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Could Mushrooms Help With Alzheimer’s Disease?

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.

Ageing is mostly associated with weaker physical strength and stamina, and being more prone to severe symptoms of otherwise everyday illnesses. 


However, ageing also affects our brain. As we get older, we become more prone to shorter memory retention, poorer focus, and often struggle to learn new concepts.


In some cases, these mental deficiencies are a result of age-related brain disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease is described as a neurological disorder that impacts on a person’s ability to remember, think, and eventually their ability to be an independent adult. While most patients show signs of Alzheimer’s when they enter their late 60s, early-onset Alzheimer’s can start as early as 40 years. 

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the NHK, Alzheimer’s disease symptoms progress slowly over several years, and the rate of progress with each symptom varies for each person.


Alzheimer’s symptoms can be classified into three major groups:

Early

-Often attributed to memory loss or lapses

-You forget conversations and events easily

-You misplace items

-Have trouble remembering places and objects

-Difficulty in finding the right words

-Mood swings 

Middle Stage

-More severe memory loss

-Struggling to remember the names of people they know

-Confusion and disorientation

-Impulsive behaviour

-Delusions

-Speech or language difficulties

-Sleep disturbance

-Frequent mood swings

-Some experience hallucinations

Late 

-Previous symptoms become severe

-Causes distress not just to the patient, but to their family and carers too

-Some patients become violent or suspicious of people around them

-Problems with movement, eating, and maintaining weight

-Urinary or bowel incontinence


In the late stages, Alzheimer’s patients may need full-time care and assistance with moving, eating, and personal hygiene.

Common Alzheimer’s Disease Medication

Sadly there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease yet, but there are many ways to reduce symptoms through medication. The goal of Alzheimer’s treatment is to provide patients with comfort, dignity, independence, and to make it easier for caregivers to assist them.


Some of the common medications used for Alzheimer’s are rivastigmine, galantamine, and donepezil. These drugs work as cholinesterase inhibitors that reduce the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain chemical responsible for memory and cognition. 


-We typically have lower concentrations of acetylcholine as we age, but Alzheimer’s breaks them down faster.


There is another drug that specifically targets the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s called aducanumab. 


Aducanumab is a human antibody that reduces amyloid plaques or brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease. If treatment is successful, this would slow down the progress of the neurological disorder. This drug is still new and only intended for early and mid-stages.


Late-stage patients are also sometimes prescribed antipsychotics or other drugs to relieve distress or calm down aggression.

The Problem with Conventional Alzheimer’s Treatments

As with conventional treatment for most diseases, prescription drugs can pose a high risk for side effects. Depending on what you’re prescribed, these are some of the symptoms to watch out for:


-Sleep disruption

-Bleeding

-Slow heart rate, which can cause fainting

-Confusion

-Agitation

-Constipation


Patients with conditions that pre-dispose them to having those side effects are barred from taking Alzheimer’s medications.


Other than side effects, prescription drugs also don’t always work or don’t have the expected impact on Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. 

The Mushrooms Lion’s Mane and Reishi for Alzheimer’s Disease

Due to the uncertainty and severity of side effects associated with traditional Alzheimer’s treatment, experts are turning their heads to alternative approaches that meet safety and efficacy. One of them is through the healing powers of mushrooms, especially reishi and lion’s mane.

Lion’s mane mushroom

Possesses compounds that stimulate brain-cell growth: Hericenones and erinacines. These compounds were found to specifically fight against Alzheimer’s disease as well as other neurological conditions that cause memory loss in animal studies. [1] 


Lion's Mane’s hericenones and erinacine content can also support neuron outgrowth. Increasing neuron production potentially slows or reverses age-related cell degeneration in conditions like Alzheimer's. [6]


The mushroom is also known to be anti-inflammatory, and Alzheimer’s can also be categorized as an inflammatory condition


Studies suggest Lion’s Mane’s possesses natural anti-inflammatory properties that fight markers of Alzheimer’s like amyloid plaques. Amyloid plaques accumulate in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease. [5]


The mushroom’s extracts have also been cited to reduce symptoms of memory loss and prevent neuronal damage caused by amyloid plaques in animal studies. [5]

Reishi mushroom

Reishi is a source of powerful antioxidants and has been cited to reduce cell ageing. 


