For centuries mushrooms have been one of the most cherished plant substances in the traditional Eastern medicine for treating all kinds of ailments. Today, these highly beneficial medicinal plants have gone global as natural alternative drugs for the prevention and treatment of various health conditions. While there are over 2000 species of edible mushrooms, there are a few kinds that have a combination of both nutritional and medicinal values. These are the ones that have most caught the attention of researchers and mushroom enthusiasts.
These types of edible fungi are sometimes called non-psychedelic mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms, or functional mushrooms. Whatever you choose to call them, the most distinguishing feature that sets them apart is their ability to impact the body for better overall well-being.
While these non-psychedelic fungi are used for various kinds of conditions, they are most popular for their cognitive benefits. This is because they contain properties that can help improve the functions of the brain and ameliorate common symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 50 million people are living with dementia in the world, and every year, there are nearly 10 million cases. In the United States alone, no less than 16,000 people live with cognitive impairment, says the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The high prevalence of cognitive impairments and neurodegenerative conditions has affected the brain functions of a good number of people in our world. This makes any drug or substance with potentials to treat, manage, or prevent these conditions highly desirable. Thanks to the healing properties of functional mushrooms, they have been suggested to be a possible game-changer for improving people’s cognitive functions.
In recent time, there has been a growing dissatisfaction with conventional medicine. This development has led to the popularity of alternative therapies, especially herbal traditional plant medicines. Among numerous available options, medicinal mushrooms have been one of the most preferred. For those who have been following the age-long history of these highly beneficial plants in kingdom fungi, this will not come as a surprise.
There are different types of mushrooms in our world. They are used for various purposes, including recreational, medicinal, and nutritional. While many of us are familiar with psychedelic mushrooms, which contain psilocybin properties, there are many other mushroom species that are non-psychedelics.
“Non-psychedelic” means they don’t induce hallucinations or a high as it is known of those ones popularly called magic mushrooms. That notwithstanding, they have several health benefits, which can be used to treat or prevent various ailments and improve people’s overall health. Due to their numerous health properties, these types of non-psychedelic mushrooms are also called functional mushrooms. One of the most prominent among their benefits is their ability to improve cognitive impairments.
For thousands of years, people have been enjoying the cognitive benefits of functional mushrooms. In recent time, many studies have investigated these medicinal cum nutritional mushrooms and found them to be very promising in treating or preventing various cognitive disorders. If you are looking for natural means to boost your brain functions, improve creativity, or reduce the risk and/or symptoms of cognitive disorders, functional mushrooms might just be your best bet.
All mushrooms that have been tapped by human beings are tapped for certain functions – this suggests that all popular mushrooms in our world serve a purpose(s). This could be for nutritional value, health benefits, or just their functions as part of the ecosystem. However, when a mushroom is referred to as “functional,” it means it has more than nutritional value. Functional mushrooms are those that meet mankind’s both nutritional and medicinal needs for various kinds of conditions.
These types of mushrooms are popular for their various healing properties, which include anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. Their anti-inflammatory properties can help improve conditions that have inflammation symptoms. And their anti-oxidant properties can be used to boost blood flow and other health benefits. They also help people cope with stress. Functional mushrooms are rich in fiber, proteins, and vitamin.
Properties contained in these unique fungi are tapped to boost functions of the brain and improve various cognitive disorders. Scientists have found that antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds are good choices for curing Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other neurodegenerative disorders. These conditions are believed to be some of the most prevalent diseases of the Central Nervous System in the world today. Their debilitating, life-threatening nature makes any substance that could help prevent, treat or manage their symptoms highly desirable. Fortunately, you can derive many neuroprotective properties, which have cognitive benefits, from various types of non-psychedelic mushrooms. An overview of brain-boosting properties of functional mushrooms shows that they could, among other things, help you achieve:
While these non-psychedelic mushrooms may differ in terms of the health benefits they offer, each of them has many health advantages – hence their nomenclature – functional. Apart from different encouraging testimonies shared by their users, functional mushrooms efficacy has also been demonstrated in different studies. The following are some of the functional mushrooms that could help you improve your cognitive function and what research says about them:
Reishi mushrooms are believed to originate from Asia, due to its long history in China, Japan, and Korea. They are referred to as Ling Zhi in Chinese. Some believe their use in Chinese traditional medicines dates back to the prehistoric era. Reishi’s popularity has, today spread across the world due to their medicinal benefits. They are now common fungi in the United States, Canada, and many other countries.
Reishi mushrooms are widely known to contain various therapeutic properties, which are sometimes referred to as miraculous health benefits. The medical world classifies this mushroom as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a non-toxic plant medicine that can help the body resist various kinds of stressors, be it biological, physical, or chemical. This simply means it has the ability to make the body handle stress better during activities or experience that ordinarily can lead to serious health conditions.
