Top 3 Nootropic Mushrooms and Their Benefits

The landscape of the mind can seem as mysterious as any of our world’s farthest reaches, constantly presenting us with new discoveries and populated by an ecosystem of messengers, pathways, and organisms we strive to better understand, both at the molecular and practical levels. And while science has made astounding progress into decrypting the inner workings of the brain since the beginnings of neuroscience in ancient Egypt, certain natural medicines that enhance our cognitive abilities and brain health, such as nootropic mushrooms, have been in use for centuries. Modern research has begun to show precisely what was observed in practices of traditional medicine thousands of years ago: the potent, significant benefits of these functional fungi. 

Nootropics, sometimes called “smart drugs” or “brain supplements,” are cognitive enhancers that improve functions in the brain like focus, memory, mental energy, and clarity of thought, and in some cases can impact mood and how we manage stress. You’ve likely heard of prescription nootropics, popular on college campuses the world over for getting into the late-night paper writing zone. While these brain-boosters can be effective, they tend to be formulated with stimulant chemicals like amphetamines, can be habit forming, and often come with unpleasant side effects like insomnia, a racing heart, and troubled vision.

Enter: nootropic mushrooms, natural alternatives that support concentration, learning, memory and more, without the considerable side effects of their prescription counterparts. Read on to discover the leading mushie players in the cognitive enhancement scene, and get to know the top nootropic mushrooms and their benefits.       

 

Lion’s Mane 

(Hericium erinaceus)

Often called the “Smart Mushroom,” lion’s mane mushroom is well known for its ability to enhance mental clarity, promote cognitive performance, and support neurological health. Studies have shown that this fringed white fungus may even have the power to help improve mild cognitive impairment, going beyond the ability to simply enhance mental functions and proving its potential as a safe, natural supplement for those experiencing cognitive decline.

Lion’s mane promotes positive brain and nerve health, research says, by triggering the nerve growth factor (NGF, an essential protein crucial to the development, health, and repair of the nervous system) via the bioactive compound erinacene A. When our nervous system is healthy, the communication between our brains and our other bodily systems is strengthened, allowing us to perceive the world more clearly through sharper senses, respond more effectively to stressful situations, and experience improvements in the ways we think, learn, feel, and form and access memories. 

This brain-boosting mushroom has also shown its potential for helping to fortify connections in the brain’s neural pathways, which can assist us in thinking critically and making more logical, informed decisions. A 2023 placebo-controlled study demonstrated the impact of lion’s mane mushroom in young adults, finding positive benefits for cognitive function, mental performance, stress levels, and mood. This nootropic mushroom is also packed with antioxidants, helping to stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and improve clarity. 

To step up your concentration, mental clarity, memory, and mood, and even combat symptoms of anxiety and depression, get acquainted with the king of the  cognitive mushroom jungle. Check out our favorite way to get started.     

 

Reishi 

(Ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi: the fungus world’s answer to the “Elixir of Life.” Reddish, glossy, and rimmed with white, this nootropic mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than two thousand years, and with good reason. Unlike many other mushrooms, reishi is regarded for medicinal purposes more than nutritional benefits, with its effects even being documented in ancient texts and works of art. It is known as the “Herb of Spiritual Potency” and the “Mushroom of Immortality” for its abilities to support immunity, longevity, and vitality. 

Since as far back as the time of the Ming dynasty in China (AD 1590), the reishi mushroom has been regarded as a powerful natural medicine for memory. Traditional Chinese pharmacology also looked to the fungus to ease the mind, replenish energy, support respiratory health, and aid in dizziness. For its potency and wide ranging benefits, reishi continues to be recommended by naturalists today, with a variety of scientific research on deck to support its capabilities. 

In a 2021 study, researchers demonstrated an effect of the reishi mushroom long held as an anecdotal truth in Chinese medicine: its ability to promote a tranquil state, supporting more restful sleep and a healthier sleep cycle. An extract of the reishi mushroom, when administered to mice, was found to prolong sleep time, increase sleep-promoting neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine, and promote positive sleep behaviors through gut bacteria and serotonin pathways. 

This same neurotransmitter, as it happens, is also involved in supporting concentration. Quality sleep, according to Harvard Health, makes it possible for the brain to access greater focus, attention span, and optimal thought processes. Sleep also allows us to take in new information and store memories, playing a pivotal role in our learning and ability to remember.

Independent of its impact on sleep quality, reishi is a widely regarded adaptogen, has been observed in studies to support memory and learning, and may be effective in reducing depression and fatigue at both the physical and mental levels.

While a true elixir of life may remain a thing of myth, the reishi mushroom could be one of the natural world’s closest contributions to our ambitions of living forever, offering time-proven support for not only immunity and vitality, but for learning, focus, and a greater possibility that our experiences might in fact be immortalized in the eternity of our memories.   

      

Cordyceps 

(Cordyceps militaris)

In the wild most mushrooms, nootropic or otherwise, grow from trees, fallen logs, or other types of plant hosts. Cordyceps, which have been used in traditional medicine for more than 1,500 years, opts for an entirely different medium: caterpillars and other insects. (Don’t worry; the cordyceps cultivated for supplement purposes are usually farmed from harmless grains of brown rice.) These origins have earned the nootropic cordyceps mushroom a multitude of nicknames, but the one that speaks to its wellness benefits best is, “The Olympic Mushroom.” Used originally in Tibetan medicine as an important source of energystamina, and remedy for altitude sickness in the high Himalayas, cordyceps gained global attention as part of the regimen which fueled Chinese Olympic athletes to shatter performance records in 1993. Beyond athletic endurance and energy, the wellness capabilities of this nootropic are plentiful. 

Cordyceps may resemble your favorite cheesy vending machine snack, but this supercharged fungus is a seriously high performing medicinal mushroom. Cognitive benefits include the potential prevention of conditions of age-related decline, like dementia, likely due to its capacity for neuroprotection. Studies have shown the neuroprotective properties of this mushroom in animal research, stimulating increased cell density through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In a therapeutic sense, neuroprotective substances can prevent cell death, dysfunction, and degeneration in the brain. Research has also seen the facility in cordyceps to increase cerebral blood flow, which may help to improve memory and learning. 

The bioactive compounds in cordyceps, particularly cordycepin, have demonstrated abilities to support immunity and deliver potent anti-inflammatory activity. Cordycepin has also shown potential in alleviating some symptoms of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s. Additional bioactives in this mushroom make it a powerful adaptogen, helping to improve the flow of oxygen throughout the body, including the brain, and supporting regulated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

By promoting optimal physical and mental energy and performance and helping the mind and body to better respond to stress, cordyceps wins the gold in supportive and protective benefits for cognitive health.  

While we may continue learning more about the world of cognitive health and enhancement daily, the exceptional potential and benefits of nootropic mushrooms are clear. 


And if you find these fungi all too remarkable to choose a favorite, we’re on the same page, which is exactly why we created this delicious, high quality gummy blend of all three.  

Back to blog