Understanding Mushroom Supplements for Brain Health Support

Mushroom supplements are being used for many reasons, and this include mushroom supplements for brain health support. Learn more about it in this article now

What reasons do you take mushroom supplements? You can support your body and brain by eating mushrooms, and many people say that mushroom supplements make it easier for their bodies to break down other foods in the digestive tract. There are also now studies about how mushroom supplements might be able to help support the systems of the body in various ways. 

Today we are looking at the topic of mushroom supplements for brain health support, and specifically focusing on three primary mushrooms: Lion’s mane, reishi, and hen of the woods (also known as maitake).

Mushroom supplements for brain health support: Lion’s mane

Lion's mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is a gourmet edible that has a unique look to it. Unlike many other mushrooms, the lion’s mane does not have the standard stem and cap shape. As the name suggests, this mushroom looks like it has a mane or a beard, with spines or teeth that protrude from the mushroom when young. These protrusions cascade down to the fruited body once the mushroom reaches maturity. When lion's mane mushrooms are young they tend to have a slight pinkish color, turning white as the mushroom matures. 

Lion’s mane is also known as the pom pom mushroom or the bearded hedgehog mushroom. It can be found growing in the wild in the Northern United States and Canada. 

According to MycoMedicinals by Paul Stamets, a “Group of Japanese researchers patented an extract process, which isolates Nerve Growth Stimulant (NGS) factor--compounds now known as erinacines (Kawagishi et al., 1991, 1994).”

The book continues, “These compounds stimulate neurons to re-grow, a feat of great significance in the possible treatment for senility and Alzheimer’s disease, repairing neurological trauma, increasing cognitive abilities and perhaps improving muscle/motor response pathways.”

The book Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide by Martin Powell also shares some information on lion’s mane mushroom in relation to brain support. In regards to dementia, the book states: 

“In controlled studies H. erinaceus supplementation showed beneficial effects in patients with mild dementia. In one study 6 out of 7 patients showed improvement in functional capacity (understanding, communication, memory etc.) while all 7 showed improved Functional Independence Scores (eating, dressing, walking etc.), after consuming 5g H. erinaceus fruiting body in daily soup.”

Medicinal Mushrooms also discussed another study, stating:

“30 patients aged 50-80 with mild dementia were randomised into treatment and control groups. H. erinaceus was given as tablets at 3g/day for 16 weeks and produced significant increases in cognitive function in the treatment group. However, four weeks after the conclusion of the trial, cognitive function scores decreased indicating a need for continued supplementation.”

Can you take lion’s mane mushrooms over longer periods of time? According to Medicinal Mushrooms, you can. “As H. erinaceus is a culinary as well as a medicinal mushroom it can be appropriate to incorporate it into the diet for long term supplementation”

Mushroom supplements for brain health support: Reishi

Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae, Ganoderma lucidum) grows in many locations around the world, including in the United States, Europe, South America, and Asia. According to Zhao & Zhang, 1994, this mushroom has been a part of folk medicine traditions in China and Japan for 4,000 years. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been known to use it extensively for a variety of reasons. 

Medicinal Mushrooms by Martin Powell discusses reishi’s ability to support the brain in regards to insomnia and anxiety. According to the book, “The traditional name ‘spirit mushroom’ points to the sedative action of its triterpenoid components and many herbalists value its benefits in cases of insomnia.”

The book continues, “Christopher Hobbs recommends G. lucidum for deficiency insomnia while Mizuno recommends it for ‘mental stabilisation’.”

Mushroom supplements for brain health support: Maitake

Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa), also known as hen of the woods or sheep’s head mushroom, is commonly found in Asia, Europe, and the Eastern United States. According to The Fungal Pharmacy, “Grifola means “braided fungus,” and is the name of another fungus from Italy. Some researchers believe the name is derived from griffin, the mythical beast with head and wings of an eagle, and the hind legs and tail of a lion.”

These mushrooms are amazing to find growing in the wild, especially because they can be huge! It is not uncommon to find a hen of the wood mushroom that weighs over 20 pounds. 

The study “Griflola frondosa (GF) produces significant antidepressant effects involving AMPA receptor activation in mice” took a look at possible brain health support offered by hen of the woods mushroom. The study’s conclusion states that Grifola Frondosa, “demonstrated the potential as a safe medical food supplement for the patient with depression.”

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