Mushrooms are one of nature’s strangest gifts. These plant-like structures which spring up in every conceivable place have been a part of our lives and culture for generations. With many people on a quest to find natural or homoeopathic solutions to their health challenges, it is no surprise that more people are turning to mushrooms. After all, many mushrooms were once considered healing foods. One class of mushrooms that is becoming increasingly popular is adaptogenic mushrooms.
These mushrooms contain unique compounds referred to as adaptogens. The word “Adaptogen” comes from the verb “adapt.” These mushrooms help the body do. Adaptogens are efficient at helping to reduce the effect of stress on the body. They differ significantly from hallucinogenic mushrooms, which people take creatively for their impact on the mind. Most adaptogenic mushrooms do not contain any hallucinogens, and as a result, do not interfere with the users’ psychology. Adaptogens function by increasing the body’s resistance to physical, biological, and chemical stress. They also promote normal body functioning during stress and can mitigate stress-related damage to the body.
They do this by interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA axis), which is the body’s main stress response system. The HPA’s primary function is to release hormones that activate the body’s stress response, i.e. cortisol and glucocorticoids. Adaptogens interact with the HPA axis and other parts of the body’s stress response system to enhance the body’s resistance to stress and enhance recovery. Research has shown that certain mushrooms and herbs have adaptogenic properties. It is important to note that a mushroom having medicinal properties does not translate to it being adaptogenic. Certain mushrooms have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, but these do not make them adaptogenic. Adaptogenic mushrooms specifically interact with the body’s stress-response system.
Types of adaptogenic mushrooms
Based on the definition of adaptogens, a couple of mushrooms have been identified as having adaptogenic properties. They are:
- Shitake: This is perhaps the most popularly consumed mushroom worldwide. Shitakes are desired for their rich, flavourful taste above all things. In addition, they also have tremendous health benefits.They are native to East Asia, especially Japan—where 85% of the global supply is grown. Other countries that produce Shitake include United States, Canada, China, and Singapore.In Chinese medicine, Shitakes are thought to boost health and longevity. They can help protect the body from heart diseases and lower the body’s cholesterol levels.
- Lion’s Mane: This also another very popular adaptogenic mushroom. Although it gets its popularity from Chinese culture, it is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It is easily identifiable by its long spines. Research about Lion’s Mane reveals that it may be efficient at reversing stress-related changes to neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin. Lion’s mane supplements has also shown some promise in its ability to reverse stress-induced downregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)—a protein essential to brain function. Studies show that decreased levels of BDNF can lead to stress and depression.
- Himematsutake: Also known as the almond mushroom, Himematsutake is popular for its sweet, almond-like taste. It originated in Brazil but is now grown in China, Japan, and the US. It is very popular with homoeopaths because of its antioxidant properties. Some research has shown that Himematsutake can promote a healthy immune response in its users. It is also rich in β-glucans, a healthy dietary fibre.
- Reishi: Yet again, another Chinese mushroom wonder. Reishi is also known as Lingzhi or Ganoderma lingzhi. It is easily identifiable by its kidney-shaped head and naturally grows in China. It is commonly used in China as a medicinal herb. Recent studies have shown that a combination of reishi and cordyceps can help protect people against stress-related damage. Other studies also revealed that reishi has the ability to protect against multiple stressors, including oxygen levels and cold exposure.
- Chaga: Also known as Inonotus obliquus, Chaga is found abundantly in the northern hemisphere. It has been used in traditional medicine in Eastern Europe for a number of health problems like stomach diseases.Recent research has shown that Chaga has properties that are anti-inflammation. These properties could also prove very useful with recovering from stress. Chaga has also shown some promise against common infections like the flu and contains a number of beneficial antioxidants.
- Cordyceps: the name actually refers to over 600 mushroom species that exist all around the world. This mushroom group is typically abundant and diverse in humid temperate and tropical forests.There have been several studies to show the efficacy of cordyceps in helping normalize body function. One double-blind-placebo study from 2010 showed that cordyceps helped people struggling with fatigue increase their energy levels and endurance. Another study in 2014 mixed cordyceps with Rhodiola Crenulata and noted improvements in stress response and fatigue levels compared with a placebo.
Health benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms
The primary reason people take adaptogenic mushrooms is to help relieve the effects of stress.
However, there are other health benefits that users can get. Some of them are:
- Improved stamina: since adaptogens help people react better to stress, it also helps them with resistance in high-stress environments. For instance, many adaptogens have shown remarkable effects on the stamina of athletes in high-altitude conditions.
- Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety: Stress is also one of the most common causes of depression and anxiety. Adaptogenic mushrooms like Lion’s Mane affect the production of certain body chemicals that cause stress and depression.
- Better memory: most adaptogenic mushrooms can help with improving cognition and memory. In fact, some mushrooms are thought to encourage the growth of nerve endings in the brain.
- Improved cardiac health: part of the antioxidant properties of adaptogenic mushrooms is that they are efficient at reducing bad cholesterol in the body. This invariably leads to better cardiac health.
- Better immune system: Aside from the general benefits of feeling less stressed, adaptogenic mushrooms also help with activating the immune system.
Adaptogenic mushrooms are very useful for people who work in high-pressure environments. Thankfully, they are quite safe for use. However, identifying the right mushroom for your body can be a hassle. If you would rather not bother about what mushroom does, you can try this supplement from mind lab pro. Made from a mix of adaptogenic mushrooms, Mind Lab Pro has gotten great reviews for its efficacy in helping fight stress.