Mushrooms are a naturally occurring supplement that may be able to improve your memory, focus, training performance, and provide anti-aging effects.
Why It Matters
Mushroom supplementation can be a simple daily addition for the benefit of your long-term health.
- Lion's Mane increases brain function through neurogenesis
- Lion's Mane has anti-inflammatory properties
- Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps contain high levels of antioxidants
- Cordyceps improves aerobic fitness capacity
- Cordyceps helps fight aging and disease
What are Mushrooms?
Similar to the apples on an apple tree, a mushroom is the “fruit” of a fungi. Fungi are in their own class of living organisms and do not qualify as plants, animals, or bacteria. While not all mushrooms are edible, a growing number of species have shown potential medicinal benefits through supplementation and diet.
Two of the most commonly researched mushroom supplements are Lions Mane and Cordyceps.
Hericium erinaceus, also known as Lions Mane, is an edible mushroom commonly found in North America, Europe, and Asia. The fungi mainly feed on dead trees to absorb nutrients (1). Lion's Mane has been connected to increased brain and circulatory system function while also demonstrating anti-cancer properties.
Enhances Brain Function
Animal testing has shown that Lions Mane may aid in the reversal of degenerative brain disease such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. Lion's Mane is one of few substances that stimulates Neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the formation of new neurons in the brain (8). One study utilized Lions Mane to aid in the recovery of a damaged peroneal nerve. Damage to the peroneal nerve can cause tingling and numbness in the lower limbs. The researchers found a higher rate of nerve regeneration with the treatment of Lions Mane (9). If Lions Mane can promote the same levels of neurogenesis in humans, it will improve memory and focus while also fight against degenerative brain disease.
Lion's Mane has been studied as a dietary supplement for heart and arterial health. Research has indicated that supplementation of Lions Mane reduces LDL levels (bad cholesterol) while also improving arterial function (blood flow). This may be due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the mushroom (7).
Cordyceps is a group of fungi that includes approximately 600 different species. The majority of Cordyceps feed on insects, arthropods, and other fungi. These fungi are mainly found in the tropical forests of Asia. Cordyceps has been linked to improvements in aerobic fitness, heart health, memory, and anti-aging qualities (2).
A study was implemented to test the effects of cordyceps supplementation on exercise capacity of elderly individuals. The participants completed a graded test on a stationary bike to determine VO2 max and Anaerobic thresholds. VO2 max is a measurement of maximum oxygen consumption. Anaerobic threshold is the point at which an individual’s body can no longer clear lactate fast enough and blood lactate levels begin to increase. These markers combine to measure participants' exercise capacity. After the initial bike test one group was given 3 grams of cordyceps a day, while the other group received a placebo. This treatment lasted six weeks, then the bike test was repeated. The results showed a significant increase in VO2 max and Anaerobic threshold for the intervention group, but no significant change for the placebo group. The researchers concluded that Cordyceps “could improve oxygen uptake or aerobic capacity and ventilation function and resistance to fatigue of elderly people” (8). While this study is specific to elder population, it is a positive indication for the effects of cordyceps on aerobic fitness (7).
Cordyceps has been researched for potential anti-aging qualities. The fungi have significantly extended the life spans of fruit flies and mice in clinical studies (3,4). Cordyceps has also demonstrated improvements in learning, memory, and sexual function in older populations (6). This has been accredited to the increase in antioxidants after the consumption of Cordyceps. Antioxidants may prevent cell damage by neutralizing free radicals found in the body (5). Cordyceps has also been used in cancer research. Though not tested on humans, multiple test-tube and animal studies have shown the ability to inhibit growth of tumors and cancer cells (5).
It is important to note that a majority of research has not been done on human populations. Keeping this in mind, the current studies have shown promising results for the use of mushrooms as a daily supplement.
Sam Bartlett, MSc