According to a report published in 2022(1) by the World Health Organization, 1 in 8 people worldwide is living with a mental disorder. No one wants to pop pills now and then to keep their mental health in check. So, people are looking for solutions outside pharmaceutical drugs. One solution that seems to be attracting a lot of attention is functional mushrooms.
Recent research suggests that functional mushrooms do have mental benefits. The fungal components support our psychological well-being. And given the current state of the world, learning to take charge of our mental health and improve well-being and resilience is exceptionally pressing.
Medicinal mushrooms like Lion's mane, Chaga, Reishi, and Cordyceps are known to maintain and restore mental health balance and improve cognition. Below we will explore the four best mushrooms for mental health and how they can help.
Top 4 Medicinal Mushrooms For Mental Health
Medicinal fungi are a diverse group of functional foods with many health benefits and culinary applications. The more research is done on them, the more scientists discover the potential of functional mushroom products to improve our lives.
Across the board, medicinal mushrooms have demonstrated potential for positive impacts on mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. This is a guide on the best mushrooms for mental health, backed by science.
Lion's Mane Mushrooms
For mental clarity, our top pick of mushrooms is the fuzzy-looking Lion's mane mushroom, also known as Hericium Erinaceus in the scientific community. The mushroom has been traditionally used to support the brain's health and is popularly known as "nature's brain juice" or "brain tonic." Even more, Buddhist monks have used the mushroom to heighten focus during meditation and to enhance brain power.
Read More:Learn about the best mushrooms for brain health.
Below, we will look at the specific mental health benefits offered by Lion's mane.
Lion's Mane Fights Depression
There is some evidence that depression may be impacted by inflammation. Lion's mane's anti-inflammatory properties elevate mood. Amycenone, extracted from Lion's mane, has antidepressant properties(2) and can be taken as a supplement to prevent depression brought on by inflammation. The brain's activity is activated by amycenone.
Research has shown that Lion's mane also increases the levels of the brain's natural antidepressant, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
Patients with recurrent depressive disorder benefit from Amyloban(3), a bioactive compound extracted from Lion's mane mushrooms. The compounds help improve neurocognitive function.
Another study(4) discovered that the mushroom significantly decreased depression. Three capsules containing Hericium Erinaceus extracts were taken orally for eight weeks to get the results.
Read More: See how Lion's mane fights depression.
Lion's Mane Boosts Cognitive Function
Researchers conducted a clinical trial(5) and discovered that Hericium Erinaceus slightly enhanced cognitive function. For 16 weeks, the participants took four 250 mg tablets containing 96% Lion's mane dry powder.
The older men and women who participated in the study demonstrated noticeably higher cognitive function scale scores at the end of the research.
Read More: See our detailed guide on how Lion's mane boosts memory.
Lion's Mane Mushroom Fights Anxiety
Lion's mane extract soothes the nerves in postmenopausal women, lowering anxiety and irritability. Additionally, premenopausal symptoms like fatigue and mood swings are improved by Lion's mane. Research shows that in fighting anxiety and boosting brain health, Lion's mane mushroom uses a variety of mechanisms.
One of the best mushrooms for anxiety, Lion's mane mushroom helps fight oxidative stress. Various research studies have implicated oxidative stress in a variety of anxiety disorders.
For example, in a study conducted in 2018(6), researchers analyzed the role of oxidative stress in anxiety disorders. In the research study, the scientists confirmed that anxiety is often characterized by reduced antioxidant defenses, which often gives room for oxidative stress to take over and cause damage to nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins in the body.
According to a research article published in 2021(7), Lion's mane contains antioxidants, such as phenols, which target and destroy harmful oxygen molecules. By fighting the free radicals in the human body, Lion's mane reduces the risk of developing anxiety.
Read More: Learn how Lion's mane fights anxiety.
Research has shown that poor sleep is another precursor for anxiety disorders. In a research study completed in 2022(8), researchers analyzed the relationship between poor sleep and anxiety disorders in adolescents.
Researchers used 1,952 students in the study, with a mean age of 13.56 years. The researchers discovered significant associations between poor sleep and anxiety disorders among the participants that finished the study.
