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Our Physician Outlines Best Mushrooms For Brain Health
Nov 30, 21
This article has been vetted by the Onnit Advisory Board. Read more about our editorial process.
Author: Sony Sherpa

Our Physician Outlines Best Mushrooms For Brain Health

  • 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.

  • |
  • 19 min read
Our Physician Outlines Best Mushrooms For Brain Health

Mushrooms, particularly edible varieties, are increasingly acknowledged for their potential brain health benefits. They can contribute significantly to brain health due to their rich nutritional profile and bioactive compounds, which include antioxidants, Vitamin D, B vitamins, beta-glucans, ergothioneine, hericenones, and erinacines

These compounds can protect against neurodegenerative diseases and enhance cognitive functions. For example, ergothioneine boasts antioxidative properties, while hericenones and erinacines (abundant in Lion's mane mushrooms) aid nerve regeneration. 

Notable mushrooms beneficial for brain health include Lion's mane, known for cognitive enhancement; Reishi, valued for its antioxidative properties; Cordyceps, celebrated for boosting energy; and Chaga, renowned for its high antioxidant content. 

In this article, we will examine the brain health benefits of different medicinal mushrooms. We will also show you how to incorporate these mushrooms into your diet for maximum results.

The Ancient Wisdom: Historical Use of Mushrooms

The Ancient Wisdom: Historical Use of Mushrooms

The Roots of Mushroom Wisdom

Since ancient times, mushrooms for brain health have been recognized and celebrated. Across diverse cultures, both culinary and medicinal mushrooms were revered not just for their flavor but also for their potential to support brain health and more.

Medicinal Mushrooms: The Pillars of Ancient Healthcare

Historical records reveal medicinal mushrooms were integral to various ancient civilizations' health regimens. A prime example is traditional Chinese medicine, where mushrooms, especially adaptogenic varieties, were believed to balance the body's energies and boost the immune system. 

The repeated mushroom consumption or mushroom intake in these societies was not limited to the direct eating of mushrooms. They were often brewed in teas, incorporated into meals, and utilized as early forms of supplements. This was primarily due to their rich nutritional value and the abundant bioactive compounds they contain.

From Brain to Gut: The Versatility of Mushrooms

Mushrooms for gut health were just as paramount as mushrooms for brain health. The ancients believed that a healthy gut was linked to a robust immune system; thus, medicinal mushrooms played a key role. Modern science backs this(1), illustrating how certain bioactive compounds in mushrooms can assist in reducing oxidative stress and providing anti-inflammatory properties.

Moreover, when we delve into the benefits of Lion's mane, its potential to enhance cognitive functions becomes clear. On the other hand, turkey tail mushrooms were traditionally believed to benefit the gut, showcasing the diversity and range of medicinal mushroom benefits.

Adapting to Health with Adaptogens

Adaptogenic mushrooms were another class of medicinal mushrooms frequently used. Their primary purpose was to help the body adapt to various stresses, contributing to overall human health. 

Notably, some functional mushrooms even played a role in regulating blood pressure by impacting blood vessels. This interconnected role of mushrooms in supporting the mind and the body exemplifies their beneficial effects.

Beyond the Ancients: The Legacy Continues

Today, medicinal mushroom use has seen a revival inspired by age-old wisdom. More and more people recognize the power of these functional mushrooms, especially as a means to achieve a healthy immune system. 

Whether for regulating blood pressure, availing the anti-inflammatory compounds, or tapping into the powerful medicinal mushroom properties for holistic human health, these fungi have repeatedly proven their worth.

The Science Behind Mushrooms and Brain Health

The Science Behind Mushrooms and Brain Health

Unlocking the Potency: Compounds that Matter

Many of the best mushrooms for brain health are loaded with compounds that specifically cater to cognitive wellness. A deep dive into these reveals the following:


A powerhouse antioxidant, this compound found in medicinal mushrooms plays a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress, which is vital for a healthy brain. A research article published in 2022(2) dug deep into the benefits of Ergotheneine in the brain, indicating that it fights neuronal injury in addition to beating oxidative stress

Hericenones and Erinacines

Found abundantly in Hericium Erinaceus (Lion's mane mushroom), these compounds can cross the blood-brain barrier to stimulate nerve growth and improve neuronal health

The Lion's mane is known for neurogenesis because of its high content of Hericenones and Erinacines. This mushroom extract stimulates the nerve growth factor production, positively impacting cognitive function and encouraging the growth of new brain cells.

