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Mushrooms And Stress Management: Adaptogenic Properties For A Balanced Lifestyle

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Mushrooms And Stress Management: Adaptogenic Properties For A Balanced Lifestyle

Stress and feelings of anxiety are commonplace in today’s world, and more individuals are searching for ways to naturally support the stress response and be able to better navigate daily stressors. In 2022, the global adaptogenic mushroom market was valued at around 11.2 billion dollars, driven by a growing awareness of the benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms as well as consumer trends in searching for natural health remedies. The ease with which adaptogenic mushrooms like reishi, cordyceps, and Lion’s mane can be added to food and drink makes these mushrooms a simple way to better support the body to navigate stress.


Understanding Stress and Its Impact

Stress is a normal reaction the body has in response to a stimulus in order to help you adapt and adjust to new situations. Stress can be a positive thing that helps you stay alert and aware of your surroundings, though it can become problematic when it’s ongoing without any periods of rest and restoration.  

There are different types of stress, including:

  • Acute stress is typically short-term and can be either positive or negative. Acute stressors are the most common types of stress encountered in day-to-day life.
  • Chronic stress is ongoing stress that can stem from life circumstances, inflammatory foods or environment, childhood trauma, and other things.
  • Eustress is a generally positive stressor that tends to be energizing and exhilarating, often accompanied by an adrenaline surge.

Ultimately, effective stress management strategies are important for everyone to have in order to work through daily stressors without deleterious health effects. Understanding how stress impacts the body and incorporating lifestyle changes, movement, good nutrition, and nervous system regulation techniques help minimize the impact of ongoing stress on the mind and body. While conventional advice may be to “just not worry so much,” to take medication, or to go for a walk if you feel stressed, more specific, personalized approaches to stress management are needed for many individuals to feel and perform their best.  

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are plants, roots, and mushrooms that help the body respond to stress, fatigue, feelings of anxiety or depression, and enhance overall well-being.  To be considered an adaptogen, three things must be true:

  • It must help the body cope with stress
  • It must be non-toxic when taken at a normal dosage
  • It must help the body return to homeostasis (or balance)

Adaptogens work by helping to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a hormone signaling pathway that’s integral to the stress response. Additionally, adaptogens may help improve mental fatigue and focus during times of stress, helping to offset some of the impact of stress on everyday performance.

Some of the most well-known adaptogenic herbs include ashwagandha, Rhodiola, holy basil, and Schisandra, though various species of mushrooms are gaining popularity as more knowledge of their adaptogenic properties are uncovered. Mushroom adaptogens are often central to functional foods and beverages created as dietary supplements to offset the impact of stress on the body and mind.  

The Mushroom Kingdom: A Natural Source of Adaptogens 

Mushrooms have the greatest diversity of any group of fungi, with edible mushroom species attracting more and more interest as functional ingredients to bring more health benefits to everyday foods. Adaptogenic mushrooms can have a beneficial effect on the body’s stress response and are now found in many teas, coffees, nutrition bars, and stress-reducing beverages in the food and beverage industry. Some of the most common adaptogenic mushrooms include reishi, cordyceps, and Lion’s mane.

There are records of the use of mushrooms going back thousands of years for various medicinal purposes, including reducing inflammation, caring for wounds, antitumor properties, and immune support, amongst others. More modern research is evaluating the use of psychedelic mushrooms such as psilocybin for its effect on post-traumatic stress disorders, bringing to light the extensive uses of various types of fungi.

However, most of the mushroom species found in the functional nutrition and beverage world are adaptogenic mushroom species, which have been examined for their impact on the HPA axis and the stress response. Incorporating these mushrooms into daily routines may support a more balanced stress response and overall lifestyle.  

Key Mushroom Varieties and Their Adaptogenic Properties 

Mushrooms with adaptogenic properties come in many varieties. Here are a few of the most popular.


Reishi mushrooms, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and other species, have a variety of health benefits, including immune system modulation and regulating the stress response. This mushroom family may help reduce stress-related fatigue and improve the sense of overall well-being, and can also help with improving sleep due to its impact on the GABA pathway.  

