We all struggle with anxiety from time to time. Whether it's a frequent or occasional occurrence, it’s an undeniably unpleasant feeling.
Do you find yourself struggling with anxiety? Maybe you’re looking for something to help you manage it?
Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here we will explain how functional mushrooms may help you if you struggle with anxiety.
What is Anxiety?
Before we introduce the best mushrooms for anxiety, we need to start with the basics.
First, what is anxiety?
Anxiety on its own is a normal occurrence in life. Maybe you have a presentation coming up, or you might be preparing to ask the person you like out on a date.
These situations may cause common anxiety symptoms such as:
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
Small amounts of anxiety in such situations are common. However, the problem arises when the anxious response gets blown out of proportion. This could mean you have an anxiety disorder.
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
As defined by MayoClinic, anxiety disorders are when people “frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.”
Everyday situations could include anything from being in public, talking to other people, or driving a car. Most people do these tasks daily with ease. Those with anxiety disorders may struggle greatly with the same activities.
Although feeling anxious is normal, there is a big difference between a healthy amount of anxiety and an anxiety disorder. The three key characteristics that define anxiety disorders include:
- The anxiety is uncontrollable – When the trigger is present, you can’t stop the anxious response from happening
- Your level of anxiety isn’t rational – Your anxiety is disproportionate to the actual danger of the trigger
- Anxiety interferes with your daily life – Your ability to function in life is hindered by anxiety
Anxiety disorders can start anywhere from childhood to adulthood. There are a variety of anxiety types under the anxiety disorder umbrella, including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder
- Separation Anxiety
What Causes Anxiety?
So you may be wondering what causes anxiety disorders.
Women appear to be more susceptible to them, but the reason is currently unknown. Theories include hormone instability and the unlikeliness to seek treatment.
Regardless of gender, different genetic and environmental factors seem to increase the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder.
Example factors that increase your risk:
- Certain personality traits, like shyness or strong reactions to the unfamiliar
- Stressful or traumatic experiences in childhood or adulthood
- Family history of either anxiety or other mental health problems
- Specific physical conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias
How do Mushrooms Help with Anxiety
What do mushrooms have to do with anxiety?
Functional mushrooms may affect how your brain operates. When you experience anxiety, your brain’s functions are impacted. Mushrooms can help normalize the functions of your brain.
There are two different brain activities that functional mushrooms may affect.
Neurogenesis is what happens when your brain forms new neurons. Neurons, also known as nerve cells, are the cells in your brain that allow it to function properly. There are three broad types of neurons:
- Sensory – These neurons are responsible for your ability to taste, smell, hear, see, and feel things around you. They take the chemical and physical inputs in your environment and notify your brain of these changes.
- Motor – Any voluntary or involuntary movement is caused by these neurons. They allow your brain and spinal cord to communicate with the various muscles, organs, and glands in your body.
- Interneuron – These ones are the most common type of neuron. They pass along messages between sensory and motor neurons when needed.
Previously, people believed that neurogenesis only occurred in the womb. It was thought that, after you were born, you were stuck with the embryonic-stage cells.
In the 1960s, adult neurogenesis was discovered for the first time and disproved the previous theory.
In a 2009 study, researchers found that neurogenesis plays a vital role in how we regulate our emotions. Specifically, impairment of adult hippocampal neurogenesis can increase anxiety-related behaviours.
What this means is that anxiety is related to how our brains generate neurons.
How do Mushrooms Affect Neurogenesis?
Regular consumption of certain functional mushrooms has been found to potentially promote nerve and brain health.
This beneficial effect can be useful for treating brain injuries or the general decline in brain health associated with aging.
A 2013 review rounded up prior studies related to four different mushrooms and how they affect the brain. The results of the review support the previously mentioned benefits.
Neurotransmitters are molecules that act as messengers in your nervous system. They transport messages between neurons, or from neurons to muscles.
According to a 2015 review of neuroscience research, there is a certain type of neurotransmitter that may play an important role in anxiety disorders.
This specific neurotransmitter is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It works in your amygdala to decrease neuronal activity related to storing and processing emotional information.
However, GABA is not the only neurotransmitter that may contribute to anxiety. Other neurotransmitters are:
- Opioid peptides
- Corticotropin-releasing hormone
- Neuropeptide Y
Treating anxiety related to neurotransmitters involves rebalancing the concentration of certain neurochemicals in your brain
How do Mushrooms Affect Neurotransmitters?
