Lion’s Mane is a medicinal mushroom that is quickly gaining a reputation as a potent nootropic.
This unique-looking fungus seems to possess many promising brain-boosting benefits and some effective immune-strengthening capacities that have caught the medical community’s attention.
Lion’s Mane mushroom has had a strong foothold in complementary and alternative medicine for a very long time, primarily in traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine.
And today, its increasing acceptability in contemporary medicine has made it a strong contender as a potent nootropic.
What is Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus)?
Lion’s Mane mushroom takes its name from its shaggy-looking appearance, resembling the mane of a lion. This mushroom has a long-standing history of use as a culinary and medicinal plant, serving as a curative agent for many conditions.
This healing fungus goes by many other names like the Hedgehog Mushroom, Old Man’s Beard, Monkey Head Mushroom, yamabushitake, and even the Pom Pom Mushroom, among many others.
However, its scientific name is Hericium Erinaceus, and it is mostly referred to as Lion’s Mane mushroom.
How Does Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extract Work for Mental Health?
Lion’s Mane mushroom seems to offer a variety of health benefits for the brain and body. However, in a nootropic capacity, it is considered a powerful brain tonic for enhancing brain power, repairing and creating neurons, and eliminating brain fog.
When compared to other nootropics, the medicinal mushroom Hericium Erinaceus demonstrates a somewhat different mechanism of action.
Whereas many other nootropics modulate key neurotransmitters’ production to yield brain-boosting effects, the known Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits increase a specific protein’s levels in the brain cells.
The focus of this activity is to regenerate neurons and offer significant neurogenesis benefits in the brain.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms do this in a two-fold manner, with different yet complementary brain-enhancing functions. The mushroom contains two active compounds, taken from its scientific name, Hieracium Erinaceus, known as hericenones and erinacines.
- Hericenones are primarily responsible for generating more Nerve Growth Factor.
- Erinacines cross the blood-brain barrier to encourage neuron production.
Nerve Growth Factor is an insulin-like protein that regulates the growth, development, and maintenance of sensory neurons.
When the active compounds in Hieracium Erinaceus cross the blood-brain barrier, they enhance NGF levels, improving neurons’ health and survival.
What Are The Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
If you want to improve recall, age gradually, and rev up your brain cells, you should take a closer look at Lion’s Mane mushrooms (Hericium Erinaceus).
Lion’s Mane mushroom extract excels in yielding impressive neuroprotective features along with offering a plethora of brain-boosting benefits.
Brain Health Support
Many of Lion’s Mane extract cognitive benefits come from its ability to increase NGF levels in the brain. NGF or Nerve Growth Factor is a critical player in the maintenance and growth of brain neurons.
NGF is a component of a more prominent family of biomolecules known as neurotrophic factors. Together, these biomolecules are responsible for the growth and survival of neurite outgrowth.
NGF powers recognition memory and cognition by stimulating the growth and branching of thread-like nerve extensions called axons. The healthier these axons are in the brain, the more efficiently they conduct impulses.
On the flip side, insufficient NGF can cause mild cognitive impairment by causing neural decay and nerve cells’ collapse.
Several neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease are linked to a gradual degradation of neurons over time. To prevent this from happening, animal studies show that neurotrophic factors like NGF could help prevent the onset of such conditions (1).
Cognitive Function Boost
Lion’s Mane also has the potential to clear out the dreaded brain fog. In this sense, it is helpful not only for older people but also for healthy adults looking to improve their overall cognitive performance and wellness.
The mushroom presents an antioxidant activity that can help preserve the hippocampus’s integrity and the brain’s area associated with maintaining memory.
One animal study found that Lion’s Mane supplementation gave mice improved object recognition and memory. Some other limited research also points to the mushroom’s ability to enhance cognitive function while preserving brain cells’ overall health.
Most of the research with positive findings involves improvement in subjects with mild cognitive impairment.
Improve Mood and Focus
Another area that investigates the benefits of Lion’s Mane supplements is its effects on mood and focus. Because it has antidepressant features, Lion’s Mane may improve mood and motivation.
It has also been studied a bit for improving sleep, which can help with improving focus.
One human study found that Lion’s Mane mushroom supplementation in individuals with mood disorders of a depressive-anxious nature had a positive effect.
