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Best Mushrooms For Mental Health: Our Expert Analysis
Nov 07, 22
This article has been vetted by the Onnit Advisory Board. Read more about our editorial process.
Author: Sony Sherpa

Best Mushrooms For Mental Health: Our Expert Analysis

  • by Sony Sherpa

    Medically reviewed by

    Sony Sherpa

    Dr. Sony Sherpa is a board-certified Clinical Doctor and dedicated advocate for holistic medicine, specializing in functional mushrooms. Her blend of medical expertise and passion for alternative wellness lends authenticity to her role as a contributor for Natures Rise.

  • |
  • 16 min read
Best Mushrooms For Mental Health: Our Expert Analysis

Mental health is an increasingly important issue today, with many individuals seeking natural methods to supplement traditional treatments and improve overall well-being. As the importance of mental health continues to gain recognition, understanding and exploring various natural aids have become a focal point for many. 

From dietary changes to incorporating exercise and mindfulness practices, the quest for natural support is expansive. One such avenue of exploration is the power of fungi, more specifically, the use of medicinal mushrooms.

When looking for natural support for mental health, certain mushrooms have shown promising potential. The best mushrooms for mental health include Lion's Mane mushroom, which may help with cognitive function and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Reishi, often called the mushroom of immortality, has potential anti-stress and anxiety-relieving properties. Cordyceps, traditionally used for managing fatigue and stress, may also have antidepressant effects. 

Psilocybe or Magic Mushrooms have shown potential in treating depression, PTSD, and anxiety in recent studies, though they are controlled substances in many countries. Finally, Turkey Tail, known for its immune-boosting properties, supports overall mental health. 

This article delves into the fascinating world of mushrooms, uncovering their potential benefits for mental health. We will examine the science behind their efficacy, how they can be used, and the precautions one must take. Through this exploration, we hope to illuminate another possible natural ally in the journey toward better mental health.

Exploring the Mushroom Kingdom: A Myriad of Health Benefits

Exploring the Mushroom Kingdom: A Myriad of Health Benefits

Harnessing the Power of Bioactive Compounds

Functional mushrooms are packed with bioactive compounds like beta-glucans and triterpenoids, contributing to their health benefits. For instance, beta-glucans are known to support immune function, and research suggests they may also offer cardiovascular benefits. Triterpenoids, on the other hand, have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

A highlight in the family of functional mushrooms—Lion's mane mushrooms—is an excellent example of this bioactive potential. Research suggests that these mushrooms not only support brain health but may also offer benefits for other mood disorders.

The Magic of Adaptogenic Mushrooms

Adaptogenic mushrooms are a specific group of functional mushrooms that play a vital role in stress management. Adaptogens help the body resist physical, chemical, or biological stress and restore normal physiological functions. By modulating our stress response, these adaptogenic mushrooms can support overall brain health, reducing the impact of stress on our mental well-being.

Eating mushrooms like Reishi and Cordyceps, renowned adaptogenic mushrooms, can offer these stress-relief benefits. But for those of us not accustomed to including these varieties in our meals, mushroom supplements are an accessible alternative. Research suggests these supplements can provide the same benefits as eating mushrooms, making them a convenient option for harnessing the power of these fungi.

Unearthing the Connection: Mushrooms and Mental Health

Unearthing the Connection: Mushrooms and Mental Health

The potential mental health benefits of certain types of mushrooms, such as Reishi mushrooms and Hericium Erinaceus (commonly known as Lion's Mane), are gaining increasing attention from researchers. Understanding how these fungi may aid in maintaining a healthy brain and how they affect specific mental health conditions is paramount.

Unveiling the Research: Reishi, Lion's Mane, and More

Current research paints a promising picture of mushrooms for anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. A prime example is the Reishi mushroom, known for its calming effects and potential to improve sleep quality(1)

Meanwhile, Hericium Erinaceus has demonstrated neuroprotective properties(2), with research indicating it may stimulate the production of nerve growth factors and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which are vital for healthy brain function and brain plasticity.

Research also shows that other compounds in these mushrooms can significantly impact the central nervous system. For instance, psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in certain mushroom species, has shown potential(3) in treating depression and anxiety. Early studies suggest psilocybin may reset neural pathways, enhancing blood flow and connectivity in the brain.

The Power of Fungi in Neurological Health

Understanding the workings of the human brain and the role of nerve growth factors in neurological health is complex. However, preliminary studies suggest that some mushrooms may support the production of nerve growth factors, impacting the health and vitality of brain cells. In particular, reishi mushrooms and Hericium Erinaceus may offer potent benefits in this context.

There's also burgeoning research on the gut-brain axis, suggesting that some mushrooms could improve mental health conditions by promoting a healthy gut environment.

Acknowledging the Limitations and Looking Ahead

While the initial findings are undoubtedly exciting, it's essential to acknowledge the limitations of current research. Most studies on the mental health benefits of mushrooms have been pre-clinical, involving either animal models or small-scale human trials. Further, comprehensive research is needed to determine the best dosages, understand potential side effects, and identify any possible drug interactions.

