Best Mushrooms for Brain Health
How healthy is your brain? Most people seldom think about their brains. However, brain health is a critical component of mental health, encompassing your emotional, social, and psychological well-being.
A healthy brain helps you handle stress better, make healthy life choices, and relate well with others. Unfortunately, brain health can change over time due to many factors. Generally, your brain struggles when you place demands that exceed its coping abilities and resources.
Luckily, you can ensure your brain stays healthy for long by being proactive. Keeping it active, e.g., by learning a new skill, playing crossword puzzles, etc., help stimulate the brain. Physical activities have also proven helpful.
Another way to keep your brain healthy is through diet. Structure your diet with a balanced assortment of nutrients and essential minerals to establish a good foundation. Typically, we get nutrients from the foods we eat. However, foods can only provide so much, so we turn to supplements.
Functional mushrooms have emerged as valuable options for boosting brain health. These superfoods have been used in traditional medical systems as medicines for wide-ranging issues, including brain health. So, in this article, we look at some of the best mushrooms for brain health.
- Brain health is a crucial component of mental health which encompasses emotional, social, and psychological well-being.
- Good brain health can be achieved through a multimodal approach that includes good nutrition, physical and mental exercise, and supplements.
- For brain health, lion's mane, Chaga, Reishi, and turkey tail have the most potential.
Is Lion's Mane Good for Your Brain?
Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus) is an edible fungus with a distinctive appearance. It is large, white, shaggy, and resembles a full-grown lion's mane. It grows on the trunk of dead hardwood trees like oak. This mushroom has a long medical history in East Asian medicine.
Dubbed the "smart mushroom" due to its exceptional brain-supportive potential, lion's mane is excellent for brain health. This mushroom contains an assortment of bioactive compounds, e.g., erinacines, hericenones, latones, and alkaloids, with lots of cognitive health benefits.
Research indicates these compounds are neurotropic and promote the growth and differentiation of neurons. In particular, erinacines and hericenones stimulate a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) essential for neuron conductivity. Good conductivity enables the neurons to send and receive impulses throughout the nervous system.
Lion's mane also supports myelination. The myelin is a protective sheath that covers the nerves. Demyelination (damage to the myelin sheath) can slow or even stop signal transmission and cause neurological problems.
Compounds in H. erinaceus have also been shown to enhance memory. Researchers from Queensland Brain Institute conducted preclinical tests which showed that lion's mane mushroom might improve memory by stimulating the growth of brain cells.
In another randomized, controlled study, 3000mg of dried lion's mane powder "significantly improved cognitive function" in 50 to 80-year-old men and women. However, the gains diminished within four weeks of terminating supplementation, underscoring the need for taking mushroom supplements as part of a daily routine.
Another study conducted in Japan showed that cookies containing lion's mane powder improved sleep quality and mood in menopausal women. These findings are undoubtedly promising and highlight the potential benefits of lion's mane to brain health.
Let's also not forget that, like all mushrooms, lion's mane is a rich source of antioxidants. These compounds neutralize free radicals, thus preventing oxidative damage. Oxidative damage is a leading cause of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
How Can Cordyceps Benefit Your Brain?
Cordyceps is a unique fungus that grows on larvae of a moth that inhabits the mountainous regions of Asia. There are over 750 species of cordyceps, of which at least 35 kinds have potential health benefits.
The fruiting bodies of the fungus contain beneficial compounds and are traditionally boiled into tea or cooked. Although the fruiting bodies can be eaten raw, they taste much better when cooked in soups or pasta. They can also be added as toppings to pizza or salads.
Cordyceps contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may benefit brain health. For example, a review of research studies shows that cordycepin—a bioactive compound in cordyceps—can help reduce inflammation.
Further, there is evidence that cordyceps could enhance learning and memory. This is due to polypeptide complexes in cordyceps that ameliorate the decline in mental function. Moreover, cordyceps' energy-boosting ability is not limited to physical endurance only.
It can also help keep your mind switched on and focused. The mushroom stimulates the central nervous system and the adrenal glands to support a steady release of energy. In the brain, this increases blood flow, raising oxygen levels in blood cells and helping reduce mental fatigue.
Cordyceps mushrooms also appear to have neuroprotective properties. Research shows they may benefit brain health by minimizing the effects of aging and reducing age-related cognitive decline.
Furthermore, this amazing mushroom also shows the potential to aid recovery from brain injury. It increases blood flow to damaged brain cells, supplying them with nutrients and oxygen needed for healing.
Finally, like other functional mushrooms, cordyceps may help regulate hormones involved in mood and emotion processing. This reduces the risks of mood disorders and symptoms of mental health issues like stress and anxiety.
Overall, it is still early days for research about brain-boosting mushrooms. However, the growing body of studies suggesting their potential physical and mental benefits cannot be downplayed.
What Does Chaga Do to Your Brain?
Your first encounter with the chaga mushroom might have you confusing it for a chunk of burnt wood. But looks can be deceiving; chaga, also known as the 'diamond of the forest,' is an incredibly popular medicinal mushroom.
This mushroom grows on the bark of birch trees, predominantly in cold climates. It is native to Northern Europe, Russia, Siberia, Northern Canada, Alaska, and Korea. Due to its immense medicinal and nootropic properties, chaga has been used as a traditional medicine for boosting immunity and overall health.
But what can it do for your brain? Well, to start with, chaga mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. These compounds (polysaccharides) are valuable in managing inflammation and oxidative stress—the two leading causes of neurodegenerative brain conditions.
Chaga's neuroprotective effects are also attributed to its ability to regulate the NFR2 pathway. This is one of the body's anti-inflammatory pathways. Activating this pathway triggers the production of endogenous antioxidants, reduces cellular stress, and stimulates mitochondrial cell recovery.
