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Can mushrooms help with depression? A scientific exploration

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns please talk to your healthcare provider. This article is underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Depression is a mental health disorder that can negatively affect how you feel, act, and think. It impacts about 5% of the adult population, 4.5% of which comprise the UK population. Depression treatment can range from lifestyle modifications and therapy to medication. 


Lately, scientists have been investigating the healing potential of mushrooms for mental health disorders, especially Lion’s Mane an

How Do You Know If You Have Depression?

Most people who have depression have a constant feeling of sadness and/or loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. If not treated, it can snowball into a variety of emotional and physical issues, which can be debilitating from a quality of life perspective.


Some of the more common symptoms of depression, from mild to severe, include:


-Mood swings

-Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

-Loss of energy

-Unintended weight loss or gain

-Inability to sit still, pacing, and other purposeless physical activity

-Slowed movements or speech

-Cognitive issues

-Inability to make decisions

-Sleep problems (too much sleep or too little)

-Thoughts of suicide

Different Types of Depression

Depression is an umbrella term to describe a variety of disorders related to constant feelings of sadness or guilt. Below are short descriptions of each:


-Major Depression: The most common form of depression, with symptoms of anxiety, melancholy, and agitation. 

-Persistent Depressive Disorder. This is depression that lasts longer than 2 years.

-Bipolar Disorder: Sometimes referred to as manic depression, bipolar disorder is described as having extreme mood episodes—from high energy to low depressive periods.

-Seasonal Affective Disorder: As the name implies, seasonal affective disorder (appropriately shortened to S.A.D.)  is a type of depressive disorder that happens mostly during the winter months. This can sometimes be associated with having minimal to no sunlight exposure, which explains why this goes way in the summer and spring.

-Psychotic Depression: On top of common depression symptoms, people with psychotic depression can also experience hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.

-Peripartum or Post-partum Depression: This disorder is particularly prevalent among new mothers.

-Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: This type of depression affects women, often at the start of their menstrual cycle. 

-Situational Depression: Although not a technical term, this type of depression is characterized as when you’re having trouble managing stressful moments, particularly deaths (especially in the family), a divorce, or getting laid off.

-Atypical Depression: Atypical depression is when a positive event tends to uplift your spirits temporarily.  

-Treatment-Resistant Depression: This type of depression is when conventional treatments don’t work, in which case your doctor would prescribe alternative approaches.


Other depressive symptoms can also appear in the form of excessive happiness, which has been aptly termed “smiling depression.” Smiling depression is when the depressed individual lives with their depression on the inside while appearing fine or happy on the outside.

The Problem with Conventional Depression Treatment

While treatments for depression have shown efficacy, they are by no means 100% effective for everyone.


A review of treatments published in the Journal of Medicine and Life pointed out the few, but critical, flaws of conventional depression treatment. These include:


-Lack of homogeneity of depression, where a treatment that works for one person can possibly not be as effective with another.

-Anti-depressants can have side effects that negatively alter brain function in the long term.

-Literature on treatments isn’t foolproof or has flaws

-Unavoidable side effects that affect mood, sexual health, and energy


Fortunately, herbal science and alternative medicine research have been doubling down on more natural and low-risk treatments for depression, and mushrooms like Lion’s Mane and Reishi are at the forefront.

Lion’s Mane and Reishi for Depression

The Lion's Mane mushroom could be helpful in the treatment of depression. In a recent report, mice that consumed lion's mane mushroom extract showed less depressive behaviours and had blood markers that demonstrated lower depression. [1]


The active compound found responsible for lowering depression symptoms is Amycenone, a known nootropic found in Lion’s Mane. It showed both anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant effects. [1]


The findings of a 2018 mice study also agree with the above, with the researchers presuming that these mushroom extracts might contain special compounds valuable for treating depressive issues. [2]


The same effects can also be applied to those who suffer from anxiety and sleep disorders. 


In a study involving women with various health complaints, including menopausal side effects and sleep problems, scientists found those who ate cookies with lion's mane reported lower levels of anxiety and irritability than those who ate a placebo. [3]


Reishi extracts are known to have powerful immunity benefits, but they have also been shown to help with depression as well as related disorders. It’s been described as an adaptogen, or an ingredient capable of managing stress, which can help you relax and focus instead of feeling anxious. 


