Alzheimer's Awareness Month: Mushrooms for Brain Health

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan appointed November as national Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Today, we are still seeking ways to improve how to treat and prevent the disease from developing. Recent studies suggest mushrooms like Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Cordyceps, and other medicinal fungi may be the powerful superfoods behind restoring and maintaining brain health. 

Understanding Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is an accelerating brain condition that impacts memory, thinking, language skills, and the ability to carry out simple tasks. In the Alzheimer's brain, abnormal levels of a naturally occurring protein bind together to create plaques that clumps between neurons and disrupt cell function. Although commonly mistaken for a disease in itself, Dementia is a general term used to describe the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases–  like memory loss, impaired judgment and other neurological functions. It’s important to note that Alzheimer’s disease, although prevalent, is not a normal aspect of aging. Symptoms gradually increase and become more persistent over time. In a process called Atrophy, connections between networks of neurons may decrease, and many areas in the brain start to shrink. By the late stages of Alzheimer's, it becomes extensive causing a significant loss of brain volume.

When understanding Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, it's important to look at the grand diagnosis. As the leading cause of death in seniors, every 65 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s in the United States. By 2050, around 14 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease, and we know that many more go undiagnosed. Not to mention, those with Alzheimer’s aren’t just paying the physical cost. In 2020, American’s totaled more than $277 billion in costs for treatment, not including the millions of hours invested by unpaid caregivers. With current treatment not being able to prevent the disease, millions more could find themselves battling this debilitating disease.

The Brain-Shroom Connection

With that, mushrooms offer a new hope. By maximizing nerve growth factor (NGF), lowering neuroinflammation, and improving neuron repair, functional mushrooms may offer a possible additional and preventative treatment for Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Some mushrooms have even been shown to reduce oxidative stress, enhance cognitive function and improve memory. This type of mycological support could help many who are seeking to improve their overall brain health. Additionally, they may help reduce the risk for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a memory impairment that is often a forerunner of Alzheimer’s while still producing some symptoms of the disease such as poor memory, issues with communication and physical orientation. In a study published in 2019, Singapore researchers called for 663 participants over 60 to research the brain-shroom connection in regards to MCI. They found that compared with those who ate less than one portion of mushrooms a week to those who consumed one to two portions had a 43 percent less risk for MCI. Those who ate more than two portions of mushrooms had a 52 percent reduced risk. Clearly, mushrooms have the potential to dramatically improve how we treat cognitive-degenerative diseases. 

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

When it comes to mushrooms for brain health, Lion’s Mane is likely the fungi that comes to mind. Intensive research on Lion’s Mane has shown neuroprotective effects– lowering cellular stress in the brain, enhancing cognitive function, and decreasing plaque formation associated with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. It’s actually two diterpenoid compounds, erinacines and hericenones that are behind the neuroprotective benefits of Lion’s Mane. To dig into it a bit deeper, Lion’s Mane has been shown to stimulate the release of nerve growth factor (NGF). Decreased levels of NGF create synaptic degeneration, plaque formation, and eventually contribute to neural diseases (ND) like Alzheimer’s. NGF also promotes the repair and regeneration of damaged neurons and can reduce the risk for the loss of brain function. Lion's Mane may also encourage neurite outgrowth, a process where developing neurons create new projections as they grow in response to guidance cues.

Moreover, Lion’s Mane is a potent anti-inflammatory. Its properties balance the immune system and reduce the release and activation of pro-inflammatory pathways. These pro-inflammatory pathways are all elevated in disease states showing the important role inflammation plays in disease. Lion’s Mane may reduce the activation of these pathways by decreasing neuroinflammation and improving overall brain health. As if that wasn’t enough to have us all on the Lion’s Mane train, it can also improve concentration and memory. The Hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for housing and creating memories. Lion's Mane has shown to increase levels of NGF in the Hippocampus improving memory. This brain boosting mushroom also aids in increased levels of concentration by supporting neuronal health and protects our myelin sheaths, the fatty substance that surrounds each neuron and manages the speed of nerve impulses improving learning retention and memory. 
Our Clarity Spagyric Mushroom Tincture with Lion's Mane, Cordyceps, Cat’s Claw and Bacopa boosts mental performance and rediscover focus.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom is more commonly known for its anti-stress benefits, though it has shown to be neuroprotective as well– balancing an overactive nervous system, supporting the adrenals, reducing stress and anxiety. Abundant in antioxidants, this balancing mushroom lowers inflammation and may also carry antidepressant effects. Although this may not initially seem brain related, stress is a key factor for driving free radical production, which causes disruption in neurotransmitters further increasing inflammation in the brain. 

