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Mushrooms For Brain Health: Top 3 Medicinal Mushrooms To Boost Brain Health
Nov 30, 21
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Author: Sony Sherpa

Mushrooms For Brain Health: Top 3 Medicinal Mushrooms To Boost Brain Health

  • by Sony Sherpa
  • |
  • 22 min read

Mushrooms have long been used in traditional medicine for their alleged health benefits. But do mushrooms provide any mental health benefits? According to some research, the answer is yes! Here are three of the best mushrooms for brain health.

This article will explore the various mushrooms for brain health and their associated therapeutic benefits. Read on to know the three best mushrooms for brain function and how to incorporate them into your life to get the best out of them!

Medicinal Mushrooms For Brain Health: Can A Fungus Improve Your Mental Health?

They say “you are what you eat”, and rightly so, because our nutritional choices reflect the status of our health. Our work, productivity, and cognitive capabilities are affected by the food we eat. While there is no magic pill that can transform our brain health, adding certain foods to our diet can improve or maintain it.  

Functional mushrooms carry numerous benefits. The health benefits of Lion's mane have made this fungus a go-to solution for people who would like to leverage its hericenones and erinacines to ensure a well-performing body. 

The health benefits of Chaga have made it a go-to solution for people who want to leverage its vitamins and minerals to lower cholesterol. Nowadays, Chaga tea is often used for weight loss. 

What's more, reishi carries numerous benefits that ensure humans are healthier and have a remedy to some of the most common conditions. 

While we could discuss how different mushrooms are used—like how Lion's mane is used for testosterone benefits and Chaga for blood pressure—this guide is focused on how Chaga, reishi, and Lion's mane clear brain fog and increase your levels of mental health. 

Some of the first questions that come up while talking about brain-friendly foods: Are mushrooms good for brain health?  Or what mushrooms to eat for brain health? 

Most people can't help but wonder what is the best mushroom for the brain. As mentioned above, the good thing is that you do not have to rely on just one medicinal mushroom to enjoy brain health benefits. 

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Medicinal mushrooms are garnering considerable interest not just because they are packed with many valuable nutritional compounds, but also because they help prevent the development of disease and maintain overall health, including the brain.

The use of medicinal mushrooms for brain health is not a novel concept. Traditional and complementary medicine has utilized the diverse pharmacological properties of medicinal fungi to improve brain function.  The same is gaining momentum in the modern world, thanks to scientifically-backed research.

With so much hoopla around medicinal mushrooms enhancing cognition, memory, focus, and sharpness, you may be keen on trying some. However, before getting out of the house to grab a mushroom that can boost your brain's health, you may want a list of the best mushrooms for brain health. You may also want to know the specific benefits each mushroom provides. 

There are a lot of medicinal mushrooms out in the world, but not all improve brain health. If you do not know where to begin, we are here to help you.

Below, we will take a deeper look at how different mushroom products improve your lifestyle by ensuring your mental health is top-notch. 

The benefits of these mushrooms range from their ability to promote the development of new brain cells—for example, Lion's mane promotes neurogenesis—to their ability to handle issues that often affect our brain health—as reishi helps with anxiety. Read on as we dig deeper into these benefits. 

How Do Mushrooms Improve Brain Health?

Studies have shown that the best mushroom for brain health reduces inflammation in the brain cells. Neuroinflammation(1) activates the immune responses in our brain which disturbs the structure and function of our neurons. 

This reduces the efficiency of these brain cells, leading to cognitive decline. Increased inflammatory activation(2) of the immune system also plays a role in the development of fatigue and depression. The best mushrooms for neurogenesis protect these negative processes, helping you retain a healthy brain function. 

Many medicinal mushrooms have powerful immune-modulating functions. The bioactive compounds, mainly the polysaccharides, present in the fungi temper the immune responses, thereby enhancing brain health.

Oxidative stress and an imbalanced antioxidant system also play a crucial role in neuroinflammation. The best mushroom for brain health eliminates oxidative stress, reducing your risk of neuroinflammation. 

Several medicinal mushrooms are potent anti-oxidants that reduce free radical damage caused by reactive oxygen species. The mushrooms also support the body’s endogenous production of anti-oxidants. These help decrease the DNA damage, protecting the neurons from oxidative damage.

Mushroom consumption has been linked to a reduction in the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. In a study published in 2019(3), researchers found that study participants who consumed more than two portions of mushrooms for memory per week had reduced odds of having MCI as compared to those who consumed mushrooms less than once per week.

The mushrooms listed in this detailed guide also promote the production of the nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF is one of the substances in the body that promote the generation of brain cells. 