Luckily for people dealing with anxiety due to poor sleep, taking Lion's mane before bed improves sleep quality. The Lion's mane fungus boasts bioactive ingredients that regulate the endocrine functions and the adrenal glands, ensuring sleep is more replenishing and restful. The mushroom improves the internal clock, allowing users to sleep and wake up at the right time after a restful sleep.
A research study conducted in 2018(9) analyzed Lion's mane's ability to fight anxiety and sleep disorders in obese and overweight patients. In the research study, 72 obese and overweight participants were used as study subjects. After eight weeks of consuming Lion's mane mushrooms orally, the participants reported reduced sleep disorders and anxiety.
Lion's Mane Can Treat Schizophrenia
According to the world health organization(10), schizophrenia affects more than 24 million people worldwide. Schizophrenia is a severe condition that can reduce the life expectancy of an individual by 10 to 20 years.
Significant changes in behavior and impairments in perception characterize this condition. Schizophrenia symptoms include extreme agitation, highly disorganized behavior, disorganized thinking, hallucinations, and persistent delusion.
Research studies have shown promising results in using Lion's mane mushrooms to treat schizophrenia. A research study conducted in 2014(11) noted that a medication using Lion's mane extracts produced positive results in a person with refractory schizophrenia.
The research study noted that the medication uses Amecynone, an extract from Lion's mane mushrooms. The researchers confirmed that the medicine encourages positive behaviors, improves mental alertness, improves mood, and much more.
The study demonstrated that the medications made of Amecynone might effectively treat negative symptoms and cognitive deficits resulting from schizophrenia.
Lion's Mane Fights ADHD
ADHD—Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—is a more common mental health disorder characterized by persistent inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. This condition directly impacts social, occupational, and academic functioning. Luckily for people who have ADHD, Lion's mane mushrooms can help.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that often results from inadequate nerve growth factors. Luckily, Lion's mane mushroom has neurogenesis benefits—the mushrooms encourage the body to produce the nerve growth factor. This traditional Chinese medicine improves healthy brain function and plasticity by improving the production of NGF, which directly benefits ADHD.
One of the best medicinal mushrooms for improving focus, Lion's mane also fights the persistent pattern of inattention often associated with ADHD. The mushroom species also encourages better brain performance by fighting depressive symptoms in patients with ADHD.
Read More: See our detailed article on how Lion's mane fights ADHD.
Chaga is one of the best adaptogenic mushrooms. It is one of the best mushroom supplements for depression and anxiety.
The mushroom helps the body adapt to stressful conditions, preventing stress from progressing to anxiety and depression. Below, we will take a deeper look at what science and research have to say about using Chaga to boost neurological health and fight psychiatric disorders and other mood disorders.
Chaga Fights Depression
Chaga is one of the so-called "adaptogens," which help the body and its systems regain balance. It seems to act on the HPA axis, promoting adrenal function and enhancing resistance to stress over time.
By inducing the necessary physiological reactions, Inonotus obliquus mushrooms assist the body and the brain in adapting to stress. By helping the body adapt to stress, the mushroom boosts the immune system and simultaneously reduces the risk of developing depression.
It is worth noting that depression has been associated with inflammation. One research study published in 2013(12) confirmed that depression is often a result of inflammatory conditions.
Another research study conducted in 2019(13) concluded that depression is linked to inflammatory changes in the brain's parenchyma. The research report noted that in EAE studies, elevated TNFα levels (inflammatory protein) in the hippocampus and striatum had been linked to anxious and depressed behavior, with the striatal changes occurring before the onset of clinical depression symptoms.
The connection between inflammation and depression makes Chaga mushrooms a practical solution—Chaga is known to fight inflammation. By fighting inflammatory proteins, Chaga reduces the risk of developing depression. In people diagnosed with clinical depression, the mushroom fights the symptoms.
A research study published in 2022(14) analyzed the effects of Chaga mushrooms on inflammatory proteins. The results showed that different Chaga extracts significantly reduced inflammation in LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 cells. The inhibitory effect was manifested in RAW 264.7 macrophages as a reduction in NO production and a downregulation of Tnf - alpha, IL-6, and IL-1 beta.
