Top 5 Nootropic Mushrooms

Whether they are students, professionals, or entrepreneurs, the sensation of underachievement and the inability to perform at their best is all too common nowadays. Many individuals attribute their poor performance to factors such as poor focus, attention span, memory, and a range of cognitive deficits.

Let’s shift our focus to mushrooms. We’ve long heard about the remarkable compounds found in mushrooms that offer nutritional, medicinal, and therapeutic advantages. For centuries, cultures across the globe have utilized mushrooms for various purposes.

Today, our focus will be on a less-discussed aspect of edible mushrooms: their cognitive-enhancing properties. In this article, we’ll explore the intriguing realm of nootropic mushrooms, delving into their history, properties, and benefits, and presenting a list of five mushrooms known for their effectiveness in enhancing cognitive functions and overall well-being.

What Are Nootropic Mushrooms?

Similar to peeling layers of an onion, scientists continually uncover new potential benefits of mushrooms with each research endeavor.

Nootropic mushrooms are those containing compounds believed to enhance cognitive faculties such as focus, memory, creativity, mental energy, clarity, reasoning, and overall brain health. Although nootropic supplements have been around for a few decades now, nootropic mushrooms are gaining widespread popularity and adoption because they are natural, safer, and more effective.

Do all mushrooms contain nootropic properties? To answer this question, we first need to explain the term ‘Nootropics’. The term originates from the Greek words ‘nous’ and ‘tropos’. The former means ‘mind,’ and the latter means ‘turning.’ Hence, the word ‘Nootropics’ is used to indicate substances capable of ‘turning the mind’.

The history of nootropic mushrooms is as ancient as the Greek term itself. These mushrooms have been in use throughout history in various cultures around the world, employed in traditional medicine to enhance vitality, mental clarity, and overall cognition.

There are even written records of the usage of certain mushrooms for enhancing cognition. Records believed to be over 2000 years old indicate that Reishi mushrooms were often prescribed by traditional healers to improve vitality and boost memory.

Lion’s Mane mushroom is one of the most prescribed medicines in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Its use is well documented, especially during the Ming Dynasty. Medical tests from this period show that Lion’s Mane extract was used to enhance mental clarity, concentration, and memory.

Not only in China but also in neighboring countries such as Korea and Japan, mushrooms were often used for their brain-boosting properties. Texts dating back to the 15th century indicate that tonics made of mushrooms were used to treat cognitive impairment and memory loss, especially in the elderly.

On the other side of the globe, in Viking territory, folklore claims that Vikings used various mushroom species to boost mental clarity, energy, endurance, stamina, and to attain a trance-like state just before battles.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the people of the Aztec Civilization used psychoactive mushrooms during religious ceremonies. Mushroom-infused drinks were used to heighten focus and induce visions through deep relaxation.

Even before the West discovered Cordyceps, the mushroom was part of Tibetan medicine. The caterpillar-like mushroom was used to enhance mental clarity, endurance, and energy. Additionally, tonics with Cordyceps were used to improve sex drive and sexual vitality.

These are just some instances in history when mushrooms were used as agents to improve cognitive faculties, including memory, focus, vitality, and overall mental well-being, across diverse cultures.

Benefits of Nootropic Mushrooms

We can all benefit from extra brainpower in our daily lives, whether it be at college, the office, or at home. However, what can we expect to achieve by taking nootropic mushrooms? Let’s find out.

Enhanced Memory and Learning: Mushrooms stimulate the release of compounds that boost memory formation and improve mental health. In this regard, Lion’s Mane Mushroom deserves special mention. The mushroom houses two bioactive compounds – hericenones and erinacines. These compounds support the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which is a vital brain chemical associated with memory and various other cognitive faculties. Additionally, this chemical is responsible for neurogenesis and neuroprotection.

Increased Focus and Clarity: If you experience a dip in focus, attention, and clarity, then nootropic mushrooms are the right choice for you. Many people over 50 complain of poor focus and clarity. This could be due to oxidative stress and inflammation. Nootropic mushrooms such as Chaga help reduce oxidative stress through their potent antioxidant properties. Chaga is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. The consumption of Chaga helps clear free radicals and reduce inflammation, thereby protecting neurons from the natural wear and tear of aging. Nootropic mushrooms can give users improved concentration, sharper focus, and reduced brain fog.

Better Mental Energy and Stamina: Cordycepin is not only for athletic performance. This bioactive compound in Cordyceps contains anti-fatigue properties. Furthermore, nootropic mushrooms boost oxygen utilization, leading to mental clarity, vigor, better focus, and improved mental stamina.

Improved Mood and Well-being: All the nootropic mushrooms on our list come with adaptogenic properties. The adaptogenic agents in nootropic mushrooms help the body adapt to stress. These compounds alleviate the physical and psychological symptoms of stress, thereby helping individuals think and act clearly during extremely stressful situations.

Neuroprotective Potential: In addition to being cognition enhancers, nootropic mushrooms play a vital role in preventing neurodegeneration, especially age-related cognitive decline. The neuroprotective properties in mushrooms fight oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, prevent amyloid formation, promote neuron repair, and neurogenesis.

