Discover the healing powers of mushrooms – one of the best superfoods for naturally relieving stress and anxiety.
Medicinal mushrooms, such as chaga, lion’s mane, reishi, and cordyceps, have been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for everything from cancer prevention and fertility to coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
While the history and use of medicinal mushrooms is well documented in alternative medicine, they’ve only recently gained mainstream popularity for helping the mind and body cope with stress.
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How Medicinal Mushrooms Work for Mind and Body Stress Relief
All medicinal mushrooms have adaptogenic properties, which means they help “normalize” the negative effects of stress on the body, and help you cope, respond, and adapt to stress better (1). Adaptogens help lower cortisol levels (the primary hormone released in response to stress). While cortisol is helpful in the short-term, it can wreak havoc on your body when it stays elevated for long periods of time (2). If you’re irritable, anxious, exhausted, and moody on the regular, high cortisol levels could be why (3).
On the surface, high cortisol can turn you into a rollercoaster of emotions, and make it challenging to keep up with the ebb and flow of daily life. On a deeper level, elevated cortisol causes chronic inflammation in the body, which can lead to chronic fatigue, digestive issues, thyroid issues, cognitive impairment, fertility issues, and belly fat gain – just to name a few (4).
Since chronic stress has become the norm for today’s society, there’s no better time than now to consider supplementing with medicinal mushrooms. Let’s take a closer look at how specific medicinal mushrooms can help find natural relief from daily stress.
Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
1. Reishi Mushroom May Improve Sleep Quality
Not many people can sleep like a baby when they’re stressed and anxious. Feeling overwhelmed, worry, and overthinking can paralyze you, making it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up in the morning – which only creates more stress when you’re trying to stick to a healthy routine.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, reishi mushroom is known as the mushroom for “spiritual potency,” well-being, and longevity. It’s one of the most common mushrooms recommended for improving sleep quality, calming the mind, and treating insomnia. Reishi contains nutrients that calm and support the nervous system, such as calcium, magnesium, and a number of antioxidants that help protect cells from oxidative damage – a negative effect of stress that can lead to weakened immunity and premature aging (5)(6)(7).
2. Chaga Mushrooms Reduce Systemic Inflammation
According to research, most medicinal mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties. However, chaga mushrooms may be especially helpful for reducing the systemic inflammation that’s caused by chronic stress (8).
Now, the reason why it’s important to address systemic inflammation as soon as possible is because research shows it’s the primary underlying cause of most Western illnesses and diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, autoimmune conditions, and type 2 diabetes (9).
While it may seem like a bit of a stretch to say that stress causes serious illness and disease, as a leading cause of systemic inflammation, this isn’t far-fetched. Chaga helps reduce inflammation by helping to lower elevated cortisol levels, and studies show it also has the ability to reduce inflammation in the GI tract. Chaga may also be helpful for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a digestive condition that’s often triggered by stress (10)(11).
3. Cordyceps Mushrooms Increase Energy and Reduce Brain Fog
If you find yourself tripping over your words or you have difficulty remembering what you were about to do 2 minutes ago, stress can impair cognitive function by causing short-term memory loss, brain fog, and mental exhaustion.
Not only do cordyceps mushrooms reduce cortisol levels to help lower the stress response, but they’re also shown to improve oxygen uptake in the body, which is essential for boosting energy levels and improving mental focus and concentration (12). It’s not a bad idea to sip on some cordyceps tea during exams or intense work weeks!
4. Lion’s Mane Supports Overall Cognitive Function
Lion’s mane mushroom has been studied for stimulating Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) production – the primary neuropeptide involved in the maintenance and growth of neurons, which receive and transmit information in the brain (13). For this reason, lion’s mane has been studied for its use in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, and it may also help improve overall cognitive function during periods of stress.
One study took a look at the effects of lion’s mane in patients with mild cognitive impairment, and found that over the course of 16 weeks, cognitive function significantly improved (14). Further research suggests the cognitive boosting benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms are most effective when taken regularly over longer periods of time, so it may be worth adding to your daily supplement routine as an ongoing, preventative measure against stress when it arises.
How to Take Medicinal Mushrooms and Where to Find Them
Medicinal mushrooms can be taken in many way ways, from dried in whole form and brewed into tea to taken as capsules or powdered supplements. Mushrooms are also one of the best foods for enhancing the flavor of your savory recipes. Cook medicinal mushrooms in your bone broth, soups, stews, and homemade burger patties. You can even add them in powdered form to your coffee and smoothies!
Most health food stores carry medicinal mushrooms in supplement form, and you can even grow your own medicinal mushrooms at home by purchasing a mushroom starter kit online. If you’re looking for something quick and convenient, companies like Four Sigmatic have crafted a variety of stress-busting, cognitive-boosting mushroom coffees, elixirs, and hot cacao mixes.
Medicinal mushrooms are an ideal way to keep your energy, brain function, and overall health in check during periods of stress – which is when you’re most vulnerable to experiencing health symptoms and illness. While medicinal mushrooms show promising benefits for conditions related to stress, such as depression and anxiety, be sure to check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner before taking medicinal mushrooms, as they may interact with certain medications and cause negative side effects.
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