Are Functional Mushrooms Nature's "Limitless" Pill?
If you have already seen the movie Limitless or have read the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, you probably know exactly what we are talking about.
In both works, there is talk of a "magical" nootropic substance that allows people to use their brain 100%, making them super intelligent, super alert, and focused to the point that basically changes their lives completely.
Both works propose brilliant and revolutionary ideas, but they remain just as imaginary in the real world. But, can you imagine a natural substance with capacities similar to those of the famous "NZT-48," popularly known as the "limitless" pill?
The popularization of nootropic or medicinal mushrooms in Western culture presents just this possibility for many people who claim that these mushrooms can increase cognitive abilities to incredible levels and that they could even be nature's "limitless pill."
If you are looking for answers on this topic or even looking for a natural NZT, this post is for you! Keep reading, and maybe you can become the next “Eddie Morra” only with the help of medicinal mushrooms.
- Medicinal mushrooms have gained attention for their therapeutic and brain-boosting abilities. They are considered nature's original "smart drugs" and are rich in nutrients and therapeutic compounds that can benefit various biological systems in humans.
- Functional mushrooms have the potential to modulate the immune system, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce oxidative stress, fight tumor growth, and protect against radiation damage. However, more research is needed to make conclusive claims about their effects.
- Certain medicinal mushrooms, such as cordyceps, shiitake, and reishi, exhibit adaptogenic and anti-aging benefits. They may improve endurance, fat utilization, immune function, heart health, and sleep quality.
Are Medicinal Mushrooms Nature’s “Smart Drugs”?
Many users of different ages around the world would say yes. In fact, many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs claim that medicinal mushrooms are nature's original "smart drugs." And in fact, they may be right.
To date, scientists discovered more than 270 species of medicinal mushrooms, many of which continue to gain scientific attention for their therapeutic and brain-boosting abilities.
Medicinal mushrooms earned a rightful place within integrative medicine as broad-spectrum supplements, the ancient therapeutic legacy they encompass, and the vast body of scientific research that continues to expand around them.
Medicinal mushrooms are a natural source of vitamins, minerals, lipids, alkaloids, proteoglycans, polysaccharides, enzymes, and antioxidants. This rich mixture of different nutrients and therapeutic compounds could provide complex beneficial properties for the various biological systems of human beings.
For this reason, scientists and researchers worldwide continue to study this type of mushroom.
Many previous studies and reviews have found that medicinal mushrooms could help modulate the immune system, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce oxidative stress, fight tumor growth, and even protect against radiation damage.
That said, much more research is needed before we can make any conclusive claims on the effects of theses substances.
Is the Limitless Pill Real?
Not really. The famous pill gets its nickname from the namesake movie based on the techno-thriller novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. The name of the limitless pill in the film is NZT-48, and it is not a real pill.
In the movie, the character Edward Morra takes this nootropic drug which, consequently, allows him to use his brain fully and leads to a vast improvement in his lifestyle. However, although the "limitless" pill is not real, functional mushrooms could represent a real alternative for people looking to improve their cognitive abilities.
Although the effects of functional mushrooms are not as instantaneous and fancifully powerful as those of the "limitless" pill in the movie, it is a fact that they could boost the mental capacities of some individuals when used in the right way.
How Functional Mushrooms Modulate Immunity
Several studies suggest that the compounds derived from mushrooms could carry a great capacity to support and regulate the immune system. Despite this, many people still wonder how something that grows out of the ground, mud, and even dirt can carry many potential health benefits.
Many people would be surprised to learn that there is even evidence to suggest that numerous compounds found in medicinal mushrooms could potentiate non-specific and specific innate immune responses or acquired immune responses.
Furthermore, these compounds could activate various types of immune cells and genetic components important for homeostasis.
Among the different immunomodulatory effects derived from functional mushrooms, we found that these active ingredients could induce mitogenicity and activation of immune cells, such as hematopoietic stem cells, lymphocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, and natural killer cells, resulting in increased production of cytokines.
Adaptogenic & Anti-Aging Benefits of Functional Mushrooms
Adaptogens are substances used in herbal medicine to promote the stabilization of physiological processes and the promotion of homeostasis.
In a nutshell, adaptogens are naturally occurring substances that could help the body better adapt to stress and cellular oxidation caused by free radical exposure.
Several studies suggest that certain medicinal mushrooms may have adaptogenic qualities and may even help prevent or reverse the age-related functional decline in numerous biological systems.
Some of the medicinal mushrooms that have greater adaptogenic and anti-aging activity are the following.
Various studies suggest that cordyceps could help achieve greater endurance during strenuous exercise, increased fat utilization, and delayed accumulation of plasma lactate and ammonia.
Some researchers believe that some medicinal mushrooms, such as cordyceps sinensis, could promote increased ATP production, more efficient oxygen utilization, and increased tolerance to acidosis in hypoxic conditions and improve the overall quality of life.
There is also evidence from these studies to suggest that some medicinal mushrooms may increase antioxidant activity in the red blood cells of older adults to levels commonly observed in young adults.