The NGF also reduces the risk of neuronal cell death.  The mushrooms also boost the overall immune system—this results in a healthy body, which reduces the risk of brain health issues. 

Almost every medicinal mushroom in this guide helps with breaking the blood brain barrier. This means that eating mushrooms gives the brain access to maximum oxygen—this further improves the overall brain health.

Try Lion's Mane Mushroom Powder For Improved Brain Health and Memory

What Are The Mushrooms That Help With Memory And Overall Brain Health?

What Are The Mushrooms That Help With Memory And Overall Brain Health?

The top 3 widely studied mushrooms beneficial for the brain are:

  •   Lion’s Mane Mushroom
  •   Reishi Mushroom
  •   Chaga Mushroom

Let’s take a look at the incredible benefits of each of these mushrooms for brain health and body health.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom For Brain Health

When we think of the best mushrooms for cognitive health, Lion’s mane benefits hold the top position. The benefits of lion's mane hold a central position when it comes to ensuring users have optimal mental performance. 

Lion’s mane, also known as Hericium Erinaceus or yamabushitake, is one of the best mushrooms for the brain—the mushroom features exceptional brain supporting function. 

It contains polypeptides, polysaccharides, and antioxidants like beta-glucoxylan. Here’s how lion's mane medicinal mushroom improves brain health:

1. Promotes Neurogenesis

One of the reasons Lion's Mane is counted among the best mushrooms for the brain is that the mushroom increases the production of Nerve Growth Factors (NGF)(4), which are special types of proteins that regenerate the neurons, support brain plasticity, and are essential for learning and memory. 

Lion's mane neurogenesis plays a key role in improving the nervous system, maintaining neuronal health, and ensuring the brain is healthy at all times

Animal studies have also shown that the extracts and supplements of Lion’s mane mushroom stimulate the synthesis of Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), a protein that supports brain health by increasing the production of new cells while strengthening existing ones.

The fact that Lion's mane promotes neurogenesis also means that the mushroom is capable of reducing the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. Preventing neuronal cell death, the mushroom generally promotes body health indirectly.  

2. Improves Memory And Symptoms Of Dementia

One of the best functional mushrooms for reducing the risk of mental health issues that appear as people age, the fruiting body of Lion's mane has been demonstrated to have anti-dementia activity(5).  A top-rated medicinal food, the mushroom also protects against progressive memory loss by reducing plaques in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. 

One of the best mushrooms for memory and focus, Lion's mane boasts the ability to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Using Lion’s mane guarantees long-term mental health. 

3. Enhances Cognitive Function

Often put in lists of the best mushrooms for cognitive function, Lion's mane has been proven to offer good results through research. Research studies were conducted to determine the impact of functional mushrooms on cognitive function. The research studies on lion's mane mushrooms have confirmed that the mushroom is extremely effective in keeping the users sharp

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group randomized trial performed in 2008 found that Lion’s mane mildly improved cognitive function(6). Post-termination, the study subjects, consisting of older Japanese men and women, showed significantly improved cognitive function scale scores.

4. Protects Against Alzheimer’s

Functional deficiency of NGF has been linked with the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s reported significant improvements in mental functioning, after consuming Lion’s mane for 4 months. This shows that Lion's mane is one of the mushrooms good for memory.

Some of the factors that make Lion's mane one of the best mushrooms for memory is its ability to reduce the beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, the biological markers of Alzheimer's disease. Mice studies have also shown that the mushroom prevented short-term memory reduction induced by the beta-amyloid peptides.

A research study conducted in 2018(7) determined that inflammation is a central mechanism for Alzheimer's disease. Luckily, one of the best edible mushrooms, Lion's mane mushroom boasts anti inflammatory properties. This means that the mushroom can prevent the development of Alzheimer's by eliminating inflammation. 

5. Reduces Depression And Anxiety

Lion's mane mushrooms brain health benefits go beyond just improving memory and cognition. The Lion’s mane mushroom also helps with anxiety and depression. When using Lion's mane for depression or anxiety, you protect yourself from some of the issues that lead to the deterioration of brain health. 

Erinaceus increases the level of BDNF which is also a natural antidepressant. Amyloban, a bioactive compound extracted from the mushroom, has been shown to improve neurocognitive function in patients with recurrent depressive disorder.

6. Improves Mental Performance

If you are still asking the question "is mushroom good for brain?", chances are, you are yet to try Lion's mane and enjoy the mushroom's impact on mental performance. When used as part of mushroom brain food, Lion's mane benefits mental performance with its anti-inflammatory effect. 

The anti-inflammatory effect of the mushroom improves the flow of blood in the brain. This provides the brain with more oxygen which leads to enhanced performance, improved focus, and memory.

