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Unlocking Nature’s Calming Power: How Mushrooms Can Help Alleviate Anxiety

nature calming power

We have witnessed unprecedented economic growth, incredible technological advancements, and rapid social change. We live in a highly developed world that we couldn’t have imagined possible some 30 years ago.

Unfortunately, despite these advances, people are unhappier than ever. According to a KFN/CNN survey in 2022, 9 in 10 people feel that the US is experiencing a mental health crisis [1]. Pharmaceutical companies are selling antidepressants in record numbers, with countries in Europe and Northern America reporting the highest use of antidepressant drugs.

The percentage of people diagnosed with anxiety and depression has jumped by 10% in just a decade. With conventional medicines proving ineffective, people are turning to nature for a solution.

Mushrooms, nature’s superfood, are dominating discussions on plant-based treatments for anxiety and depression. Keep reading to understand the dangers of anxiety and depression and how the calming prowess of mushrooms can help you lead a healthier and more balanced life.

How Does Anxiety Affect the Body and Mind?

For some strange reason, life’s challenges and uncertainties seem to have increased. The current generation is facing all major calamities simultaneously. The challenges of new and unknown diseases, sudden conflicts, wars, political turmoil, a precarious economic situation, and growing environmental challenges all contribute to our already anxious lives.

According to experts, 3 in 4 people surveyed reported stress and anxiety negatively affecting various aspects of their lives [2].

Here is how anxiety can affect physical health, mental health, work performance, and social life.

Anxiety and Physical Health

Gastrointestinal Illness: Anxiety is known to cause indigestion, stomachaches, nausea, and bloating, and increase the risk of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Cardiovascular Problems: Anxiety may cause hypertension and an increased heart rate, also increasing the risk of heart-related problems.

Weakened Immune System: Chronic anxiety may suppress the immune system or make it overreact. The former makes the body vulnerable to infections, and the latter leads to autoimmune diseases.

Muscle Tension: Persistent tension can result in muscle cramps, muscle pain, and tension headaches.

Anxiety and Mental Health

Poor Sleep: Sleep becomes the first casualty of anxiety. People suffering from anxiety often complain of sleep disturbances and restless sleep, leading to mental health complications.

Cognitive Decline: Anxiety may affect various cognitive faculties, including memory, focus, concentration, mental energy, and clarity.

Negative Thoughts: Anxiety leads to excessive worry about the future, affecting mood, an increase in negative thoughts, and a poor outlook and behavior towards others.

Anxiety and Work Productivity

Procrastination: Anxiety about the outcome of a task may lead to delaying and avoidance behavior.

Poor Decision-Making: Fear of making mistakes, failure, and negative reactions from others may result in overthinking and poor decision-making.

Decreased Productivity: Anxiety can affect our judgment, focus, and motivation. A combination of these traits can affect work performance and productivity.

Anxiety and Social Life

Communication Challenges and Isolation: Those suffering from chronic anxiety find it hard to communicate openly and freely with others, resulting in a poor social life. Their fear of failure may lead to social withdrawal and avoidance.

Relationship Problems: Anxiety can cause irritable behavior, constant worry, and poor communication, putting a heavy strain on relationships with family, friends, and colleagues.

As you can see, anxiety can affect various aspects of life. You need a holistic approach, like the one involving mushrooms, to effectively alleviate anxiety and all its symptoms.

How Do Mushrooms Treat Anxiety?

In 400 BC, Hippocrates stated, ‘Let your food be your medicine and medicine be your food.’ This quote, attributed to the father of Western medicine, underscores the crucial role nutrition plays in preventing and alleviating diseases, including anxiety.

A large-scale observational study with 24,000 participants investigated the link between anxiety, depression, and mushroom consumption. The study found that consistent mushroom intake lowered the risk of depression and other mental health issues [3].

So, how exactly do mushrooms alleviate anxiety? Scientists postulate that mushrooms operate through three major pathways to combat anxiety.

Mushroom’s Role in Neurogenesis and Neuroprotection

Research has finally dispelled the long-held false belief that new neurons are not created after a certain age. It’s now clear that neurogenesis occurs throughout our lives [4]. It’s also true that several factors influence neuron creation, growth, maintenance, and death [5].

