Mushrooms have been consumed for centuries for their health benefits, with research indicating that certain species may help boost brain functions and cognitive performance. In this article, we will discuss the potential benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms, blue oyster mushrooms, reishi mushrooms, and other species on cognitive health, drawing from scientific literature to support our claims.

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus)

Lion’s mane mushrooms, also known as Hericium erinaceus, are well-known for their potential cognitive benefits. These mushrooms contain compounds called hericenones and erinacines, which have been found to stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the brain (1). NGF is crucial for the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons, and it plays a role in neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself (2).

One study found that consuming lion’s mane mushrooms improved cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (3). Participants who consumed lion’s mane extract for 16 weeks exhibited improved cognitive performance compared to those who took a placebo. This study suggests that lion’s mane mushrooms may help counteract age-related cognitive decline.

Moreover, animal studies have demonstrated that lion’s mane mushrooms can protect against cognitive dysfunction and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (4). While more research is needed to confirm these benefits in humans, these findings suggest that lion’s mane mushrooms may play a role in preserving brain health.

Blue Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)

Blue oyster mushrooms, or Pleurotus ostreatus, are not only culinary delights but also possess potential cognitive benefits. These mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, which protect brain cells from oxidative stress and damage (5). Oxidative stress is implicated in the development of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (6).

Although there is limited research on the direct cognitive benefits of blue oyster mushrooms, their antioxidant properties suggest a potential role in maintaining brain health and preventing age-related cognitive decline.

Reishi Mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi mushrooms, also known as Ganoderma lucidum, have a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine for their numerous health benefits. Among these benefits, reishi mushrooms have been found to possess neuroprotective properties (7). The triterpenes and polysaccharides found in reishi mushrooms may contribute to their cognitive-enhancing effects.

A study on mice demonstrated that administration of reishi mushroom extract improved memory and learning abilities (8). The extract appeared to increase the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and reduce oxidative stress in the brain, suggesting potential mechanisms behind the observed cognitive benefits.

While more research is needed to confirm these effects in humans, these findings indicate that reishi mushrooms may contribute to improved cognitive performance and brain health.

Other Mushrooms

There are many other mushroom species with potential cognitive benefits. For instance, Cordyceps militaris, a parasitic fungus, has been shown to improve memory and learning in mice (9). Similarly, research on the maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) revealed that its beta-glucan content may provide neuroprotective effects (10).


Mushrooms such as lion’s mane, blue oyster, and reishi may offer significant cognitive benefits, including improved memory, learning, and overall brain health. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind these effects and to confirm the benefits in humans, the existing literature highlights the potential of mushrooms as natural cognitive enhancers. Incorporating these mushrooms into a balanced diet may contribute to better brain function and cognitive performance.



1. 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.

2. Sofroniew, M. V., Howe, C. L., & Mobley, W. C. (2001). Nerve growth factor signaling, neuroprotection, and neural repair. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 24(1), 1217-1281.

3. Mori, K., Obara, Y., Moriya, T., Inatomi, S., & Nakahata, N. (2011). Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Biomedical Research, 32(1), 67-72.

4. Zhang, J., An, S., Hu, W., Teng, M., Wang, X., Qu, Y., Liu, Y., Yuan, Y., & Wang, D. (2016). The neuroprotective properties of Hericium erinaceus in glutamate-damaged differentiated PC12 cells and an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 17(11), 1810.

5. Sánchez, C. (2017). Reactive oxygen species and antioxidant properties from mushrooms. Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology, 2(1), 13-22.

6. Uttara, B., Singh, A. V., Zamboni, P., & Mahajan, R. T. (2009). Oxidative stress and neurodegenerative diseases: a review of upstream and downstream antioxidant therapeutic options. Current Neuropharmacology, 7(1), 65-74.

7. Huang, S., Mao, J., Ding, K., Zhou, Y., Zeng, X., Yang, W., & Wang, P. (2017). Polysaccharides from Ganoderma lucidum promote cognitive function and neural progenitor proliferation in mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Stem Cell Reports, 8(1), 84-94.

8. Zhang, W., Zhang, Q., Deng, W., Li, Y., Xing, G., Shi, X., & Du, P. (2016). Neuroprotective effect of prenylated arylbenzofuran and flavonoids from morus alba fruits on glutamate-induced oxidative injury in HT22 hippocampal cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 64(15), 2997-3006.

9. Kaushik, M. K., Aritake, K., Takeuchi, A., Tsubota, K., Urade, Y., & Huang, Z. L. (2013). α-iso-cubebenol, a natural triterpenoid, induces sleep by increasing non-rapid eye movement sleep. Behavioural Brain Research, 253, 3-8.

10. Tsai, S. Y., Huang, S. J., & Mau, J. L. (2006). Antioxidant properties of hot water extracts from Agaricus blazei Murrill. LWT-Food Science and Technology, 39(10), 1095-1101.


“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