In fact, reishi is credited to have the most anti-ageing effects of all medicinal mushrooms. Reishi extracts are also known to protect cellular DNA from oxidant damage, which can lead to early signs of aging and cancer. [2]


What about Alzheimer’s? Because Alzheimer’s is largely a cell-aging disease, experts suggest taking reishi can slow down its progress primarily by promoting neurogenesis


Neurogenesis is a process necessary for maintaining brain functions like mood and cognition. Moreover, enhancing neurogenesis can help counteract neurodegeneration, which leads to Alzheimer’s disease. [7]


The contents found in reishi can also limit the damage done by AGEs or advanced glycation end products. AGEs are proteins whose malfunction promotes aging and inflammation and contribute to Alzheimer’s risk. [8]

Frequently Asked Questions About Lion’s Mane and Reishi for Alzheimer’s Disease

What Should I Look Out For in a Lion’s Mane Supplement for Alzheimer’s?

You should go for a Lion’s Mane supplement that uses both mycelium and fruiting body. It’s because hericenones are found in the fruiting body, whereas Erinaceus is found in the mushroom's mycelium. These two compounds are responsible for the fungus’ cognitive health benefits. [1]


Fun Fact: Studies have shown that Erinacines is a much more potent brain stimulator than Hericenones. 

What Should I Look Out For in a Reishi Supplement for Alzheimer’s?

The Reishi supplement has to be a triterpene-rich extract. Make sure the lab report shows that the mushroom has been tested for the triterpene content. (See our Reishi product page for the lab report on triterpenes content)


You also have to check if it’s tested for Beta D Glucans, which are good for cardiovascular health, reduced cholesterol levels, and overall immunity. 


-One study noted how high cholesterol levels are a marker for Alzheimer’s, so taking reishi with high Beta D Glucans might help reduce risks. [3]

-Research shows beta-glucans make our immune cells more “sensitive” against infections. It can also reduce inflammation, improve fatigue, and increase overall endurance. [4]


Testing for purity and pesticide content is also critical for both types of supplements.


See this video for a breakdown of our mushroom quality and the testing we perform: https://www.antioxi.co.uk/blogs/news/mushroom-farming-methods-video

How Do I Take Lion’s Mane and Reishi?

Serving Suggestion for Lion’s Mane: 

-Powder: 3-5 g daily (1/2-1 tsp) mixed into your coffee, smoothie and/or your preferred beverage

-Capsules: 6-8 capsules daily – split into 2 doses in the morning and evening


Serving Suggestion for Reishi:

-Powder: 3 g daily (1/2 tsp)  mixed into your coffee, smoothie and/or your preferred beverage

-Capsules: 6 capsules daily – split into 2 doses in the morning and evening


References 

1. Lai PL, Naidu M, Sabaratnam V, Wong KH, David RP, Kuppusamy UR, Abdullah N, Malek SN. Neurotrophic properties of the Lion's mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(6):539-54. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i6.30. PMID: 24266378.

2. Wang J, Cao B, Zhao H, Feng J. Emerging Roles of Ganoderma Lucidum in Anti-Aging. Aging Dis. 2017 Dec 1;8(6):691-707. doi: 10.14336/AD.2017.0410. PMID: 29344411; PMCID: PMC5758346.

3. Rahman MA, Hossain S, Abdullah N, Aminudin N. Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Agaricomycetes) Ameliorates Spatial Learning and Memory Deficits in Rats with Hypercholesterolemia and Alzheimer's Disease. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2020;22(1):93-103. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2020033383. PMID: 32464001.

4. McCleary BV, Draga A. Measurement of β-Glucan in Mushrooms and Mycelial Products. J AOAC Int. 2016 Mar-Apr;99(2):364-73. doi: 10.5740/jaoacint.15-0289. Epub 2016 Mar 8. PMID: 26957216.

5. Tsai-Teng T, Chin-Chu C, Li-Ya L, Wan-Ping C, Chung-Kuang L, Chien-Chang S, Chi-Ying HF, Chien-Chih C, Shiao YJ. Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer's disease-related pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice. J Biomed Sci. 2016 Jun 27;23(1):49. doi: 10.1186/s12929-016-0266-z. PMID: 27350344; PMCID: PMC4924315.

6. Lai PL, Naidu M, Sabaratnam V, Wong KH, David RP, Kuppusamy UR, Abdullah N, Malek SN. Neurotrophic properties of the Lion's mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(6):539-54. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i6.30. PMID: 24266378.

7. Huang S, Mao J, Ding K, Zhou Y, Zeng X, Yang W, Wang P, Zhao C, Yao J, Xia P, Pei G. Polysaccharides from Ganoderma lucidum Promote Cognitive Function and Neural Progenitor Proliferation in Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease. Stem Cell Reports. 2017 Jan 10;8(1):84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2016.12.007. PMID: 28076758; PMCID: PMC5233449.

8. Chen Y, Qiao J, Luo J, Wu F, Meng G, Chen H, Zheng H, Xu J. [Effects of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on advanced glycation end products and receptor of aorta pectoralis in T2DM rats]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2011 Mar;36(5):624-7. Chinese. PMID: 21657085.