Adaptogenic mushrooms have gotten a lot of attention for their ability to mitigate the impact of stress on the body. These fungus species are rich in compounds called adaptogens, which help the body shield itself from the physical, chemical and biological impact of stress. During stressful times, adaptogens allow us to maintain normal function. Explore the benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms and learn more about how to incorporate this ingredient into your diet.
A 2003 rodent study published in the Japanese journal Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that the Cordyceps sinensis mushroom reduced fatigue during stressful activities. The researchers reported that rats given the mushroom showed fewer physical markers of stress during forced exercise than rats who did not eat the mushroom. Proponents of the Cordyceps species theorize that it facilitates and enhances the flow of oxygen throughout the body.A small study on adult men published in High Altitude Medicine & Biology in 2014 found that taking both Cordyceps sinensis and Rhodiola crenulata decreased signs of fatigue during brief high-altitude training exercises. Research that appeared in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that athletes had less overtraining-related stress after taking Ganoderma lucidum with Cordyceps sinesis. A study published in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences found that Ganoderma lucidum found that the mushroom reduced oxidative stress within rodent muscles after physical activity.
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Reduced Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science found that the lion's mane mushroom decreased nervous system levels of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in mice. Inability to regulate BDNF can result in stress and depression.
The reishi mushroom is rich in compounds called tripertenes, which research has associated with improved sleep quality and sharper focus as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Protection From Memory Impairment
Research published in the journal Nature in 2020 touted the adaptogenic effect of the reishi mushroom in rodent students. The study authors reported that a dose of the mushroom protected rats from memory and nerve damage with limited oxygen levels.
The lion's mane mushroom has similar benefits for memory and cognition. In fact, it encourages production of myelin and nerve growth factor, both of which play key roles in brain health. Not only can this mushroom increase concentration and improve mood, it also has potential in reducing symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and other neurocognitive issues.
The reishi mushroom has long been used to stimulate the immune system. along with other adaptogenic mushroom species such as cordyceps, lion's mane, maitake, shiitake, turkey tail and chaga. These shrooms are bursting with cancer-fighting free radicals that help destroy disease cells and support other immune functions.
The turkey tail mushroom is a vital source of polysaccharide-K, approved as a prescription medication in Japan for cancer patients. PSK can provide immune system support during chemotherapy, destroy leukemia cells and even reduce the mortality rates for certain kinds of cancer.
Improved Cardiac Health
Reishi also contains compounds called beta-glucans and triterpenes, which help decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol and overall cholesterol in the blood. It's not the only adaptogenic mushroom that can boost heart health, however. Chaga, which is rich in antioxidants, can decrease blood pressure to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Shiitakes are also heart health superheroes. These mushrooms contain phytonutrients that facilitate healthy blood flow, keep blood pressure within a healthy range and prevent plaque from building up within the arteries.
If you're a fan of fungi, try adding any of these adaptogenic mushrooms to your meal rotation to enhance your overall wellness. You can also mix the powdered version of these shrooms with soups, smoothies, juices and sauces for a savory nutritional boost.