From capsules to protein powders, products containing adaptogenic mushrooms have become quite popular in the health and wellness world.
As such, you may wonder whether adaptogenic mushrooms offer health benefits and if you should be adding them or related products to your diet.
This article explains everything you need to know about adaptogenic mushrooms, including the types, potential benefits, and possible risks.
Adaptogenic mushrooms are mushrooms that may help reduce the effects of stress on your body. Some people use them as herbal health products.
They’re not the same as hallucinogenic or “magic” mushrooms and do not act on the mind or perception.
In general, an adaptogen is a substance that works to reduce the negative effects of stress on the body.
The body’s stress response is complex and involves multiple bodily systems, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA axis). This is the body’s main stress response system.
Adaptogens primarily work by influencing the HPA axis and other key mediators of the stress response. By doing so, they enhance resistance to stress and promote recovery and homeostasis — or stability — in the body (
Researchers have discovered that certain plants and fungi, including some mushrooms, have adaptogenic properties.
Adaptogens may help the body adapt to stress. Studies have shown many herbs and some mushrooms may have adaptogenic properties.
Research suggests that some types of mushrooms have beneficial effects on the body’s stress response.
It’s important to note that the terms medicinal and adaptogenic aren’t the same thing. Many mushrooms have medicinal effects, including anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties (
However, the term adaptogenic refers specifically to how a substance may affect the body’s response to stress.
The following mushrooms may have adaptogenic effects.
Additionally, a 2014 study in 18 men examined the effects of taking a combination of Cordyceps sinensis and Rhodiola crenulata, a plant with adaptogenic properties, on high altitude training (
It found that taking 1,400 mg of Rhodiola crenulata and600 mg of Cordyceps per day for 2 weeks led to improvements in stress response and fatigue levels, compared with a placebo (
Because the researchers gave participants Cordyceps sinensis and Rhodiola crenulata together, they can’t be sure of the effects of each ingredient individually.
Another study that also gave participants Cordyceps with another type of fungus called Ganoderma lucidum showed that the combination may help protect athletes from the physical stress of overtraining (
Although these results are encouraging, scientists need to do more high quality research to understand how Cordyceps may help the body adapt to stress.
Hericium erinaceus, commonly known as lion’s mane, is another mushroom thought to offer adaptogenic effects.
Rodent studies have shown that lion’s mane extract may help reverse stress-related changes to neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin.
It may also reduce levels of the inflammatory markers interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), which increase in response to stress (
Additionally, it has been shown to reverse stress-induced downregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in mice.
However, research on the adaptogenic effects of lion’s mane is still in the early stages, and scientists need to conduct more studies in humans (
Ganoderma lucidum, or reishi, is known to have adaptogenic properties.
Reishi helps support the function of the adrenal glands. These secrete cortisol, which is a hormone that helps the body respond to stress (
One small study in male athletes showed that taking a combination of reishi and Cordyceps helped protect against stress-related damage the athletes experienced due to overtraining from cycling (
A 2020 rodent study found that reishi treatment reduced stress-induced brain inflammation in rats exposed to low oxygen levels and helped protect against nerve damage and memory impairment (
Researchers believe that reishi’s ability to protect against multiple stressors, including low oxygen levels and cold exposure, may help people get used to high altitude environments and protect against mountain sickness caused by low oxygen levels (
Studies have shown that Cordyceps, lion’s mane, and reishi fungi may have adaptogenic properties. While the existing study results are promising, scientists need to do more research to fully understand the effects of these mushrooms.
You can find them in a variety of forms, including capsules, tinctures, teas, and powders.
However, some studies have reported they may have side effects. Plus, certain populations should not use some of these mushrooms.
For instance, reishi may cause side effects like dizziness and headache. People who shouldn’t use it include those with bleeding disorders, people taking blood-pressure-lowering medication, and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding (26).
Additionally, there have been two documented cases of liver toxicity related to the consumption of reishi powder (
Healthcare providers have also documented allergic reactions to lion’s mane (
It’s important to note that most adaptogen products contain more than one ingredient.
Adaptogenic supplements that contain these mushrooms may also contain many other herbs with adaptogenic properties.
A person can safely use more than one adaptogenic herb or mushroom at the same time. However, some adaptogenic herbs may cause side effects and interact with common medications.
For example, Astragalus membranaceus can interact with certain medications, including blood-thinning and blood-pressure-lowering drugs. Meanwhile, Andrographis paniculata may interact with anti-inflammatory medications and chemotherapy drugs (
If you’re interested in experimenting with adaptogens, including adaptogenic mushrooms, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider first to ensure the supplement is safe and appropriate.
Certain adaptogens may cause side effects and interact with commonly prescribed medications. Some are not appropriate for certain populations. Always check with your healthcare provider before taking adaptogenic mushrooms or herbs.
If you want to try out adaptogens, talk to your healthcare provider first. Although certain adaptogenic mushrooms may be safe for healthy people, they’re not an appropriate or safe choice for everyone.
Additionally, there’s always a risk involved with taking herbal formulations containing many ingredients promoted for their adaptogenic properties.
It’s a good idea to work with an experienced healthcare provider if you’re interested in using mushrooms or herbs for their adaptogenic properties.
Plus, although there’s some evidence supporting the role of adaptogenic mushrooms in stress management, research in humans is limited at this time.
Scientists need to do more well-designed studies to fully understand the effects of adaptogenic mushrooms on stress response.
Although certain supplements may help decrease the symptoms of stress and reduce its effects on the body, make sure to use other stress reduction techniques as well.
Identifying the cause of stress in your life, getting enough rest, following a nutrient-dense diet, and using stress-management techniques like therapy, massage, exercise, and meditation, are typically much more effective than using adaptogenic supplements (
Plus, adaptogenic supplements containing mushrooms can be very expensive. They also often contain proprietary blends and don’t reveal the dose of each ingredient.
This means that you could be ingesting very small amounts of adaptogenic mushrooms, so they may be unlikely to have noticeable effects on your stress levels.
If you’re experiencing significant stress and want to learn ways to reduce stress in your life, contact your healthcare provider for advice.
Even though adaptogenic mushrooms may help some people, they’re not the right choice for everyone. Contact your healthcare provider for help managing stress.
Some mushrooms, including reishi, Cordyceps, and lion’s mane, may have adaptogenic properties and help reduce the negative effects of stress in the body.
However, research in this area is limited, and scientists need to conduct more well-designed studies to fully understand how these mushrooms affect stress response in humans.
If you’re interested in experimenting with adaptogens, including adaptogenic mushrooms, talk with your healthcare provider first to ensure they’re safe and appropriate for your needs.