Can Adaptogen Mushrooms Rewire your Brain?
At Areté Adaptogens, we began innovating adaptogen mushroom products with a single goal in mind - to increase the mental and physical performance of our consumers. Adaptogen mushrooms have been used in ancient cultures for thousands of years to boost immunity, increase endurance, and improve cognitive function. Eastern medicine has incorporated these mushrooms into powerful elixirs of health and longevity for as long as humans have been around. It was our goal to utilize these same adaptogen mushrooms to create performance products that help people increase their baseline levels of mental and physical health and performance.
Brain Wave Technology
Wave Neuro is a company in Cardiff, CA that focuses on EEG brain scans and brain stimulation therapy. Their patented technology allows them to track how the brain processes information, through identifying brain wave activity present in the brain of each patient. Tracking this information provides key insight into what’s working well, and what can be improved upon. For example, high levels of alpha waves are correlated with strong focus, memory, problem solving, and creativity. Too much beta frequency can indicate some sort of neurological degeneration, making it difficult to stay alert, focused and motivated on a day to day basis. Gaining this understanding of your brain is a critical element to being able to perform at your highest level.
A lot of buzz has been created around the neurological potential of the Lion’s Mane mushroom. Initial studies have been performed on animals to test the effect of Lion’s Mane on the brain. The results have shown that Lion’s Mane can increase NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) in the brain; which can improve memory and focus, and aid against neurodegenerative diseases like alzheimers and dementia. In a general sense, we’ve noticed positive cognitive effects from using our own products that contain Lion’s Mane - but we wanted to see if there was legitimate science to confirm what we were feeling.
Can Mushrooms Improve Brain Health?
In June of 2022, we invited two athletes who had never tried adaptogen mushrooms before to Wave Neuro for a brain scan. After the initial scan, both participants used our products Shroomy and Root Strength every day. The plan was for them to return for another scan after three months of using our products. We wanted to see if there were any neurological changes in their brain waves.
I checked in with the two participants on a weekly basis to keep track of their experience. One participant is a professional soccer player. A few weeks into the experiment, he told me he felt the fittest he’s ever been in his career, both physically and mentally. He described noticing a substantial difference in his endurance and ability to control his breathing past the point when he would typically become fatigued. Cordyceps, another adaptogen mushroom in our product blend, has been studied to increase the body’s level of ATP. ATP is a molecule that pumps energy and oxygen to the muscles and lungs; allowing us to store, distribute, and exert energy more efficiently. Sherpas in Nepal, (some of the only humans in the world to consistently summit Mt Everest without supplemental oxygen) have been studied to have higher levels of ATP in their mitochondria; meaning that they have the ability to utilize minimal oxygen much more efficiently. The fact that this participant was noticing more efficiency in his breathing without knowing this potential benefit of cordyceps was extremely promising.
The other participant, an ironman, surfer, and weightlifter, told me he felt like he could think and articulate things more clearly. He described feeling like it was easier to convey complex ideas in work conversations, and that overall he felt sharper mentally. All good testaments, but still nothing tangible to point to.
As we approached the three month mark, I scheduled a follow up brain scan at Wave Neuro with our two participants. I went in with zero expectations, a lot of excitement and curiosity. In this three month period, the only substantial change each participant made was incorporating our products into their daily routine. They both had extremely healthy initial scans, and I was told from the beginning that the idea there could be much improvement from where they already were was small. Nonetheless I was eager to get the results from the follow up scan.
At Wave Neuro, a key indicator of strong brain health is the presence of consistent and steady alpha wave production. Healthy alpha production promotes mental resourcefulness and aids in the ability to mentally coordinate. Alpha rhythms in the brain are reported to be derived from the “white matter” of the brain. The white matter is considered the part of the brain that connects all other parts with each other, like connective tissue. Alpha appears to bridge the conscious to the subconscious. In the alpha state, it becomes easier to move quickly and efficiently between tasks. It’s the brain’s most important frequency for learning and using information. It can also create feelings of being at ease, and provide a calm sense of alertness. Alpha frequencies are strongly linked to good moods, and creativity.
The graphs above represent the alpha wave activity in the posterior cortex of the brain of the two participants, for both scans. The posterior cortex is the part of the brain responsible for planned movements, spatial reasoning, and attention. The orange line is the initial scan, and the blue line is the follow up after three months. As you can see, there is a significant jump in alpha wave activity in the same exact place for both participants.
Though we cannot draw conclusions from such a small sample size, I was told by Wave Neuro that improvements of this magnitude are typically not seen without the brain stimulation therapy they offer. Furthermore, it is even rarer for a brain that's healthy from the start to experience this level of improvement in such a short amount of time. If nothing else, this experiment acts as a call for further research, and larger sample sizes.
Mushrooms for Mental Health
There is a mental health crisis going on in America. 1 in 5 American adults report struggling with mental illness, and my guess would be that the number is actually much higher than that. Many of these illnesses stem from neurodegeneration and inflammation. We need solutions in the form of preventative lifestyle options that don’t require pharmaceutical drug use every single month. The preliminary data and evidence of Lion’s Mane efficacy for neurological regeneration should not be ignored, and we are passionate about expanding the research.