Top Medicinal Mushrooms for Stress and Anxiety Part 2
Stress is a force that touches us all at some point, and is a state that is becoming increasingly prevalent for many of us. In the face of rising levels of anxiety, stress and depression we see the discussion of natural allies becoming more mainstream. We get asked a lot about the best mushrooms for stress in particular and since our last journal entry on the topic, there have been a couple of new studies and interesting conversations around mushies, stress and anxiety so we thought we’d dive back into the topic.
What is Stress?
Stress reveals itself in a myriad of ways. Its triggers can be different for everyone and so can the way it shows up in the body, mind and spirit.
Acute stress flicks the switch to survival mode channelling energy toward our sympathetic nervous system which is useful if we find ourselves in a dangerous situation but becomes damaging if we're responding to ongoing work, social or day-to-day life stressors, which is termed chronic stress.
In stressful situations, our body draws on a primitive response that has essentially supported our evolution as a species and kept us safe by allowing us to act without thinking, fight or flight. The body activates the emotional centre of the brain, the amygdala, which then pushes the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis into action. The HPA axis controls the messages that get sent from your brain to the adrenal glands prompting them to release stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine (adrenalin) which primes the body to react to the perceived threat, elevating heart rate, boosting blood flow, increasing energy and focusing the attention of the mind.
Once the threat is over the nervous system prompts us to return to a parasympathetic state or rest and digest mode. The tricky thing is our stress response isn't tempered to distinguish whether something is truly life-threatening or not, sometimes leading to day-to-day occurrences such as a disagreement with a loved one or a demanding email from your boss to elicit a full-blown stress response without you realising it.
When feelings of stress and anxiety linger and sometimes become chronic, it can feel like we’re stuck in a loop, just soldiering on, where stress breeds more stress, and it can be hard to pull away.
During states of stress, our body moves its resources away from functions like patrolling for viruses and pathogens, optimal digestion and producing the necessary hormones to prompt sleep and wake cycles to focus in on the perceived threat. In the long term, this impacts the regulation of our cells and can instigate a chain of events such as the acceleration of cellular ageing, the depression of our digestive system, poor learning, memory, low mood and the disruption of our sleep cycle to name a few.
Adaptogens and Stress
There are a variety of tools to help us out when it feels like stress and anxiety have plunged themselves deep within our bodies, but for us, adaptogens and more specifically medicinal mushrooms, have a big role to play.
Adaptogens can support the body and its general resistance to stress whether that be physical, emotional, environmental, or chemical by helping to balance the functions of vital systems such as the nervous and immune systems and support the HPA axis and the stress response. By bringing our body closer to a state of homeostasis we’re better able to move through stressful situations as they arise and before they accumulate.
As adaptogens, certain medicinal mushrooms have been used for centuries to promote energy reserves, enhance cognition and calm the nervous system and have been found to be useful tools in managing stress.
Beyond the role of medicinal mushrooms as adaptogens to generally help regulate our body’s response to stress, particular mushrooms such as Reishi, Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps have their own set of specific benefits to help promote states of calm, energy and optimised cognitive function.
Calms the Spirit
Reishi mushroom or lingzhi has been revered in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries as the 'divine mushroom' due to its strong ability to not only protect and balance the physical body but also the spirit. Known as a spirit elevating, Shen tonic, Reishi helps cultivate a state of physical and mental calm, balancing and regulating many of the vital systems within the body such as immune function, heart health, liver health, lung health and cognitive function. From a Taoist perspective, when we are in a state of balance and harmony, our Shen is amplified allowing us to achieve heightened states of awareness allowing life to flow and opportunity to manifest.
Low Mood and Anxiety
It's Reishi’s ability to guide the body to a peaceful state of balance, that gives us our great love for this shroom and why it’s commonly thought of as the ultimate anti-stress herb. A widely researched mushroom, science continues to validate the wisdom that tradition has laid forth. A study was conducted with 123 volunteers experiencing neurasthenia, which is a general term for a stressed out, weakened nervous system with symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, irritability, low mood and in some cases depression. Half the participants received a Reishi mushroom supplement 3 times daily while the other half were administered a placebo. After 8 weeks the test group reported significant improvements in fatigue and mood compared to the control group.
Often the same mental and emotional agitation that prompts feelings of anxiety during the day can result in sleep disturbances in the evening which in turn can perpetuate ongoing states of stress. Studies have demonstrated the triterpenes in Reishi have the potential to soothe the nerves, promoting a sedative quality that can help to ease insomnia. The accumulative effect of taking Reishi mushroom across a long-term basis was also shown to increase states of deep sleep.
Lion’s Mane mushroom is often referred to as nature’s nutrient for the neurons and is famed for its neuroprotective and cognitive benefit. Lion’s Mane mushroom has been studied to be able to support healthy brain states by stimulating nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF in particular helps increase brain plasticity, which supports your brain cells in staying resilient in the face of stress or ageing.
Lion’s Mane and its ability to support both neurological and mental health is continuing to garner rapid interest in the scientific community. There have been numerous studies in recent years looking at Lion’s Mane mushroom and its potential to help support states of depression and anxiety.
A 2010 study of Lion's Mane mushroom on a group of 30 women experiencing depression and anxiety was carried out over a 4-week period. At the end of the study, the participants in the test group reported an overall improvement in mood, depression and sleep quality, scoring lower on several measures including palpitations, frustration, irritability and anxiety.
A more recent 2019 study referred to alleviated symptoms of depression and anxiety in 77 patients given a 1,500 mg Lion’s Mane extract daily.
After periods of intense stress, we can often find ourselves with that almost debilitating sense of fatigue. Anxiety and stress drive our nervous system into overdrive. This not only raises our heart rate and blood pressure, but also increases muscle tension, and releases toxins into our system that can cause inflammation. This is where Cordyceps rises to the occasion.
Energy, Stress and Anxiety
Cordyceps is a deep energy awakener, coveted for its ability to restore foundational energy after times of exertion and fatigue and increase our resilience to stress. It does this by supporting the production of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is our body's main energy supply source and is required to fuel our muscles and keep us moving. But that’s not all, recent studies have linked healthy ATP levels and cellular energy as key to managing stress and anxiety and keeping these states at bay. 
Managing Stress and Anxiety
In addition to using medicinal mushrooms as tools to support stress and anxiety, it's always a good idea to take a holistic approach. Additional ways to support our stress levels include exercise, quality sleep, avoiding inflammatory foods and alcohol where possible, meditation, staying socially engaged and talking to a friend, family member or professional if you’re in need of support.
Our Inner Atlas Reishi, Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps are:
- Highly potent, containing greater than 30% beta-D-glucans.
- Certified USDA & EU Organic.
- Fruiting body only – 100% real mushrooms with no added fillers or mycelium.
- Semi-wild cultivated and wood-grown.
- Sourced from pristine di tao locations.
- Lab-tested for purity.
 Medicinal Mushrooms, Christopher Hobbs https://www.booktopia.com.au/medicinal-mushrooms-christopher-hobbs/book/9781570671432.html?source=pla&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyLW53Pyr-QIVGzErCh0RaQghEAQYAiABEgL8CPD_BwE
 Cordyceps enhances ATP https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1847515/
 ATP Anxiety and Depression https://lifeapps.io/research/do-you-have-anxiety-your-mitochondria-could-be-playing-a-part/