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9 Best Adaptogenic Mushrooms for Your Health

An image of a woman taking a medicineScientists estimate that there are about 140,000 mushroom species, but only 14,000 of these have currently been described. Considering this vast number, it is unsurprising that there have been several different reported uses of mushrooms, with one of the most prominent being as stress relievers. The species that fall into this class are known as adaptogenic mushrooms. However, there are still a lot of questions about the effectiveness and safety of these adaptogenic mushrooms, and this article will address them.

What Are Adaptogens?

Basically, adaptogens consist of natural materials, non-toxic, and often plant extracts used in herbal medicine. The purpose of these materials includes helping you deal with the effects of stress and regain normal body functioning.

Conventional Western medicine does not recognize the power and effectiveness of adaptogens. However, more and more researchers spend time investigating their use in the form of the best mushroom adaptogens.

Findings from this research support the use of the best mushroom adaptogens in dealing with many illness conditions. In addition, this research shows adaptogens effectively promote good health without the side effects so often seen in prescription medications.
A variety of ways exist for the consumption of adaptogens. They find use as whole foods, in capsule form, as powders, or as drinks.

Examples of adaptogens include:

What Are Adaptogenic Mushrooms?

Generally, the term adaptogen refers to any herb or mushroom that can improve the body’s stress response and contribute to its overall well-being. Therefore, adaptogenic mushrooms are mushrooms that can impact how the body responds to stress and anxiety. These mushrooms are believed to contribute to restoring a state of homeostasis in the body.

While it is not uncommon for a mushroom to be capable of relieving stress, for a mushroom to be classified as adaptogenic, it must also be non-toxic at low doses. Although using mushrooms to relieve stress is not a new concept, having been employed for hundreds of years in traditional medicine, it is only recently that researchers took a scientific interest in them.

As with regular adaptogens, there are different ways adaptogenic mushrooms can be consumed. This includes as capsules, powders, or drinks, particularly tea. Some of these mushrooms can also be directly incorporated into food.

Do Adaptogenic Mushrooms Keep You Awake?

Adaptogenic mushrooms are great at improving the body’s stress response, and one way they do this is by controlling cortisol in the body. Also known as the stress hormone, the adrenal glands produce cortisol as a response to stress through the actions of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

When there is chronic stress, the body demands higher cortisol production from the adrenal glands, and if this higher output level persists, fatigue of the adrenal gland may arise. This condition is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), and it is a non-Addison type of adrenal dysfunction in which the body’s stress response cannot keep up with the chronic stressors in life.

An image of a stressed man in bedAt this early stage of AFS, it may be difficult to fall and stay asleep at night because of the high circulating cortisol levels. However, the use of adaptogenic mushrooms can help restore balance to the cortisol levels in the blood, ultimately improving sleep. If chronic stress in the body remains high, the cortisol production levels in the body actually start to drop due to adrenal fatigue. Sleep quality also takes a hit here because of the high-stress levels, and adaptogenic herbs may help increase cortisol production to offset the reduced cortisol levels in the blood.

Essentially, adaptogenic mushrooms are excellent at regulating cortisol levels in the body, positively impacting sleep quality. However, these mushrooms do not solve the root cause of the stress and are not viable options for fixing adrenal fatigue or chronic stress long-term.

Health Benefits of the Best Mushroom Adaptogens

Mushrooms make up one of the most scientifically studied superfoods. These scientific studies show the health benefits of the best mushroom adaptogens. They bring great benefits to your brain, energy levels, immune system, mood, hormones, mental acuity, and other areas of your functioning.

Reishi Adaptogenic Mushrooms

One of the best mushroom adaptogens, reishi mushrooms contain high amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Sometimes called the ‘queen of mushrooms’, they lead to strong adaptogenic effects on the mind and body.

They help regulate your hormonal system and can lower cortisol levels to help you slow down, relax, and sleep better. On the other hand, while slowing down and getting better sleep can help if you suffer from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), lowering cortisol can become a negative aspect of this mushroom. With AFS, cortisol can already decrease to unacceptable levels, so consuming mushrooms that lower it further would not be wise.

In addition, research indicates reishi mushrooms can help lower blood sugar in diabetics and inhibit the storage of fat. With the increasing epidemic of obesity in our country, this property can bring great benefits. The polysaccharides and triterpenes contained in this type of mushroom help reduce the storage of excess fat.