Functional mushrooms don’t have a direct effect on neurotransmitters, but their effect on your body can help neurotransmitters function at their best.
For example, some fungi affect the nervous system itself. By supporting this part of your body, the mushrooms help your neurotransmitters do their job more efficiently.
Top 3 Mushrooms for Anxiety
Functional mushrooms are great for anxiety. You know that now. But with so many to choose from, which one should you choose?
Here is a list of the top three best functional mushrooms for anxiety.
Lion’s Mane (aka Hericium Erinaceus) is known for its white, mane-like appearance. These fungi are known for both having health benefits and being a delicious culinary ingredient.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Lion’s Mane is believed to have the following benefits:
- Strengthening the spleen
- Nourishing the gut
- Help fight cancer
- Promoting good digestion
- Improving general vigour and strength
Lion’s Mane & Your Brain
Did you know that Lion’s Mane is a nootropic? That means that these fungi can enhance your brain function. Think of them as a mental support buddy.
There have been several studies over the past two decades that studied Lion’s Mane’s effect on the brain:
- 2006 study – Results showed that Lion’s Mane may protect against stress-caused cell death that leads to neurodegenerative diseases.
- 2008 study – Researchers found that the mushroom extract may promote nerve growth factor at high concentrations. Nerve growth factor is one group of molecules that is responsible for neurogenesis.
- 2008 study – The study looked at how the mushroom could improve mild cognitive impairment in 50–80-year old men and women. They achieved this improvement by orally administering Lion’s Mane three times a day for 16 weeks.
A 2019 study shows the specific effect Lion’s Mane has on anxiety. This study recruited obese patients with mood disorders and demonstrated how taking the mushroom as a supplement affected them. The results showed that depressive and anxious symptoms improved during the trial as well as 8 weeks after the trial was completed.
Reishi (aka Ganoderma Lingzhi) has the appearance of a shiny kidney growing out of trees. The species that have potential medicinal properties can be broken down into six colours:
These fungi are well known in East Asian countries for promoting health and longevity. This reputation is why it’s nicknamed the ‘Mushroom of Immortality.’
Reishi & Your Brain
Reishi is mainly known for its stress-relieving and sleep-improving qualities. However, it also affects general cognitive function.
Two studies, in particular, demonstrate Reishi’s promise in this area:
- 2017 study – Results showed Reishi polysaccharides enhanced neurogenesis while reducing cognitive deficits
- 2019 study – Researchers found that Reishi extract may improve learning memory and enhance cognition patterns
Although there are no specific studies on anxiety, Reishi’s effect on the brain is clear and will continue to be explored.
Cordyceps (aka Cordyceps Sinensis) is found in the Tibetan Plateau where it infects a caterpillar species. They are highly valued in China as both a herbal medicine as well as a status symbol.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Cordyceps is known to treat illnesses, such as:
- Weakness after a severe illness
Cordyceps & Your Brain
Unlike the other fungi on this list, Cordyceps doesn’t have much influence on neurogenesis. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t help your brain in its own way.
These mushrooms possess antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells, including the ones in your brain, from free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that your body produces in response to environmental and other stressors. If left unchecked, the build-up of free radicals can result in oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress in the brain may be a contributing factor to anxiety disorders.
Here are some studies that have researched Cordyceps antioxidative effect:
- 2006 study – Researchers found that Cordyceps extract contains a polysaccharide with antioxidative activity
- 2008 study – Results showed that both natural and cultured Cordyceps water extract has direct and potent antioxidant activities
How to Use Them
When it comes to taking functional mushrooms for anxiety, you have plenty of options.
These fungi usually come in supplements that contain the mushroom extract. We recommend this form over raw mushrooms because of how the extraction works. This process accesses beneficial compounds that you can’t get otherwise.
Mushroom supplements come in many forms, but the most common are:
Once you’ve chosen your supplement form, what is the best way to use it?
For certain supplements like tinctures and powders, you can add your recommended dosage to food or drinks.
To get the most out of these fungi, you should incorporate them into your daily routine. For the best results, you will need to keep up this regimen for at least two weeks. Doing so will allow you to get the full range of adaptogenic and medicinal benefits.
Before taking any functional mushrooms for your anxiety, consult your doctor. They can tell you about any potential medication interactions or side effects that may affect you.
For example, individuals with certain situations should not consume them. These conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Certain medical conditions
Anxiety affects all of us on different levels and is never fun to deal with. But thankfully, functional mushrooms can give you the support you need. If you’re interested in getting your hands on some fungi products, check out our store today.