Since stress is often a reason for poor or disrupted sleep, including reishi to help with sleep during times of stress can be a simple wellness tool for many. Reishi mushrooms have a high concentration of compounds called triterpenoids, natural sedative compounds that work with the nervous system to exert a sense of calm and relaxation.


There are many different types of cordyceps mushrooms, with perhaps the most well-known medicine being Cordyceps sinensis. About 35 different types of cordyceps have been found to have medicinal properties, mainly adaptogenic in nature. Cordyceps can have an antidepressant-like effect when ingested, though it’s most well-studied due to its impact on improving the stress response and stress-related fatigue. This mushroom also helps improve energy levels, especially when under stress.  

Lions Mane

There’s a growing body of research behind the cognitive-enhancing benefits of Lion’s mane mushrooms, or Hericium erinaceus, to the point where it is often called the “smart mushroom.”  During times of stress, it’s not uncommon to experience brain fog and poor executive function; including Lion’s mane in one’s wellness routines can help offset the impact of stress on cognitive performance and improve mental clarity. Lion’s mane may also stabilize levels of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters important for mood and motivation, which may also help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression that can occur with ongoing stress. 

Incorporating Mushrooms into Your Lifestyle 

There’s many ways that adaptogenic mushrooms can be incorporated into your lifestyle. Powdered mushrooms can be added to hot water and taken like a warm beverage, or an encapsulated dose of the mushroom may be a simpler fit, depending on personal preferences. The dose of mushrooms varies based on the specific form, and the recommended dose is going to vary for each person’s needs. Extracts are typically more potent and will be taken in lower amounts than the entire dried mushroom.  

You may see these mushrooms added to products available at local health stores, as well.  MUD/WTR, for example, is a coffee alternative that contains adaptogenic mushrooms with the benefit of improving fatigue, mood, and mental clarity. There’s even the potential for culinary uses for these mushrooms - Lion’s mane has been used as a sandwich ingredient, for example, due to its hearty texture,

The timing and duration of taking adaptogenic mushrooms will depend on the mushroom species as well as personal needs. For example, it’s often recommended to take reishi in the evening to take advantage of the calming effect of the mushroom, though it’s always important to work alongside a healthcare professional to help figure out what timing and dosage will be best based on an individual basis. It’s not recommended to take reishi if you’re prone to low blood pressure or are taking blood pressure medications.

How Can Functional Medicine Labs Help Assess Stress Levels?

Poorly managed or uncontrolled stress is one of the most common reasons why your health may begin to suffer, and using functional medicine labs to help assess the stress response and related biomarkers can help you feel confident in putting a plan together to get you back on top of your game.  

24-Hour Cortisol Testing

While cortisol may be more commonly known as the “stress” hormone that’s produced in response to stressors, it’s also an important part of regulating the circadian rhythm, or the sleep-wake cycle. For that reason, testing cortisol levels over the course of 24 hours can help provide insight into not just whether cortisol is low or high but also how it’s impacting the circadian rhythm. Understanding the output of cortisol throughout the day can be helpful to personalize nutritional, supplement, and lifestyle options to have the biggest impact on stress levels and normalize the stress response.  

HPA Evaluation

The HPA Profile is another option to evaluate stress levels by looking at the bigger picture of the function of the HPA axis. The test combines four-point cortisol measurements with DHEA levels and neurotransmitter evaluation to better assess the impact of stress on the body.

Micronutrient Evaluation

Many vitamins and minerals are essential to a healthy stress response, including vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins. A comprehensive micronutrient test can provide insight into dietary and supplemental support that may be needed to address a higher demand on the body due to stress.  



Adaptogenic mushrooms such as reishi, cordyceps, and Lion’s mane can be part of an overall healthy lifestyle to help support the stress response and improve overall vitality. Like any other supplement or functional food, working with a practitioner can help you better understand if adaptogens are a great fit for your needs. 

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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