Some researchers also believe that some cordyceps may help prevent the risk of neuropathies or brain diseases by inhibiting MAO-B brain activity, which links to brain diseases that develop with age.
This fungus is highly nutritional, and among its most widely attributed benefits are its possible antioxidant and anti-aging qualities. Additionally, shiitake may be beneficial for heart health, liver health, and immune health.
Shiitake is rich in vitamin D, vitamin B, and zinc. Some studies have also shown that it could reverse age-related decline in immune function, probably thanks to the polysaccharides they contain.
Shiitake is also rich in eritadenine, sterols, and beta-glucans, three main compounds in shiitake that help lower cholesterol, thereby improving heart health.
Reishi is one of the most popular mushrooms with adaptogenic properties and is commonly used by people to reap its potential benefits for general wellness.
Naturopathic or herbal medicine experts usually recommend reishi to improve immune health, relieve stress and anxiety by helping users feel more balanced, and improve sleep as it can help to reconcile better rest.
Reishi stimulates the immune system, which prevents infections. Reishi may also be good for heart health as it is rich in triterpenes and beta-glucans, compounds that can help lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol).
Mushrooms that Help Boost Your Immunity & Health
Science has classified about 14,000 fungi species in nature so far, of which 2,200 are in the "edible mushrooms" category. Among those 2,200 edible mushrooms, about 650 have been scientifically studied, cultivated, or consumed for their possible medicinal qualities or potentially beneficial health.
But while there seem to be plenty of mushrooms with potential health benefits for men and women, there is a handful of them that could be potentially beneficial for boosting immune health or promoting general wellness in people.
Some of the mushrooms with this "magical" medicinal or healing capacity are the following.
The lion's mane mushroom is one of the most recommended by experts to improve health in different ways, especially cognitive health. Over the years, lion's mane has been shown to be beneficial for immune function and may help treat anxiety and depressive symptoms.
There is evidence to suggest that lion's mane may improve mild cognitive impairment and stimulate the production of NGF. This bioprotein plays a vital role in the health, maintenance, and regeneration of neurons in the brain.
A low amount of NGF generally links to Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative brain conditions such as dementia. When someone is deficient in NGF and takes any compound that stimulates NGF, they could end up experiencing a headache due to extra neural activity, among other factors.
This is why some people wonder if lion's mane causes headaches. But, the truth is that if you have healthy or optimal NGF levels, lion's mane will not cause headaches. On the contrary, it could serve as a treatment for migraine.
Another of lion's mane's cognitive-boosting functions is that it may help improve memory, increase creativity, and help with concentration and mental clarity because this functional fungus promotes focus and gives a boost to levels of energy.
This is why, although the best time to take lion's mane may vary depending on the purpose and needs of each user, some people use lion's mane as a pre-workout supplement to benefit from the energy boost it gives and thus enhance their performance during your routines.
Agaricus (Agaricus blazei)
This member of the Agaricus family is top-rated and studied for its high content of polysaccharides and minerals such as zinc and because it could be beneficial for the immune system.
The Agaricus blazei is also called "Mushroom of the sun" or "fungus of the sun," Hongo Piedade', Cogumelo do sol, Ji Song Rong, and Himematsutake.
The sun mushroom also stands out for its high amount of active biomolecules, especially β-glucans or immunomodulatory polysaccharides and minerals.
Agaricus may also be beneficial for gut microbiota health, neurogenesis, and natural lovastatin, which is related to cardiovascular health. Its immune-boosting qualities are especially good for improving allergies.
All the biomolecules contained in this mushroom could offer additional integrative support to the body, which, consequently, could help improve the overall quality of life.
Another curious fact about this functional fungus is the low rates of cancer presented by the populations that regularly consumed it in the mountainous regions of the southern Atlantic Forest in São Paulo, Brazil, where this fungus is native.
This is undoubtedly another of the reasons that placed the "Cogumelo do Sol" in the eye of the scientific community until today.
Many of the medicinal mushrooms we mention carry anti-cancer properties thanks to their high concentrations of antioxidant agents. But the turkey tail undoubtedly leads the way in this regard.
The polysaccharide-K (PSK) compound contained in turkey tail stimulates the immune system so effectively that it is an approved and commonly prescribed cancer-fighting drug in Japan.
Evidence suggests that turkey tail might be beneficial for people with certain types of cancer. Other studies indicate it might fight leukemia cells and improve the immune system of people receiving chemotherapy.
Nonetheless, if you are undergoing any type of cancer treatment, it is best to consult your doctor before considering turkey tail as a complementary treatment.
Of all the cordyceps species, only sinensis and militaris are edible and highly sought after due to their potential medicinal properties.
Evidence suggests that cordyceps militaris could be beneficial for patients with respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, kidney conditions, liver conditions, sexual dysfunction, and parasitic and infectious diseases.Studies suggest that cordyceps militaris may improve exercise and athletic performance by improving blood flow, helping the body use oxygen more efficiently, and speeding muscle recovery after training.
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We all know that caffeine gets you going. But does caffeine help with focus? Click here for the answer.
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