By: Dr. Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.
Mental health conditions are a significant detriment to modern society. Approximately, 284 million people suffer from anxiety, and another 264 million people globally  have been diagnosed with depression. While there are many pharmaceutical drugs prescribed to help alleviate suffering caused by these mental health conditions, there are natural options that can provide relief as well. For those living (or maybe just existing) with anxiety or depression symptoms, anything that helps improve one’s mental state can make a significant impact to their quality of life.
Medicinal mushrooms contain molecules that have demonstrated anti-anxiety properties and the ability to lessen depressive symptoms. In one study, a reishi mushroom extract showed similar anti-anxiety properties as the pharmaceutical drug diazepam.  Reishi powder also diminished fatigue, anxiety, depression, and provided a better quality of life in 48 breast cancer survivors.  The patients were given 1,000 mg of reishi powder three times a day for four weeks. The researchers postulated that “[o]ne explanation for the improvement in depression is that with less fatigue and more energy, these breast cancer survivors were able to do some activities that they previously had given up. These activities brought pleasure into their lives.”
Lion’s mane mushrooms and their beta- and alpha-glucan polysaccharides have also been shown to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.  The four-week study included 30 females aged 35 to 47 years old, who had various ailments, but no specific diseases. They consumed four lion’s mane cookies containing 0.5 g of powdered lion’s mane fruiting bodies or placebo cookies. The study sought to understand the lion’s mane cookies’ clinical effects on menopause, including sleep quality and depression. After evaluating the participants, the researchers found that the group receiving lion’s mane cookies showed decreased depression and anxiety like symptoms. The researchers attributed these effects to the mushroom’s stimulation of nerve growth factor.
Cordyceps mushrooms have also demonstrated antidepressant properties. [5,6] One study used cordyceps mushrooms in conjunction with duloxetine, a common antidepressant (e.g., Cymbalta®).  Depression is reported to be 18% higher in people with diabetes compared to the rest of the world’s population. Even more significant is that research has highlighted that depressed diabetics are less likely to stick to an antidiabetic regimen, causing further long-term damage to their well-being. To analyze this, a 2009 study was conducted that suggested that vanadium-enriched cordyceps might be efficacious for diabetes-induced depression.  Vanadium salts can mimic insulin, thereby providing a therapeutic benefit. However, trace elements like vanadium can also be toxic in our bodies. In addition to cordyceps’ mood-enhancing properties, they have the added benefit of taking up these trace elements in our bodies, reducing toxicity while preserving the desired clinical effects.
These researchers tested their hypothesis in a follow-up study using rats.  They employed tests like evaluating how much the rats swam or climbed objects, which are accepted animal models for depression. The vanadium-enriched mushroom treatment resulted in increased mobility via swimming and climbing, revealing the potential of this two-pronged approach to diabetes-induced depression.
Reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps mushrooms provide the fungal power behind several Spore Life Sciences formulations such as Chill Out, containing reishi mushrooms and other medicinal plants such as chamomile and lemon balm which also provide anxiolytic, calming properties; or Focus Performance which includes lion’s mane and cordyceps mushrooms, as well as ashwagandha and gingko biloba. A well-thought-out wellness plan can easily include everyday great all-natural ingredients like functional mushrooms, and with the added validation from the scientific literature, it just makes natural sense.
 Sison, G. Depression Statistics 2021 . Global Health Metrics Volume 392, Issue 10159, P178901858
 Ali N, Muhammad A, & Akbar S.A. Anxiolytic-like activity of ethanol extract of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in mice. International Journal of Medical Research and Health Sciences. 2016;5:57-60
 Zhao H, Zhang Q, Zhao L, Huang X, Wang J, Kang X. Spore powder of Ganoderma lucidum improves cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer patients undergoing endocrine therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:809614
 Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, et al. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. 2010;31(4):231-237
 Nishizawa K, Torii K, Kawasaki A, et al. Antidepressant-like effect of Cordyceps sinensis in the mouse tail suspension test. Biol Pharm Bull. 2007;30(9):1758-1762
 Chen X, Zhang X, Wang C, Feng L, & Wang G. Cordyceps sinensis combined with duloxetine improves sleep symptoms in patients with depression: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Trials: Nervous System Diseases. 2018;3:136-145
 Guo JY, Han CC, Liu YM. A contemporary treatment approach to both diabetes and depression by Cordyceps sinensis, rich in vanadium. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2010;7(3):387-389
 Guo J, Li C, Wang J, Liu Y, Zhang J. Vanadium-enriched Cordyceps sinensis, a contemporary treatment approach to both diabetes and depression in rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:450316