Findings showed that after eight weeks of using supplements, there was an improvement in mood disorders and the quality of their nocturnal rest (2).
Protect Against Dementia
Tying in with the mushroom’s neuroprotective abilities, Lion’s Mane may help grow and form new connections in the brain.
This mechanism declines naturally with age which is why many mental functions deteriorate in older adults.
With its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory performance, the active compounds in Lion’s Mane can offer protection against degenerative brain conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s.
Animal studies validate these accounts where treatment with the mushroom has reduced memory loss symptoms, improving brain health.
One human study with older adults found that Lion’s Mane supplementation enhanced mental functioning. However, the benefits stalled once supplementation stopped.
Relieve Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
Historically, Lion’s Mane has also been used as a treatment for reducing anxiety and depression.
A study involving menopausal women with symptoms like irritability, anxiety, low concentration found that an adaptogenic mushroom as Lion’s Mane subsided symptoms when used as a treatment (3).
Additionally, when the symptoms abated, the women also reported improved quality of sleep. One component of Lion’s Mane, known as amyceneon, has shown antidepressant in animal studies.
Some evidence also suggests that depressive symptoms may have a link to neurological inflammation. And since Lion’s Mane possesses anti-inflammatory effects, it could help ward off such unwanted emotional responses.
Speed Recovery From Nervous System Injuries
Some research has looked at Lion’s Mane’s ability to regenerate peripheral nerves outside of the spinal cord. One animal study found that Lion’s Mane could benefit from helping with physical recovery after undergoing trauma.
Its active compounds may encourage cells to grow and repair more quickly, healing nerve and brain damage quicker than other treatments.
Reduce Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Lion’s Mane extract shows anti-inflammatory effects in a few different ways. For one, studies show it to reduce excessive nitric oxide. This is an essential signaling molecule and a component of the inflammatory response (4).
On another level, Lion’s Mane regulates prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are produced in response to infection or injury, causing inflammation.
Typically, inflammation is integral to the body’s healing process. However, it can sometimes cause chronic and excessive production of prostaglandins.
Excessive prostaglandin production can bring about inflammatory conditions triggered by unwanted inflammation. When this happens, supplementing with Lion’s Mane extract can help regulate inflammation (5). Other inflammation-related benefits include regulating pro-inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress.
The cumulative result of all these processes can significantly impact conditions like metabolic disorders, digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases, and much more.
Boost The Immune System
Many chronic diseases get triggered by impaired immune function and response. This is where immunomodulation comes in.
This is a response system that can boost immunity using biological co-factors alongside herbs and nutrients. This response is needed for assisting the immune system to defeat infections in the body.
The fruiting body requires beta-glucans to modulate the immune system to have this effect. However, beta-glucans don’t occur naturally within the body and must be consumed from dietary sources like Lion’s Mane mushroom.
Beta-glucans contain sugar molecules that bind and assist immune cells in attacking hostile targets. These modified responses then bolster immunomodulation by stalling inflammation and an autoimmune response.
Also, beta-glucans can activate immune stem cells inside bone marrow. This mechanism generates new immunocytes, which improve the body’s immune response. This response can range for everything from common cold illnesses to tumor cell growth.
Protect Against Ulcers In The Digestive Tract
Alongside providing cognitive benefits, Lion’s Mane Mushrooms extracts yield therapeutic effects extending to other areas of health as well.
For instance, some studies show it to support digestive health by fighting inflammation and gut bacteria. This can be particularly helpful for individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.
Animal and test-tube studies indicate that treatment with Lion’s Mane extract may protect against stomach ulcers (6).
Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Studies indicate that the hericenone content of Lion’s Mane mushroom can lower the rate of blood clotting, thus decreasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Another heart health advantages of Lion’s Mane mushrooms are that it balances cholesterol levels and improves circulation. One animal study indicated that using the mushroom lowered total cholesterol along with LDL and triglyceride levels (7).
This evidence mainly pertains to animal studies, and more human studies are needed to establish these heart health benefits.
How To Take Lion’s Mane Mushroom?
There are many ways to include a dose of Lion’s Mane into your dietary regimen. For instance, you can use it as a dietary supplement, solely for nootropic benefits, or even as a culinary ingredient in your cooking.
Lion’s Mane is available as a mushroom extract or in powder or capsule form.
