The “Three Brains” Concept of Health

Karen Jensen, a renowned naturopathic doctor, has introduced the concept of the “Three Brains” as a holistic approach to human health. The idea revolves around the interconnectedness of the head brain, heart brain, and gut brain, which function together to maintain overall wellbeing. To further optimize health, we can combine Jensen’s concept with the consumption of medicinal mushrooms, such as lion’s mane, blue oyster, pink oyster, and reishi mushrooms. These mushrooms have been scientifically proven to offer numerous health benefits, which can complement the functioning of Jensen’s Three Brains. In this article, we will explore the combined approach of these concepts and discuss how incorporating medicinal mushrooms into our diet can enhance our health.

Karen Jensen’s Three Brains Concept and Medicinal Mushrooms

The Three Brains concept highlights the importance of maintaining the health of the head brain, heart brain, and gut brain. To support these interconnected systems, we can turn to medicinal mushrooms, which have been scientifically proven to offer a plethora of health benefits. Below, we will discuss the benefits of lion’s mane, blue oyster, pink oyster, and reishi mushrooms, and how they can enhance the functioning of the Three Brains.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom and the Head Brain

Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a unique mushroom known for its potential cognitive-enhancing properties. Research has shown that lion’s mane contains compounds called hericenones and erinacines, which stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) (Lai et al., 2013)[^1^]. NGF is essential for the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells, making it crucial for cognitive health.

By promoting nerve cell growth, lion’s mane can positively impact the head brain, improving cognitive function, memory, and learning (Mori et al., 2009)[^2^]. Furthermore, lion’s mane has demonstrated potential in preventing and treating neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (Zhang et al., 2016)[^3^]. Incorporating lion’s mane into the diet can support the health of the head brain, ultimately contributing to the balance of the Three Brains.

Blue Oyster Mushroom and the Heart Brain

Blue oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are not only delicious but also packed with nutrients and health benefits. Studies have shown that blue oyster mushrooms contain compounds that can help lower cholesterol levels (Bobek et al., 1998)[^4^]. High cholesterol is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, so incorporating blue oyster mushrooms into the diet can contribute to better heart health.

Moreover, blue oyster mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, which can protect the heart from oxidative stress and inflammation (Kalač, 2013)[^5^]. By promoting cardiovascular health, blue oyster mushrooms can support the heart brain, improving the overall functioning of the Three Brains.

Pink Oyster Mushroom and the Gut Brain

Pink oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus djamor) are known for their vibrant color and unique flavor. Besides their culinary appeal, they also offer significant health benefits. Research has demonstrated that pink oyster mushrooms are rich in dietary fiber, which is essential for maintaining a healthy gut (Ouzouni et al., 2009)[^6^].

Dietary fiber promotes regular bowel movements, prevents constipation, and feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can positively impact the gut brain. Additionally, pink oyster mushrooms have been shown to possess prebiotic properties, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut (Jayakumar et al., 2017)[^7^]. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for the gut brain’s proper functioning, as it directly influences our immune system, mood, and overall wellbeing (Cryan et al., 2019)[^8^]. By incorporating pink oyster mushrooms into our diet, we can support the gut brain and improve the interconnectedness of the Three Brains.

Reishi Mushroom and the Synergy of the Three Brains

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), also known as the “mushroom of immortality,” has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries due to its extensive health benefits. This powerful mushroom has immunomodulatory properties, meaning it can help regulate and support the immune system (Wachtel-Galor et al., 2011)[^9^]. A balanced immune system is vital for the overall functioning of the Three Brains, as it protects our bodies from various diseases and infections.

Reishi also has adaptogenic properties, which can help the body cope with stress and maintain homeostasis (Patel et al., 2012)[^10^]. Stress can negatively impact the functioning of the head brain, heart brain, and gut brain, so incorporating reishi into our diet can contribute to the balance and synergy of the Three Brains.


Karen Jensen’s Three Brains concept emphasizes the interconnectedness of the head brain, heart brain, and gut brain, which are crucial for maintaining our overall wellbeing. By incorporating medicinal mushrooms, such as lion’s mane, blue oyster, pink oyster, and reishi mushrooms, into our diet, we can support and enhance the functioning of the Three Brains. These mushrooms offer various health benefits, including cognitive support, cardiovascular protection, and gut health improvement, ultimately contributing to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.

  1. Lai, P.-L., Naidu, M., Sabaratnam, V., Wong, K.-H., David, R. P., Kuppusamy, U. R., … & Malek, S. N. A. (2013). Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 15(6), 539-554.
  2. Mori, K., Inatomi, S., Ouchi, K., Azumi, Y., & Tuchida, T. (2009). Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research, 23(3), 367-372.
  3. Zhang, C.-C., Cao, C.-Y., Kubo, M., Harada, K., Yan, X.-T., Fukuyama, Y., & Gao, J.-M. (2016). Chemical constituents from Hericium erinaceus and their ability to stimulate NGF-mediated neurite outgrowth on PC12 cells. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 26(22), 5133-5137.
  4. Bobek, P., Galbavý, S., & Mariássyová, M. (1998). The oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) lowers cholesterol and increases the antioxidative potential in the blood of rats fed a high-cholesterol diet. Nutrition Research, 18(1), 71-79.
  5. Kalač, P. (2013). A review of chemical composition and nutritional value of wild-growing and cultivated mushrooms. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 93(2), 209-218.

“A masterpiece. The Fantastic Fungi Community Cookbook is, by far, the best culinary guide to cooking and pairing mushrooms. . . . This book makes me so hungry, I want to eat it.”
—Paul Stamets, mycologist