Nootropic mushrooms are mushrooms that have been used medicinally for centuries and are being studied today for their protective effects on the brain. Three of the most well-studied nootropic mushrooms that are gaining popularity today are Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Reishi mushroom.
What do they do for the brain? Here are 4 amazing benefits they have been studied for.
Protect and Increase Number of Nerve Cells
Nerve cells deliver messages throughout the body and are vital to the nervous system. Without nerve cells, we wouldn’t be able to think or do anything! The brain itself has around 100 billion nerve cells, but as we age, we begin to lose some of these nerve cells. As you can see, it is very important to protect our nerve cells, especially as we age.
- Lion’s mane promoted Nerve Growth Factor in a study of human cells. Nerve Growth Factor helps new nerve cells grow and helps protect existing nerve cells.4
- Cordyceps sinensis protected nerve cells from losing their function in old age.*11
- Reishi reduced the death of nerve cells in rats undergoing stress.*18,19
- Reishi promoted growth of cells called NPCs that increase the production of nerve cells. *17 In many studies of Alzheimer’s disease, NPC growth and survival are reduced.*17
Improve Learning and Memory
Learning and memory are crucial to everyday tasks, doing well in school, and excelling at work. As we get older, we tend to forget things more easily. How do these mushrooms help?
- Lion’s mane helped prevent memory impairment due to beta-amyloid (linked to Alzheimer’s disease) in one study2 and improved results of a learning and memory test in another study of mice with Alzheimer’s.*8
- In another study on 30 elderly adults with mild cognitive impairment, taking lion’s mane for 16 weeks helped improve cognitive test performance.3
- Cordyceps helped improve the results of a learning and memory test.*11
- Reishi helped prevent learning and memory impairment due to injury.*18,21
Reduce Brain Inflammation and Plaque Linked to Alzheimer’s
The risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases as we age, with most cases starting at age 65 or older. Worldwide, there is a new case of Alzheimer’s every 3.2 seconds.
Alzheimer’s disease is said to happen when the brain tries to protect itself from threats, one of which is inflammation. One of the results of Alzheimer’s is the build up of beta-amyloid plaques. These 3 powerful mushrooms have been shown to reduce brain inflammation and plaque.
- Lion’s mane increased levels of an anti-inflammatory compound in different brain regions.*7
- In rats that experienced inflammation and injury in the brain, groups that received cordyceps had lower levels of inflammatory compounds.*13
- Reishi was found to help reduce the amount of beta-amyloid plaque.*17
Enhance Antioxidant Activity
Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage that occurs naturally with age or when you’re exposed to things like pollution and cigarette smoke. Cell damage from oxidation can lead to diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Your brain is the most oxygen-demanding organ in your body, so making sure you get enough antioxidants is important for keeping your brain young and healthy!
- Lion’s mane helped reduce the number of damaging, oxidative compounds that increase during times of stress.*8
- Cordyceps increased antioxidant activity in aged mice as well as mice undergoing stress.*11,14,15
- Reishi reduced negative effects due to oxidative stress and increased antioxidant activity.*21
So if you’re looking for ways to keep your brain young and healthy, look no further than Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Reishi mushrooms!
- Kolotushkina, E.V., Moldavan, M.G., Voronin, K.Y., & Skibo, G.G. (2003). The influence of hericium erinaceus extract on myelination process in vitro. Fiziol Zh, 49(1), 38-45.
- Mori, K., Obara, Y., Moriya, T., Inatomi, S., & Nakahata, N. (2011). Effects of hericium erinaceus on amyloid B(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Biomed Res, 32(1), 67-72.
- Mori, K., Inatomi, S., Ouchi, K., Azumi, Y., & Tuchida, T. (2009). Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res, 23(3), 367-372.
- Mori, K., Obara, Y., Hirota, M., Azumi, Y., Kinugasa, S., Inatomi, S., & Nakahata, N. (2008). Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull, 31(9), 1727-1732.
- Nagano, M., Shimizu, K., Kondo, R., Hayashi, C., Sato, D., Kitagawa, K., & Ohnuki, K. (2010). Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res, 31(4), 231-237.
