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Ergothioneine: An Antioxidant With High Potential

Ergothioneine: An Antioxidant With High Potential

Over the past decade, Ergothioneine, a naturally occurring sulfur-modified amino acid, has attracted widespread interest as a potential therapeutic compound. According to published scientific evidence, ergothioneine does have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities.

These advantages have prompted the scientific community to study its effects on cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, neuronal damage, cellular aging and even cancer. It is said to be so important that some even consider it a vitamins!

Furthermore, like some of these, ergothioneine is not synthesized by humans, although it is widely present in the tissues of plants and animals. It turns out that mushrooms are the richest food source.

In this article, we assess the potential of this molecule for our health.



  • What is Ergothioneine?
  • Where is Ergothioneine Found?
  • Ergothioneine: A Smart Antioxidant?
  • Ergothioneine: Studies in Humans
  • Ergothioneine and Cardiovascular System
  • Ergothioneine and Brain
  • Ergothioneine: and Skin Health
  • Conclusion
  • References


What is Ergothioneine?

L-ergothioneine is an amino acid that contains histidine and a sulfur atom. This molecule was discovered by the French pharmacist Charles Tanret in 1909 from rye ergot (Claviceps purpurea).

Ergothioneine is mainly considered as an antioxidant or cytoprotective agent (= protects cells) against oxidative stress, as well as as an anti-inflammatory agent. It has also shown detoxifying properties.

Knowing that only certain microorganisms are capable of synthesizing it, ergothioneine is provided to us via food. Once consumed, ergothioneine is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and then distributed to various organs. It has good bioavailability, which means that it is well absorbed by the body.

Finally, ergothioneine has been shown to accumulate in almost all cells and tissues, although it has a particular palatability for those exposed to oxidative stress and injury. It is thus found concentrated in erythrocytes, the spleen, the liver and the eyes. This concentration decreases with age, especially after 60 years.




Where is Ergothioneine Found?

As we have seen, it is through food that our body will find ergothioneine and it is mushrooms which are the main food source! On the other hand, the majority of commonly consumed foods contain none or only trace amounts.

Studies show that it is the fruits (aerial parts) of basidiomycetes mushrooms such as the Bordeaux Cep, Oyster Mushrooms, Hericium, Shiitake or even Cordyceps which are most particularly endowed with them. Moreover, if you usually eat cooked mushrooms, there is no risk of altering its properties, because ergothioneine is very stable to heat!

Ergothioneine is not the only antioxidant compound found among mushrooms since the extracts also contain ergosterol, ascorbic acid, flavonoids, tocopherols, carotenoids, beta-glucans and even phenolic compounds.


Ergothioneine: A Smart Antioxidant?

It is now well established that ergothioneine acts as a cell-protecting molecule in cases of oxidative stress or inflammation. In addition to these very interesting properties, it seems that its methods of entry into our cells are just as interesting! Indeed, the arrival of ergothioneine in the cell would be regulated by the expression of a specific transporter induced by oxidative stress. This indicates that this molecule would intervene particularly when cells need it.

Despite everything, researchers showed in 2017 that ergothioneine supplementation in healthy, young people was still correlated with a slight reduction in the level of oxidative stress markers.


Ergothioneine: Studies in Humans

Recent years have seen the appearance of numerous clinical studies relating to human pathologies. It appears that ergothioneine supplementation could prove useful in supporting treatments and in the prevention of certain diseases.


Ergothioneine & Cardiovascular System

In the cardiovascular field, ergothioneine seems to be promising. Among the available studies, we note that ergothioneine supplementation is associated with beneficial effects in vitro and in animal models presenting manifestations of cardiometabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome and NAFLD .

When looking at humans, retrospective studies have identified associations between ergothioneine consumption, blood levels, and improved markers of oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as lower risk of disease. cardiometabolic and mortality.


Ergothioneine: and Brain

Due to the presence of a specific transporter allowing its arrival in the brain, certain studies have looked at its physiological role in brain function.

Thus, a publication indicates that low levels of ergothioneine in the blood in elderly people were associated with mild cognitive impairment, as well as in patients suffering from several diseases, including Parkinson’s disease. Low plasma ergothioneine levels are also associated with neurodegeneration and cerebrovascular disease in dementia.

Finally, another study was able to show that ergothioneine improves memory function in humans.




Ergothioneine: and Skin Health

The potent antioxidant and protective effects of ergothioneine translate into real-world benefits for your skin:

1. Ergothioneine Anti-oxidation
Ergothioneine can be transported to mitochondria through the transporter OCTN1 on skin cells, thereby to exert its antioxidant function. ergothioneine in mitochondria can directly scavenge active oxygen free radicals produced by respiration and absorb ultraviolet rays, thereby exerting antioxidant and skin protective effects. In addition, ergothioneine can inhibit DNA damage and effectively protect against UV damage.

Ergothioneine also has the ability to scavenge free radicals, reduce lipid peroxidation, and promote the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.

Ergothioneine ability to scavenging DPPH free radical is 14 times that of Glutathione, and 30 times that of Coenzyme Q10 at the same concentration.


2. Ergothioneine Sun Protection
Ultraviolet rays in sunlight UVA can penetrate into the dermis of human skin, affect the growth of epidermal cells, make surface cells die, and cause premature skin aging. Ultraviolet UVB is more likely to cause skin cancer. Ergothioneine can minimize the formation of reactive oxygen species and protect cells from radiation damage. Many researches has proved that ergothioneine has the protective benefits against UV-induced skin injuries.

UV radiation can cause a large number of epidermal cell apoptosis. 2% ergothioneine can reduce cell apoptosis, increase the proportion of living cells by 39%, and reduce the proportion of late apoptotic cells by 76%.


3. Ergothioneine Anti-Inflammation
Inflammation is a kind of response when the skin is infected. Excessive ultraviolet radiation and excessive pressure are all causes of skin inflammation. Studies have shown that ergothioneine can play an anti-inflammatory role in skin cells. At the same time, combined with vitamin C will obtain a more significant effect. The combination of idebenone and ergothioneine can reduce skin inflammation and skin damage caused by ultraviolet rays.


Ergothioneine: A Compound of the Future

We continually work to develop the best extraction processes for each of our mushrooms. We thus guarantee the best concentrations of active ingredients in our products. Perhaps you are working on the R&D of your new product, and ergothioneine powder would be a necessarity for your formula. As ergothioneine powder manufacturer, ✨ Want to try a sample? Request one here.





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