range is comprised of three products: Hifas Detox; Hifas Equilibrium; and Hifas Microbiota.
Its ‘Hifas Detox’ product contains organic maitake and polyporus extracts, designed to “detoxify and drain harmful substances from the body via their diuretic, lymph-mobilising and liver-purifying effects.”
A recent unpublished study conducted by the firm found that there was a 19% blood lead reduction, and in 15.7% mercury reduction after three months when supplementing with ‘Hifas Detox’.
Maitake has reportedly high and stable heavy metal adsorption activity, while the mushroom Polyporus umbellatus offers several diuretic compounds, including ergosterol and ergone, that help with fluid retention.
The firm’s ‘Hifas Equilibrium’ product contains a triad of synergistic adaptogenic medicinal mushrooms, that are designed to “balance the body’s immune, nervous and endocrine systems”.It contains micronised organic powder of Lion’s Mane, organic Reishi, which has been studied for its anti-stress effects, reduction of depressive symptoms, and anti-insomnia benefits, as well as bio-fermented Cordyceps extract to aid fatigue.
The ‘Hifas Microbiota’ product contains Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Pleurotus, Shiitake, and is designed to be “useful for all types of microbiota disorders, both in intestinal dysbiosis, intestinal candidiasis and as a preventive in the care of the balance of the vaginal, skin and mucosal microbiota.”
The exclusive organic Hifas da Terra strains of Reishi and Hericium have reportedly been shown to regulate the microbiota in small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in IBS patients.