Similarly to Lion’s Mane mushroom, Reishi helps boost brain health by decreasing the activation of proinflammatory pathways. It’s also been shown to inhibit the creation of plaque that causes ND. This makes Reishi mushroom both a protective, and an active addition to treatment approaches. As a powerful adaptogenic, it modulates the stress response by interacting with the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis or HPA axis, through its potent polysaccharides compounds. Adaptogens help bring our body back into homeostasis during imbalance. Reishi increases the effectiveness of the adrenal glands and supports a balanced flow of stress hormones. 

Cortisol, a natural anti-inflammatory, is continuously released by the adrenals when the body is exposed to stress. In chronic stress, this response can make it difficult for the body to restore homeostasis until we leave our  “flight or fight” response. In this unbalanced state, symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and chronic fatigue begin to rise and can result in further breakdown and dysregulation of other systems in the body.

The ability for Reishi mushroom to support the adrenals and manage the circulation of cortisol, helps decrease “cortisol resistance” and reduce a chronically overworked nervous system. In respect to brain health, as mentioned, stress is a key force behind oxidative stress, free radicals and neuroinflammation and more. By regulating our stress response, Reishi is able to support healthy brain function and increase resistance to perceived stressors.

Our Reishi Spagyric mushroom tincture contains this adaptogenic mushroom along with other soothing medicinal herbs like Holy Basil and Ashwagandha. 


Cordyceps Mushroom

When it comes to enhancing athletic performance and improving lung capacity, Cordyceps is the go-to shroom. It’s widely used to combat fatigue, muscle weakness, increase energy and libido, and promote healthy aging. However, the latest research suggests this multifaceted mushroom may also have a positive impact on brain health. A study published in 2017 found numerous medicinal mushrooms containing compounds that have beneficial effects on brain cells. These mushrooms were shown to enhance nerve growth in the brain and protect against neuroinflammation and toxic damage that contribute to Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The researchers studied 11 different mushrooms including Cordyceps, investigating their effects on the brains of rodents. The study found that each mushroom increased production of NGF, which regulates the growth, maintenance, and survival of various nerve cells in the brain.

They also reported that Cordyceps had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that prevented brain cell death and memory loss. Moreover, in another study published in 2018, researchers found that doses of Cordyceps around 100 and 200 mg prevented oxidative damage in mice. Consequently, this fungi could play a role in the prevention and treatment for the progression of memory loss and improved cognition.

With this in mind, we created our Cordyceps Spagyric tincture for those looking to boost their brain health and support neuroprotection. 


A Promising Future 

Alzheimer’s and Dementia affects millions of Americans each year and with current treatments not aiding in the prevention of this disease, medicinal mushrooms may be the support we need. Mushrooms have not only been shown to restore brain health but to also have preventative capabilities possibly being the next breakthrough treatment for neurodegenerative diseases.

Our Defend 14 mushroom blend taps into the abilities of these medicinal fungi, covering all the bases. Our mushroom capsules house 14 different healing mushrooms including brain-boosting fungi like Lions Mane, Reishi, and Cordyceps. Alzheimer’s awareness goes so much deeper than learning about the disease and its effects– it's about discovering solutions, uncovering how Earth can provide us with healing for our ailments, and sharing promise and hope for the future in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 

Article written by: Bre Jenkins of INWRD


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