Scientists are equally clear that anxiety affects neurogenesis and neuroprotection in the hippocampus, the main part of the brain responsible for emotions, memory, and motivation. However, the damage caused by anxiety to the hippocampus can only be countered by neurogenesis, enhancing neuron adaptability. It’s a vicious cycle.

At last, scientists have found a solution in the form of mushrooms. These ‘gifts from nature’ protect the hippocampus through neurogenesis and neuroprotection.

Mushrooms contain compounds that stimulate the release of a crucial protein called the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), vital for normal brain cell growth and maintenance [6].

Additionally, compounds such as polysaccharides and ergothioneine are potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that shield neurons from oxidative stress and free radicals [7].

Other compounds in mushrooms also provide a neuroprotective effect by boosting blood flow and removing toxic waste material, thereby mitigating cell damage.

Mushroom Stimulates Vital Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are crucial chemical messengers vital for the normal functioning of the brain. There are several types, each serving a specific function. Even a minor disruption in this delicate balance can trigger anxiety, depression, or other psychological issues.

For instance, the depletion of the inhibitory brain chemical, GABA, can lead to neuronal excitability. Similarly, low serotonin levels are linked to various mood problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Chemical imbalances also impact the signaling between neurons. Poor communication among neurons can adversely affect emotions and stress response.

Mushrooms, such as Reishi, Lion’s Mane, and Chaga, are known to provide mood support through neurotransmitter modulation.

Triterepenes and other compounds in mushrooms exert an antidepressant effect by regulating multiple neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline [8].

Beta-glucans, one of the most important compounds present in mushrooms, promote a healthy gut microbiota, thereby regulating serotonin levels in the body’s second brain (gut) [9].

Furthermore, the adaptogenic activity of mushrooms has been studied repeatedly. The adaptogenic properties in mushrooms help the body cope with stressors and maintain a healthy balance [10].

Regular use of mushrooms with adaptogens can strengthen the mind and body, making them more capable of handling stressful situations.

Mushrooms Fight Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Chronic oxidative stress and inflammation create an environment in the brain that triggers anxiety and depression.

Firstly, the abundance of free radicals released due to chronic oxidative stress damages the neuron cells in the brain, initiating an inflammatory response that causes anxiety and other psychological problems.

Secondly, the cytokines released due to oxidative stress and inflammation target neural signaling and function, further affecting the brain by disrupting the production of vital neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.

Finally, oxidative stress and inflammation impact mood and other cognitive faculties by disrupting antioxidant activity, which is crucial for repairing cellular damage.

Mushrooms are a rich source of anti-inflammatory compounds. They contain vitamins, carotenoids, beneficial fatty acids, polysaccharides (beta-glucans), mycosteroids, and indolic and phenolic compounds. These components mitigate inflammatory processes, strengthen antioxidant defense, and modulate immune responses [11].

Best Mushrooms to Fight Anxiety 

In the previous section, we explored the three primary pathways through which mushrooms alleviate anxiety and treat depression. With millions of mushroom species and dozens of medicinal varieties, searching for those offering mood benefits can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve chosen to introduce you to the top mushrooms that combat anxiety:

Reishi

Abundantly present in the hot and humid regions of Asia, Reishi is a powerful natural ally in combating anxiety and depression. It is widely recognized for its immunity-boosting powers and possesses immunomodulatory properties that aid in balancing inflammatory responses.

Moreover, Reishi contains several compounds that offer antioxidant action, and neuroprotection, and influence neurotransmitters associated with mood and emotions.

The mushroom also supports neuroplasticity by stimulating the release of a crucial brain protein – Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Additionally, it regulates the stress hormone cortisol through the HPA Axis.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps has shown promise in alleviating anxiety in various studies. The mushroom employs multiple mechanisms to achieve its goal of enhancing mood and overall mental well-being.

Its role in increasing ATP production to elevate energy levels is well-known and extensively studied. Additionally, the adenosine and cordycepin produced by the mushroom interact with the brain’s adenosine receptors to regulate serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters, effectively combating anxiety.

Like other anxiety-alleviating mushrooms, Cordyceps also possesses immunomodulatory properties that regulate the immune stress response.