In addition, research evidence shows the complex sugars in reishi mushrooms can also relieve kidney problems and fight viral infections due to their antiviral properties.

Chaga Adaptogenic Mushrooms

Another of the best mushroom adaptogens, Chaga contains strong anti-inflammatory properties. The antioxidants in these mushrooms help you fight inflammation as they also scavenge free radicals.

Chaga works to help control your immune system. Research indicates it can help fight off viral infections and potentially help you deal with cancer, especially cancer of the lungs, brain, and liver.

In addition to fighting inflammation, you can use Chaga to support your immune system and provide sustained energy.

Research studies show Chaga can provide anti-cancer effects specifically targeting tumor cells while creating low or no toxicity in normal cells. In addition, research indicates Chaga works to support and stimulate your immune system.

Part of the reason for these strong effects comes from the powerful antioxidants and beta-glucans contained in the mushroom. Both of these properties fight free radicals that can cause so much damage.

Of interest, Chaga grows in a different type of environment from most fungi and mushrooms. An outlier, Chaga grows in cold climates. Likewise of interest, Chaga was used as a coffee substitute in Finland during World War II. Its tea tastes similar to medium-roast coffee. Generally, with Chaga the older the mushroom, the better. It takes between 15 and 20 years to fully mature.

Cordyceps

An image of a bundle of CordycepsYet another of the best mushroom adaptogens, cordyceps works to provide sustained energy for your body. It does this by supporting your adrenal glands to help your body provide the consistent energy needed.

And cordyceps works to improve the absorption of oxygen by your cells. This makes it effective for those suffering from asthma as well as athletes. Likewise, it increases strength and stamina, boosts exercise performance, helps in recovering from workouts, and fights fatigue.

Further, cordyceps helps you fight the effects of aging. Several animal studies back this up.

Many of these effects come from the polysaccharides contained in the mushroom. Also, it has the ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule that brings energy to your muscles. Cordyceps is also great for kidney health gut and immunity.

Lion’s Mane

This one of the best mushroom adaptogens stimulates the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). A bioprotein, NGF plays a major role in maintaining and regenerating neurons in the brain as well as promoting their health.

Lion’s Mane works to boost creativity, improve memory, increase your ability to concentrate and increase the clarity of your thinking. The polysaccharides in Lion’s Mane contribute to neuronal differentiation and survival.

Studies show its ability to help improve mild cognitive impairment. Other studies indicate its properties can help alleviate depression and anxiety.

Shiitake

Another of the best mushroom adaptogens, Asiatic people take shiitake mushrooms for longevity. This practice has lasted for over 6,000 years.

Your grocery store likely keeps these mushrooms in supply. They contain large amounts of B vitamins, vitamin D, and zinc. Their properties serve to inhibit the growth of tumors, fight cancer, and boost your immune system. In addition, some evidence supports their ability to lower cholesterol, thus improving your cardiovascular system.

Research indicates one of the polysaccharides contained in these mushrooms, lentinan, works to inhibit the growth of some cancer cells.

Turkey Tail

In spite of its strange name, this one of the best mushroom adaptogens contains strong antiviral and antimicrobial properties. It helps prevent and treat colds and the flu.

Two powerful polysaccharides contained in turkey tail, PSP and PSK, figure prominently in research investigating their effects on improving immune function in people going through chemotherapy. Research shows it helps improve the recovery rate for people who suffer from colorectal, gastric, or breast cancers. Beta-glucans found in this mushroom also play a part in your immune functioning.

In addition, this mushroom contains prebiotics that can promote beneficial bacteria in your microbiome. It helps in healing your gut.

Himematsutake

This one of the best mushroom adaptogens originally came from Brazil but came to be used in China and Japan to help with diabetes, liver disease, hepatitis, high cholesterol, and other health conditions.

Research shows the polysaccharides in these mushrooms contain properties that fight cancers, work on reducing tumors, and fight viruses. In addition, they serve to boost immune system functioning.

Enokitake

Another of the best mushroom adaptogens, this mushroom comes from China, Japan, and Korea. In addition to its taste, enokitake contains a great number of nutritional benefits. One cup of these mushrooms yields a large amount of niacin.

