Best Mushroom for Anxiety and Depression


It’s becoming more and more popular to use mushrooms for anxiety and depression—but we’re not talking about magic mushrooms here (although they can certainly be beneficial for mental health in some people). Rather, we’ll focus on functional mushrooms in this article—the kind that are legal everywhere.

While all functional or medicinal mushrooms are beneficial for health in some capacity, some are better suited for helping with mood or mental health, including reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps. Let’s take a closer look at what the research says about each of them.

Best Mushrooms for Anxiety and Depression- Reishi- Lion's Mane- Cordyceps

Reishi Mushroom and Mental Health

Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years. 

With nicknames like the “queen of mushrooms” and the “mushroom of immortality,” you can imagine that reishi has some pretty potent effects on health and well-being.

Reishi is best known for its calming properties, which are primarily due to its adaptogenic qualities and triterpene levels.

Adaptogens are plants, herbs, or fungi that help the body resist stressors and maintain overall homeostasis or balance. Whether you are under-stressed or overstressed, adaptogens like reishi can help your central nervous system adapt and come back into balance. 

Here are some other ways that reishi mushroom has been found to benefit aspects of mental health. 

Reishi Reduces Depressive Symptoms

​​A small study of 48 women with breast cancer found that those taking reishi spore powder (1,000mg three times a day for four weeks) had significantly improved physical well-being and quality of life with reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.1 

In a 2021 study with mice, researchers isolated a compound from reishi mushrooms and gave it to mice exposed to stressful situations. The reishi compound increased serotonin and norepinephrine levels—two neurotransmitters linked to mood—and reduced depression-associated behaviors.2

Reishi Boosts BDNF

In the same study with mice, they also saw increased activity of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)—a protein that supports the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons.2

Although most often associated with cognitive function, BDNF is also linked to mood. Research shows that people with depression are more likely to have low BDNF levels.3

Reishi Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Reishi has shown involvement with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a complex network that controls how our bodies react to stress.4 

When we encounter a stressful situation (whether it’s running from a predator, like our ancestors may have done, or making a big presentation at work in our modern times), the HPA axis triggers a series of actions that lead to increased cortisol levels—one of our main stress hormones.

While activation of the HPA axis is essential in some scenarios, reishi can moderate the network’s over-activation which can cause feelings of stress and anxiety.

In another study with mice, an extract of reishi provided anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) activity that was comparable to the anti-anxiety drug diazepam.5  Reishi also increases GABA, a calming neurotransmitter that reduces anxiety by blocking specific signals in your central nervous system and promoting restful sleep.6

Lion’s Mane and Mental Health Benefits

Of the medicinal mushroom family, lion’s mane is the one most associated with brain health and cognitive function. 

With its name originating from its likeness to the long hair of a lion, lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is thought to benefit the brain and central nervous system, which can then impact mood and possibly enhance mental clarity. 

Lion’s mane contains many bioactive compounds, including erinacines, hericerins, and terpenoids, that support nerve growth factors, cognition, and neurogenesis—the creation of new neurons.

This mushroom may also benefit mood and overall mental health by providing antioxidant activity, reducing oxidative stress, and lowering neuroinflammation. 

Lion’s Mane Reduces Depressive Symptoms

In a study of 77 people with sleep or mood disorders, taking lion’s mane supplements for 8 weeks led to significant reductions in depression and anxiety, as well as improved sleep.7

The beneficial effects lasted for 8 more weeks after stopping supplementation, suggesting that lion’s mane may benefit the brain in a long-lasting manner.

One mechanism behind this may be that lion’s mane increases serotonin and dopamine levels, two feel-good neurotransmitters related to happiness and pleasure.

In a study with stressed-out mice, those who did not receive lion’s mane had decreased serotonin and dopamine, while the lion’s mane-supplemented mice saw the reverse.8 

Lion’s Mane Increases Brain Growth Factors

Another link between lion’s mane and depression is that it increases the brain growth factors BDNF, which we already mentioned, and NGF—nerve growth factor.9

These two neurotrophins have been shown to be dysregulated in people with depressive disorders, so lion’s mane may be able to help.10

In the previously mentioned study of 77 people with mood or sleep disorders, lion’s mane supplementation significantly increased pro-BDNF levels, the precursor to BDNF.7 

Lion’s Mane Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation in the brain is thought to be a key contributor to depression and mood disorders.11 

Lion’s mane has been found to exhibit potent anti-inflammatory activity in other areas of the body, which could translate to reduced neuroinflammation, as well.12 

Plus, lion’s mane bioactive compounds called erinacines can pass through the blood-brain barrier, suggesting they can act on the brain.13 

Cordyceps and Mental Health

While cordyceps is better known for its role in boosting athletic performance and fighting fatigue, there is also some evidence that it can help with mood and depression. 

Cordyceps are a group of mushrooms with over 400 different species, but the two most common are Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. (Well, the most commonly known in health research, that is—if you’re a fan of The Last of Us, then you’re more familiar with Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, aka the zombie-ant fungus.)

When it comes to cordyceps and mental health conditions, Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris may help by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain and lowering depressive symptoms—let’s see what the research says.

Cordyceps Reduces Depressive Symptoms

In a 2014 study, researchers gave some mice cordycepin—a bioactive compound isolated from Cordyceps militaris—and subjected them to stressful situations.14

They found that the mice taking cordycepin had significant reductions in depression-like behavior and normalized inflammatory markers in the brain. The mice also saw increases in BDNF levels in the hippocampus.

Cordyceps Lowers Neuroinflammation

Another animal study looked at how cordyceps affected inflammation levels in the brains of mice with Alzheimer’s disease.15

They found that mice receiving cordyceps had significant reductions in inflammatory responses in the brain and elevated BDNF levels. 

However, we don’t have any studies showing the benefits of cordyceps in humans with mood or brain disorders—clinical trials are needed to better understand how cordyceps works in the brain. 

Mushroom FAQs

What Mushroom Has the Most Mental Health Benefits?

Several medicinal mushrooms may help with mental health, including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. We can’t say that mushrooms treat depression, but several of them are associated with reduced depressive symptoms. Reishi mushrooms are best known for their role in promoting calmness and reducing stress, while lion’s mane is linked to reduced depressive symptoms, cognitive function, and brain health. Cordyceps may help with depression and neuroinflammation, but more research is needed. 

Can You Take Reishi and Lion’s Mane Together?

Yes, it’s generally considered safe to take reishi and lion’s mane mushrooms together. Taking them together may even provide additional benefits to support brain health and mood, as they act on different areas of the central nervous system. Always ensure that your medicinal mushroom supplements are high-quality—meaning they are third-party tested for quality, purity, and potency.

How Long Does It Take For Lion’s Mane to Help With Anxiety?

Lion’s mane typically does not work immediately to reduce anxiety. However, some people start to see mental health-related benefits within days, while others may take weeks.

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  2. Zhao, S., Rong, C., Gao, Y., Wu, L., Luo, X., Song, S., Liu, Y., Wong, J. H., Wang, H., Yi, L., & Ng, T. (2021). Antidepressant-like effect of Ganoderma lucidum spore polysaccharide-peptide mediated by upregulation of prefrontal cortex brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 105(23), 8675–8688.
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He, M. T., Park, C. H., & Cho, E. J. (2021). Caterpillar Medicinal Mushroom, Cordyceps militaris (Ascomycota), Attenuates Aβ1-42-Induced Amyloidogenesis and Inflammatory Response by Suppressing Amyloid Precursor Protein Progression and p38 MAPK/JNK Activation. International journal of medicinal mushrooms, 23(11), 71–83.

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