Read More: Interested in Chaga mushrooms? See all the health benefits of Chaga.
Chaga Fights Chronic Fatigue
Chaga restores the body's balance and lessens fatigue. Even in clinical studies(15), it has been shown that Chaga has an anti-fatigue effect on the body. All of this can enhance mental ability even during difficult and stressful times.
Reishi has a long history of use in ancient China for treating sleep disorders, lowering stress, and calming the mind. It has the most potent anti-inflammatory properties of all mushrooms, which improves brain performance by reducing inflammation and allowing more blood and oxygen to reach the brain.
Triterpenes, a calming compound abundant in Reishi, can support deeper restful sleep and help us relax, which can be challenging to achieve if your mind is racing.
Read More: See how Reishi improves sleep quality.
Let's see what the science says about Reishi and its ability to reduce inflammation, work as endocrine therapy, treat anxiety-like behaviors, and fight depressive behaviors.
Reishi Mushroom Fights Anxiety
In one study(16), researchers looked into whether Reishi could help anxious mice. Reishi extract-infused mice could stay in the elevated plus maze much longer than control mice (EPM). EPM is a frequently employed index of rodent anxiety. The study concluded that the Reishi mushroom is an effective treatment for anxiety.
In a different animal study(17), the Reishi extract demonstrated a sedative effect on the central nervous system. In addition, Reishi extract-fed mice showed less anxiety-related behaviors than those that weren't, according to research.
Chronic illness can result in anxiety and depression. Anxiety can occasionally be a side effect of another condition, like fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue is frequently reported by breast cancer patients (CRF). CRF sometimes causes anxiety and emotional distress. Reishi promoted a better overall quality of life, including reduced anxiety, according to one study(18) involving 48 patients.
Anxiety and sleep are mutually dependent. It can be challenging to fall asleep when you're always anxious. However, sleep deprivation can affect your emotions, including anxiety. Reishi mushroom may be able to lengthen your periods of sleep by speeding up the process of falling asleep.
According to a mouse study(19), Reishi mushrooms may affect a serotonin and gut bacteria pathway. Additionally, it appears that Reishi has GABAergic activity(20), which controls sleep. Reishi may lessen occasional anxiety and stress by fostering better sleep.
Read More: Learn more about the Reishi anxiety benefits.
Reishi Fights Depression
Various research studies have looked into the benefits of Reishi mushroom on people with depression. The research studies seem to be arriving at the same conclusion: Reishi mushroom supplements typically aid in the treatment of depression.
In a research study conducted in 2020(21), researchers analyzed the effects of Reishi mushrooms on the mood and symptoms of women who have fibromyalgia. Reishi mushroom improved the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain and depression. The study concluded that eating mushrooms like Reishi do not just support immune function; the medicinal mushroom also ensures the human brain functions optimally and fights depression.
A study published in the Medical Research And Health Science journal(22) aimed to examine the effects of the acidic extract of Ganoderma Lucidum on mice with depression. In this study, mice were given the extract at three oral doses: 20 mg/kg, 75 mg/kg, and 130 mg/kg.
The researchers also used fluoxetine, a commonly prescribed antidepressant medication, as a standard drug for comparison. The study involved administering the extract and fluoxetine to the mice and then subjecting them to two tests, the forced swim test and the tail suspension test, which are commonly used to measure the antidepressant-like effects of substances in animals.
The study results showed that the extract of Ganoderma Lucidum significantly reduced the immobility time of the mice in both tests, indicating an antidepressant-like effect. The researchers concluded that Reishi mushrooms might be effective in treating the symptoms of depression in mice.
A study published in 2021(23) investigated the potential antidepressant properties of Ganoderma Lucidum spore polysaccharide. The researchers isolated a protein called 28-kDa polysaccharide-peptide (PGL) from the spores of Reishi mushrooms and found that it had antidepressant-like effects in mice.
