Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on
December 2, 2021
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on:

Mushrooms for mental clarity have long been fascinating around the world. Many ancient cultures used mushrooms for brain health or healing in a way. Many mushrooms are known for culinary reasons. Others could be poisonous. Below we will discuss 6 of the best medicinal mushrooms for brain fog and exhaustion. We will also explain the science behind how they do their magical work. These mushrooms are available as supplements in most health stores and are not hallucinogenic. 

Are mushrooms good for healthy brain function?

Depending on the mushroom you are consuming, you might feel positive health effects. These mushrooms might get you from a foggy brain to clearer skies. 

Medicinal Mushrooms for Mental Clarity

You are done with feeling exhausted and want to feel energetic and full of concentration. These six mushrooms could support your mental clarity and cognitive health. They might also support your digestion and immunity. If you hate the taste of mushrooms, a supplement can do the trick as well. 

Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus)

Chinese medicine believes that the lion’s mane mushroom could promote vigor and strength. Today we know it as well for its impact on our central nervous system and vacuity (weakness). Lion’s mane mushroom can contain more than 35 polysaccharides. Lion’s mane mushrooms have many health effects, f.e. anti-tumor activity. 

Other health effects show increased brain health. Some polysaccharides (and some others have neuroprotective effects. 

Research shows that lion’s mane mushroom decreases oxidative stress production. It could also increase the efficacy of free radical scavenging. 

Too many free radicals and oxidative stress can lead to chronic inflammation. It also may contribute to neurodegenerative diseases (like Parkinson’s disease). Such stress might cause neuronal cell death. It also could indirectly increase amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques are a clear symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. 

We recognize these neurodegenerative diseases by memory loss. There is a decline in the brain’s ability to function well. 

Hericenones and erinacines, found in lion’s mane, are also known to have neuroprotective properties. They can induce the production of the nerve growth factor. A nerve growth cell is essential for the maintenance of the forebrain and cholinergic system. This system is essential for your memory and muscle/ nerve function.

Lion’s mane mushroom might improve cognitive function. Researchers believe that lion’s mane can improve spatial short-term and visual recognition memory. This was a mice study. A study done on older adults with mild cognitive impairment confirms these results. 

Another study shows that taking lion’s mane’s could provide faster functional nerve recovery. Lion’s mane provided a faster reinnervation of about 5 to 10 days.

The last positive effect of lion’s mane would be on our mental health. Menopausal women reported less anxiety and depression after treatment. 

In general lion’s mane doesn’t show adverse effects. There are some cases that report mushroom allergies or sensitivities to this mushroom. If you do notice a sudden respiratory problem or skin rashes on the hands, it might be that you don’t react well to it. 

Reishi mushroom (ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi mushroom seems like the perfect partner for old age. Reishi mushroom is another mushroom used for its nutritional health benefits. 

Today research shows that people with Alzheimer’s disease could also profit from this supplement. 

They show that the reishi mushroom could reduce cognitive impairment. Also, it might prevent cell and tissue death in the hippocampus. Finally, this medicinal mushroom might relieve oxidative damage. 

Researchers found these effects based on in vivo and in vitro cell on mice. While these results are difficult to generalize, they could open up new avenues of hope and research.

Other research also shows it could be a good preventative. Preadministration could support your neuronal health in case of neurodegenerative disease. 

In other words, this medicinal mushroom could enhance memory and learning for those of older age. 

While animal research shows optimistic results, at this point research on humans hasn’t been able to confirm these results. 

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)

Choose chaga if fatigue is your issue. Chaga or Inonotus obliquus is a medicinal mushroom with tons of potential. The research on chaga in relation to cognition is still ongoing and a new area of interest. At this point we could say that chaga mushrooms show potential in treating brain fog. It improved physical and mental fatigue in a mice study. 

Like the above mushrooms, this one also is of interest for researchers studying dementia. Rat research shows that the extract might have neuroprotective potential. An 8-week treatment course might improve the functioning of the aging brain. Other animal studies confirm these results. There are no experiments yet on humans to confirm the potential.

In other news, taking a chaga supplement could also provide other health benefits. For years alternative medicine used it as an anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory compound. Today early research suggests that chaga shows potential in inhibiting rapid tumor growth in cells. Some studies confirm its beneficial effects against cancer cells. Chaga mushroom supplements could have negative side effects. A case study warns about adverse effects on renal functions. It would be safe to say that in case of renal problems, you should talk to your doctor about this supplement.

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)

Those with extra pounds will mostly profit from adding shiitake to their diet. Shiitake is a medicinal mushroom mostly studied for its anti-inflammatory properties. Research is extensive for the effects on our immune system. Shiitake can support our whole body and our brain. 

It also has potential to remodel gut microbiota. The gut and brain are connected. That means, a bad gut negatively influences the brain. A high fat diet can induce neuroinflammation and cognitive decline. This mice study showed shiitake could support brain function for those with obesity. A shiitake supplement can be the first step when switching up your fatty diet. 

Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor)

Turkey tail is used in Eastern medicine as an antitumor, and antioxidant. Researchers mostly give attention to this supplement in the function of cancer. It might support survival rates and the quality of life. This makes turkey tail a useful supplement for our health.

There is very little research on its effects on our cognition. Today it is gathering attention for its potential on our brain health. This study believes that coriolus versicolor could be more resilient against neuropathology. It could improve dendritic length, branches and the total dendritic volume in immature neurons. Dendritic cells are our first responders in case of an emergency. They provide the primary immune responses. 

Another rat study supports turkey tail for our brain health. The study shows less pathological characteristics and nerve cell death after a brain stroke. 

We can conclude that this supplement could support our health. It can boost the immune system and give an extra nudge in case of cognitive damage. 

Cordyceps

Cordyceps is a fungus used in traditional medicine to prevent aging. It can support physical and cognitive functions. A study from 2013 confirms that cordyceps might support learning and memory. They found this effect in healthy and ischemic mice. The healthy mice did need a higher dose to have a significant improvement. On a biological level, cordyceps could decrease neuronal loss for the ischemic mice. Many other studies confirmed these positive results of turkey tail on cognitive functions. Still, not all animal studies confirmed these positive learning effects of cordyceps.

Conclusion on mushrooms for overall brain health

Mental clarity can be a struggle for all. It is just as important to prevent the damage to your brain as to resolve it. A healthy diet and exercise routine could be a first step to prevent clarity issues from coming up. Other ways to protect your brain could be by supplementing with these mushrooms. 

The above medicinal mushrooms have been used for years in alternative medicine. For many of these mushrooms there are indications that they might help your brain. Sadly enough, there are not enough studies to make firm conclusions. Most of these studies are in vivo or in vitro on animals and are not duplicated in humans yet. 

We can conclude some positive notes. In general these mushrooms seem to support our immune system. This way they indirectly (or sometimes directly) improve or protect our cognitive functions. They can be used to protect from aging. Also, our brain seems to recuperate better in case of strokes or cancer when taking these supplements.

Research supports these mushrooms as safe to consume for brain health. We recommend using a quality supplier and check what you are consuming for your safety. If you have any health issues, ask your doctor for his or her professional opinion. These supplements could interact with your medication or previous health conditions. 

Click on the link to keep reading about more brain foods or on how to improve your health in a natural way. Want to connect with like minded souls? Join our community to keep the conversation going.

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