Reishi’s cognitive benefits can be derived from its rich antioxidants, which help its users reduce oxidative stress. Its immune-modulating effects are other benefits that could help reduce severe inflammation and improve cognitive function. A 2005 study also found that reishi could help fight fatigue and depression. This was revealed in 132 patients of neurasthenia who had several other co-occurring conditions, such as irritability, pains, headaches, and pains. The patients reported a significant reduction in fatigue and an improvement in their overall well-being. Depression, fatigue, and pains are some of the commonly associated symptoms of various cognitive disorders. With the inflammatory, antioxidant, and other health properties contained in reishi, it is believed that using it can help you improve these symptoms and boost your cognitive function.
Cordyceps is another functional mushroom that has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. While more than 400 species of cordyceps have been discovered, only two have so far been the focus of health research. They are cordyceps sinesis and cordyceps militaris. For centuries, its rich antioxidant, anti-aging, and other properties have been tapped to treat various conditions, including kidney disease, fatigue, and low sex drive.
In recent time, apart from its other known therapeutic effects, the neuroprotective effects of cordyceps have become a topic of study for researchers. For instance, fatigue and chronic stress are some of the causes of chronic inflammation in the brain, which slows down one’s cognitive ability. People who suffer chronic stress may also experience memory loss, poor cognitive processing and reasoning/judgment skills. Other common symptoms include depression and mood disorders. This can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative conditions.
But with the help of cordyceps mushrooms, these conditions can be prevented or managed. Thanks to the anti-inflammatory effects of this highly beneficial substance. A look at the supplement market shows that nootropics are some of the fastest-selling products. A good number of these cognitive enhancing supplements contain Cordyceps as one of their most essential ingredients. Cordyceps will, among other things, help you become better in performing executive functions, such as an improvement in memory, motivation, creativity, and overall well-being.
Cordyceps’ effects on brain functions have been demonstrated in many studies. One of those studies showed that cordyceps as a nootropic can help fight stress and fatigue. A 2012 study also revealed that the anti-depressant effects of cordyceps could help reduce inflammatory markers in the brain. In addition, one more recent study demonstrated the positive effects of cordyceps on memory levels and mood. In the study, researchers focused specifically on the impact of Cordyceps militaris extract on memory impairment in mice. They concluded that cordyceps has healing properties that could help ameliorate the impairment of mental function.
Chaga has drawn the interest of researchers and mushroom enthusiasts due to its unique nature. While most mushrooms prefer humid and warm environment, Chaga in its unique nature grows in a cold climate. It can be found in North Korea, Canada, Siberia and certain colder parts of the United States. It also takes a long time, between 15 to 20 years, to fully mature. And the more mature it is, the better you get to benefit from its nutritional and health benefits.
Just like most other functional mushrooms, Chaga also contains an abundance of antioxidant effects and beta-glucans, which can be derived for cognitive benefits. It is also, sometimes, brewed to help boost the immune system. Beta-glucans, by the way, are natural compounds that can help improve the level of activeness in some cells in the human body and lead to better overall health, including cognitive functions.
Apart from its effects as pain relief and stress relief which can also influence better brain functions significantly, Chaga can also increase the presence of Acetylcholine (Ach). Acetylcholine is a brain neurotransmitter that is involved in learning and memory levels. Chaga enhances the brain by lowering the level of oxidative stress and cell damage. This was proven in an animal study, published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The researchers attributed the improvement noticed in the experimental mice used to Chaga's higher brain antioxidant properties. Other benefits of Chaga medicinal mushroom that can be related to cognitive functions include its antioxidant properties, as shown in an animal study.
Also known as Coriolus Versicolor or Trametes Versicolor, turkey tail is one of the highly medicinal mushrooms in the supplement market. It is most famed for its ability to impact the immune system, which will then translate to improved overall health. It is rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce stress level and inflammation. Its other benefits include the ability to trigger resistance to infection and cause an increase in energy level.
Turkey tail, just like many other functional mushrooms, has been identified as good for improving brain function. It is one of the functional mushrooms that contain polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are one of the most important active compounds in fungi and plants. Reishi and maitake are some of the other mushrooms having this compound. Polysaccharides have been proven to contain beneficial effects on brain functions.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry showed that the antioxidants contained in turkey tail could help Alzheimer patients. It was found that this mushroom could help stop or reverse the impairment caused by Alzheimer and other neurodegenerative diseases on patients.
