3 Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom

In a world filled with sensory and informational input, we can never have enough of one capacity: mental clarity.
Having a clear mind, means having more available consciousness. This translates to being easier able to separate relevant from irrelevant information and make better decisions overall.

The vast supplement-realm brings up new potentially useful active ingredients constantly. Oftentimes it is plants, roots and fungi which are already in use for a long time in specific cultures. That’s mainly far east like China and Japan.

Lion’s Mane is particularly known for its potential neuroprotective properties and for the stimulation of nerve growth factor production. Some people see it as a prophylactic supplement against Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In Japan the mushroom is referred to as Yamabushitake, which means mountain priest mushroom. This is derived from the mountain priest (Yamabushi), who spend most of their time in the mountains meditating and spending their life in great solitude.

Lion’s Mane has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for hundreds of years and was often used for treatment issues related to digestion, anti-cancer, insomnia, low mental clarity or brain fog and more.

“The Lion’s Mane mushroom has shown to stimulate the reproduction of adult brain stem cells.” – Tradd Cotter, Mycologist

Even though Lion’s Mane has been used in many cultures for hundreds of years, in the western world we’ve only started to discover the benefits. Therefore, there is very little (western) scientific research done on lion’s mane until now. I’ve linked the few studies I found below in the references. Everything I state in this article obviously only represents my opinion and my understanding and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Below you can find the usual medical disclaimer.

As Lion’s Mane and its functions are rather simple, I have also limited this article in its size.
In other words: there is simply not THAT much to say about this interesting mushroom.

Short Answer

Lion’s Mane extract is a mushroom, often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Japan.
It boosts cognitive ability, possibly prevents Alzheimer’s and dementia, lowers inflammation and has a positive effect on mood stabilization.

I personally encourage taking Lion’s Mane in a combinational supplement.

Key Takeaways

  • A unique, white-spined mushroom growing mainly in North America, Europe, and Asia.
  • Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Japanese culture for digestive health and enhancing brain power and mental clarity.
  • Valued as a gourmet ingredient for its seafood-like flavor and texture.
  • Known to stimulate nerve growth factor, enhancing memory and learning.
  • May influence neurotransmitters and the HPA axis, potentially improving mood and reducing anxiety.
  • Potential in preventing cognitive decline and diseases like Alzheimer’s.
  • Contains compounds that boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
  • Available in capsule and powder forms, typically taken in doses of 1g to 3g per day.

What is Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Description and Habitat

Hericium erinaceus, how lion’s mane mushrooms are scientifically called are characterized by their long, flowing and white spines. They resemble a lion’s mane as they mature and become larger. It looks very different from the stereotypical mushroom that you may include in regular meals or collect in a forest.

lion's mane mushroom growing on a tree

The medicinal mushroom is mainly found in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. It grows on hardwood trees. It grows particularly well on wounded and decaying beech trees but also on walnut, oak, and maple trees. Usually lion’s mane will be naturally found in late summer, when it’s hot and humidity is high. In some climates – especially parts of Asia – they also grow all year long.

Sometimes Lion’s Mane is referred to as bearded tooth mushroom, hedgehog mushroom, or satyr’s beard – which is quite obvious from its appearance. From the outside, you can mainly see the long white spines in form of a fruit body.

For supplements, Lion’s Mane is usually artificially grown on sawdust-based substrates. Organic Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain relatively high B vitamins, potassium, zinc, iron, and selenium.

Historical and Cultural Significance

As already pointed out in the introduction, Lion’s Mane has seen a frequent use in multiple different cultures.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it was usually prescribed for digestive problems and in order to promote general vigor and strength. In the Chinese view, Lion’s Mane contributed to longevity and spiritual potency.

In Japanese culture, the Lion’s Mane mushroom is part of the monk’s diet. Buddhist monks often consume it in order to enhance brain power and heighten concentration during meditations. The same goes for areas in Zen Buddhism.

Today it’s often used as a gourmet ingredient. Its texture and taste is often compared to seafood like lobster or crab.
As a supplement it has gained popularity in the nootropic space. As Lion’s Mane is an adaptogen (like Ashwagandha or coffee for example), it supports the body in resisting external stressors of all kinds like physical, mental, chemical and biological.