Vitamin D and B Vitamins

Vital for brain function and reducing inflammation, these vitamins in edible mushrooms offer protection against cognitive challenges. Research indicates that(3) a high vitamin D content reduces the risk of dementia. Moreover, research confirms that(4) the B vitamins play numerous roles in the brain, including facilitating the production of neurochemicals essential for signaling.


These compounds, found in medicinal mushrooms, are crucial for gut and brain health, linking a healthy gut to a sharp mind. Research conducted in 2022(5) confirmed that different types of beta-glucans enhance cognitive function.

In the Spotlight: Lion's Mane Mushrooms and Cognitive Wellness

The Lion's mane mushroom, scientifically known as Hericium Erinaceus, has attracted significant attention in neurology. Studies(6) on this particular mushroom extract have shown its potential to increase nerve growth factor, which is vital for the survival and function of nerve cells. Moreover, its application in addressing mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer's disease is promising, positioning it as one of the best mushrooms for brain health.

Decoding the Studies: What Research Tells Us

Diving into the research about medicinal mushrooms and their effects on the brain, several findings stand out:

Prevention of Neurodegenerative Diseases

Medicinal mushroom intake, particularly mushroom supplements, has shown the potential(7) to mitigate risks associated with Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Enhancement of Cognitive Functions

Whether eating raw or cooked mushrooms or taking mushroom supplements, consuming mushrooms has shown promising results in improving cognitive function. A study(8) on the cognitive function scale highlighted the efficacy of mushroom species in addressing issues like brain fog.

Protection Against Cognitive Decline

Research indicates that(9) regularly consuming fresh mushrooms or supplements can shield against cognitive decline, especially in older adults. This is particularly relevant in the context of conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

Types of Mushrooms Beneficial for Brain Health

Lion's Mane Mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus): The Brain-Boosting Champion

Lion's Mane Mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus): The Brain-Boosting Champion

Easily sitting at the top of the list of the best mushrooms for brain health, Lion's mane mushrooms offer a suite of cognitive benefits. Scientifically known as Hericium Erinaceus, this medicinal mushroom stands out for its potential to boost cognitive function. 

Multiple studies(10), especially those focusing on mild cognitive impairment, have showcased the effectiveness of Lion's mane for brain fog. Whether you opt for Lion's mane extract or other mushroom supplements derived from this species, you invest in a healthy brain. The mushroom works wonders by enhancing the brain's ability to regenerate and maintain its essential functions.

Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum): The Shielding Powerhouse

Reishi mushroom, or Ganoderma Lucidum as it's scientifically known, is another star in medicinal mushrooms. Regular consumption, primarily through mushroom supplements, can boost overall brain health. 

Reishi's prowess is attributed to its high antioxidant properties. Furthermore, clinical trials and studies have pointed towards(11) its potential to reduce stress, thereby supporting optimal brain functions

Cordyceps: The Energy Dynamo

Cordyceps: The Energy Dynamo

While Cordyceps might not be as frequently associated with brain health as the Hericium Erinaceus or Ganoderma Lucidum, its benefits are hard to ignore. This functional mushroom is renowned for boosting energy, making it a popular choice among those aiming to combat fatigue. 

While its direct impact on cognitive function is still a research topic, preliminary findings hint at its potential to enhance alertness, indirectly supporting brain health. Moreover, research conducted in 2018(12) indicates that cordyceps can improve memory and learning.

Because of its ability to boost alertness, most people believe that the best time to take cordyceps is in the morning, as it boosts their mental energy throughout the day.

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus): The Neural Guardian

Chaga mushroom, scientifically known as Inonotus obliquus, is packed with antioxidants essential for neural protection. As one of the best mushrooms for brain health, regular intake of Chaga mushrooms, be it through a mushroom supplement or direct consumption, can play a pivotal role in safeguarding neural health. 

Laboratory tests(13) and limited clinical trials have illustrated Chaga's potential in defending the brain against oxidative stress, which is often responsible for conditions like poor memory and cognitive decline.