One mice study tested the effects of reishi on markers of stress and depression. Results showed reishi possesses anti-depressant properties. Researchers found that reishi extracts exerted the same receptor-antagonistic effects as drugs prescribed for depression. [4]


In another study, scientists found a strong link between reishi consumption and lower levels of anxiety, depression, mood, and sleep concerns in breast cancer patients. They suggest reishi has some anti-fatigue benefits, which then allowed the patients to do better at activities they have otherwise given up. [5]


Other notable mushroom compounds that might help with depression include:


-Beta-glucans: A soluble fibre that has been cited to lower risk for heart diseases by reducing cholesterol absorption. Some experts propose that beta-glucans can also help improve mood. [6]

-Hericenones and erinacines: two natural compounds isolated in lion’s mane mushroom. These two have been cited to help stimulate NGF synthesis and stimulate BDNF release, which go a long way in protecting the brain from oxidative stress, which can lead to depression. [7]

-Triterpenes: The specific triterpene found in reishi is ganoderic acid. Ganoderic has been cited to induce a calming effect while also improving sleep quality. [8]

What Should You Look for in Lion’s Mane?

When searching for lion’s mane to use to combat depression, you should consider the following:


-Tested for Beta D Glucans 

-Contains both hericenones and erinacines 

-Must use both fruiting body and mycelium parts

-Tested for purity and pesticides 


(see our lab report on the product page)

What Should You Look for in Reishi Supplements for Depression?

When searching for Reishi to use to combat depression, you should consider the following:


-Tested for triterpenes

-Tested for Beta D Glucans

-Sourced from the fruiting body

-Tested for purity and pesticides 


(see our lab report on the product page)


See this video for a breakdown of our mushroom quality and the testing we perform.

How Do I Take Lion’s Mane and Reishi?

- Serving Suggestion for Lion’s Mane: 3-5 grams per day or 6-10 capsules

- Serving Suggestion for Reishi: 2-5 grams per day or 4-10 capsules

Takeaway…

Depression is a common disorder that affects millions of people all over the world. Its symptoms can be debilitating to the quality of life of a person and can be fatal if not treated properly. Most conventional depression treatments work, but they’re not perfect for everyone.


Medicinal mushrooms like lion’s mane and reishi have been investigated for their myriad health properties, including benefits for depression and related disorders. The science around using mushrooms for depression is still young, but so far research has been quite in favour of taking both lion’s mane and reishi for long-term brain health.



References:

1) Yao W, Zhang JC, Dong C, Zhuang C, Hirota S, Inanaga K, Hashimoto K. Effects of amycenone on serum levels of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-10, and depression-like behavior in mice after lipopolysaccharide administration. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2015 Sep;136:7-12. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2015.06.012. Epub 2015 Jul 4. PMID: 26150007.

2) Chiu CH, Chyau CC, Chen CC, Lee LY, Chen WP, Liu JL, Lin WH, Mong MC. Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelium Produces Antidepressant-Like Effects through Modulating BDNF/PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β Signaling in Mice. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan 24;19(2):341. doi: 10.3390/ijms19020341. PMID: 29364170; PMCID: PMC5855563.

3) Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, Hayashi C, Sato D, Kitagawa K, Ohnuki K. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. 2010 Aug;31(4):231-7. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.31.231. PMID: 20834180.Matsuzaki H, Shimizu Y, Iwata N, Kamiuchi S, Suzuki F, Iizuka H, Hibino Y, Okazaki M. Antidepressant-like effects of a water-soluble extract from the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia in rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Dec 26;13:370. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-370. PMID: 24369991; PMCID: PMC3879659.

4) Zhao H, Zhang Q, Zhao L, Huang X, Wang J, Kang X. Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:809614. doi: 10.1155/2012/809614. Epub 2011 Dec 10. PMID: 22203880; PMCID: PMC3236089.

5) Talbott S, Talbott J. Effect of BETA 1, 3/1, 6 GLUCAN on Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Symptoms and Mood State in Marathon Athletes. J Sports Sci Med. 2009 Dec 1;8(4):509-15. PMID: 24149590; PMCID: PMC3761532.

6) Lew SY, Lim SH, Lim LW, Wong KH. Neuroprotective effects of Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. against high-dose corticosterone-induced oxidative stress in PC-12 cells. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2020 Nov 11;20(1):340. doi: 10.1186/s12906-020-03132-x. PMID: 33176761; PMCID: PMC7656699.

7) Qiu Y, Mao ZJ, Ruan YP, Zhang X. Exploration of the anti-insomnia mechanism of Ganoderma by central-peripheral multi-level interaction network analysis. BMC Microbiol. 2021 Oct 29;21(1):296. doi: 10.1186/s12866-021-02361-5. PMID: 34715778; PMCID: PMC8555286.