- Ryu, S., Kim, H.G., Kim, J.R., Kim, S.Y., & Cho, K.O. (2017). Hericium erinaceus extract reduces anxiety and depressive behaviors by promoting hippocampal neurogenesis in the adult mouse brain. J Med Food. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2017.4006.
- Trovato, A., Siracusa, R., Di Paola, R., Scuto, M., Ontario, M.L., Bua, O., et al. (2016). Redox modulation of cellular stress response and lipoxin A4 expression by hericium erinaceus in rat brain: relevance to Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis. Immun Ageing, 13(23). doi: 10.1186/s12979-016-0078-8.
- Zhang, J., An, S., Hu, W., Teng, M., Wang, X., Qu, Y., et al. (2016). The neuroprotective properties of hericium erinaceus in glumate-damaged differentiated PC12 cells and an Alzhemier’s disease mouse model. Int J Mol Sci, 17(11).
- Chen, S., Li, Z. Krochmal, R., Abrazado, M., Kim, W., & Cooper, C.B. (2010). Effect of Cs-4 (cordyceps sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy older subjects: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med, 16(5), 585-590.
- Gong, M.F., Xu, J.P., Chu, Z.Y., & Luan, J. (2011). Effect of cordyceps sinensis sporocarp on learning-memory in mice. Zhong Yao Cai, 34(9), 1403-1405.
- Ji, D.B., Ye, J., Li, C.L., Wang, Y.H., Zhao, J., & Cai, S.Q. (2009). Antiaging effect of cordyceps sinensis extract. Phytother Res, 23(1), 116-122.
- Kumar, R., Negi, P.S., Singh, B., Ilavazhagan, G., Bhargava, K., & Sethy, N.K. (2011). Cordyceps sinensis promotes exercise endurance capacity of rats by activating skeletal muscle metabolic regulators. J Ethnopharmacol, 136(1), 260-266.
- Liu, Z., Li, P., Zhao, D., Tang, H., & Guo, J. (2011). Anti-inflammation effects of cordyceps sinensis mycelium in focal cerebral ischemic injury rats. Inflammation, 34(6), 639-644.
- Liu, Z., Li, P., Zhao, D., Tang, H., & Guo, J. (2010). Protective effect of extract of cordyceps sinensis in middle cerebral artery occlusion-induced focal cerebral ischemia in rats. Behav Brain Funct, 6(61). doi: 10.1186/1744-9081-6-61.
- Yan, F., Wang, B., & Zhang, Y. (2014). Polysaccharides from cordyceps sinensis mycelium ameliorate exhaustive swimming exercise-induced oxidative stress. Pharm Biol, 52(2), 157-161.
- Zhang, J. Yu, Y., Zhang, Z., Ding, Y., Dai, X., & Li, Y. (2011). Effect of polysaccharide from cultured cordyceps sinensis on immune function and anti-oxidation activity of mice exposed to 60Co. Int Immunopharmacol, 11(12), 2251-2257.
- Huang, S., Mao, J., Ding, K., Zhou, Y., Zeng, X., Yang, W., et al. (2017). Polysaccharides from ganoderma lucidum promote cognitive function and neural progenitor proliferation in mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Stem Cell Reports, 8(1), 84-94.
- Zhou, Z.Y., Tang, Y.P., Xiang, J., Wua, P., Jin, H.M., Wang, Z., et al. (2010). Neuroprotective effects of water-soluble ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on cerebral ischemic injury in rats. J Ethnopharmacol, 131(1), 154-164.
- Sun, X.Z., Liao, Y., Li, W., & Guo, L.M. (2017). Neuroprotective effects of ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides against oxidative stress-induced neuronal apoptosis. Neural Regen Res, 12(6), 953-958.
- Tang, W., Gao, Y., Chen, G., Gao, H., Dai, X., Ye, J., et al. (2005). A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of a ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia. J Med Food, 8(1), 53-58.
- Zhou, Y., Qu, Z.Q., Zeng, Y.S., Lin, Y.K., Li, Y., Chung, P., Wong, R., et al. (2012). Neuroprotective effect of preadministration with ganoderma lucidum spore on rat hippocampus. Exp Toxicol Pathol, 64(7), 673-680.
- Alzheimer’s Disease International. (2015). Dementia statistics. Retrieved from https://www.alz.co.uk.