Mushrooms and brain health have been getting a wide range of publicity. Specifically the hallucinogenic “magic mushrooms”, have been recently discovered to offer fantastic benefits for mental health. Those with mental health disorders including depression were found to be helped by the supplementation of pscilocybin; the active compound found in magic mushrooms such as Liberty Caps. Unfortunately these types of mushrooms are illegal to pick and consume, not to mention make as a supplement. However, there are many other mushrooms and mushroom supplements that can help maintain your brain health.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
It was inevitable that we’d start with the Lion’s Mane Mushroom, the undisputed king of brain health when it comes to mushrooms. The Lion’s Mane mushroom has been researched a lot and its benefit as a supplement for the brain is widely accepted among the academic world. World renowned mycologist Paul Staments was maybe one of the people to start the ball rolling with this trendy musroom for brain health, when in his Joe Rogan interview, he explained how the Lions Mane Mushroom contributes to neurogenesis and also revealing that he himself takes Lion’s Mane Supplements on a daily basis. A study in 2019 found that the Lion’s Mane improved recognition memory and induced hippocampal and cerebellar neurogenesis in frail mice during aging. The two key compounds that make the Lion’s Mane mushroom special are called hericenones and erinacines, and these neurotraphic properties were found in a study to promote the growth of brain cells. The Lion’s Mane is often touted as a healer for Alzheimers, however there aren’t currently any studies that prove this, although there is substantial evidence that they can help to fight the presense of the amyloid-beta plaques that build up in those who suffer from the disease, as well as other studies showing how this mushroom can benefit those who are cognitively impaired.
The Chaga mushroom is known as an aptogen to some, but there is quite a considerable amount of debate as to whether it is an aptogen or not (which is for another blog article entirely!). It does however, like many of the mushrooms within this list, have aptogenic qualities which can help your body deal with the day to day stresses of modern life. The Chaga mushroom can also inhibit oxidative stress, and that combined with it’s anti-inflammatory properties, provide a remedy to inflammation on the brain and improved brain function. In one study, the Chaga mushroom was found to not only improve cognitive dysfunction when exposed to a toxin, but also restore acetylcholine levels, which are essential neurotransmitters for the day to day functioning of the brain with regards to sleep, learning, movement and memory.
Reishi has been used in East Asian medicine for years and with it’s multitude of benefits, it definitely fits the category of a SuperShroom. If you’re looking for a mushroom that helps with anxiety or stress, then reishi is the one for you. In David Winston’s book; Aptogens; Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, he explains that the Reishi mushroom can alleviate the effects of insomnia and help with anxiety before going to bed. The research on how sleep is so crucial for our brains is well accepted, so incorporating some Reishi mushroom supplements into your diet may be beneficial if you are struggling to get to sleep at night. The mushroom is well regarded for its calming effects, but it has also been reported to inhibit fatigue. In one study, fatigued breast cancer sufferers who were undergoing endocrine therapy reported that their fatigue dropped considerably, moreover, they also reported a decrease in depression and anxiety. As well as this, Reishi is also an anti-inflammatory which also provides benefits to your mental health and brain function.
The cordyceps isn’t technically a mushroom although it is a fungi, but due to the sheer amount of benefits of this fungi we couldn’t leave it out. Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus and often reffered to as the zombie fungus, but we promise it wont turn you into a zombie! This parasitic fungus works by infecting a live host with its spores, there are many different species but in the case of the carpenter ant, once it is infected, the fungus controls its mind and body until it fruits out of the ants head. The cordyceps fungus is more well known for its energy boosting properties which in itself can have a positive impact on mental health, but it also has some direct impacts on mental functioning. Various studies on mice have shown that the cordyceps not only has Anti-aging properties that are beneficial to brain function but has also shown to have a positive impact on memory too.