Supports Long-Term Brain Health: The nutrients, bioactive compounds, and fiber in nootropic mushrooms combine to boost overall brain health. These mushrooms improve oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain, stimulate crucial neurotransmitters, strengthen neuroplasticity, and boost communication between brain cells. Overall, nootropic mushrooms deliver lasting benefits to cognition and mental well-being.

Who Can Take Nootropic Mushrooms?

During my school and college days, I wanted to take a nootropic supplement to boost focus and memory. While start-up founders and entrepreneurs were instrumental in popularizing nootropic supplements, I observed individuals of all age groups and professions taking cognitive enhancers to improve their lives.

But, are nootropic mushrooms the right choice for you? Let’s consider the ideal candidates who can benefit from nootropic mushrooms.

  • Any healthy adult looking to enhance cognitive functions such as focus, memory, reasoning, alertness, attention, and working memory, among others.
  • Individuals, particularly those in the middle-aged and senior citizen groups, experience cognitive decline.
  • Individuals of any age group, especially students and athletes, dealing with high mental demands.

Here is a list of people who should exercise caution and consult a physician before taking nootropic mushrooms:

  • Expectant mothers, including breastfeeding women.
  • Individuals with a serious medical condition or pre-existing mental health issues.
  • People who have a mushroom allergy or are taking prescription medication known to interact with mushrooms.

Top 5 Nootropic Mushrooms

We can find some degree of cognition-enhancing properties in each species of mushroom. In this article, our focus is on fungal species known for their significant nootropic effects. Historical records and scientific studies confirm the nootropic prowess of these five mushrooms.

lions mane

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s Mane Mushroom has long been known and celebrated for its nootropic properties. Some users casually comment that the white, hairy cascading spines of the mushroom have the ability to increase the folds of the cerebral cortex. This mushroom is linked to various cognitive enhancements.

Like other parts of the body, the brain suffers wear and tear with age. It gradually loses its ability to grow neurons and form new connections. Scientists believe Lion’s Mane contains compounds (erinacines and hericenones) that can stimulate the production and growth of neurons.

Additionally, consumption of Lion’s Mane is believed to improve the release of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which is crucial for optimal brain cell growth, maintenance, and repair. In healthy adults, these functions could lead to enhanced cognitive function and better brain health.

Lion’s Mane has proved its effectiveness in both animal and human studies. According to a study, Lion’s Mane extract decreased neurological damage, thereby reducing symptoms of memory loss in mice that showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease.1

In another experiment, Lion’s Mane supplementation for four months led to improvement in cognition (measured using cognitive function scale testing) in participants aged over 50. The control group performed better than the placebo group. Moreover, their performance dipped when the supplementation was discontinued.2



Chaga holds an important place in the rituals and healing practices of people in Siberia, Russia, and Northern Europe. Its myriad uses in traditional medicine have earned it titles such as the ‘King of Herbs’ and the ‘Gift from the Gods’. Scientific exploration has revealed the powerful nootropic properties and numerous benefits of this mushroom.

Research has shown that the nootropic benefits of Chaga are directly linked to its many bioactive compounds, including beta-glucans, melanin, triterpenoids, and polyphenols.3 These compounds help strengthen cognitive faculties, both directly and indirectly.

Similar to lion’s mane, Chaga stimulates the release of NGF, a special protein vital for the growth and repair of brain cells. There is a direct correlation between NGF production and cognitive health, particularly in adults over 50. Higher NGF production in the brain is associated with improved focus and memory.

Chaga consumption is linked to cognitive function due to the modulation of neurotransmitters and neuroprotective effects. The mushroom improves mood and cognitive faculties by modulating levels of acetylcholine, serotonin, and dopamine. Triterpenoids, polyphenols, and beta-glucans are renowned for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These compounds have a neuroprotective effect on the brain, leading to better cognitive performance even as one ages.4

The powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in Chaga also help regulate blood glucose and cholesterol levels. By keeping blood sugar and cholesterol in check, the mushroom reduces the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.5,6 These efforts help boost energy levels, which often suffer due to diabetes and high cholesterol.


A sharp mind is vital for controlling a strong body. Cordyceps is one of the few mushrooms that can optimize both the body and mind. In addition to boosting energy, stamina, and sex drive, cordyceps was also used to improve memory, focus, and overall cognition in Chinese and Tibetan traditional medicine. The nootropic properties of cordyceps are as follows:

ATP, the primary energy source of cells, is also crucial for fueling brain processes. The bioactive compounds in cordyceps stimulate ATP production. Along with higher energy levels, boosting ATP leads to better memory, focus, mental clarity, and improved creativity.

Studies show that cordyceps can enhance oxygen utilization in the body and brain.7 Additionally, the mushroom promotes cerebral blood circulation, which is vital for cognitive health. Improved blood flow leads to the optimal supply of oxygen and nutrients and efficient removal of toxic and waste material. These functions can lead to optimal brain function.

