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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

    Medically reviewed by

    Sony Sherpa

    A rising star in the holistic health field, Dr. Sony Sherpa has been studying medicinal mushrooms for more than 7 years. Although she started writing on Nature’s Rise one year ago, her knowledge of medicinal mushrooms is backed by a master's degree in Holistic Medicine.

  • |
  • 16 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! 

This article will explore the various mushrooms for brain health and their associated therapeutic benefits. Read on to learn 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 our health status. Our work, productivity, and cognitive capabilities are affected by the food we eat. While no magic pill can transform our brain health, adding certain foods to our diet can improve or maintain it.  

Read More: Learn about mushroom health benefits

Functional mushrooms carry numerous benefits. However, some questions arise about brain-friendly foods: Are mushrooms good for brain health?  Or what mushrooms to eat for brain health? 

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

Try Lion's Mane Today

With so much commotion around medicinal mushrooms enhancing cognition, memory, focus, and sharpness, you may be keen on trying some. However, if you are new to brain health mushrooms, you may want a list of the best mushrooms for brain health. You may also want to know the specific benefits each mushroom provides. 

The following section will show you the specific mushrooms for brain health. We will also explore the benefits each mushroom provides. Read on as we dig deeper into these benefits. 

How Do Mushrooms Improve Brain Health?

How Do Mushrooms Improve Brain Health?

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 contributes to developing fatigue and depression. The best mushrooms for neurogenesis protect against these damaging processes, helping you retain a healthy brain function. 

Read More: See how Lion's mane promotes neurogenesis

Many medicinal mushrooms have powerful immune-modulating functions—the bioactive compounds in mushrooms, mainly the polysaccharides, temper the immune responses, 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 antioxidants that reduce free radical damage caused by reactive oxygen species. The mushrooms also support the body's endogenous production of antioxidants. These help decrease DNA damage, protecting the neurons from oxidative damage.

Mushroom consumption reduces the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. In a study published in 2019(3), researchers found that participants who consumed more than two portions of brain health mushrooms per week had reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment compared to those who consumed mushrooms less than once per week.

The mushrooms in this detailed guide promote nerve growth factor (NGF) production. 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. 

Read More: See how mushrooms improve mental health by enhancing NGF production

Almost every medicinal mushroom in this guide helps break the blood-brain barrier. Eating brain health mushrooms gives the brain access to maximum oxygen, further improving 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?

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

  •   Lion's Mane Mushroom
  •   Reishi Mushroom
  •   Chaga Mushroom

Let's look at the incredible benefits of each of these mushrooms for brain health.

Lion's Mane Mushroom For Brain Health

Lion's Mane Mushroom For Brain Health

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—these bioactive compounds improve brain function. 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 it increases the production of Nerve Growth Factors (NGF)(4), which are unique types of proteins that regenerate the neurons, support brain plasticity, and are essential for learning and memory. 

Read More: See how Lion's mane improves memory.

Lion's mane neurogenesis is crucial in improving the nervous system, maintaining neuronal health, and ensuring the brain is always healthy

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

2. Improves Memory And Symptoms Of Dementia

Lion's mane has anti-dementia activity(5).  The mushroom protects against progressive memory loss by reducing plaques in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. 

Read More: See how Lion's mane fights dementia.

Lion's mane also 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

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 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 four months

Lion's mane mushroom reduces the beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, the biological markers of Alzheimer's disease. Mice studies have also shown that the mushroom prevents 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, Lion's mane mushroom has anti-inflammatory properties. The mushroom can prevent the development of Alzheimer's by eliminating inflammation. 

Read More: See how Lion's mane fights Alzheimer's disease

5. Reduces Depression And Anxiety

Lion's mane mushroom helps with anxiety and depression. Lion's mane increases BDNF, which is a natural antidepressant. Amyloban, a bioactive compound extracted from Lion's mane mushroom, improves neurocognitive function in patients with recurrent depressive disorder.

6. Improves Mental Performance

Lion's mane's anti-inflammatory effect improves blood flow in the brain. This gives the brain more oxygen, leading to enhanced performance, improved focus, and memory.

7. Lion's Mane Helps With Sleep

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 cognitive performance. 

Taking Lion's mane before bed has been proven to improve sleep. Better sleep results from the mushroom's ability to relieve the body of stress.

8. Lion's Mane Helps With ADHD

According to a 2020 study(10), ADHD globally affected over 366.33 million adults. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a mental disease that affects how people process information, pay attention and behave. 