Despite these limitations, the future looks promising for mushrooms for anxiety, depression, and broader mental health conditions. As our understanding deepens, we can look forward to more refined and evidence-based applications of these remarkable fungi in mental health.

Best Medicinal Mushrooms for Mental Health

1. Lion's Mane: The Brain-Boosting Fungus

Lion's Mane: The Brain-Boosting Fungus

Hericium Erinaceus, commonly known as Lion's Mane Mushroom, is one of the most renowned medicinal mushrooms. This edible mushroom is cherished for its unique appearance resembling a lion's mane, and its exceptional health benefits. It is known to enhance immune function and boost brain health.

Lion's mane mushrooms are exceptional when it comes to mental health. Research indicates that the Lion's Mane can stimulate the production of nerve growth factor, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy nervous system and combating cognitive decline. The Lion's mane mushroom improves memory and has been linked to improved focus and a balanced mood, offering potential benefits for psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression.

You can incorporate Lion's Mane into your diet by consuming it in various forms—raw in salads, cooked in meals, or as mushroom supplements typically available in capsules, powders, or tinctures.

2. Reishi: The Mushroom of Immortality

Reishi: The Mushroom of Immortality

Reishi mushrooms, or Ganoderma Lucidum, are among the oldest medicinal mushrooms known to man. Besides their immune-enhancing effects, Reishi mushrooms are esteemed for their potential to support brain health and alleviate anxiety.

Recent studies indicate that(4) Reishi mushrooms can help reduce stress and promote calmness, making them a popular choice as a complementary medicine. Reishi is often used for fighting anxiety and depression, two common mental health conditions. Furthermore, these mushrooms are known to cross the blood-brain barrier, directly affecting the central nervous system and offering benefits for various psychiatric disorders.

Reishi mushrooms can be slightly bitter when consumed directly. Therefore, mushroom supplements or functional mushroom products like tea or coffee infused with Reishi extract are good alternatives.

3. Cordyceps: The Energy Enhancer

Cordyceps: The Energy Enhancer

Primarily, Cordyceps mushrooms are valued for enhancing energy and endurance. Their health benefits extend beyond just the immune system and brain health, with some evidence pointing towards their potential in supporting cardiovascular health.

Specifically, Cordyceps mushrooms have been associated with(5) stress reduction and balanced mood, providing a natural means to manage anxiety and depression.These unique mushrooms may also influence the nervous system, promoting overall neurological health.

You can reap the benefits of Cordyceps by consuming them as mushroom supplements or brewing them in tea. These mushrooms are rare in the wild, and most commercially available Cordyceps are lab-grown. Therefore, be sure to get your cordyceps from a reputable seller.

4. Psilocybe (Magic Mushrooms): A Controversial Cure

Psilocybe (Magic Mushrooms): A Controversial Cure

Psilocybe, commonly known as "Magic Mushrooms," are a group of fungi with psychoactive properties. While they've been infamous for recreational misuse, a growing body of research suggests they may have significant potential in treating psychiatric disorders, specifically depression, and anxiety.

These mushrooms contain psilocybin, a compound that, when ingested, gets converted into psilocin—a substance that can significantly affect the brain. However, it's essential to note that psilocybin mushrooms are classified as a Schedule I drug in many countries, meaning their use is generally illegal.

Despite their potential benefits, they also come with risks, including psychological distress or exacerbation of existing mental health conditions. Any use should only be under professional supervision and in countries where it's legal.

5. Turkey Tail: The Immune Warrior

Turkey Tail: The Immune Warrior

Turkey Tail, a medicinal mushroom known for its distinctive fan shape and colorful rings, is one of the best for supporting the immune system. It's rich in polysaccharides and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

Turkey Tail shows potential in supporting mental health by maintaining a healthy gut environment, thus contributing to a balanced mood. Research on breast cancer patients also found that Turkey Tail could help improve mental health during treatment.

Incorporating Turkey Tail into your diet can be as simple as adding dried mushrooms into soups or stews. Alternatively, Turkey Tail is available in mushroom supplements like capsules or tinctures.

Quality Matters: Sourcing Your Medicinal Mushrooms

Quality Matters: Sourcing Your Medicinal Mushrooms

Sourcing high-quality products is crucial when incorporating medicinal mushrooms into your diet for mental health benefits. As a rule of thumb, always choose products from reputable brands that guarantee the purity and potency of their products. The best mushrooms for your needs are always responsibly sourced and handled.

You can typically find various forms of these mushrooms, like Lion's mane, Reishi mushroom, and others, at health food stores or online. They may be available in different formats, such as whole-dried mushrooms, powders, extracts, or tinctures. These forms can be easily added to mushroom recipes—for example, Lion's mane mushroom recipes—or consumed as a medicinal food.

