With a large proportion of our population living with daily symptoms of anxiety, research into alternative methods is continuously diving deeper. While occasional anxiety is healthy and it is completely normal to feel nervous for a job interview or final exam, the minute it begins to impair quality of life, it has developed into a debilitating disorder. Anxiety disorders are much more than just temporary worry, they have the ability to take over one’s life and interfere with performance, work, and personal or familial relationships.
Although everyone is susceptible to the development of an anxiety disorder, certain risk factors, such as experiencing stress and trauma at a young age, can make a far more negative impact on someone’s well-being. Not only can anxiety affect you mentally long term and cause symptoms of worried, racing, or intrusive thoughts, but it can also affect the physical body and result in muscle tension and increased blood pressure.
Medicinal mushrooms, such as Reishi, Lion’s Mane, and Cordyceps are the most commonly used fungi in the treatment or prevention of mood disorders, and symptoms of depression such as anxiety. Adding these mushrooms as an adjunct or using them as a solo treatment may potentially ease signs and symptoms of anxiety and improve overall quality of life and functioning.
There was a recent study completed recently that focused on assessing whether Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) could improve anxiety, sleep, and binge eating disorders in a group of overweight patients after 8 weeks of supplementation . They assessed the serum balances of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its precursor pro-BDNF before and after supplementation of Lion’s Mane and found that the patient’s presented with increased serum levels of pro-BDNF, and improvements in their anxiety and sleep quality . This is rather significant because it was found that decreased BDNF or a dysfunction in its processes can cause decreased excitatory neurons and glutamate, which may potentially lead to various types of mood disorders .
Once again, Lion’s Mane mushroom was found to be effective in reducing mild signs and symptoms of anxiety through its anti-inflammatory and neurotrophic actions in another study . It was able to promote the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus of the brain, which is the region responsible for emotion and memory .
Studies have found in the past that the hippocampal region of the brain may be less than average in size in those with mood disorders, so Lion’s Mane’s ability to promote hippocampal neurogenesis is an important factor to consider in regard to alternative therapeutic options for anxiety .
Another fascinating mushroom is Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) which has illustrated anxiolytic effects in research studies, especially due to its constituents of phenols and flavonoids . It is no wonder that Eversio Wellness created a mushroom supplement product to induce relaxation with extracts of the fruiting body of Reishi and named it “chill now.”
Anxiety is often linked to difficulties with sleep as excess worrying and racing thoughts make it difficult to fall and stay asleep throughout the night. Reishi’s ability to relax an individual was further studied by assessing its effect on sleep and its different phases . The study found that Reishi was able to increase total sleep time and the length of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM sleep), which would improve sleep and result in feeling well rested . The mechanism underlying these results is unknown, but the results were shown to be statistically significant.
Another mushroom that may play an important role in the treatment of anxiety disorders is Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris). Research shows that ATP (adenosine triphosphate) reduction and its relation to oxidative stress are linked to mood disorders, including anxiety . ATP is our body’s main energy supply source and depleted levels have been seen in mood disorders. This is where Cordyceps mushroom comes in as it has been found to exhibit enhancement of ATP generation capacity . It is suggested that this is because of its antioxidant capabilities which lead to improvement of cellular and mitochondrial antioxidant statuses, which would lead to improved ATP generation .
Anxiety can also leave us feeling very drained and tired. The feeling of exhaustion from constantly being in “fight or flight” mode can wreak havoc on our bodily systems. Anxiety results in a lot of ups and downs in our energy levels, which can leave us feeling very drained. Cordyceps supplements improves energy through the aforementioned mechanisms and can assist in maintaining and stabilizing energy levels throughout the day.
Anxiety and mental illness are tough topics to discuss and an even more difficult condition to live with. It seems that today’s society leaves most of us predisposed to developing more debilitating cases of anxiety and types of depression as we all strive to keep up with the status quo. Support for our mental health is so important as it allows us to better adapt to external situations we can’t control and allows us to be better versions of ourselves!
By Silvana Jakupovic — BSc and 4th Year Student of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM-Boucher)
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