When the mice were given a single treatment of PGL, their immobility time was reduced in both the tail suspension test and the forced swimming test. Additionally, chronic therapy with PGL reversed the declining levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brains of the mice. These results suggest that Ganoderma Lucidum spores may have antidepressant-like effects.
Read More: Read our detailed guide on how Reishi fights depression.
Reishi Fights ADHD
Neurogenesis is the process of generating new neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain. Some research has suggested that neurogenesis may be involved in the development and progression of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
For example, studies have found that individuals with ADHD have lower levels of neurogenesis in some regions of the brain, such as the hippocampus, compared to individuals without ADHD. The hippocampus is a region of the brain that is involved in learning, memory, and emotion regulation, and deficits in neurogenesis in this region may contribute to the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of ADHD.
Research studies have shown that the Reishi mushroom does promote neurogenesis. In a research study conducted in 2017(24), researchers analyzed Reishi's neurogenesis potential. The researchers discovered that giving the polysaccharides and water extract from Reishi orally increased neural progenitor cells (NPCs) proliferation in transgenic AD mice. This promotion of NPC proliferation enhanced neurogenesis and improved cognitive deficits in the mice.
By promoting neurogenesis, the Reishi mushroom fixes lower levels of neurogenesis in the hippocampus. This helps fight the symptoms of ADHD in people with the condition. In people without the disease, Reishi reduces the risk of developing ADHD.
Read More: Planning to use Reishi mushroom? See the reishi mushroom dosage.
Cordyceps is another interesting mushroom in the department of improving mental health. The mushroom acts directly and indirectly on the most common mental health problems. Below, we will look at what the research says about using this functional mushroom to improve mental health.
Cordyceps Fights Stress & Anxiety
Cordyceps mushrooms have been shown to improve mood. In addition, early research on humans and animals indicates that Cordyceps(25) supports a healthy inflammatory response. Theoretically, a normal inflammatory reaction may lessen occasional stress and anxiety.
According to studies on animals, Cordyceps mushrooms may help maintain stable blood sugar(26) levels. In a study, mice's mood(27) seems to be improved by this effect.
Cordyceps Fights Depression
Various research studies have looked into the antidepressant benefits offered by cordyceps. One such study was conducted in 2022(28).
In the study, researchers examined the potential mechanisms of action of Cordyceps Sinensis for the treatment of depression. Network pharmacological analysis identified seven active ingredients in Cordyceps Sinensis and 41 common targets of drugs and diseases.
These active ingredients produce antidepressant effects by acting on essential targets such as catalase (CAT), CREB binding protein (CREBBP), epidermal growth factor (EGF), and E1A binding protein P300 (EP300). The bioactive ingredients also influence the signaling pathways in which these targets are involved. Molecular docking experiments showed good binding between the core targets and the active ingredients of Cordyceps Sinensis.
A different research study conducted in 2021(29) also looked into the benefits of cordyceps mushrooms in depression. This study aimed to determine whether cordyceps militaris can be used as an antidepressant for long-term unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) in rodent models. The study also explored the mechanisms underlying its potential antidepressant effects.
In the UCMS protocol, rats received oral doses of 125 mg/kg body weight (BW) (low dose, L), 250 mg/kg BW (medium dose, M), or 500 mg/kg BW (high dose, H) of the water extract of cordyceps militaris (WCM) for 35 consecutive days.
The levels of cerebral serotonin (5-HT), dopamine (DA), and metabolites in the frontal cortex of the rats were measured, as were the levels of proinflammatory cytokines in their blood. The rats' brains were also dissected to analyze the stress-associated ROCK2/PTEN/Akt signaling.
Based on the study's findings, the researchers concluded that cordyceps militaris has antidepressant-like effects, which may be due to its ability to regulate the stress-related ROCK2/PTEN/Akt pathway. Therefore, cordyceps militaris may have the potential as a complementary treatment for depression and could potentially be developed for this use.
Read More: Interested in using Cordyceps? Read our detailed guide on the best cordyceps mushroom dosage.
Are Mushrooms Good For You Mentally?
