Mushrooms for Mental Health

by | | Gut Brain Axis

Mushrooms are unique nutraceuticals with endless benefits.  They help with stress, cognitive function and overall health.  From stabilizing blood sugar and pressure to supporting sleep they are my go-to.  Functional mushrooms are immuno-modulating and anti-inflammatory.  Many are potent sources of beta glucans.  These prebiotic fibers feed a healthy microbiome.  The adaptogen properties make mushrooms for mental health excellent, especially for those dealing with trauma, anxiety, insomnia and addiction.

Psychedelic mushrooms for mental health is an emerging field with Canada on the leading edge.  Special access is available for chronic conditions as well as for end of life treatment.  It will take time for the infrastructure to be put in place however research is underway. For alcohol addiction, depression, disordered eating, PTSD and even Alzheimer’s, this field is providing new options.


Relax & Adapt

Reishi mushroom is known as the tonic of life providing vitality across all major organ systems.  It helps you remain calm and focused in stressful situations.  It is the mushroom of longevity providing cardiovascular and liver support while also stabilizing blood sugar.  Reishi is nerve tonic helping with memory and cognitive health.  If you want to sleep better at night and enjoy a long life of ease this is the functional mushroom for you.  The long list of benefits make them an excellent support during times like these.


Cognitive Health

Lion’s Mane is the most popular mushroom right now.  It stimulates the synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF).  This protein promotes nerve cell function and is important for brain health.  Lion’s Mane supports focus, memory and mental clarity.  It can help with creativity, immunity and general neurological health.  Thinking and acting creatively is certainly what the world needs now more than ever.  Oftentimes Alzheimer’s is paired with depression.  Sparking neural activity and regeneration through mushrooms means we can access more of our elders’ wisdom in meaningful ways.  Connection across generations is crucial to resilience.


Protect & Perform

Cordyceps reduce inflammation and help with endurance.  It is used in Traditional Chinese herb for the lungs and skin.  They increase our ability to uptake oxygen.  Cordyceps are particularly helpful during respiratory illness season.  As a boost to libido and athletic performance these mushrooms are the ticket.  Having fun and enjoying life are important aspects of mental health.  Chaga is another functional mushroom that enhances stamina and recovery.  I remember finding chaga in the interior rainforest of BC when I first started studying medicine twenty years ago.


Magic Mushrooms for Mental Health

In January 2022 Health Canada approved the use psilocybin beyond just end of life treatment.  Under the Special Access Program (SAP), physicians can apply on behalf of their patients and receive notice within 48 hours.  Canada is leading the way in terms of this phase of research and development of psychedelics for medical purposes.

The research on psilocybin for mental health and addiction is extensive.  For moderate to severe depression it outperformed Lexapro (SSRI) in terms of feelings of well-being, the ability to express emotion, and social functioning.  Psilocybin works much faster than SSRI’s in this research.  This is encouraging and calls for further investigation and longer studies.

How psilocybin works in the brain is very interesting.   The cerebral cortex of the brain has around 100 billion neurons.  Their function includes perception, thought, memory, and judgment.  As we mature into adulthood some pathways become used while others fall away.  Psilocybin reopens connections bringing about a child-like curiousity while relaxing the survival reflexes.

There is reason to be optimistic now more than ever.  For over 50 years the war on drugs has had a brutal impact especially on black and indigenous people of colour (BIPOC).  In 1970 all research in the area of psychedelics was halted.  The pandemic has pushed the mental health and addiction crisis to center stage.  What will follow is a new paradigm of treatment and care along with decriminalization.  Several nations worldwide see the benefit of decriminalization and are looking closely at what Canada is up to.

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