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Can Mushrooms Make You Smarter?

Bibi

Bibi

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Mushrooms growing on a log

We’re all familiar with those brief moments of brain fog. Walking into a room and forgetting why you’re there, wondering where your glasses are and realising they were on your head this whole time… It’s persistently frustrating and honestly, bizarre. But what if the answer to your brain fog was something slightly unconventional? What if it’s not actually a symptom of getting old and there’s one small, quick fix? What if that fix was a mushroom?  

Maybe you’ve heard of the mushroom phenomenon (the legal ones) and maybe you haven’t, but it’s worth doing the research to really clear the fog. Now, not all mushrooms are born equal. The fungi family is a large one, larger than the Kardashians and with all the drama too. There are four categories of mushroom, being saprotrophic, mycorrhizal, parasitic, and endophytic. A quick run down of each one are: 

  1. Parasitic:

    Parasitic mushrooms really do what they say on the tin. They’re parasites. They feed off plants, insects, and animals and don’t provide anything to their host. 

  2. Mycorrhizal:

    Opposite to their parasitic cousin, mycorrhizal mushrooms create a mutually beneficial relationship with their host.  In this symbiotic relationship, the mushroom receives sugar from the plant to grow.

  3. Saprotrophic:

    Saprotrophic mushrooms have a weird obsession with dead things, especially dead and decaying wood. But the creepiness pays off, as they can decompose wood and convert it into nutrients.

  4. Endophytic:

    Endophytic mushrooms are the hybrid child of parasitic and mycorrhizal, wherein they take over their host but in doing so, end up nutritionally benefitting them. Which could definitely be construed as a toxic relationship.

    Mushrooms growing on a log

But which one of these should be consumed? I hear you ask. There are a plethora of mushrooms with a whole world of benefits, however the one that has proven to promote cognitive brain function in particular has been the Lion’s Mane mushroom. Here are three ways Lion’s Mane can make you smarter. 

  1. It stimulates the growth of brain cells.

    Lion’s Mane is rich in β-glucan polysaccharides which are directly related to the mushroom’s ability to stimulate the growth of brain cells, otherwise known as ‘nerve growth factor’.

  2. Improves cognitive function.

    50+ Japanese men and women diagnosed with cognitive impairment, partook in a study wherein they were given extracts of Lion’s Mane for 16 weeks. Cognitive function drastically improved (with no adverse side effects), proving that Lion’s Mane could help those experiencing impaired focus, brain fog, or other mild cognitive impairment.

  3. It reduces memory loss.

    Several animal studies have shown that Lion’s Mane may help protect against memory loss. It does this by reducing plaque in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex.

Not only will these mushrooms make you the next Einstein, Lion’s Mane has been proven to be a mood booster and ease anxiety. So it’s a winner all around. A great way to consume these mushrooms can be in powder extracts. They can be added to coffee, smoothies or any drink of choice (a perfect addition to hot autumn drinks). They can even be thrown into whatever you’re cooking. 

(Lion’s Mane and various other mushrooms can usually be found in your local health store such as Holland and Barrett and Whole Foods). 

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