Medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Cordyceps, and Lion's Mane have numerous health benefits—e.g., reducing stress, supporting the immune system, and optimizing neurological function. All of these can enhance our ability to get a deep and restful night's sleep—and to boost the body's "restore and rejuvenate" function during sleeping hours.
This essay will introduce the use of medicinal mushrooms—particularly those most relevant to getting a good night's sleep. But first, let's review some of the reasons why rest is so vital to the health of our body and mind.
Rest, Repair, Replenish, & Restore: Why Sleep Is Important
Sleep is when our body-mind enters its rest-and-repair cycle. And why is this important?
It's essential in the same way taking your car or bicycle in for a tune-up is critical. Or in the same way washing your clothes, bedding, and bath-towels is essential. Or in the same way, occasionally defragging your computer is necessary.
In short: sleep allows time for the body to recalibrate its various systems, and to repair any glitches it finds. Deep and restful sleep is essential for the body and mind to function at their optimal level, with power and efficiency.
The multitude of more specific reasons why sleep is essential to include:
- Enhancement of overall physical health—including heart health, increased muscle-mass and healthier skin;
- An improvement in mental focus, learning capacity and creativity;
- A more consistently uplifted mood and an overall sense of well being;
- More intelligent decision-making—which translates into fewer physical, mental, emotional, or financial mishaps; and
- Hormonal balancing that ensures proper growth and appetite, and supports more fulfilling sexual relationships.
According to the experts at the Chopra Center:
Restful sleep is one of the foundations for good health. We need sleep to rejuvenate our bodies as well as our minds. During sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system. Sleep also plays a role in memory and learning. Not sleeping well not only affects our quality of life but may also increase mortality and is associated with a number of serious medical issues including high blood pressure, obesity, heart attack, stroke, and mood disorders.
Sleep & Brain Health
Sleep is vital to the health of our human brain. In the scientific review-of-research article The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep, we learn:
Sleep has been proven to improve memory recall, regulate metabolism, and reduce mental fatigue … When one sleeps, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself, and removes toxic waste byproducts which have accumulated throughout the day. This evidence demonstrates that sleeping can clear the brain and help maintain its normal functioning.
Lack of sleep affects our cognitive abilities, behavior, and judgment—and overall well being:
Essentially, sleeping acts as a garbage collector that comes during the night and removes the waste product left by the brain. This allows the brain to function normally the next day when one wakes up for slumber.
So there's an excellent reason we often say—I'm going to sleep on it—when we need to make an important decision. It's because sleep improves our problem-solving capacities: it not only refreshes our body but also clarifies our mind.
The Benefits Of Medicinal Mushrooms
You've probably enjoyed mushrooms on pizza or in a stir-fry, or sliced onto a tossed salad. And it won't surprise you to learn most cultures have a multitude of culinary uses for mushrooms.
But did you know certain mushrooms have also been used medicinally, for thousands of years? In Asian countries in particular (e.g., China and Japan) medicinal mushrooms have been celebrated for their therapeutic benefits. And in recent decades, western science and medicine have come to acknowledge these same benefits.
The vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other bioactive elements of specific mushrooms have been shown to support the health of our human body, in some pretty impressive ways. Some of the proven health benefits of commonly used medicinal mushrooms include: reducing inflammation, boosting our immunity, having antiviral capacities, supporting heart health, improving brain function, and even fighting cancer.
Medicinal Mushrooms To Help You Sleep Better
Medicinal mushrooms can also support more profound and more restorative sleep. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Cordyceps (Cordyceps Sinensis), Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus) and Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) are four types of mushrooms that can benefit you in this way. Since each has unique powers, let's look at them one at a time.
1. Reishi: The Mushroom Of Immortality
In many Asian cultures, they revere Reishi as the "king of mushrooms." The adaptogenic qualities of this mushroom—i.e., its capacity to modulate the body's response to environmental stressors—make it perfect for enhancing overall health and vitality. It's used to strengthen the immune system, reduce stress, resolve fatigue, and improve sleep. In Chinese medicine, Reishi is a Shen tonic—which means it can harmonize the mind, nourish the spirit, and open us to deeper levels of insight and intuition.
Reishi mushroom has also been used to resolve hormonal imbalances, heal adrenal fatigue, improve memory and concentration, and (once again) facilitate deep and restful sleep. Within the realm of medicinal mushrooms, Reishi is a great place to begin—in your exploration of how these powerful allies from the fungal kingdom can enhance your sleep.
2. Cordyceps: Boost Your Daytime & Nighttime Performance
Cordyceps is the quintessential "energy-boosting" mushroom. It increases the flow of oxygenated blood throughout the body, and also stimulates the production of ATP—the primary form of energy within our cells. For these reasons, Cordyceps is often used by athletes and exercise enthusiasts to improve stamina, endurance, and overall performance.
Cordyceps can make the "rest and repair" function of your sleeping hours even more potent, by boosting the level of cellular rejuvenation. It can also enhance sexual potency.
3. Lion's Mane To Enhance Cognitive Function
Lion's Mane gets its name from its furry-white appearance—which looks kind of like a lion's mane. But you might also say it bears a resemblance to the "white matter" of the brain. And this would resonate directly with its primary function as a medicinal mushroom—which is to improve brain health and enhance our cognitive functioning.
Lion's Mane has been effectively used to heal neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and dementia. It can be used to treat the effects of stroke. And it can be effective in speeding recovery from peripheral nerve injuries.
You can use Lion's Mane for preventative and performance-enhancing purposes: to improve short-term memory, enhance intelligence, and super-charge our creativity. The way that it accomplishes these things is quite remarkable: Lion's Mane stimulates the growth of neurons (brain cells) and supports remyelination—which keeps the brain's electrical system functioning correctly.
Since the ability to sleep well connects to the health of our central nervous system, Lion's Mane can be a great ally in this regard.
4. Chaga Mushroom: A Soothing & Nutritious Bedtime Tea
Chaga mushroom has a host of inspiring health benefits: It enhances the immune system, is a powerful antioxidant, can be used to resolve stomach pain, and has a powerful antiviral action—to name just a few.
But what's most excellent about Chaga—about getting a good night's sleep—is that you can make it into a truly delicious tea. Simply simmer chunks of the Chaga mushroom (or their ground powder) in water, for thirty minutes or so. Strain off the resulting brew, add a bit of vanilla extract (or other spices), a bit of pure maple syrup to sweeten, and a splash of milk or half-and-half.
Enjoy this tea before bedtime (or any other time, for that matter)—for its profoundly nourishing and soothing effects.
The Bottom Line
Medicinal mushrooms can nourish and support our precious human body-mind, in countless ways—including helping us to get a good night's sleep.Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have. We'd love to help you create your perfect sleeping environment!