How to Incorporate Mushrooms into Your Diet for Optimal Brain Health

How to Incorporate Mushrooms into Your Diet for Optimal Brain Health

Choosing the Right Mushrooms

First, knowing what mushrooms are good for brain health is pivotal. There's a variety of mushrooms that can promote improved cognitive function. Whether you're choosing Lion's Mane, Reishi, Cordyceps, or Chaga, each has unique benefits to boost your brain's well-being.

Savoring the Natural Goodness: Fresh Mushrooms in Dishes

Incorporating fresh mushrooms into your daily meals can be both delicious and nutritious. Salads, soups, stir-fries, or grilled mushroom sides—many dishes await your culinary exploration. But remember, it's essential to source your mushrooms from reputable places to ensure you're consuming safe and beneficial varieties.

Brewing Brain Health: Mushroom Teas and Coffees

For those who fancy a warm cup of goodness, mushroom teas and coffees are the way to go. Brands now offer blends integrating brain-boosting mushrooms, providing a tasty and therapeutic experience. So the next time you're contemplating your morning brew, consider switching to a mushroom-infused choice.

Concentrated Wellness: Mushroom Supplements and Extracts

When fresh consumption isn't feasible, or you're looking for a more concentrated form, turning to a mushroom supplement is advisable. Available in capsules, powders, or liquid extracts, these supplements are designed to conveniently deliver the potent benefits of mushrooms

They can be beneficial for addressing specific cognitive concerns or boosting overall brain health. And with the rising popularity of mushrooms, finding a quality mushroom supplement has become easier than ever.

Dosage and Regularity: Crafting a Balanced Regime

While mushrooms offer various benefits, consuming them in recommended dosages is vital to reap optimal benefits. Regularity in consumption can play a significant role in ensuring you're consistently fueling your brain with these natural enhancers. 

However, it's crucial to remember that everyone's body reacts differently. Hence, always consult a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regime or significantly altering your diet, especially if you have underlying health conditions.

Potential Side Effects and Considerations

Potential Side Effects and Considerations

Not All Mushrooms Are Created Equal

While fungi offer numerous benefits, especially for brain health, it's crucial to understand that not all mushrooms are edible or beneficial for consumption. Some can be toxic, hallucinogenic, or cause adverse reactions when ingested. Therefore, knowledge and discernment are vital when choosing mushrooms for culinary or medicinal purposes.

The Paramountcy of Proper Sourcing

One of the critical factors ensuring you receive the benefits of mushrooms without unwanted consequences is sourcing them from reliable and reputable places. Contamination, whether due to pollutants, pesticides, or harmful bacteria, can negate the health benefits of mushrooms and might even pose significant health risks. Always ensure that your mushrooms, whether fresh, in supplement form, or as extracts, come from trustworthy suppliers who adhere to stringent quality and safety standards.

Interactions and Implications: Medications and Health Conditions

Mushrooms, especially medicinal ones, contain potent compounds that can interact with medications or exacerbate certain health conditions. For instance, some mushrooms might have blood-thinning properties and could interfere with anticoagulant medications. Others might influence blood sugar levels or blood pressure, which could be of concern for individuals with diabetes or hypertension, respectively.

Before incorporating mushrooms into your regimen, especially in concentrated supplement form, it's imperative to consult with a healthcare professional. They can guide potential interactions and help determine a safe and beneficial dosage for your unique circumstances.

Other Natural Foods for Brain Health

Other Natural Foods for Brain Health

Beyond Mushrooms: A World of Brain-Boosting Superfoods

While mushrooms have garnered significant attention for their cognitive-enhancing properties, they aren't the only superfoods with brain benefits. Here are some notable mentions:


Often dubbed the "brain berry," blueberries are rich in antioxidants linked to delayed cognitive aging and improved memory.


These brain-shaped nuts are more than just a coincidence. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts can support brain health, potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.


With its active compound, curcumin, turmeric boasts potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These compounds can help counteract age-related cognitive decline and promote a healthy brain environment.

A Holistic Approach to Brain Health

Mushrooms, with their unique set of beneficial compounds, can undoubtedly play a pivotal role in promoting brain health. However, combined with other superfoods, they become part of a comprehensive and holistic approach to cognitive wellness. Diversifying your diet with a range of nutrient-dense foods ensures that your brain receives a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds crucial for optimal function.