Potential Health Benefits

Cognitive Health and Neuroprotective Effects

As usual with my article, the shown benefits of supplements somehow interlink to each other.
Lion’s Mane has shown a bunch of incredible effects on rats, mice and humans, one of them being an increase in cognitive effects.

The greatest chunk of benefits come from the stimulation in NGF. Nerve Growth Factor is a protein responsible for the development, maintenance and survival of nerve cells in the brain. The amount of available NGF has a great effect on neuroplasticity, which is essentially our brain’s ability to restructure, adapt and regenerate.

The “magic” ingredient in Lion’s Mane mushroom is erinacine. This is the compound that contributes to the NGF stimulation. Many of these interesting substances do not traverse the blood-brain barrier and therefore do not have an actual effect. Erinacines do cross the blood-brain barrier.

As stated before, Lion’s Mane mushroom is also linked to the promotion of neurogenesis. This is a fancy term of generating new neurons in the brain. This especially seems to be the case in the areas of memory and learning.
Many people taking Lion’s Mane feel that words are coming to them easier. They often state that their concentration and learning ability is elevated.

We have many different kinds of cells in the body. Tissue cells, muscle cells, specific organ cells, brain cells and many more. Each of these cells have different functions and responsibilities. There is another kind of cell I haven’t mentioned yet: stem cells.
Stem cells essentially are blank placeholder cells, which are able to jump in and repair broken functionality. Every med student will roll their eyes here, because I am massively over-simplifying.

What’s important to understand: Lion’s Mane mushroom stimulates the production of brain stem cells and therefore supports in keeping our brain “younger” and in better shape. This is how Lion’s Mane helps in preventing cognitive decline and thereby also supports in preventing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and increase mental clarity.

Mood and Anxiety

The aforementioned NGF (nerve growth factor protein) doesn’t just play a role in brain stem cell production and brain health, but also in mood regulation.
The compounds in Lion’s Mane also might have an influence on our neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. I will write articles about dopamine’s influence on the brain and how this can be influenced.

Hericenones and erinacines (the compounds) seem to have an impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and therefore a close link to the human nervous system. In case you’ve read my article about Ashwagandha, this will be familiar. The HPA axis is responsible for adrenaline responses and ultimately your internal stress regulation.
One notable study, published in “Biomed Research” in 2010, investigated the effects of Lion’s Mane on menopausal women, focusing on symptoms such as depression and anxiety. The research suggests that after consuming Lion’s Mane cookies for four weeks, participants showed a significant reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms.

Mood and anxiety regulation also has to do with the physiological level of inflammation. Chronic inflammation is directly linked to mood disorders. My next point will dive a bit more into this topic. Just be aware that these points interlink.

Immune System and Anti-Inflammatory Properties

When it comes to the immune system effects of this medicinal mushroom, the main compounds are hericenones and erinacines. The mushroom also contains other bioactive substances like polysaccharides, beta-glucans and a few others.
The main mechanism for anti-inflammatory effects is the inhibition of the NF-kB pathway. This pathway is a key regulator for the immune response in the body. By inhibiting this pathway, Lion’s Mane can reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

When it comes to inflammation, gut health is also an important topic. We have more bacteria in the colon and gut than there are stars in the known universe.
Lion’s Mane is linked to improve gut health. Through Lion’s Manes antimicrobial effect it may help fight off infections even better.

Using Lion’s Mane Supplements

Frequency and Dosage

An organic lion’s mane supplement is available in multiple different forms.
I personally recommend using it in a capsuled combination supplement with other compounds.

In those, the dosage will be between 0.5g – 1g.

The usual dosage ranges between 1g – 3g per day. In some studies 3g were used, but that may also be in order to attain a more obvious effect against the placebo group.

Next to capsules, you can also get the raw powder. Just make sure it’s actually organic lion’s mane.

In case you want to target specific functions with it, I would get pure lion’s mane capsules and take at least 1g a day.
If you just want to boost mental clarity and have a beneficial effect, I would take it in a combination supplement.