Maitake

An image of a basket of Maitake mushroomThe last of the best mushroom adaptogens, maitake contains beta-glucans, a powerful antioxidant. The importance of antioxidants in fighting stress cannot be overstated, as free radicals are among the main stressors in the body. Since antioxidants can mop up these free radicals, mushrooms that are rich in them are great options as adaptogens. Aside from their role in boosting immunity, beta-glucans also help in healing the gut and reducing digestive problems.

Properties of Adaptogenic Mushrooms and the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response

The NEM stress response becomes active when stress becomes chronic and severe. Its main purpose lies in its ability to help your body handle this kind of ongoing stress. Made up of six circuits with three organs or systems in each circuit, the NEM circuits are interrelated. What affects one, affects others.

Inflammation and Detoxification Circuits

The polysaccharides in the best mushroom adaptogens work to support and boost the immune system which forms the shared boundary between the inflammation and detoxification circuits. With all of the research that shows inflammation to play a role in many chronic illness conditions, properties that boost the immune system will benefit the functioning of this circuit. In addition, the functioning of the detoxification circuit proves vital for ridding the body of toxins. Boosting this essential part of this circuit will serve to improve overall health.

Inflammation and Neuroaffect Circuits

The gut-healing properties of mushrooms can work to improve your gut and microbiome. These organ systems comprise part of the inflammation and neuroaffect circuits. Healing your gut of conditions such as leaky gut will help in dealing with hyperactive immune responses that can lead to chronic illness conditions. In addition, this mushroom contains prebiotics to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your microbiome. This can work to re-establish a balance in the bacteria of the microbiome and help prevent small intestine bacterial overgrowth or SIBO.

Likewise, the microbiome comprises part of the neuroaffect circuit, along with the brain. Through the gut-brain connection, a healthy gut leads to a healthier brain. In addition, Lion’s Mane provides stimulation of NGF to promote better neuron health in your brain. It also helps improve concentration and clear thinking. And, Lion’s Mane works to alleviate depression and anxiety.

Cardionomic Circuit

Shiitake mushrooms work to improve cardiovascular functioning by lowering cholesterol, thereby helping the work of the cardionomic circuit. In addition, himematsutake mushrooms help reduce cholesterol, improving the functioning of the circulatory system.

Bioenergetics Circuit

Cordyceps contribute to providing energy for muscles and other cells, thus assisting the bioenergetics circuit in its functioning. For centuries Chaga mushrooms have been used to help liver functioning.

Supplements for Adaptogenic Mushrooms

The use of adaptogenic mushrooms may be tricky for many, partly because of the lack of standardization. For individuals who need to monitor the exact amount and constituents of the adaptogenic mushrooms they consume, supplements are a great option. This also holds true for special combinations of multiple mushrooms.

Further, in some locations, it may be difficult to obtain adaptogenic mushrooms. Supplements are also advisable for avoiding some side effects of ordinary adaptogenic mushrooms. However, not all adaptogenic mushroom supplements are effective or safe. For this reason, below is a list of the best ones you can safely use:

Adrenal Cordyzyme

An image of a bottle of Adrenal CordyzymeThis supplement contains cordyceps and a blend of the digestive enzymes lipase and amylase. Cordyceps are renowned for increasing energy and stamina, as well as improving lung function and oxygen uptake levels. These properties make them great for individuals who want to increase their physical activity, which is advisable when trying to relieve stress.

A potential drawback of cordyceps, though, is the risk of digestive problems as a side effect. With Adrenal Cordyzyme, potential digestive difficulties are avoided by the addition of digestive enzymes.

BGM

A proprietary blend of beta-glucans and Maitake mushroom, BGM is the go-to supplement for reducing stress, improving immune function, and supplying the body with beneficial nutrients. This supplement is especially useful because one of the major causes of stress in the body is inflammation, and the supplement is rich in antioxidants. Therefore, there are fewer free radicals in the body, translating to less stress on the inflammation circuit of the NEM.

Adrenal RS

Adrenal RS is a blend of two adaptogenic mushrooms – reishi and shiitake. Reishi and shiitake mushrooms help improve heart, immune and liver function. Together, these supplements can significantly relieve stress and improve health.

Furthermore, considering that one of the potential side effects of reishi is liver toxicity, combining it with shiitake helps limit this risk.

Are Adaptogenic Mushrooms Hallucinogenic?

Mushrooms are typically classified according to their use. Those that can relieve stress are known as adaptogenic or functional mushrooms, while those that have other medicinal uses are known as medicinal mushrooms. The last group includes those with psychedelic properties, and they are correspondingly known as hallucinogenic or magic mushrooms.

