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Can Mushrooms Really Help With Anxiety?

While all edible mushrooms have extra health benefits, not all can help with anxiety. Lion's mane may increase pro-nerve growth factors in the brain, while Reishi and caterpillar mushrooms may work by reducing inflammation, lowering stress levels, and promoting nerve cell growth. Let's explore these three mushrooms.

Key takeaways:

What are medicinal mushrooms?

Medicinal mushrooms are special fungi with extra health benefits but do not contain psilocybin, which can cause hallucinations. Medical mushrooms contain healthy fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are called “functional food” because they not only provide nutrition but can also improve health.

Medical mushrooms are legal to use in the U.S. but not FDA-approved. They are considered food supplements and are not regulated for safety or effectiveness. Hallucinogenic mushrooms, which may also have medicinal uses, are illegal in the U.S.

Can medicinal mushroom supplements help combat anxiety?

In Japan and China, medical mushrooms are approved as an added treatment for cancer. In these countries, people have been safely using mushrooms for a long time, either alone or along with radiation or chemotherapy. However, most mushroom studies in humans focus on cancer treatment.

Not much data is available on the effectiveness of medical mushrooms for anxiety. Available human studies show mushrooms may be effective. Yet, these studies involved small numbers of people and lacked controls to prevent outside factors from affecting the results.

Mushrooms for depression: are they effective?

The research on how well medicinal mushrooms work for depression is similar to the research for anxiety. Unfortunately, there aren't many studies with solid proof involving people. But the ones we have, show that medical mushrooms may help.

Best mushrooms for anxiety and depression

Using medicinal mushrooms to help with anxiety and depression has been practiced in Asian medicine for many years. One special advantage is they have fewer side effects than regular prescription antidepressant medications. One drawback, though, is that there have not been enough studies in people to make sure that medicinal mushrooms are safe and effective for everyone.

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

While reishi mushrooms have mainly been studied for their use in cancer treatment, one human study also found that they may help reduce anxiety along with their anti-cancer effects.

Even though there is only one human study published, scientists believe reishi mushrooms work by doing a few things. They may reduce inflammation, lower stress, and support the growth of nerve tissue.

Reishi may lower blood sugar, cause trouble sleeping, dizziness, dry mouth, itching, nausea, stomach discomfort, and a rash.

If you take medications for organ transplants and use reishi, it could increase the chance of rejection. Before taking reishi, talk to your healthcare provider if you use blood sugar or blood thinning medications or need surgery. High doses of reishi may lead to bleeding or low blood sugar.

Rare cases of liver injury have been reported with reishi use. If you take other medications, ask your pharmacist about possible drug interactions because reishi affects the liver.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

Lion's Mane mushroom is the most researched mushroom for anxiety and depression. The newest information suggests that Lion's Mane may help increase pro-nerve growth factors essential for the brain. Low levels of these factors have been connected to anxiety and depression.

A study from 2019, which lasted eight weeks and included 77 participants, showed Lion's Mane helped reduce anxiety, depression, and insomnia. At the end of the study, researchers also found more pro-nerve growth factors circulating in the body. They thought this was an important discovery but realized they needed to do larger studies to get more accurate results.

Scientists looked at several studies on Lion’s Mane completed between 2010 and 2018. According to the researchers, Lion’s Mane was found to promote the growth of brain cells, reduce inflammation, and boost the levels of crucial brain chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These effects work together to improve depression, making it worthwhile to explore the best lion's mane supplements should you wish to experience these benefits.

According to research, Lion's Mane usually has few side effects, so most people can use it without problems. However, in 2003, a severe allergic reaction was reported, so if you're allergic to mushrooms, it's best to avoid Lion's Mane. Watch for signs like hives or rash, trouble breathing, and swollen lips, throat, or tongue.

Cordyceps (Caterpillar mushroom)

Scientists have looked at caterpillar mushrooms by studying them in mice or rats. They found that these mushrooms can be helpful for anxiety and depression. But there have yet to be any tests done on people to check if this product works and is safe for human use.

Caterpillar mushrooms may help treat depression and anxiety by lowering stress and inflammation, improving how neurotransmitters in our brain work, and encouraging the development of new nerve cells. Make sure you choose a cordyceps supplement that is free of uneccessary additives and third-party tested.

Low blood sugar and an increased risk of bleeding may occur with caterpillar mushrooms, so speak with your healthcare provider if you need surgery, or take blood thinners or blood sugar medications.

How many mushrooms should you take for anxiety?

Mushrooms are available in different forms, like pills, powders, liquids, and even gummies. To determine the correct dosage, it's best to follow the instructions on the product label.

Verifying that the product you are purchasing meets quality and purity standards is also a critical step. The FDA does not regulate mushroom supplements. To ensure safety, it is recommended that you buy products directly from reputable companies rather than from third-party or foreign suppliers.

Additionally, you may wish to seek guidance from an Asian medicine specialist to ensure you obtain reliable and safe mushroom supplements.

What foods help to cope with anxiety and depression symptoms?

Mushrooms in your diet can provide numerous health benefits as they are low in calories and fat and are cholesterol free.

Dietary mushrooms are also rich in antioxidants, vitamins B1, B2, B12, vitamin C, selenium, potassium, and copper. These essential nutrients are generally known to have antidepressant effects.

In 2021, a study reviewed information collected between 2005 and 2016 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The study investigated whether consuming mushrooms could relieve anxiety and depression among American adults.

Researchers believed that white button mushrooms, popular in the U.S., contributed to the lower risk of depression and anxiety they found in the study results.

Bonus takeaway
Adding a variety of mushrooms regularly to your diet can be a tasty way of boosting your mood.

Final thoughts

Medicinal mushrooms offer extra health benefits and are considered a functional food. Certain mushrooms like Lion's Mane, reishi, and caterpillar may help with anxiety and depression by reducing stress, promoting nerve cell growth, and improving brain chemicals. However, more research on humans is needed.

When taking mushroom supplements for brain health, follow instructions and buy from reputable sources. Lastly, enjoy various dietary mushrooms in your meals. Doing so may improve anxiety and depression.

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