Potential Side Effects and Interactions: What You Should Know

Potential Side Effects and Interactions: What You Should Know

While medicinal mushrooms like Lion's mane, Reishi, and others have been lauded for their potential benefits to brain health, they're not without possible side effects. Some people may experience digestive upset, allergies, or skin rashes. The effect of these mushrooms on the adult brain is generally positive, but individual reactions can vary, and in some cases, such as bipolar disorder, they might exacerbate symptoms.

Furthermore, although it's rare, certain mushrooms might interact with medication. For example, Reishi mushroom may slow blood clotting, which could increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders or those taking anticoagulant medication.

Professional Guidance: An Essential Part of the Journey

Professional Guidance: An Essential Part of the Journey

Even though the research on the effects of medicinal mushrooms on the brain's ability to maintain mental health is promising, it's essential to consult with a healthcare provider before incorporating them into your diet, particularly if you're considering Lion's mane extract or other potent forms.

Healthcare professionals can provide personalized advice based on your health needs and goals, ensuring you use these natural tools safely and effectively. Remember, while medicinal mushrooms can contribute to a brain-healthy lifestyle, they're not a substitute for professional mental health treatment.

Mushrooms for Mental Health Video

FAQs Best Mushrooms For Mental Health

What Are The Top Medicinal Mushrooms For Improving Mental Health?

Among the top medicinal mushrooms known for their potential to improve mental health, Lion's Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) stands out for its ability to stimulate nerve growth factors and enhance cognitive functions. Next is the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum), recognized for its calming effects and potential to reduce stress and improve sleep quality. 

Cordyceps is another prominent mushroom, valued for its stress reduction properties and potential to improve mood and energy levels. Notably, Psilocybe, commonly called Magic Mushrooms, although currently classified as a Schedule I drug in many countries, is subject to ongoing research investigating its potential in treating anxiety and depression. Lastly, the Turkey Tail mushroom, known for supporting the immune system and gut health, can indirectly contribute to mental health well-being.

Can Medicinal Mushrooms Interact With Mental Health Medications?

Yes, medicinal mushrooms can potentially interact with certain mental health medications. These fungi contain various bioactive compounds that could affect how these medications are metabolized or how they function in the body. 

For example, some mushrooms might influence liver enzymes that play a role in drug metabolism, which could alter the effectiveness or increase the side effects of certain medications. In other cases, they could interact with the medication's mechanism of action, either enhancing or diminishing its effects. Given these possibilities, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before combining medicinal mushrooms with any medications, including those for mental health. 

How To Incorporate Medicinal Mushrooms Into A Diet For Mental Health Benefits?

Incorporating medicinal mushrooms into your diet for mental health benefits can be accomplished in various ways. These fungi can be consumed in their whole form, in capsules, extracts, or mushroom teas. Many health food stores or online retailers offer a range of mushroom products, making them accessible to most individuals.

If you prefer whole mushrooms, they can be incorporated into your meals. For instance, Lion's Mane has a seafood-like taste, making it a delicious addition to stir-fry dishes, soups, or salads. However, medicinal mushrooms like Reishi taste bitter and might be more enjoyable as a tea or coffee additive.

For those who find the taste of mushrooms unappealing or inconvenient to cook, mushroom supplements are a viable alternative. Available in capsule or powder form, they can be easily incorporated into daily routines. Mushroom extracts can be added to smoothies, soups, or hot beverages.

Key Takeaways

In exploring the interplay between nutrition and mental health, the potential of medicinal mushrooms holds a place of fascination and promise. With their rich history in traditional medicine and the emerging scientific evidence supporting their role in enhancing brain health, these humble fungi present an exciting frontier for natural health enthusiasts and researchers alike.

Whether it's the cognitive-enhancing Lion's Mane, the calming Reishi, or the mood-boosting Cordyceps, each of these mushrooms offers unique benefits that can complement our efforts toward achieving better mental health

However, it's important to remember that while medicinal mushrooms can support mental health, they are not a cure-all. They are not a substitute for professional mental health care or prescribed medication. Mental health is a complex issue that often requires a multi-pronged approach. These mushrooms, promising as they are, form just one part of this comprehensive strategy.

We hope you found this exploration of mushrooms and mental health insightful. If you have any thoughts, experiences, or questions, please feel free to leave a comment below. We'd love to hear from you and continue this fascinating conversation about the intersection of nature, nutrition, and mental well-being.

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  1. Exploration of the anti-insomnia mechanism of Ganoderma by central-peripheral multi-level interaction network analysis, (1) 
  2. The Neuroprotective Properties of Hericium erinaceus in Glutamate-Damaged Differentiated PC12 Cells and an Alzheimer’s Disease Mouse Model, (2) 
  3. Self-administration of Psilocybin in the Setting of Treatment-resistant Depression, (3) 
  4. Evaluation of Antianxiety Potential of Four Ganoderma (Agaricomycetes) Species from India in Mice, (4) 
  5. Exploring the mechanisms of action of Cordyceps sinensis for the treatment of depression using network pharmacology and molecular docking, (5)

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