Furthermore, the mushroom mitigates the impact of anxiety by acting on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis. Finally, it enhances mental resilience by managing the body’s response to stress-inducing situations.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s Mane is one of the most beneficial mushrooms for neurogenesis and neuroprotection. The two special compounds—Erinacines and Hericenones—in this mushroom prevent the formation of amyloid-beta plaques in neurons. Additionally, these compounds deter neural atrophy.

Lion’s Mane promotes brain health and reduces the risk of anxiety and other mental disorders by releasing NGF, which supports the creation and repair of neurons.

Chronic inflammation is a significant contributor to anxiety and depression. The anti-inflammatory properties and the action against oxidative stress further enhance the mushroom’s anxiolytic effect.

Lion’s Mane is among the most effective cognition-enhancing substances. The mushroom modulates several neurotransmitters, including mood-improving ones such as serotonin and dopamine.

Shiitake

Shiitake possesses several compounds with anxiety-reducing properties. The mushroom is a rich source of compounds, such as polysaccharides and ergothioneine, known for their potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. As discussed in the preceding section, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress significantly contributes to alleviating anxiety.

Furthermore, a report published in the Journal of Medicinal Food mentions that Shiitake has a positive influence on neurotransmitters associated with mood. Experts believe that tryptophan—an amino acid in Shiitake—acts as the precursor to serotonin. Therefore, consuming Shiitake helps increase the mood-boosting chemical serotonin in the brain.

Shiitake also supports the second brain (gut) through its probiotic action. The high fiber content in Shiitake promotes a healthy gut microbiome, which, in turn, influences gut-brain communication for better mental health.

Chaga

Chaga is an antioxidant-loaded mushroom with an incredible ability to boost the immune system. It helps combat anxiety through its adaptogenic activities.

The compounds in the mushroom reduce anxiety-inducing signals and enhance the body’s stress response.

Experts believe the mushroom prevents the release of harmful cytokines associated with chronic inflammation. By controlling inflammatory activities, the mushroom boosts mental health and overall well-being.

Additionally, the high triterpene content in Chaga promotes overall health by regulating blood sugar, and cholesterol, and inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells. All these actions lead to better physical and mental health.

Are There Other Mushrooms That Can Fight Anxiety?

In the previous section, we mentioned the five best mushrooms for alleviating anxiety. The list is by no means exhaustive; other mushrooms have shown the potential to counter anxiety through various mechanisms.

Maitake and Black Fungus Mushrooms contain polysaccharides, such as beta-glucans, providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support necessary to combat oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. These actions counter anxiety and stress-related responses.

Turkey Tail contains compounds that serve as powerful probiotics, influencing the gut-brain axis to enhance mood.

Royal Sun Agaricus is well-known for its immunomodulatory properties. These mushrooms curb excessive inflammatory responses, indirectly leading to reduced anxiety and improved mood.

White Button Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and selenium, supporting mental health and contributing to overall well-being.

When taken alone or in combination, these mushrooms target factors linked to anxiety. Better results can be expected if one or more of these are combined with the mushrooms listed in the previous section.

Why Supplements like Mushroom Calm Is the Need of the Hour?

There is a general realization that mushrooms are a superfood, and regular consumption can contribute to overall good health. However, the only way to achieve specific health goals, such as alleviating anxiety, enhancing memory, and boosting immunity, is through supplementation.

Supplements like Mushroom Calm are specifically designed to regulate mood, reduce stress, alleviate anxiety, and treat depression. The Mushroom Calm formula contains an optimal blend of anxiety-reducing mushroom extracts that deliver immediate results and provide long-term benefits with regular use.

Taking supplements such as Mushroom Calm has a clear advantage over adding mushrooms to the regular diet. Although many anxiety-alleviating mushrooms are edible, they are not palatable. For example, Cordyceps, Chaga, and Turkey’s Tail are not eaten as food. Reishi is woody and tough with a bitter taste and can cause stomach issues.

Mushrooms need to be consumed in large quantities and regularly to tap into their active compounds for accessing anxiety-reducing benefits.

