Without a doubt, two seemingly unrelated topics have experienced boons during the pandemic: mushrooms and mental health. And for good reason!
In the past 14 months (and counting!), situations arose that we never expected, and mental health has become more important than ever. Mushrooms, from shiitake to portobello and crimini, have long been touted for their benefits: B vitamins, potassium, copper, antioxidants, and beta glucans, which are dietary fibres that are good for heart health and lowering cholesterol.
Now medicinal mushrooms are gaining more attention, especially for brain health and other facets of wellness and healing. We believe that we can prevent illness by choosing natural elements every day to help free us from the mental blocks and imbalances that hold us back.
We’ll talk about a few of these pro-brain health mushrooms that scientists are talking about.
Reishi and the brain
The reishi fungus, Ganoderma lingzhi, grows in Asia and has long been used in Eastern medicine. Besides fighting fatigue, cancer, and heart disease, studies have shown it can control the blood, is an antioxidant, boosts the immune system, and fight depression.
In a study of 48 breast cancer survivors who took reishi powder, participants’ fatigue was reduced, their quality of life improved, and they experienced less anxiety and depression after four weeks. The reduced fatigue effect may be because of the mushrooms’ ability to fight free radicals, which can cause damage to DNA and other parts of human cells.
A recent study in 2020 provided the first scientific evidence that a reishi ethanol extract accelerated healing and could enhance and protect the skin from free radicals, paving the way for possible medical applications.
Because you can consume reishi fresh, as an extract, or in powdered form, it’s no wonder the mushroom’s been touted for so long. More than a few brands have released products containing reishi; HAVN Life’s Reishi Recharge supports the immune system to help you feel more zen.
Lion’s mane: Anxiety, depression and memory
It’s a similar story with lion’s mane, or Hericium erinaceus. A white, large, shaggy mushroom resembling the mane of a lion, this fungus has been consumed and used medically in Asia.
Studies have shown promising results in protecting against ulcers, reducing heart disease and inflammation, managing diabetes symptoms, fighting cancer, aiding in immunity and nervous system recovery, protecting against dementia, and relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety.
In studies done on mice, lion’s mane and its extracts reduced symptoms of memory loss and prevented neuronal damage that occurs in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease. While similar studies haven’t yet been done on humans, there is potential for lion’s mane to boost mental functioning.
In another study, older adults with mild cognitive impairment consumed three grams of powdered lion’s mane mushroom daily for four months. Their brain function improved significantly, and the benefits disappeared when they stopped taking supplements.
Anxiety and depression
It’s said that chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to anxiety and depression. Recent research on mice found that lion’s mane mushroom extract has anti-inflammatory effects that could reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, and also helps to regenerate brain cells and improve function of the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses.
One small study in menopausal women found that eating food containing lion’s mane mushrooms daily for a month reduced self-reported feelings of irritation and anxiety.
More recent studies found lion’s mane enhanced various antioxidant enzymes in the body that neutralize and block free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) to protect cells from toxicity.
What we know about lion’s mane shows a lot of potential for this mushroom.
Are mushrooms good for brain health?
While we can’t say that all mushrooms are good for our brains or mental health, more research is revealing the benefits of mushrooms like reishi and lion’s mane to support memory, stress and overall brain health. The numerous nutritional and medicinal benefits of mushrooms are the reason they are a key focus of our research and products.
Formulated with brain health and wellness in mind, HAVN Life has a range of supplements containing other powerful mushroom extracts including chaga and cordyceps, which also have exciting benefits.