An array of difficult cognitive symptoms ranging from frustrating to debilitating are pretty common for those of us navigating prescribed psychotropic drug withdrawal. These problems can include things like brain fog, poor concentration, memory problems, confusion, etc.
Early on in my withdrawal process when I was trying to taper much faster than my brain and nervous system could handle, I had a couple of frightening experiences with confusion and loss of memory. I can look back on them now with a sense of humor but at the time they were quite scary. Even after I settled into a more manageable taper, there were certain cognitive issues that remained for a long time… intermittent difficulty with word recall, inability to remember certain things especially numbers, brain fog, completely losing my train of thought in conversation mid-sentence, things like this.
Yes, this can happen to anyone–and often we’re told that it’s just part of getting older–but the sudden onset plus the frequency and severity of these issues for me was absolutely related to discontinuing the SSRI.
By the time I learned about how Lion’s Mane might be helpful for me I was already 6 or 7 months out from the end of my taper, and had seen real improvement in my cognitive symptoms. But I was still left with some residual brain fog and difficulty concentrating, and would find myself losing words sometimes or trailing off mid sentence especially when tired.
Lion’s Mane, Hericium erinaceus, is a type of edible and medicinal mushroom. Among other things it has been studied for its neuroprotective properties, and it can help aid in nerve regeneration. That’s right, it can actually help damaged nerves regrow. Lion’s Mane stimulates the production of NGF, or nerve growth factor protein, which helps protect existing neurons and encourage new neuron growth. Having enough NGF is really important for healthy neuronal and nervous system function. (When the brain doesn’t make enough NGF, it may contribute to the development of things like Parkinson’s and Alzheimers). And because of its effect on brain and nervous system functioning Lion’s Mane may be able to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression, and can have a calming effect on the nervous system.
I decided to try working with Lion’s Mane, and I got some in bioavailable powdered form that I began to add to my matcha tea in the mornings. I actually got several different medicinal mushroom powders and would rotate them each day. (Note: Lion’s Mane and other medicinal mushrooms are also great to work with as liquid extracts). After a little while–a few weeks maybe–I began to notice that on the days I had the Lion’s Mane in my tea I felt more focused, clear-headed, and a little more calm and centered. This difference was subtle, but notable.
At the time of this writing it’s been about 8 or 9 months since I added in the mushrooms regularly. I still rotate through the various different varieties, and I no longer notice a difference on the days that I have the Lion’s Mane… instead I feel clearer and more focused basically all the time now (the calm centeredness isn’t as consistent, but that’s okay).
I wish I had known about Lion’s Mane earlier on in my journey. I am so curious about what might have happened if I had worked with it when I was in rougher cognitive shape. No matter, I am so glad to have it as an ally now. For those in withdrawal who can tolerate it, Lion’s Mane may be a real help. And if you’re not going through the withdrawal process but would like some support with nerve and cognitive function, Lion’s Mane may also be for you. If you end up working with it for whatever reason I’d live to hear about your experience!
Disclaimer: For educational purposes only. Nothing I ever share is medical advice. I am never telling you what to do/take/etc. I am never guaranteeing any specific results. I am simply sharing my experience and offering food for thought. Please do your own research, draw your own conclusions, talk with your own qualified practitioner(s), do whatever else it is that you do, and go from there.
-Lion’s Mane Mushroom: What You Should Know https://theherbalacademy.com/lions-mane-mushroom/
-Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health by Tero Isokauppila (2019) https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/551143/healing-mushrooms-by-tero-isokauppila-foreword-by-mark-hyman-md/