Dr. Dwayne Jackson

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Strains for your brains – 3 Medicinal mushrooms that improve brain health and promote cognition

vital science - reishi mushrooms

Strains for your Brains

3 Medicinal mushrooms that improve brain health and promote cognition

Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD


Mushrooms have been ingested by humans for thousands of years as food and as medicine. A recent report estimated that there are about 27,000 species of mushrooms, and among them, approximately 10% are identified as edible.

Of the edible mushrooms, there about 270 species that are currently considered to have medicinal potential and are hypothesized to play a significant role in human wellness.

Over the past decade, research investigating medicinal mushrooms as treatments to improve brain function has been exploding. Although such research is currently in its infancy, science is unraveling the nootropic (“brain-boosting”) potential of several species of medicinal mushrooms.



It’s never too early to protect brain function: Cognitive skills begin to decline at younger ages than expected.


The latest research tells us that we shouldn’t wait for signs of cognitive issues to occur before we start to focus on brain-healthy behaviours. In fact, although most research on brain health has been carried out on middle-aged and older adults, the latest research shows that even mid-life brain function can be boosted by engaging in brain-healthy practices in your 20s and 30s.


Have no fear, fungi are here!


Eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising daily, maintaining a healthy level of body fat, and minimizing “bad stress” are 3 fundamental ways to protect our brain and body from oxidative and inflammatory insults that diminish our cognitive skills.

If you want to ‘level-up’ your brain health, I suggest adding research backed medicinal mushrooms to your cognitive health strategy!


Based on research, here are 3 functional edible mushrooms that support cognitive health:


vital science - mushroom blogs - chaga mushrooms

vital science - mushroom blogs - lions mane mushroomsvital science - mushroom blogs - reishi mushrooms


1) Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)


Main bioactive compounds:  Hericenones and erinacines. Erinacine A, is a powerful antioxidant that targets brain neurons.

Main effects in the brain:

  • Decreases neuroinflammation & brain cell death
  • Enhances the effects of nerve growth factor (NGF), which promotes regrowth of brain cells
  • Increases brain catecholamine levels, which improves neurotransmitter balance and brain function

Reported to improve:

  • Aging related cognitive decline
  • Disease related cognitive decline
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Disease related motor (movement) deficits (e.g., Parkinson’s disease)

How to use:  

Whole mushroom (1:1 extract): 1 g, 3x per day with meals or 3 g in single dose with breakfast. If using a concentrate, adjust dose according to concentration.


2) Reishi


Bioactive compounds: alkaloids, polysaccharides (α/β-D-glu- cans), polypeptides, triterpenoids, fatty acids, ergosterols and cholesterols, neucleosides (adenosine, inosine, uridine),  nucleotides (guanine, adenine), various ganoderic acids (A, B, C)

Main effects in the brain:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Neuroprotective
  • Proliferation of neural progenitor cells
  • Improves synapses (neural communication)
  • Increased acetylcholine levels

Reported to:

  • Promote relaxation
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Decrease depressive symptoms
  • Improve cognition and brain function

How to use: 

Whole mushroom (1:1 extract): 3-6 g/day, taken 1x (morning with breakfast) or split into 3 doses to be taken throughout the day with meals. If using a concentrate, adjust dose according to concentration.


3) Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)


Bioactive compounds: Polysaccharides, polyphenols, triterpenoids, melanin, oxalic, gallic, protocatechuic and p-hydroxybenzoic acids

Main effects in the brain:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Immunomodulatory
  • Immunoprotective
  • Decreased acetylcholinesterase activity
  • Improved acetylcholine levels
  • Decreased malondialdehyde and nitrite levels

Reported to:

  • Reduce fatigue
  • Improve gut microbiome
  • Improve learning and memory
  • Improve cognitive dysfunction

How to use: 

Whole mushroom (1:1 extract): Use 0.5 to 1.5 g daily, taken 1x (morning with breakfast) or split into 3 doses to be taken throughout the day with meals. If using a concentrate, adjust dose according to concentration.




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