There may be overlaps among these classes, as some mushrooms may have different uses. For instance, adaptogenic mushrooms have other health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular properties. Still, there is a clear distinction between hallucinogenic and adaptogenic mushrooms.

Adaptogenic mushrooms are not hallucinogenic, and they possess no psychedelic properties. This is because the chemical in hallucinogenic mushrooms that are responsible for their psychedelic effects, called psilocybin (converted to psilocin in the body), is absent in adaptogenic mushrooms. Although the stress-relieving properties of adaptogenic mushrooms can contribute positively to mood, there are no significant effects on thought processes and perception, as well as the absence of euphoria.

It is also worth noting that adaptogenic mushrooms are legal everywhere in the world, while the legality of their hallucinogenic counterparts varies, although they are illegal in most countries. Even in the United States, only a few states have decriminalized the possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Are Adaptogenic Mushrooms Safe?

Adaptogenic mushrooms are generally safe and well-tolerated in the population, both individually and in combinations. When used in their normal dose, there is typically little risk to the user’s short- and long-term health. However, research shows that there are some side effects that may accompany the use of adaptogenic mushrooms. These side effects include allergic reactions, digestive problems, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and headache.

The exact side effects observed depend on a number of factors, particularly the exact species, the dose, and any underlying conditions you may have. For instance, reishi can cause dizziness and may crash blood pressure. Further studies also indicate that it may be potentially toxic to the liver. For lion mane, common side effects are allergic reactions, digestive disturbances, and nausea.

The side effects of adaptogenic mushrooms may be exacerbated if multiple mushrooms are taken together. Using a combination of lion mane and reishi as an example, the side effects may range from allergic reactions and digestive problems to dizziness and liver toxicity.

Who Should Not Use Adaptogenic Mushrooms?

An image of someone taking his blood pressureDespite being generally safe, adaptogenic mushrooms are not advisable for some population groups.

First and foremost, anyone with blood-pressure, blood sugar, or other blood-related medications should not use these mushrooms unless they gain approval from their healthcare provider. Individuals with underlying health conditions should also ensure they talk to their healthcare provider before starting these mushrooms.

Furthermore, individuals with multiple allergies should be careful with these mushrooms. Also, while using these mushrooms, it is important to monitor any allergic reactions related to their use.

The short- and long-term effects of adaptogenic mushrooms on pregnancy and among breastfeeding women have also not been extensively researched, implying that women in these categories should avoid these mushrooms.

Generally, you should talk to a health practitioner before using any supplement or mushroom. This is even more so if you notice any unwanted reaction after you start using adaptogenic mushrooms.

What Are Your Next Steps?

If you are considering consuming the best mushroom adaptogens, here are some things you can do to make sure you get the benefits.

  1. Educate yourself regarding the effects of each of the best mushroom adaptogens.
  2. Make certain you buy only the best types of the ones you choose to use.
  3. Consult with your healthcare professional.

Whichever mushroom you decide to use, be sure to consult with your healthcare professional who understands the benefits to be derived from them. He or she can help you decide on the ones that will provide you with the most benefits for you.

Conclusion: The Best Mushroom Adaptogens

In addition to their use as nutritional supplements, mushrooms contain amazing health properties. The best adaptogenic mushrooms provide polysaccharides that serve to fight inflammation and work as antioxidants.

These mushrooms work to slow the aging process, as well. Boosting the immune system makes these mushrooms very effective in both protecting your health and improving it. Some of them lower cortisol levels and regulate hormones.

Other mushrooms help lower blood sugar levels, a definite plus if you suffer from diabetes, but potentially a negative if you suffer from hypoglycemia. This latter condition often occurs in people who suffer from AFS, so you should use caution. Consulting with your healthcare professional becomes essential.

While adaptogenic mushroom supplements are always a great alternative to the original mushrooms, ensure you talk to your healthcare provider before using these supplements. Also, it is crucial to note that adaptogenic mushrooms are not a permanent solution to stress, and will not resolve the root cause of stress.

If you would like to know more about or need assistance with choosing the best mushroom adaptogens, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1 (626) 571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2024 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Adaptogenic mushrooms do not have significant effects on mood, perception, and thought processes, unlike hallucinogenic mushrooms. However, because adaptogenic mushrooms can relieve stress and promote well-being, they can help improve mood and reduce anxiety.

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