Moreover, chaga mushrooms may also aid brain health by suppressing an over-accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are typically involved in important roles such as cell death, cell survival, differentiation, and cell signaling. However, in excess, they can damage cellular membranes via lipid peroxidation.
Chaga is a rich source of superoxide dismutase (SOD)—an enzyme that neutralizes the destructive effects of free radicals in the body. This enzyme is both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, properties which make it valuable to brain health.
Are Reishi Mushrooms Good for Your Brain?
Reishi has been recognized as a medicinal mushroom for over 2,000 years. This edible fungus native to Asia has a long medical history in traditional Eastern medicine.
For example, in ancient Chinese medicine, reishi mushrooms were praised for enhancing memory, strengthening the cardiovascular system, and detoxifying the body.
This mushroom is rich in health-benefiting compounds like polysaccharides, sterols, peptides, and triterpenoids which account for its therapeutic properties. One of reishi's well-known attributes is its strong anti-stress activity.
It is also rich in antioxidants, which, as seen in previous sections, are immensely beneficial for oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can compromise brain health by facilitating mental illnesses like Alzheimer's. The beauty of it is that antioxidant compounds in Reishi are absorbed quickly after ingestion resulting in a rapid increase in total plasma antioxidant activity.
Reishi mushrooms may also help reduce fatigue. They help regulate the body's testosterone levels and promote good energy levels. Of course, when this happens, the impact is physical as well as mental.
Research further shows that reishi mushrooms promote neurite outgrowth hence neuronal health benefits. Even though studies on the benefits of medicinal mushrooms for brain health are scarce, they suggest potential improvement in cognitive abilities if mushrooms are incorporated frequently into diets.
Which Mushroom is Best for Anxiety?
Besides diseases like stroke, dementia, meningitis, and epilepsy, anxiety also significantly contributes to poor brain health. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America contends that roughly 40 million American adults have an anxiety disorder.
And as mentioned in the preceding sections, functional mushrooms may help with some of the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. So, which mushrooms are the best for anxiety?
- Reishi is referred to as "nature's Xanax" due to its positive effect on mental health. This mushroom is a rich source of bioactive components that lower fatigue, anxiety, and even depression. The 'King of Mushrooms' may also help improve sleep quality, which is essential to managing stress.
- Lion's mane is also a great option for people dealing with anxiety. It has anti-depressant and anxiolytic properties, which is why it is an ancient Chinese medicinal mushroom. Lion's mane's nootropic qualities are attributed to hericinones, which stimulate NGF and the nervous system to function efficiently.
- Cordyceps is another stress-fighting mushroom. It demonstrates the ability to support the body's stress response by enabling it to use oxygen more efficiently. This reduces mental fatigue caused by stress.
What is the Best Mushroom for Depression?
Before diving into this, it’s very important to highlight that mushrooms are not a treatment or cure for depression or any health condition for that matter. That said, some preliminary research has shown that a few functional mushrooms may have properties that help combat symptoms associated with depression.
Reishi contains beta-glucans which are thought to positively impact the immune system besides enhancing mood and improving sleep quality. Obviously, these are critical to managing anxiety and depression.
This mushroom is also adaptogenic, meaning it may help the body cope better with stress. Its anti-inflammatory properties also bode well for depression and anxiety owing to their link to inflammation. As such, by reducing inflammation, reishi may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and contribute to better mental health.
Chaga is probably the richest source of antioxidants in the mushroom kingdom. The larger percentage of chaga's antioxidants are anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting polysaccharides. This mushroom also contains betulinic acid and triterpenoids, which positively impact mood and mental health by regulating neurotransmitter levels.
Chaga is also an excellent source of B vitamins widely implicated in brain function roles. For instance, lower levels of vitamins B6 and B12 are linked to depression and anxiety, respectively. By providing the body with these vitamins, chaga mushrooms may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and boost brain health.
Turkey tail contains PSK—a compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that can also improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. PSK can regulate neurotransmitter levels vital in controlling mood and anxiety.
Lion's mane mushrooms contain erinacines and hericystins. These compounds are shown to stimulate the growth of nerve cells, thereby improving communication between neuronal cells. Depression is associated with changes in brain function, so ensuring the brain works well goes a long way in reducing depressive symptoms.
What is the Best Mushroom for Brain Fog?
If you are looking for mushrooms to overcome brain fog, your best bets are lion's mane, cordyceps, reishi, and turkey tail. This lot has energizing compounds beneficial for people with brain fog, fatigue, and ailments that affect memory and focus.
How Can I Take Medicinal Mushrooms for Brain Health?
Medicinal mushrooms have been used for millennia to treat and manage wide-ranging health problems. Research supporting their therapeutic potential is growing, so this is a good time to upgrade your breakfast routine by adding a scoop of VYU's TUNE IN mushroom powder to your morning beverage. It blends lion's mane, cordyceps, powerful herbals like ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea root extract, and B vitamins to increase focus, energy, memory, and recall.
Mushrooms offer us so much – brain-boosting properties and a tasty delicacy! While the use of medicinal mushrooms for brain health is growing rapidly, it is important to note that they are part of a multimodal approach to better brain health.
For best results, a holistic approach that includes healthy eating, physical exercise, meditation, and supplements is recommended. We also recommend researching mushrooms and consulting professional healthcare providers to support you on the journey to better mental health.
Mushrooms for Brain Health: FAQs
What Mushrooms Help Grow Brain Cells?
Lion's mane contains erinacines and hericenones, which stimulate proteins called nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These proteins promote the growth and regeneration of brain cells.
What is the Best Mushroom for Brain Inflammation?
Chaga is the richest source of antioxidants among all mushrooms. This makes it the best mushroom for preventing brain inflammation.
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