However, there is some debate over the most optimal form of extraction. Some experts vouch for hot water extraction to be the most optimal for maximum medicinal benefits, while others favor alcohol extraction.
Traditionally, herbalists use alcohol extraction by chopping up the mushroom and steeping it in alcohol to make the mushroom extract.
All forms of Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts are easily available from online vendors or health stores.
As A Dietary Supplement
Even though all forms yield an effect, the efficacy can vary based on the form you use. For instance, the pure, powdered supplement form can be purchased as a freeze-dried version that is the least expensive form. It is easy to add this to water juice or even a smoothie.
Or, for something slightly more potent, you can consider the mushroom extract. Typically, this is prepared using a 10:1 or 14:1 ratio. It gives you 10 or 14 lbs of the ingredient reduced to one Ib. of extract.
For a more graded option, you can choose the standardized version. Standardized versions deliver more precise levels of active ingredients and include 30 -50% polysaccharides.
If using the powdered or pill form is difficult, then Lion’s Mane can also be steeped as a tea. That said, it becomes difficult to determine the precise amount of the active ingredients ingested via tea.
As A Nootropic
When using the extract as a nootropic, even the best Lion’s mane supplements vary in strength. This means each formula will be different and depend on the stack synergy.
Also, certain nootropics work best when used as part of a stack. To stack Lion’s Mane extract with other nootropics for a quick cognitive boost, you can use it with aniracetam, alpha GPC, and omega 3s.
Long-term effects of Lion’s Mane, which can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, stacking options change. Lion’s Mane is used alongside fish oil and uridine to achieve long-term results.
Both these nootropic supplements work in the area offer cellular protection, which is also something Lion’s Mane specializes in. Then there is also zinc that regulates synaptic function.
And finally, you can stack Lion’s Mane extract with acetyl-L-carnitine or ALCAR that helps reduce cellular death.
As A Culinary Ingredient
If all you’re looking for is to add it to your cooking, then you can even use Lion’s Mane mushrooms as an ingredient.
It’s easy to include in any dish that includes button mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms, like how you would cook other mushrooms.
The recommended dosage of Lion’s mane supplement will depend on the strength of the extract. Commercially prepared mushroom extracts vary immensely in potency, purity, and composition, making it rather difficult to determine optimal dosages.
However, for an extract with 30% polysaccharides, experts recommend setting the daily dose between 500 – 1000 mg. This should be divided into two or three doses per day.
Otherwise, the dose can range between 300 and 3000 mg to be used one to three times daily.
It is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s daily dose instructions while starting with a lower dose. This will let you assess how your body tolerates Lion’s Mane before increasing the dose.
Here, it is vital to keep in mind that Lion’s Mane extracts do not deliver quick results. Instead, its effects only become noticeable after being used for an extended duration.
Do Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Have Side Effects?
In most cases, Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts are well-tolerated and are non-toxic.
However, these supplements are contraindicated for people with severe allergies or an overactive immune system.
Because the mushroom can affect low blood sugar, anyone using diabetes medications should first consult with their doctor before starting any supplementation.
Studies show that there are no tolerance or withdrawal symptoms like those presented by traditional SSRIs. Therefore, lion’s mane is not addictive, even though it is used to address anxiety and depression.
Lion’s mane mushroom is a promising natural remedy that boosts brain function, improves immunity, and relieves anxiety to keep you healthy. It gives users a hand when struggling with memory, motivation, concentration, and other such issues.
Its extensive use in complementary and alternative medicine and as a culinary agent deems it reasonably safe to use with no severe side effects.
So, most people who don’t have allergies to mushrooms can safely avail its wide range of health benefits.
We feel that anyone looking to supercharge their cognitive enhancement and mood should take a closer look at this therapeutic mushroom and try it out to see its benefits.
- Does Lion’s Mane make you sleepy?
Lion’s Mane mushrooms do not contain any sedatives to make you sleepy, but it does have adaptogenic properties that can help you relax and unwind.
As such, it will help you calm down without making you tired.
- Can You Take Lion’s Mane and Reishi Together?
Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) and Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) are two therapeutic mushrooms that are often used together in one supplement.
Both have healing properties that complement each other well and are tolerated well by most people unless there is an allergy to mushrooms.