The mane mushroom has shown a lot of promising results in fighting ADHD. When people take the proper dosage of Lion's mane, the mushroom fights ADHD symptoms.

Read More: See how Lion's mane fights ADHD

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
  • Memory problems 

Lion's mane can relieve the symptoms for people with the condition already. For people who do not have the disease, Lion's reduces the risks of developing it in the future. 

Read More: See how Lion's mane fights Parkinson's disease

Reishi Mushrooms For Brain Health

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. 

The reddish-orange, fan-shaped fungus is an adaptogenic mushroom 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. 

1. Combats Mental Stress

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. Ganoderic acid acts 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. 

Reishi mushrooms are also known to promote restful sleep. A well-rested mind is a relaxed mind that can easily cope with taxing circumstances.

Read More: See how Reishi promotes quality sleep

2. Fights Depression

Reishi has a way of fighting depression. Reishi mushroom decreases the activation of pro-inflammatory pathways(11), thereby reducing TNF alpha and PGE2, which are linked to depression.

Ganoderma Lucidum improves the symptoms of neurasthenia(12), like fatigue, irritability, and emotional disturbances. A randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled 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 fights depression, it is easy to see that Reishi can protect your cognitive functions long-term. 

3. Protects The Brain Against Oxidant Damage

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

Brain damage due to 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 an effective brain food, courtesy of its anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic benefits. 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. Researchers have demonstrated Chaga's beneficial effects on amnesic mice's cognitive function.  Alcoholic extracts of the mushroom were fed to the animal for seven days, and higher brain functions were evaluated using unique paradigms. 

The study's results reported improvements in learning and memory in study subjects. Therefore, using Chaga can improve your brain and memory health. 

2. Reduces stress

Chaga mushrooms help the body and the brain to adapt to stress by triggering appropriate physiological responses. Chaga recalibrates the body and reduces fatigue. This has been demonstrated in clinical studies(14), where Chaga exerts an anti-fatigue effect on the body. 

3. Combats Oxidative Brain Injury

Chaga is one of the most potent antioxidant foods on the planet—the mushroom has antioxidants like melanin and polyphenols. Free radicals can drive neuronal death and cause the degradation of brain health. Chaga protects these brain cells from the harmful effect of oxygen-derived free radicals.

Read More: Learn how to use Chaga powder to improve your brain health.

4. Protects Against Alzheimer's Disease

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

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

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

The physical health benefits of Chaga, Reishi, and Lion's mane include—but are not limited to—the following:

  • Cancer prevention and treatment 
  • Fighting obesity 
  • Treating and preventing diabetes
  • Improving hair and skin health 
  • Fighting high blood pressure 
  • Increasing energy and stamina 
  • Etc.  

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

Read More: See all the health benefits of Reishi. 

Lion’s Mane Organic Mushroom Powder

Key Takeaways

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 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 protect the brain from oxidant damage, depression, anxiety, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Now that you know which mushrooms for brain health are the best, add these powerful mushroom supplements to your daily life to enhance your brain function.

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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  1. Neuroinflammation and neurohormesis in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and Alzheimer-linked pathologies: modulation by nutritional mushrooms (1)  
  2. The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue,
  3. The Association between Mushroom Consumption and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Singapore, (3)  
  4. Nerve Growth Factor-Inducing Activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 Human Astrocytoma Cells, (4)
  5. Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer's disease-related pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice, (5)  
  6. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, (6) 
  7. Inflammation as a central mechanism in Alzheimer's disease, (7) 
  8. Does improving sleep lead to better mental health? A protocol for a meta-analytic review of randomised controlled trials, (8) 
  9. Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials, (9) 
  10. The prevalence of adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A global systematic review and meta analysis,, (10) 
  11. Modulation of neuroinflammatory pathways by medicinal mushrooms, with particular relevance to Alzheimer's disease, (11) 
  12. A Randomized, Double-Blind and Placebo-Controlled Study of aGanoderma lucidum Polysaccharide Extract in Neurasthenia, (12) 
  13. Neuroprotective effects ofganoderma lucidum polysaccharides against oxidative stress-induced neuronal apoptosis, (13) 
  14. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity, (14)
  15. Inonotus obliquus polysaccharides protect against Alzheimer's disease by regulating Nrf2 signaling and exerting antioxidative and antiapoptotic effects, (15)

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