7. Lion's Mane Helps With Sleep

While some people may think that sleep does not affect their mental and brain health, this is not the case. A research study conducted in 2017(8) showed that improving sleep leads to better mental health. A second study published in 2021(9) revealed that better sleep quality leads to better overall mental performance. 

Taking Lion's mane before bed has been proven to improve sleep. The mushroom's ability to relieve the body of stress often allows people to enjoy a nice sleep during the night. 

The following morning, these people usually wake up with good overall health. While Lion's mane may take some time to work, once the benefits of the mushroom start showing, enjoying a good night's sleep becomes extremely easy. 

8. Lion's Mane Helps With ADHD

According to a recent research study(10)the prevalence of persistent adult ADHD was 2.58% and that of symptomatic adult ADHD was 6.76%, translating to 139.84 million and 366.33 million affected adults in 2020 globally. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a mental disease that affects how people process information, pay attention and behave. 

Lion's mane helps with ADHD. When people take the right dosage of Lion's mane, reducing the symptoms becomes possible. 

9. Lion's Mane Offers Protection Against Parkinson's Disease

An age-related disease, Parkinson's is a degenerative brain disorder that results from the loss of nerve cells. In addition to affecting your brain health, the disease also affects the normal functions of other body parts—it can easily result in symptoms like involuntary body part shaking. 

Other symptoms of Parkinson's disease include trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, and memory problems. Luckily, Lion's mane protects and fights Parkinson's disease

For people with the condition already, Lion's mane can relieve the symptoms. For people who do not have the condition, Lion's reduces the risks of developing the condition in the future. This means that taking advantage of Lion's mane recipes could ensure you do not have Parkinson's in your entire lifetime. 

Reishi Mushrooms For Brain Health

Ganoderma lucidum, Lingzhi, or Reishi mushroom is regarded as the king of medicinal mushrooms, and rightly so—Reishi mushroom benefits cut across numerous areas. 

When it comes to the benefits of mushrooms for brain, this reddish-orange, fan-shaped fungus is an adaptogenic mushroom that is deemed the ultimate "anti-stress herb". 

While it has been used to calm the nerves and support the immune system in Eastern medicine, lets' look at what modern research has discovered about Reishi for brain health. By the time you reach the end of this section, you should know the answer to "are mushrooms good for your brain?"

1. Combats Mental Stress

Listed among mushrooms good for your brain, Reishi is one of the few mushrooms that can fight stress. These adaptogenic mushrooms help the body cope with stressful situations. 

Ganoderic acid, a type of triterpenes found exclusively in Reishi, provides the adaptogenic potential of the mushroom. They act on the nervous and endocrine systems to balance the body’s reaction to mental and physical stress. 

This helps the mind to remain calm even in the face of adversity. They are also known to promote restful sleep. A well-rested mind is a relaxed mind that can easily cope with taxing circumstances.

2. Fights Depression

When looking for mushrooms that are good for your brain, you should never ignore the fact that Reishi has a way of fighting depression. Reishi mushroom decreases the activation of pro-inflammatory pathways(11) thereby reducing TNF alpha and PGE2 that are linked to depression.

Lucidum is also known to improve the symptoms of neurasthenia(12), like fatigue, irritability, and emotional disturbances. A randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled 2005 study enrolled 132 patients with neurasthenia. In eight weeks of treatment with Reishi mushroom, participants reported better mood, reduced fatigue, and less irritability.

Depression reduces mental function. With scientific research showing that reishi mushrooms can fight depression, it is easy to see that reishi can protect your cognitive functions long-term. 

3. Protects The Brain Against Oxidant Damage

Research information shows that Reishi is one of the best sources of antioxidant activity. The polysaccharide of Reishi mushroom protects against the oxidative stress-induced death of neurons. 

Brain damage as a result of oxidant injury(13) has been linked to several diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and stroke.

Chaga Mushroom

Inonotus obliquus or Chaga mushroom is effective brain food, courtesy of its anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic benefits. It is, however, worth noting that Chaga mushroom benefits are not limited to brain health or maintaining a healthy brain. Below we will look at some ways Chaga improves brain health:

1. Aids Memory Loss

One of the best brain food mushrooms, Chaga reduces the risk of memory damage. Japanese researchers have demonstrated the beneficial effects of Chaga on cognitive function in amnesic mice.  Alcoholic extracts of the mushroom were fed to the animal for seven days and higher brain functions were evaluated using special paradigms. 

The results of the study reported improvements in learning and memory in study subjects. This indicates that using the Chaga fungus tea for memory can be beneficial for people suffering from loss of memory. 