Most of these medicinal mushrooms are not easily available locally. In contrast, Mushroom Calm or similar supplements are available online or at local stores.

The source and extraction process of mushrooms sold in local traditional medicine stores is a mystery. In contrast, supplements like Mushroom Calm use ingredients harvested and extracted in the United States.

Mushrooms such as Reishi, when consumed raw or cooked, can cause stomach issues. Similarly, consuming too much of these medicinal mushrooms can trigger adverse reactions.

Each serving of Mushroom Calm contains the optimal amount of each ingredient to deliver the desired result yet remains safe for long-term usage.

No caterpillars were hurt while growing Cordyceps for making Mushroom Calm. Yes, Mushroom Calm is vegan. This is one of the best plant-based mushroom supplements on the market.

Final Thoughts

Anxiety and depression transcend mere mental health concerns, impacting physical well-being, work performance, and personal and social lives.

Fortunately, mushrooms encompass compounds fortifying both mind and body against the adverse effects of anxiety.

The combined effects of medicinal mushrooms—reducing stress, boosting cognitive function, enhancing sleep, and mitigating oxidative stress and inflammation—all contribute to a more serene mind, a healthier body, and a richer life.

Supplements like Mushroom Calm have emerged as a contemporary elixir, capable of alleviating anxiety and mitigating the symptoms of depression and other mental health challenges. This plant-based supplement offers the safest path to enhanced health and overall well-being.

References:

  1. Mar 20, and 2023. “Latest Federal Data Show That Young People Are More Likely than Older Adults to Be Experiencing Symptoms of Anxiety or Depression.” KFF, www.kff.org/mental-health/press-release/latest-federal-data-show-that-young-people-are-more-likely-than-older-adults-to-be-experiencing-symptoms-of-anxiety-or-depression/.
  2. Bethune, Sophie. “Stress in America 2022.” Apa.org, American Psychological Association, Oct. 2022, www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2022/concerned-future-inflation.
  3. Ba, Djibril M., et al. “Mushroom Intake and Depression: A Population-Based Study Using Data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005–2016.” Journal of Affective Disorders, vol. 294, Nov. 2021, pp. 686–692, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2021.07.080.
  4. Moreno-Jiménez, Elena P., et al. “Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis Is Abundant in Neurologically Healthy Subjects and Drops Sharply in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.” Nature Medicine, vol. 25, no. 4, 25 Mar. 2019, pp. 554–560, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-019-0375-9.
  5. Poulose, Shibu M, et al. “Nutritional Factors Affecting Adult Neurogenesis and Cognitive Function.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, vol. 8, no. 6, Nov. 2017, pp. 804–811, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.117.016261.
  6. Ratto, Daniela, et al. “Hericium Erinaceus Improves Recognition Memory and Induces Hippocampal and Cerebellar Neurogenesis in Frail Mice during Aging.” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 4, 27 Mar. 2019, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11040715.
  7. “Polysaccharides from Ganoderma Lucidum Promote Cognitive Function and Neural Progenitor Proliferation in Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Stem Cell Reports, vol. 8, no. 1, 10 Jan. 2017, pp. 84–94, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stemcr.2016.12.007.
  8. Chen, Yao, et al. “[Effects of Total Triterpenes of Centella Asiatica on the Corticosterone Levels in Serum and Contents of Monoamine in Depression Rat Brain].” Zhong Yao Cai = Zhongyaocai = Journal of Chinese Medicinal Materials, vol. 28, no. 6, 1 June 2005, pp. 492–496, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16209267/.
  9. Chen, Zhuoyi, et al. “Effects of Bread Yeast Cell Wall Beta-Glucans on Mice with Loperamide-Induced Constipation.” Journal of Medicinal Food, vol. 22, no. 10, 1 Oct. 2019, pp. 1009–1021, https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2019.4407.
  10. Panossian, Alexander. “Understanding Adaptogenic Activity: Specificity of the Pharmacological Action of Adaptogens and Other Phytochemicals.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1401, no. 1, 2017, pp. 49–64, https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13399.
  11. Muszyńska, Bożena, et al. “Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Edible Mushrooms: A Review.” Food Chemistry, vol. 243, Mar. 2018, pp. 373–381, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.09.149.

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