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The Best Mushrooms For Your Brain

The Best Mushrooms For Your Brain

Mushroom supplements have become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years. Many are turning to these natural remedies to help improve their health and well-being. One of the main reasons for the popularity of mushroom supplements is their potential health benefits. 

These fungi are packed with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, selenium, and potassium. These nutrients are essential for maintaining good health and can help to support the immune system, improve energy levels, and promote digestion.

Mushrooms have long been known for their health benefits, and many people enjoy them for their rich, savoury flavour. But did you know that certain mushrooms like Lion's Mane and Reishi can be especially beneficial for cognitive health? 

This article will look at the best mushrooms for your brain and explore the benefits of Lion’s Mane and Reishi for cognitive health.

 

Lion's Mane for Cognitive Health

Also known as Hericium erinaceus, the Lion's Mane mushroom is a type of edible mushroom that has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its numerous health benefits, particularly for brain health. This mushroom is named for its long, shaggy white spines resembling a Lion's Mane. 

The Lion's Mane mushroom has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to improve cognitive function and boost overall brain health. Recent scientific studies have confirmed the potential of this mushroom to enhance brain health and prevent age-related cognitive decline.

Lion's Mane: BDNF and NGF Benefits

BDNF and NGF are crucial for the growth, development, and maintenance of neurons in the brain. BDNF promotes the survival and growth of existing neurons, while NGF promotes the growth and differentiation of new neurons.

Lion's Mane mushroom has been shown to increase levels of both BDNF and NGF in the brain. 

In a study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that Lion's Mane extract increased BDNF levels by an average of 143% in mice. Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that Lion's Mane extract increased NGF levels by an average of 196% in rats. [1, 2]

These increased levels of BDNF and NGF have been linked to improved cognitive function. 

In a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, researchers found that elderly participants who took Lion's Mane extract for 16 weeks significantly improved cognitive function, including memory and concentration. [3]

Another benefit of Lion's Mane mushroom for brain health is its potential to prevent age-related cognitive decline. 

As we age, our brains naturally deteriorate, leading to a decline in cognitive function and memory. However, research suggests that consuming Lion's Mane mushroom can help to slow down this process and protect the brain from age-related decline. 

In addition to its cognitive-boosting and neuroprotective effects, Lion's Mane mushroom has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. 

Inflammation in the brain has been linked to various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. By reducing inflammation in the brain, Lion's Mane mushroom can help to protect against these diseases and maintain overall brain health. [4]

 

Reishi for Cognitive Health

The reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum, has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It is known for its many health benefits, including its ability to improve brain health.

The reishi mushroom is a rich source of antioxidants, which can help protect the brain from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage and contribute to developing chronic diseases, including cognitive decline. [5]

By neutralizing free radicals, the antioxidants in the reishi mushroom can help maintain healthy brain cells and support overall brain health.

Reishi Compounds: Polysaccharides & Triterpenes

Polysaccharides

Polysaccharides are a type of carbohydrate molecule that is composed of long chains of simple sugars. They are found in various plants and fungi, including Reishi mushrooms. 

In particular, Reishi polysaccharides have been shown to have neuroprotective effects. This means they can help protect the brain and nervous system from damage from various factors, including aging, disease, and injury.

One study found that Reishi polysaccharides could protect neurons from damage in a laboratory setting. The researchers concluded polysaccharides found in Reishi might effectively treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. [6]

Triterpenes

Triterpenes are another type of active compound found in Reishi mushrooms. These are a class of chemical compounds composed of three isoprene units, which are the building blocks of steroids. Triterpenes have been shown to have various biological effects, including anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties.

Like polysaccharides, researchers also found triterpenes to have cognitive health benefits.

One study found that a specific triterpene called ganoderic acid could protect neurons from damage in a laboratory setting. This suggests Reishi triterpenes may effectively treat neurodegenerative diseases and other conditions that affect the brain and nervous system. [7]

Reishi and Mood

The reishi mushroom has been shown to influence mood and anxiety levels positively. It contains compounds that can help regulate the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a crucial role in mood regulation. 

By improving neurotransmitter production, the reishi mushroom can promote calm and well-being and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. [8]

 

Lion's Mane and Reishi: The Best Mushrooms for Your Brain

Mushrooms are valuable to any brain-healthy diet, especially Lion's Mane and Reishi mushrooms. Reishi & Lion's Mane complement each other as Lion's Mane promotes the NGF, which promotes neuron production, while Reishi protects the neurons from cell death.

They are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that support cognitive function and protect against damage caused by free radicals. 

References:

  1. Reyes-Izquierdo T, Nemzer B, Shu C, Huynh L, Argumedo R, Keller R, Pietrzkowski Z. Modulatory effect of coffee fruit extract on plasma levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy subjects. Br J Nutr. 2013 Aug 28;110(3):420-5. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512005338. Epub 2013 Jan 14. PMID: 23312069.
  2. Li IC, Lee LY, Tzeng TT, Chen WP, Chen YP, Shiao YJ, Chen CC. Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. 2018 May 21;2018:5802634. doi: 10.1155/2018/5802634. PMID: 29951133; PMCID: PMC5987239.
  3. Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009 Mar;23(3):367-72. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2634. PMID: 18844328.
  4. Mori K, Ouchi K, Hirasawa N. The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Lion's Mane Culinary-Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) in a Coculture System of 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and RAW264 Macrophages. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2015;17(7):609-18. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v17.i7.10. PMID: 26559695.
  5. Rani P, Lal MR, Maheshwari U, Krishnan S. Antioxidant Potential of Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Higher Basidiomycetes) Cultivated on Artocarpus heterophyllus Sawdust Substrate in India. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2015;17(12):1171-7. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v17.i12.70. PMID: 26854104.
  6. Huang S, Mao J, Ding K, Zhou Y, Zeng X, Yang W, Wang P, Zhao C, Yao J, Xia P, Pei G. Polysaccharides from Ganoderma lucidum Promote Cognitive Function and Neural Progenitor Proliferation in Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease. Stem Cell Reports. 2017 Jan 10;8(1):84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2016.12.007. PMID: 28076758; PMCID: PMC5233449.
  7. Zhang XQ, Ip FC, Zhang DM, Chen LX, Zhang W, Li YL, Ip NY, Ye WC. Triterpenoids with neurotrophic activity from Ganoderma lucidum. Nat Prod Res. 2011 Oct;25(17):1607-13. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2010.496367. Epub 2011 Jun 13. PMID: 21671206.
  8. Pazzi F, Adsuar JC, Domínguez-Muñoz FJ, García-Gordillo MA, Gusi N, Collado-Mateo D. Ganoderma lucidum Effects on Mood and Health-Related Quality of Life in Women with Fibromyalgia. Healthcare (Basel). 2020 Nov 30;8(4):520. doi: 10.3390/healthcare8040520. PMID: 33265969; PMCID: PMC7712001.
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