Updated: Jan 14
Medicinal mushrooms and mushroom consumption are quickly becoming one of the most beneficial superfoods to include in your diet to support a healthy brain. Medicinal mushrooms have been shown to reduce neuroinflammation, improve cognition, help with anxiety and depression, decrease plaque formation, reduce oxidative stress, and mild cognitive impairment. These mushrooms work to protect neurons from damage and support new neural growth and can rewire brain pathways.
When it comes to medicinal mushrooms there are so many, but for brain health, the three most promising fungi are Lion’s Mane mushroom, Chaga mushroom and Reishi mushroom. There is also lots of promising research showing the effectiveness of even just consuming edible (culinary) mushrooms regularly both for overall wellness as well as the autoimmune diseases as discussed in the book The wahls protocol and many more.
What are the most effective mushrooms for brain health?
Scientific studies show that Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Chaga mushroom are the three most effective medicinal mushrooms for brain health. They help protect the brain from neurodegeneration, boost cognitive function scale, improve memory, mood, focus and concentration, and support diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
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1. Lion's Mane Mushroom
Many studies have shown that Lion's Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) have neuroprotective effects—lowering cellular stress in the brain, increasing antioxidant activity in the liver, decreasing plaque formation that causes Alzheimer's and dementia, improve anxiety and depression, and improving cognitive function. It has also been shown to affect the immune system, enhance digestion and gut health, balance the nervous system, promote anti-aging, reduce inflammation, and increase antioxidant levels, making it a true superfood!
Low levels of NGF causes synaptic degeneration, amyloid-beta plaque formation and
ND – neural diseases, Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease as well as being one of the only know plants to show real promise with Multiple Sclerosis. Lion’s Mane stimulate the release of NGF (nerve growth factor). This increased release of NGF promotes the repair and regeneration of damaged neurons and may reduce the risk for neurodegenerative disease and loss of brain function.
2. Chaga Mushroom
One of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet is Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus). It has a higher ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value than other well-known antioxidant-rich foods such as acai, baobab, and turmeric root.
Free radicals cause cell death, DNA and cell function damage, and inflammation and degradation in the brain and throughout the body. Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants, such as Chaga ensures we’re really able to support our wellbeing and help balance that antioxidant system and protect our cells. Chaga is also helpful in supporting a healthy gut microbiome. It has also been shown to be protective against Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegeneration and inflammation by acting as an antioxidant and activating anti-inflammatory pathways in the body.
3. Reishi Mushroom
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is deemed the ultimate “Anti-Stress Herb” within the kingdom of medicinal mushrooms, it has shown to be neuroprotective, can help calm an overactive nervous system, supports the adrenals, reduces stress and anxiety, boosts antioxidants, lowers inflammation and may have anti-depressive effects. Stress is a key factor for increasing free radical production, causing disruption in neurotransmitters and further drives neuroinflammation. Reishi mushroom has also shown to inhibit the creation of amyloid beta plaque that causes ND (neurodegenerative diseases) both to protect and in addition to current/pharmaceutical treatment.
Other medicinal mushrooms
4. Red Belted Mushroom
Red belted (Fomitopsis pinicola) is one of the most common medicinal mushrooms that can be found in North America, Alaska and California. This mushroom although not in the top three medicinal mushrooms it has a boatload of its own amazing benefits, from anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and immuno-modulating, to anti-pathogenic, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and even adaptogenic as other medicinal mushroom. Its also considered a digestive tonic, and is thought to relieve inflammation of gastrointestinal tissues. Red belted polypore is also indicated for immune system stimulation and antihistamine qualities. The Cree Natives also still use this mushroom still to this day as a styptic to stop bleeding. Some animal model studies have even indicated that this polypore may have some anti-cancer potential. Uses consist of prevention for or treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, regulate blood sugar, persistent or intermittent fevers, chronic diarrhea and much more.
5. Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is loaded with antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenols that may reduce inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and certain cancer. This mushroom may also enhance the efficacy of certain cancer treatments as well as help with the immune system. This comes from the Immune-Boosting Polysaccharopeptides contained in the mushroom. Turkey tail can also assist and enhance gut health just like many other medicinal mushrooms.
6. Cordyceps Mushroom
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) may be the last on this list but it's certainly not least! Possessing similar properties to other mushrooms listed such as antioxidant, adaptogenic, and immune system amphoteric, as well as nephroprotective, sedative and hypocholesteremic. Cordyceps are packed with immunostimulating polysaccharides to help with this immune modulating affect. Today, this mushroom is used to fight chronic kidney disease and some types of cancer, it's also shown to be a brain protectant as well as reduce damage to the body due to radiation.
Terms to Know
Amphoteric: (balancing) to immune function, and is used for both deficiency states (think, cancer, chronic viruses like herpes and EBV) and allergies and autoimmunity. Reishi is potently anti-inflammatory, AND can encourage efficient and appropriate inflammation, which is the basis of immune system scavenging and infection resolution.
Supporting Cluster Post to Include: Coming Soon
Can mushrooms help to improve memory?
Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus) medicinal mushrooms aid to boost memory by stimulating the release of NGF - nerve growth factor - which improves synaptic connectivity and repair. This can also be seen with some other medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi. According to studies and clinical trials, medicinal mushrooms stimulate NGF production in the hippocampus, the portion of the brain that stores and creates memories.
Lion’s Mane, Chaga and Reishi mushroom are the three most effective medicinal mushrooms for boosting cognitive function and improving brain health without side effects. It's no surprise that medicinal mushrooms have attracted the attention of many elite athletes, entrepreneurs and hard-working students to help elevate peak mental performance–improve memory loss, mood, alertness, focus and concentration. These three adaptogenic mushrooms protect, nourish, and support optimal brain function. Begin eating mushrooms today if you want to crush your daily goals, produce better results, and stay on top of your game.
Ayales, Adriana. Adaptogens: Herbs for Longevity and Everyday Wellness. Sterling Publishing Company, Incorporated, 2019.
Hedley, Eliza. “Top 3 Medicinal Mushrooms for Brain Health.” Teelixir, 4 February 2021, https://teelixir.com/blogs/news/mushrooms-for-brain-health#3best. Accessed 8 January 2023.
“Red Belted Mushroom: A Powerful Ally.” Ash & Thorn Herbals, 12 June 2017, https://www.ashandthorn.ca/single-post/2017/06/12/red-belted-mushroom-a-powerful-ally. Accessed 8 January 2023.
“Medicinal Mushroom Hot Cocoa with Red Belted Polypore.” Nitty Gritty Life, https://nittygrittylife.com/medicinal-mushroom-hot-cocoa/. Accessed 8 January 2023.
“Red-Belted Polypore.” Elma Skin Care, https://elmaskincare.com/herbs/red-belted-polypore/. Accessed 8 January 2023.
Kubala, Jillian, et al. “5 Immune-Boosting Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom.” Healthline, 6 November 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turkey-tail-mushroom. Accessed 8 January 2023.
Elliott, Sophia. “Medicinal Mushrooms (Reishi!) & Immune Intelligence.” Farmacopia, 27 September 2018, https://www.farmacopia.net/blogs/articles/mushrooms-immunity. Accessed 8 January 2023.