Incorporating mushrooms alongside other natural brain boosters can offer a multi-faceted strategy for maintaining and enhancing cognitive function. You set the foundation for a resilient, sharp, and healthy brain by diversifying your nutrient sources and integrating mushrooms as a critical component.

FAQs About Mushrooms For Brain Health

What Mushrooms Help With Brain Fog?

Several mushrooms help with brain fog, including Lion's Mane, Reishi, and Cordyceps. For example, Lion's Mane mushroom contains compounds that stimulate nerve growth and promote the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein supports the growth and survival of neurons. 

Reishi mushroom is an adaptogenic mushroom that helps the body cope with stress. Studies have shown that it can improve symptoms of neurasthenia, such as fatigue and irritability, often associated with brain fog. In addition, Cordyceps mushroom improves cognitive function and mental clarity by increasing brain oxygen utilization and ATP production.

How Do I Consume Mushrooms For Brain Health Benefits?

There are different ways to consume mushrooms for improved cognitive function and brain health benefits. One of the easiest ways is to include your functional mushroom as a food source in your diet. For example, you can cook culinary and medicinal mushrooms, add them as a side dish or salad topping, or mix them into sauces or soups. 

Another popular way to consume mushrooms is through supplements. Mushroom supplements come in various forms, such as powders, capsules, tinctures, or extracts. They are easy to take and allow for a more concentrated dose of beneficial compounds found in mushrooms. 

Mushroom tea is also a great way to consume mushrooms. You can make mushroom tea by steeping dried mushrooms in hot water. This method allows you to enjoy the flavor and aroma of the mushrooms while reaping their brain health benefits.

Are There Any Interactions Between Mushrooms And Medications?

Yes, some mushrooms can interact with certain medications. For example, mushrooms such as Lion's mane, Reishi, and Cordyceps may have blood-thinning properties, which could increase the risk of bleeding if taken with anticoagulant medications like warfarin or aspirin. Additionally, some mushrooms may interfere with medications metabolized by the liver, such as chemotherapy drugs and certain statins, and could lead to increased or decreased levels of these drugs in the bloodstream.

Talking to a healthcare professional before taking mushroom supplements is essential, especially if you are taking a medicine or have a medical condition. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you on potential interactions and help you determine whether taking a specific mushroom supplement alongside your current medication regimen is safe. In addition, talking to your doctor can help you enjoy the health benefits of mushroom supplements without dealing with side effects during your treatment period. 

Key Takeaways

Notable superfood mushrooms like Lion's Mane, Reishi, Chaga, and Cordyceps improve brain health. These mushrooms promote neurogenesis, fight inflammation, and provide antioxidant properties that fight harmful free radicals.These fresh mushrooms and their supplements may also boost neurotransmitters, encourage neurite outgrowth, improve neuronal health and prevent cognitive decline and memory loss. 

As an added benefit, these mushrooms provide other physical health benefits. For example, eating mushrooms can help manage blood sugar in people with diabetes, lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, fight bad cholesterol, improve heart health, lower cancer risk, and fight headaches. Moreover, these mushrooms contain bioactive compounds that promote a healthy immune system, improve gut health, and are a great addition to your nutrition, delivering nutrients like vitamins and minerals. 

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. Anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms: A review, (1) 
  2. Ergothioneine in the brain, (2) 
  3. The Role of Vitamin D in Brain Health: A Mini Literature Review, (3) 
  4. B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review, (4) 
  5. Three Different Types of β-Glucans Enhance Cognition: The Role of the Gut-Brain Axis, (5) 
  6. Neurotrophic properties of the Lion's mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia, (6) 
  7. The Monkey Head Mushroom and Memory Enhancement in Alzheimer’s Disease, (7) 
  8. Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help?, (8) 
  9. Mushroom intake and cognitive performance among US older adults: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2014, (9) 
  10. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) Exerts Anxiolytic Effects in the rTg4510 Tau Mouse Model, (10) 
  11. Evaluation of Antianxiety Potential of Four Ganoderma (Agaricomycetes) Species from India in Mice, (11) 
  12. Improvement of Learning and Memory Induced by Cordyceps Polypeptide Treatment and the Underlying Mechanism, (12)
  13. Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) polysaccharides exhibit genoprotective effects in UVB-exposed embryonic zebrafish (Danio rerio) through coordinated expression of DNA repair genes, (13)

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