Safety and Side Effects

Lion’s Mane Mushroom is considered generally safe and there are almost no reported side effects. At least none that I can find.
Still, please refer to the health disclaimer below and make sure to be responsible.

Conclusion

I am personally just starting to take a Lion’s Mane supplement and therefore wanted to learn a bit more about it’s abilities and potential health benefits.
Previously I’ve just heard that it’s able to boost mental clarity, but I wasn’t aware of the other effects. As I have an allergy to many mushrooms, including Penicillin, I am always a bit cautious with a medicinal mushroom dietary supplement. In this case, I wanted to try it out.
This is just one herbal supplement of many others that I am willing to try out and curious about my experience.

References

FAQ

My articles are never AI-generated and I do not intend to do so. The following FAQ should give a quick summary and has been AI-generated (just as a disclaimer).

What exactly is Lion’s Mane?

Lion’s Mane, scientifically known as Hericium erinaceus, is a mushroom known for its long, flowing white spines that resemble a lion’s mane. It’s used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and in Japan for its potential health benefits.

Where is Lion’s Mane found?

This mushroom typically grows in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia, particularly on hardwood trees like beech, walnut, oak, and maple. It’s also cultivated artificially for supplements.

What are the historical and cultural significances of Lion’s Mane?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Lion’s Mane has been used for digestive issues, general health, and longevity. In Japan, Buddhist monks have used it to enhance brain function and focus during meditation. It’s also a popular gourmet ingredient due to its seafood-like texture and taste.

What are the potential health benefits of Lion’s Mane?

Lion’s Mane is known for its cognitive health benefits, including neuroprotective effects and stimulation of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and increased mental clarity. It’s also associated with mood and anxiety regulation and has anti-inflammatory and immune system-boosting properties.

How does Lion’s Mane affect cognitive health?

The mushroom contains compounds like erinacines that stimulate NGF, crucial for the development and survival of nerve cells. This leads to enhanced neuroplasticity and potentially better memory and learning abilities.

Can Lion’s Mane help with mood and anxiety?

Yes, Lion’s Mane may impact neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and its influence on the HPA axis could regulate stress responses, thereby potentially improving mood and reducing anxiety.

What is Lion’s Mane’s role in the immune system and anti-inflammatory responses?

Its main compounds, hericenones and erinacines, along with polysaccharides and beta-glucans, help inhibit key pathways for inflammation and bolster the immune system.

What forms are available for Lion’s Mane supplements and what’s the recommended dosage?

Lion’s Mane supplements are available in capsules and raw powder form. The usual dosage ranges between 1g – 3g per day, with some studies using up to 3g. It’s often recommended to use it in a capsuled combination supplement.

Are there any safety concerns or side effects with Lion’s Mane?

Lion’s Mane is generally considered safe with few reported side effects. However, as with any supplement, it’s important to consult healthcare professionals before use.

Can Lion’s Mane prevent cognitive decline and diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia?

While there’s promising evidence that Lion’s Mane supports brain health and may prevent cognitive decline, more research is needed to conclusively establish its effectiveness against specific diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Important Disclaimers

Health Disclaimer

The information provided on this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. I am not a healthcare professional, doctor, or licensed nutritionist. The content shared here reflects my personal experiences and insights on health, nutrition, sleep, and supplements. It’s important to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before starting any new diet, exercise program, or supplement regimen, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions or concerns. The recommendations and opinions expressed on this blog are solely mine and should not be considered as medical advice.

Affiliate Disclaimer

Please note that some of the links on this blog are affiliate links. This means that if you click on these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help support the blog and allow me to continue to create content for you. I only recommend products and services that I believe in and feel would be beneficial for my readers. My goal is to provide you with valuable information and choices, but please understand that my recommendations are based on my personal opinion and experience. Your trust is important to me, and I strive to be transparent and honest in all my affiliations.

Sources disclaimer

Creating these articles is fun, but also quite a lot of work.
As I am just stating may conceptual understanding as a regular dude, I renounce linking all the different sources and papers. In case you are interested in that, I would simply ask you to do you own further research. Not every study I link to will be a placebo controlled study, but they are just to undermine my basic point and that I do not make up numbers and stats.

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