As it seems, mushrooms aren’t just a fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, but also a nootropic in their own right.
As you may know, nootropics, or “smart drugs”, refer to substances or herbs that enhance mental function. Some of the most popular nootropics include bacopa monnieri, L-theanine, citicoline, and rhodiola rosea.
Though, what you may often find added into nootropic formulas or stacks is a nootropic mushroom. These include chaga, cordyceps, and lion’s mane, which is arguably the most potent mushroom nootropic of them all.
You may have also heard of reishi or turkey tail, which can allegedly work wonders on the immune system. However, the above mushrooms are examples of those which are more specific to the neurological system.
This article discusses these medicinal mushrooms and why you may want to add them to your nootropic stack!
Mushrooms and the Neurological System
There has been much research over the years which investigates the potential uses and benefits of medicinal mushrooms as nootropics. Though, much of this research surrounds lion’s mane specifically, but we will get to this!
Having said that, more and more mushrooms are gaining momentum in the world of nootropic and brain research, and the results so far appear promising.
So, what makes medicinal mushrooms stand out from other nootropics and brain herbs?
Well, one factor that makes these mushrooms unique is their ability to act “bidirectionally”. This means that they can both stimulate or reduce psychological processes in the body, depending on what is needed.
This ability stems from a powerful synergy which is found in the fruiting bodies of the mushrooms. Though, there is not just one compound that provides these benefits, it’s actually a whole team of compounds (up to hundreds) which all work together to produce a combined effect on the body.
Some of the key benefits of medicinal mushrooms include:
- Stimulates the repair and growth of nerve cells
- Fights neuroinflammation that may lead to the degeneration of brain cells
- Enhances the utilization of oxygen in the brain and nervous tissue
- Mimics serotonin in the brain to regulate and support mood and sleep
Let’s take a closer look at each individual mushroom!
Best Nootropic Mushrooms
Lion’s mane (Hericium Erinaceus), also known as Yamabushitake or hedgehog mushroom, is an ancient Chinese medicinal mushroom. It is now becoming recognized as an effective supplement in providing numerous cognitive health benefits.
Lion’s mane can be consumed raw, cooked, or taken as a supplement. It gets its name, lion’s mane, from the close resemblance to a lion’s mane due to the long white spines that grow from the main body, drooping downwards.
This medicinal mushroom has been used for centuries as a health remedy for neurodegenerative diseases and for its neuroprotective properties.
It has potential anti-depressant and anxiolytic properties, as well as cognitive-enhancing and mood-boosting benefits.
Lion’s mane owes these health benefits to the series of aromatic compounds known as the hericinones. These compounds have been shown to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) in the brain, thus stimulating the nervous tissue around the body to regenerate new nerve cells.
This is thought to have a profound impact as lost nerve cells typically do not come back, so stimulating NGF levels in the brain may be a game changer for cognition and for tackling neurodegenerative disorders.
Chaga (inonotus obliquus) is a fungus commonly found growing on birch trees in cool climates around the globe. This is not the typical “meaty mushroom” texture, it’s actually very hard and dark in appearance.
While this mushroom is not always considered a nootropic, it definitely possesses some properties which are great for supporting brain health, particularly when taken long term.
The main benefit chaga is known for is that it’s a potent immunomodulator - substances that have a direct benefit on the regulation of the immune system.
In other words, when the immune system is working at a slow pace, chaga is thought to give it a healthy boost. On the other hand, when the immune system is working overtime, such as with autoimmune diseases, chaga is used to reduce immunity activity instead.
Regarding cognitive health, chaga can work its immunity magic to ensure that cognitive function is preserved in times of illnesses such as autoimmune-related inflammatory reactions, which can have a huge negative impact on brain functioning.
Cordyceps (cordyceps sinensis), also known as “zombie fungus” due to its strange life cycle, is an extremely useful health supplement for both athletes and those seeking cognitive enhancements.
This fungus infects insects which causes them to behave erratically and either climb to the highest leaf, or burrow in the ground. Here, the insect dies and the fungus consumes the insect corpse as food.
Though, don’t let the life cycle put you off this mushroom's remarkable health effects!
Cordyceps shares many of its benefits with the other mushrooms, such as immune system support, anti-inflammatory properties, and enhancing cognition.
However, there is something else that sets this mushroom apart from the others - it’s potential to improve the body's ability to use oxygen. Research in this specific area is mostly in the context of exercise, meaning that it may be a medicinal mushroom that would fit in well with an athlete’s supplement stack.
Additionally, this ability to possibly improve oxygen utilization is a major component of brain function. This makes sense, as if we’re failing to use oxygen efficiently in the brain, we begin to feel dull, tired, and lightheaded.
This is why hospitals will often administer oxygen to patients who are experiencing high stress or fatigue in an effort to boost their mood and awareness.
Interestingly, casinos also choose to pump extra oxygen into the room to help create a bigger sense of euphoria and alertness among its gamblers!
The Best Nootropic Mushroom Supplement
While you can supplement with these mushrooms individually, it is often more beneficial to take them as part of a nootropic stack or formula.
Our top pick is Mind Lab Pro, an innovative formula of 11 nootropic ingredients, including Lion’s Mane Mushroom, which all work together to help optimize a wide array of cognitive functions to boost overall brain power.
The lion’s mane contained in Mind Lab Pro is the full spectrum extract, which supplies all the mushrooms' key constituents and nootropic actives, helping to support mental function in the short-term and healthy brain function in the long term.
Mushrooms have so much to offer us - a tasty food and a brain-boosting supplement!
Mushrooms like chaga offer a powerful protective effect on the brain, keeping neuroinflammation controlled and our immune system nicely regulated.
Cordyceps provides key support for neuroinflammation too, though has additional benefits in improving the body’s ability to use oxygen, further driving cognitive processes.
Lion’s mane, one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms, helps stimulate NGF, which can have a profound impact on our brain and nerve health.
The use of mushrooms as cognitive enhancers is a rapidly growing area in the world of nootropics!