This shows that the Inonotus Obliquus polysaccharides—and other compounds in the mushroom—offer unique properties that protect and maintain good brain health.

2. Reduces Stress

Chaga mushrooms help the body and the brain to adapt to stress by triggering appropriate physiological responses. One of the best mushrooms for brain fog, Chaga recalibrates the body and reduces fatigue. 

This has been even demonstrated in clinical studies(14), where Chaga exerts an anti-fatigue effect on the body. All this can improve mental capacity even in trying and tense times.

3. Combats Oxidative Brain Injury

A common question often asked by people who are new to Chaga is "are mushrooms good for brain health?" The answer to this question is yes, mushrooms carry numerous brain health benefits. 

For example, obliquus is one of the most potent anti-oxidant food on the planet, and this is attributed to melanin and polyphenols in the mushroom. Free radicals can drive neuronal death and cause degradation of brain health. Chaga protects these brain cells from the harmful effect of oxygen-derived free radicals.

4. Protects Against Alzheimer’s Disease

One of the best mushrooms for people who feel the process of memory loss has already started, Chaga can help you restore healthy memory.The mushroom prevents Alzheimer's disease in several ways. 

To begin with, the deposition of amyloid proteins in the brain triggers the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Chaga mushrooms prevent these proteins from depositing(15)

Chaga mushrooms also inhibit cell death, enhance the survival of brain cells and suppress the accumulation of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), all of which protect against Alzheimer’s.

Other Benefits Offered By Lion's Mane, Chaga, And Reishi

Since this article is focusing on mushrooms for brain health, it is easy to assume that the mushrooms do not have other benefits outside promoting brain health. This, however, is not the case. 

A mushroom like Chaga can be used for cancer. People also enjoy using reishi mushrooms for cancer. For people who want to maintain a youthful look, Chaga helps improve skin health

When you take reishi at the right time, reishi mushrooms can improve your sleep. The mushroom reishi also helps with hair health and hormonal balance. 

The fact that these mushrooms have so many benefits also speaks to their ability to improve brain health. Brain health begins with physical health. 

When you take the right reishi dosage or the ideal Chaga dosage, you enjoy maximum health benefits which often leaves you with a reduced risk of suffering from mental health issues. 

Lion’s Mane Organic Mushroom Powder

Final Thoughts

Mushrooms are not just a much-loved culinary ingredient but also contain a host of compounds beneficial for optimum brain functioning. While medicinal mushrooms for brain health are not a cure for any illnesses, they are a natural alternative to boost brain functions.

Notable superfood mushrooms like Lion’s mane, Reishi and Chaga improve brain health by promoting neurogenesis, improving memory, cognitive function, and focus. They also play a role in protecting the brain from oxidant damage, depression, anxiety, and several neurodegenerative diseases. 

Now that you know which mushrooms for brain health are the best, add these powerful mushroom supplements to your daily life so that they can enhance your brain function while also protecting you from diseases.

Have you tried any of these mushrooms? Let us know in the comments! We would love to hear about your experiences with different fungi and how they’ve helped improve your brain health.

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References

  1. Neuroinflammation and neurohormesis in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer-linked pathologies: modulation by nutritional mushrooms (1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813410/  
  2. The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue,
     (2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6658985/ 
  3. The Association between Mushroom Consumption and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Singapore, (3)https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad180959  
  4. Nerve Growth Factor-Inducing Activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 Human Astrocytoma Cells, (4)http://www.imispain.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Mori-K-et-al-2008.pdf
  5. Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease-related pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice, (5)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27350344/  
  6. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, (6)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844328/ 
  7. Inflammation as a central mechanism in Alzheimer's disease, (7)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6214864/ 
  8. Does improving sleep lead to better mental health? A protocol for a meta-analytic review of randomised controlled trials, (8)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5623526/ 
  9. Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials, (9)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1087079221001416 
  10. The prevalence of adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A global systematic review and meta-analysis,, (10)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7916320/ 
  11. Modulation of neuroinflammatory pathways by medicinal mushrooms, with particular relevance to Alzheimer's disease, (11)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224420305586 
  12. A Randomized, Double-Blind and Placebo-Controlled Study of aGanoderma lucidum Polysaccharide Extract in Neurasthenia, (12)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15857210/ 
  13. Neuroprotective effects ofganoderma lucidum polysaccharides against oxidative stress-induced neuronal apoptosis, (13)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5514871/ 
  14. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity, (14)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/
  15. Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides protect against Alzheimer's disease by regulating Nrf2 signaling and exerting antioxidative and antiapoptotic effects, (15)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30878614/
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