Mushrooms are definitely the “in” supplement right now.
These things always come in waves; it happened with protein, it happened with creatine, and now it seems that mushrooms are firmly in the spotlight. There are dozens, if not hundreds of different mushroom supplements on sale today; just a few years ago, there were none.
Manufacturers claim that different mushrooms can do different things, but they all seem to cluster around a central set of benefits – improved immune system function, better CNS recovery, and enhanced mental performance.
But at face value, these claims seem a little unbelievable. After all, we eat mushrooms all the time – on pizzas, with pasta, in omelettes, and so on. If eating mushrooms gave us a big boost in cognitive performance, wouldn’t be already know it?
Wouldn’t we be experiencing it?
Well, no. The claim isn’t that mushrooms generally improve health and performance.
The claim is that certain types of mushrooms do these things.
We recently saw some evidence which suggests that in some cases, the supplement manufacturers might be right!
Reishi mushrooms – a common ingredient in mushroom supplements, nootropics, and super-food shakes – have been found to have some really interesting effects when consumed by humans. Specifically, eating reishi mushrooms seems to protect against cognitive decline, improve mental performance, and bolster the immune system.
Let’s look at the evidence.
Reishi Mushrooms For Cognition – The Evidence
In this study, researchers took mice with transgenic Alzheimer’s Disease and treated them with a powerful Reishi mushroom extract. They found that the reishi mushroom extract promoted neural progenitor cell proliferation. In laymen’s terms, the reishi mushrooms caused a rapid growth of new brain cells, which led to a significant alleviation in the cognitive deficits exhibited by the mice.
That’s pretty incredible.
Of course, you shouldn’t think that this means we’ve found a cure for Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t mean that. Not even close.
This study used rats, and they weren’t cured; the reishi mushroom just helped reduce their outward symptoms and slowed the disease down.
But that is incredible in itself, especially when you remember that this is a completely natural substance we’re talking about here!
These results line up nicely with other studies conducted on mice, such as this one. Here, researchers gave mice a reishi mushroom extract and measured how their cognitive performance changed. They found that the rats given the reishi mushroom performed far better at memory and learning based tasks.
If these effects carry over to humans, it looks like reishi mushroom might be both a long-term brain protector and a short-term learning booster!
Should You Bother With Reishi Mushrooms?
This is a different question entirely.
Just because a supplement has worked in mice does not mean that it will work in humans.
And just because a supplement works in humans doesn’t mean you should go out and buy it!
You need to really think about hat your goals are, what your priorities are, and whether or not a supplement is going to make a positive impact on your life before you start using it.
The benefits of Reishi mushroom consumption seems to be that it promotes neurogenesis (new brain cell growth) and helps with learning, memory formation, and mental performance generally. These two benefits are probably one and the same.
There is also evidence that reishi boosts immune system function, but we’ll talk about that in a different article.
There are other ways to boost neurogenesis without having to buy expensive, exotic mushrooms that may or may not work on humans.
Distance running, fasting, intense weight training, learning languages, learning an instrument; these things have all been shown to dramatically increase brain development in humans. They’re all free, healthy ways to boost neurogenesis, and they all actually benefit your life in more ways than one.
Think about these more natural options before you start consuming a mushroom you would never have come into contact with otherwise!