Mushrooms like Lion's mane, Reishi, Chaga, and Cordyceps help improve mood and calm frazzled nerves. Several clinical research has demonstrated the mental benefits of these functional mushrooms.
Which Mushroom Is Good For Mental Health?
Several culinary and medicinal mushrooms are good for mental health. The top functional fungi for the brain, backed by numerous research, are Lion's mane, Reishi, Cordyceps, and Chaga.
What Mushrooms Are Best For Anxiety And Depression?
Lion's Mane, Reishi, and Cordyceps are known to help with anxiety and depression. In addition, some of these mushrooms are adaptogens, helping the body improve mood and resilience to stress.
Mushrooms supplements are a great way to utilize fungi's power to support mental health naturally. Reishi, Lion's mane, Chaga, and Cordyceps are some of the best mushrooms for mental health, helping with depression, anxiety, and poor sleep.
We must take all the necessary steps to support our mental health during trying times while also keeping an eye out for family members and friends who might also be struggling. Adding the above mushrooms to our diet might be an excellent place to start.
Have you used medicinal mushrooms for mental health before? What benefits did you experience? Let us know in the comments below.
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- Marked improvement of neurocognitive impairment after treatment with compounds from Hericium erinaceum: A case study of recurrent depressive disorder, (3)https://www.infona.pl/resource/bwmeta1.element.elsevier-8b89f9d9-7a43-3cce-a194-7431268fd314
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- Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, (5)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844328/
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- Schizophrenia, (10)https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/schizophrenia
- Improvement of refractory schizophrenia on using Amyloban®3399 extracted from Hericium erinaceum, (11)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2186495014000145
- So depression is an inflammatory disease, but where does the inflammation come from?, (12)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3846682/
- The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue, (13)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6658985/
- The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Chaga Extracts Obtained by Different Extraction Methods against LPS-Induced RAW 264.7, (14)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9268247/
- Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity, (15)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/
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- CNS antidepressant, anxiolytic and analgesic effects of Ganoderma applanatum (mushroom) along with ligand-receptor binding screening provide new insights: Multi-disciplinary approaches, (17)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405580821001564?via%3Dihub
- Health anxiety and illness-related fears across diverse chronic illnesses: A systematic review on conceptualization, measurement, prevalence, course, and correlates, (18)https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0234124
- Ganoderma lucidum promotes sleep through a gut microbiota-dependent and serotonin-involved pathway in mice, (19)https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-92913-6
- Extract of Ganoderma lucidum potentiates pentobarbital-induced sleep via a GABAergic mechanism, (20)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S009130570700086X?via%3Dihub
- Ganoderma lucidum Effects on Mood and Health-Related Quality of Life in Women with Fibromyalgia, (21)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7712001/
- Antidepressant-Like Activity of Ethanol Extract of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in Mice, (22)https://www.ijmrhs.com/abstract/antidepressantlike-activity-of-ethanol-extract-of-ganoderma-lucidum-reishi-in-mice-12351.html
- Antidepressant-like effect of Ganoderma lucidum spore polysaccharide-peptide mediated by upregulation of prefrontal cortex brain-derived neurotrophic factor, (23)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34716786/
- Polysaccharides from Ganoderma lucidum Promote Cognitive Function and Neural Progenitor Proliferation in Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease, (24)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5233449/
- Anti-inflammatory and related pharmacological activities of cultured mycelia and fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris, (25)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874104005148?via%3Dihub
- The anti-hyperglycemic activity of the fruiting body of Cordyceps in diabetic rats induced by nicotinamide and streptozotocin, (26)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0024320504001134?via%3Dihub
- A Contemporary Treatment Approach to Both Diabetes and Depression by Cordyceps sinensis, Rich in Vanadium, (27)https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2010/871546/
- Exploring the mechanisms of action of Cordyceps sinensis for the treatment of depression using network pharmacology and molecular docking, (28)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9011256/
- Antidepressant-like effects of water extract of Cordyceps militaris (Linn.) Link by modulation of ROCK2/PTEN/Akt signaling in an unpredictable chronic mild stress-induced animal model, (29)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874121004219
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