Humans have been consuming mushrooms as food and medicine for thousands of years, and for good reason. They are known to deliver various health benefits and make most meals taste that much better. While there are over 14,000 species of mushrooms around the world, there are only six that are considered to be safe nootropics.
These nootropic mushrooms are not only edible but are also known to boost and preserve overall brain function. Both traditional and modern medicine suggest that these six ‘smart’ mushrooms provide some therapeutic benefits such as improving memory, regulating moods, preserving cognitive function, and so much more!
Here are the six nootropic mushrooms and their benefits.
1. Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
The Lion’s Mane Mushroom also commonly known as yamabushitake has a long history as both a culinary staple and medicinal remedy in Asian countries such as India, China, and Korea. It is believed to have promoted overall health and is now also being recognized in the modern health space as a nootropic. There are numerous health benefits that are linked to the Lion’s Mane mushrooms, which include aiding reducing the risk of dementia, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria known for causing stomach ulcers, and relieving mild symptoms of anxiety and depression (1). Although there is some research to support these benefits, more human trials are needed in order to know for sure. In addition to enhancing brain power, the Lion’s Mane Mushroom has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties.
2. Oyster Mushrooms
The Oyster mushroom, or hiratake mushroom, is no stranger to palates across the globe. Not only are these mushrooms incredibly tasty, but they are jam-packed with nutrients and vitamins that deliver some amazing health benefits. One of the many reasons that the Oyster mushroom is considered a nootropic is that it contains a substantial amount of antioxidants, which are vital for curbing oxidative stress and cellular damage caused by harmful free radicals. Oyster mushrooms are also known to have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.
3. Reishi Mushrooms
The Reishi mushroom has been used in Eastern medicine for over two thousand years and has recently become popular in many other cultures thanks to its immune-boosting effects. Recent studies have shown that the nootropic effects of Reishi mushrooms are linked to their potent antioxidant and anti-anxiety properties, which have also shown to be helpful for those suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (2). Reishi mushrooms are also beneficial for helping to improve sleep, reduce stress, and enhance memory.
4. Maitake Mushrooms
This polypore group of mushrooms is native to northeastern Japan. The name of the mushroom, Maitake, translates to dance (Mai) and mushroom (take). Studies have shown that it may help to relieve depression, decrease anxiety, and improve mood. One of the most notable nootropic benefits of the maitake mushroom is that it delivers potent anti-inflammatory effects, which help to reduce cellular damage and slow down aging and atrophy of the brain.
5. Chaga Mushrooms
The Chaga mushroom is often sold as a tea or supplement and is rich in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds such as melanins, flavans, triterpenoids, and polyphenols. This type of fungus only grows on tree bark in cold climates. It is said to aid in learning and memory and reduce inflammation, which is why it is considered a nootropic. Chaga mushrooms are also used believed to help prevent and slow the progression of cancer, protect the liver, and boost the immune system.
6. Cordyceps Mushrooms
Growing as a parasite fungus on caterpillars, the Cordyceps mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. Studies have shown that this mushroom improves athletic performance, giving increased energy and endurance. It has also been shown to help relieve insomnia, improve learning, and reduce memory impairment. The mushroom was so popular that its harvesting almost led to its extinction and the fungus is now an endangered species. In order to combat its extinction, an alternative way of harvesting was found by cultivating Cordyceps artificially on rice.
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