Two spoons containing cordycep mushroom, with a pile of cordycep mushrooms visible in the background

Best Mushrooms for Mental Health

Two spoons containing cordycep mushroom, with a pile of cordycep mushrooms visible in the background

Best mushrooms for mental health

They’re everywhere.  Medicinal mushrooms are popping up in everything from supplements to smoothies with rumours spreading about their impressive benefits.

And perhaps you’ve heard about the studies that support their ability to improve immunity, reduce inflammation, protect against cancer and oh so much more. But did you know medicinal mushrooms are now becoming an increasingly popular way to support mental health?

But with loads of mushies out there that support the brain, which ones are the best mushrooms for mental health?

For us, our three standouts are reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps. While each of these mushies has their own unique benefits and medicinal profile (more on that later), there’s one thing they have in common: they’re all adaptogens.

But wait, what are adaptogens?

Adaptogens refer to any plants or fungi that help the human body adapt to stress, whether it’s physical or psychological.

Basically, they “adapt” to the current needs of your body by producing a balancing effect on our hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis.  This system controls our reaction to stress and regulates processes like digestion, immunity and mood.

So as you can see, adaptogen is a super broad term and the effectiveness of adaptogens differs from herb to herb and ailment to ailment.

Now, to get a bit more specific. When you feel stressed your body goes through a three-stage response known as the General Adaption Syndrome (GAS). This includes alarm, resistance and exhaustion. Adaptogens work to help you to stay within the resistance phase for longer via a stimulating effect that holds off the exhaustion phase

So, instead of crashing during a time of stress, adaptogens help you find balance and move on. Adapting to stress helps you to regulate your emotions, clear your thinking and improve your overall health.

So all in all, pretty cool stuff.

Reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps are all linked by their apoptogenic properties, which is why we’ve listed them under the best mushrooms for mental health. However, they also each have their own unique benefits for brain health, too. Let’s jump in.

Best mushrooms for mental health: spotlight on reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps

A cluster of three reishi mushroom placed with a pile of capsules containing reishi mushroom powder


Reishi for mental health

Let’s start with the mushroom deemed the ultimate “anti-stress herb” within the medicinal mushroom kingdom.

And that’s not its only name. Reishi is also known as the “Mushroom of Immortality,” the “Supreme Protector,” and even the “King of the Mushrooms.”

Whatever the name, reishi must be rather powerful to warrant the fanfare.

Chock-full of antioxidants and compounds that render it a super-adaptogen, reishi is best known for its calming and stress reducing qualities.

See, when you’re feeling jittery and anxious in a moment of stress, it usually means that cortisol levels within your body are elevated. Reishi works to not only lower high cortisol levels, but it’s also thought to manage stress responses through things called polypeptides. These little warriors join forces with endorphins in the brain and release a relaxing effect on the nervous system. Cool, huh?

Finally, reishi’s calming effect on an overactive mind may even help to alleviate insomnia. Goodbye restless nights, hello sweet, sweet sleep!

Lion’s mane for mental health

You know the phrase, never judge a book by its cover? Well, you should also never judge a mushroom by its appearance. Lion’s mane may look like it just stepped out of a Dr Seuss book, but it means serious business.

Lion’s mane (heriicum erinaceus) contains a bunch of bioactive substances known to support cognitive function. These compounds stimulate happy brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which can help with feelings of anxiety and depression.

What’s more, lion’s mane is a powerful nootropic containing two unique compounds called hericenones and erinacines. As it turns out, these fancy-sounding-words do some pretty fancy-sounding-stuff. They’ve been found to stimulate Nerve Growth Factor (AKA the development, maintenance and survival of neurons). It’s thought that with these two compounds, lion’s mane may help protect the brain from natural cognitive decline and protect against Alzheimer’s disease. 

A hand holding out a lion's mane mushroom with a man's face out of focus in the background

Cordyceps for Mental Health

Don’t be fooled by the pop culture craze, cordyceps WON’T infiltrate your mind and turn you into a mushroom zombie (The Last Of Us, anyone?)

We digress. Cordyceps has a rather impressive effect on the brain (but not the zombifying kind).

See, cordyceps has been shown to accelerate the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) within the brain, which is the energy-carrying molecule of cells. This increases the energy and oxygen available to the body, including the brain.

Increased oxygen uptake in the brain has also been found to help increase blood flow to brain cells and combat mental fatigue, and as a result, improve many aspects of cognitive performance like learning capacity and memory.

Like lion’s mane, cordyceps is thought to help minimise the impact of ageing and cognitive decline and reduce the risk of conditions like Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Finally, we can’t forget that cordyceps is yet another powerful adaptogen that can help regulate hormones essential for stabilising mood and emotion. This can help to alleviate feelings of stress or anxiety — properties that don’t really fit in with the current “killer mushroom zombie” narrative, hey?

(sorry, we referenced pop culture again).

Want to try reishi, lion’s mane or cordyceps for yourself?

At Natura Mushrooms, we grow, harvest and source a range of medicinal mushrooms on our 100% off-grid farm in Gippsland, Victoria. Then, we delicately extract them using a combination of hot water extraction and dual extraction methods.

If you’re interested in trying medicinal mushrooms for mental health, we’ve got a range of reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps products. 

Not sure where to start? Check out our mushroom purchasing guide to find the shroom that’s right for you.