Chronic stress is blamed for many health problems, including memory loss and mild cognitive impairment. The potent adaptogenic properties in cordyceps can help the mind overcome the damage caused by stress and lead to better focus and mental clarity.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cordyceps can protect the brain against neurodegeneration. As we age, the brain faces a constant onslaught of chronic inflammation. This affects neuron function and neuroplasticity. Cordyceps has the ability to protect brain cells from damage, thereby promoting cognitive health.



Also known as the ‘Dancing Mushroom’, Maitake may prompt brain cells to respond to your commands. Studies indicate that Maitake has the potential to maintain youthful and healthy brain function regardless of age. Science is still exploring the cognitive benefits of this mushroom. However, based on the current scientific literature, we believe Maitake promotes cognitive well-being through the following processes:

In simpler terms, cognitive health relies on neural health and neurotransmitters. Maitake contains bioactive compounds that can optimize both aspects of cognitive health.

Firstly, to enhance neuron growth, repair, and maintenance, Maitake stimulates the release of Nerve Growth Factor. This can support improved memory processing and recall by facilitating optimal brain cell growth and repair.

Secondly, the neuroprotective effects of Maitake can slow down neurodegeneration, thus reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Both synaptic degeneration and neuronal cell loss are considered crucial factors in dementia. NGF helps promote neuronal cell growth and neuroplasticity.

Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory properties of polysaccharides in Maitake prevent and clear microglial amyloid formation in neurons, which leads to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.8

Chronic stress and anxiety can impair thinking, cloud judgment, and affect memory. The adaptogenic properties of Maitake help the body and mind adapt to stress, enabling individuals to remain calm, relaxed, and focused in any situation.



A lot has been said and discussed about the immune-boosting power of Reishi. This mushroom is also renowned for its ability to enhance cognitive functions and protect brain health.

The mushroom is rich in bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides and triterpenoids, known for promoting neurogenesis (brain cell growth) and neuroplasticity. Regular consumption of Reishi may enhance learning, memory, and overall cognitive performance.9

Scientists have established a clear link between poor sleep and long-term memory loss. By promoting restful sleep through regulating the sleep-wake cycle, Reishi can enhance memory, focus, and other cognitive functions.10

Studies indicate that Reishi may regulate neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin—two brain chemicals associated with mood and mental health. By improving mood and mental clarity, Reishi may contribute to a sense of mental well-being.

Reishi also demonstrates adaptogenic properties that may help the mind cope with external and internal stressors. The mushroom regulates the stress response by managing cortisol levels, resulting in reduced anxiety and an improved sense of calmness.

Final Thoughts

Students seek an academic edge, professionals strive for peak performance, and the elderly aim to reduce the risk of MCI, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. All in all, everyone needs a little boost to their cognitive faculties and mental health.

The five nootropic mushrooms you find here are guaranteed to enhance cognition and provide support to overall health. Whether taken alone or with other nootropics, these mushrooms, when consumed regularly, can enhance focus and energy levels throughout the day, improve short- and long-term memory, and promote a balanced mood regardless of the situation.


  1. Tsai-Teng, Tzeng, et al. “Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium Erinaceus Mycelium Ameliorates Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 Transgenic Mice.” Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 23, no. 1, 27 June 2016,
  2. Mori, Koichiro, et al. “Improving Effects of the Mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium Erinaceus) on Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 23, no. 3, Mar. 2009, pp. 367–372,
  3. Wold, Christian Winther, et al. “Structural Characterization of Bioactive Heteropolysaccharides from the Medicinal Fungus Inonotus Obliquus (Chaga).” Carbohydrate Polymers, vol. 185, Apr. 2018, pp. 27–40,
  4. Agrawal, Dinesh. “Medicinal Mushrooms: Recent Progress in Research and Development.” ResearchGate, May 2019,
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  6. Sun, Jun-En, et al. “Antihyperglycemic and Antilipidperoxidative Effects of Dry Matter of Culture Broth of Inonotus Obliquus in Submerged Culture on Normal and Alloxan-Diabetes Mice.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 118, no. 1, June 2008, pp. 7–13,
  7. Yi, Xiao, et al. “Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial and Assessment of Fermentation Product of Cordyceps Sinensis (Cs-4) in Enhancing Aerobic Capacity and Respiratory Function of the Healthy Elderly Volunteers.” Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, vol. 10, no. 3, Sept. 2004, pp. 187–192,
  8. Bai, Yao, et al. “A Maitake (Grifola Frondosa) Polysaccharide Ameliorates Alzheimer’s Disease-like Pathology and Cognitive Impairments by Enhancing Microglial Amyloid-β Clearance.” RSC Advances, vol. 9, no. 64, 2019, pp. 37127–37135,
  9. “Polysaccharides from Ganoderma Lucidum Promote Cognitive Function and Neural Progenitor Proliferation in Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Stem Cell Reports, vol. 8, no. 1, 10 Jan. 2017, pp. 84–94,
  10. Qiu, Yu, et al. “Exploration of the Anti-Insomnia Mechanism of Ganoderma by Central-Peripheral Multi-Level Interaction Network Analysis.” BMC Microbiology, vol. 21, no. 1, 29 Oct. 2021,