Turkey tail’s cognitive benefit was also demonstrated in another study. Here, researchers paired the mushroom with ginkgo, another plant source medicine, and investigated their effects on neurodegenerative disease. They found that they can help improve memory function, especially in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Furthermore, the protein-polysaccharides in turkey tail mushroom have been identified as a strong antioxidant, which can help fight free radicals that cause weakness in the body, frequent sickness. This highly beneficial medicinal mushroom has also proven to be a good choice for chronic fatigue. Deriving the immune-boosting ability, antioxidant properties, neuroprotective power, and other benefits of turkey tail mushroom will in no small measure, boost your cognitive functions. It is not surprising having it among the most popular non-psychedelic mushrooms.
Lion’s mane mushroom intake has been known to boost mental functioning and believed to be beneficial for Alzheimer disease. This could be related to the neurotrophic properties it contains. A study found lion’s mane mushrooms to contain two neurotrophic properties – hericenones and erinacines, which are two unique compounds that promote the growth of brain cells. According to the study, these two compounds, derived from this medicinal mushroom can induce nerves growth factors (NGF) synthesis in nerve cells.
There is a protein in the human brain and periphery called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein's function is to promote the survival neurons (nerve cells). It stimulates the growth, maturation, and maintenance of the nerve cells. Reduced levels of BDNF have been linked to Alzheimer cases and cognitive impairment in humans.
The relation between lion’s mane non-psychedelic mushrooms and cognitive impairment improvement was also found in another study. Researchers found that taking 3 grams powdered form of mane mushrooms daily significantly improved mild cognitive impairment in older adults who took it for four months.
Sometimes referred to as the king of mushrooms, maitake surely has earned its place among highly beneficial medicinal mushrooms. Its nicknames include hen of the woods, dancing mushroom, and sheep’s head. It is also referred to by its scientific name "Grifaln for dosa." Maitake is a popular mushroom in traditional Japanese medicine. While it has several health benefits, it is mostly popular for its effects on cancer – especially, its ability to reduce tumor marker. Maitake has shown a significant level of potentials in liver cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer.
Just like most other functional mushrooms, maitake’s properties include beta-glucans and antioxidants. Its numerous health benefits have also been demonstrated in clinical research. In cancer treatment, for instance, maitake mushroom has been used to achieve results in many areas. It was suggested that this king of mushrooms could help in antitumor activity, inhibition of metastasis (cancer spread), and anticarcinogenesis (prevention of cancer from developing in normal cells). It was also found to enhance chemotherapy and improve the overall quality of life for patients.
Apart from the one explained above, there are several other mushrooms, with each having various benefits. They all have nutritional value, while some among them also contain a substantial amount of medicinal benefits. They include:
One very interesting thing about functional mushrooms is that they can be easily tapped for an improvement in cognitive functions and several other health benefits. The best way is to incorporate them in your diet.
You can get functional mushrooms from some grocery stores and prepare them. They can be cooked as mushroom soup, mushroom omelet. You may as well brew them as teas. The other option is a supplement. This is even easier and more accessible in most grocery stores than fresh ones. You can buy the supplements and add them to your food. Non-psychedelic mushroom powder supplement, for instance, can be added to your cooking (stews, soups), protein shakes, and smoothies. You can also use them to make teas. If you prefer other methods different from cooking, there are other supplements that can be taken in different ways, such as capsule and liquid extract forms.
Almost everybody can benefit from the numerous health benefits of functional mushrooms, especially for cognitive functions. They are generally considered to be safe and easy to use. However, they may not be an ideal option for some people. For example, if you are pregnant, have some health condition, or you are lactating, it is advisable not to take these mushrooms without first discussing it with your doctor. The same precaution and consultation also extend to those with low blood pressure, bleeding disorder, clotting disorder, and those who are about to go for surgery. Using functional mushrooms around 2 weeks prior to a scheduled surgery could increase the risk of bleeding in some people.
Many functional mushrooms, though are non-hallucinogenic, contain some side effects. So, if taken the wrong way or at an inappropriate time, you may experience dryness of the mouth, nasal area, or throat. You may also have stomach upset, dizziness, diarrhea, bloody stools, itchiness and rash. They may also interact with other drugs. In case you are taking some medications at the moment, you should first discuss with your doctor before taking functional mushrooms.
Before you buy functional mushrooms, either fresh or supplement, the first thing is to check whether it is from a trusted source. You should also do some background check on how the mushrooms are cultivated and the credibility of the lab it was tested. This will let you know if it has been well tested for yeasts, molds, bad bacteria, pesticides, allergens, heavy metals, and irradiation.
They are, in the first place, called functional mushrooms because of their medicinal value. A mushroom supplement from a trusted source is expected to have its compounds on its label. The important compounds to look for include beta-glucans, polysaccharides, and triterpenoid. Each of these compounds should be quantified to know how rich the supplement is. The higher the content of these compounds the better; in terms of the result to be derived from the product.