Mushrooms are not just about great taste. For centuries they have also often been used for medicinal purposes.
And when it comes to the mental health and cognition side of their benefits, three medicinal mushrooms stand out above the rest. They can protect against Alzheimer’s disease, help fight depression and anxiety, and affect your brain’s circadian rhythm, among others.
Those three mushroom species are lion’s mane, cordyceps, and reishi.
In this article, I’ll let you know what else these brain-boosting mushrooms are good for, as well as give you tips on how to best prepare and consume them.
The benefits of lion’s mane are hard to overstate. It’s a medicinal mushroom that does it all.
Lion’s mane has been shown to fight off leukemia cells, reduce colon tumors, as well as help prevent heart disease. It may also be useful as a digestive aid and anti-inflammatory agent.
On the brain health side of things, lion’s mane has been known to improve cognitive function in aging adults with a variety of cognitive diseases, including dementia. It can also lessen symptoms of anxiety and irritability in anyone suffering from depression.
And while ultimately lion’s mane mushrooms have not (yet) seen extensive research, all preliminary studies have been very promising.
If you come across lion’s mane mushrooms fresh, cooking them is easy – my favorite way is to simply sautee them on a frying pan.
They have high water content, so you’ll want to boil some of it off first. It’ll significantly reduce the chewiness.
Step two is to add a bit of butter, salt, and pepper and cook the mushroom until it is golden brown on both sides. It can then be used as a delicious side dish or even as a salad garnish.
If you’re not willing or unable to prepare fresh lion’s mane but are keen on their health benefits, much like with other medicinal mushrooms, you can get them as a supplement or in powder form. The powder can, for example, be added as an ingredient to your favorite stir-fry or soup recipe.
Growing on caterpillar larvae and originating in Asia, cordyceps are not the easiest of medicinal mushrooms to come across in the wild or grow yourself. That said, any time spent securing this magic fungus is well worth it.
Historically, cordyceps have been popular in ancient Chinese medicine and used to treat a number of medical conditions. Kidney disease, digestive issues, low sex drive, and fatigue all make that list.
More recently, several research papers and anecdotal evidence suggest cordyceps can boost exercise performance, have anti-tumor properties, fight inflammation, and have anti-aging benefits. They can help manage type 2 diabetes too.
And as far as cordyceps brain-boosting effects, they can reduce inflammation in parts of the brain, slow down cognitive decline, better your mood, and even improve memory.
Now that’s a very long list of potential benefits.
By far, the best way to use cordyceps is in the form of a supplement.
Because of how rare it is, the top natural strain of this mushroom is not cheap. We’re talking triple digits. That is the reason why most supplements contain a lab-created version. It’s just as beneficial but, because it’s human-made, much less expensive.
Not willing to be outdone by lion’s mane and cordyceps, reishi mushrooms also delivers an impressively long list of health benefits.
How does stabilizing your blood sugar or lowering your high blood pressure sound? What about regenerating liver cells, boosting the immune system, or regulating your sleep cycle? Reishi does all that. It has even been shown to help reduce tumor size.
Of course, reishi wouldn’t make this list of brain-boosting medicinal mushrooms if it didn’t have cognitive benefits. And it does not disappoint.
It can help fight depression, improve your mood, and has some excellent neuroprotective properties which can help protect your brain against Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases.
Reishi are incredibly bitter. They are, therefore, rarely eaten like traditional mushrooms. Even if you sautee them with some butter or oil, they’re pretty hard to stomach.
That said if you insist on eating reishi fresh, focus on the caps – they’re a bit more tolerable.
However, most people – myself included – prefer to supplement with reishi in the form of an extract or a powder. Both methods deliver all the health benefit fresh mushrooms would.
When taking reishi extract, simply place a few droplets under the tongue for a second or two and then swallow.
If you go the reishi powder route, you can either add it to meals like soups or stir-fries or turn it into a drink. Coffee substitutes that include reishi as one of the ingredients are also a great option.
Any or all of the three medicinal mushrooms mentioned above – lion’s mane, cordyceps, or reishi – can make an excellent addition to your daily diet. Whether you’re trying to boost or protect your brain, improve your cardiovascular health, or just live a healthier life, these mushrooms are more than up to the challenge.