What Is Lion’s Mane?
The Lion’s Mane mushroom, also known as hedgehog mushroom or pom pom mushroom, is a unique and captivating species of fungi. Its cascading, icicle-like spines resemble the luxuriant mane of a lion, hence its name, but they are soft and rubbery. This distinct appearance distinguishes it from other mushrooms and makes it instantaneously recognizable to experts. Because of its adaptability, mild flavor, and crisp texture, the lion’s mane has quickly become a popular ingredient in modern kitchens.
But what truly distinguishes Lion’s Mane isn’t just its aesthetic appeal; it’s its tremendous potential.
The Ancient Roots of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
The lion’s mane mushroom, or Hericium erinaceus to use its scientific name, has a long and interesting history and has been used for hundreds of years.
The “monkey head” fungus has been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine for generations because of its ability to increase health and lifespan. A stunning Chinese artwork from the 16th-century Ming dynasty was the first time that Lion’s Mane had ever been recorded.
In Japan, however, it was also known as the “mountain monk” and “yamabushitake” mushroom because Buddhist monks would use the powder to help them concentrate during meditation. Lion’s mane has been used for its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effects since at least 450 BC when it was first documented in ancient Greece.
Lion’s mane mushrooms were historically gathered by foraging in the wild, but cultivation of the species began in China in 1988, and their popularity has only increased since then.
Active Components of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane mushroom has gained popularity for its possible cognitive enhancing benefits, ascribed to several different active components in the mushroom. Here is a rundown of the primary ingredients responsible for Lion’s Mane’s brain-boosting effects:
Hericenones and Erinacines: Hericenones and erinacines are two compounds exclusive to the Lion’s Mane mushroom. The human brain has been found to produce more Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) after exposure to these two compounds, a crucial protein in neuron development and survival, thus potentially promoting neuroplasticity and overall brain wellness.
Polysaccharides: Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates found in Lion’s Mane that have been shown to modulate the immune system. The specific for this mushroom is Hericium erinaceus polysaccharides (HEPs), and are believed to contribute to its various health-promoting effects.
Beta-Glucans: The polysaccharides in Lion’s Mane also include beta-glucans, providing 2.4 grams per 100-gram serving. In addition to boosting the immune system, they may have a positive effect on the condition of the brain, and they also help reduce blood sugar in diabetics, improve gut flora, and reduce cholesterol.
Antioxidants: In 2012, researchers looked at the antioxidant capabilities of 14 different mushroom species and concluded that the lion’s mane had the fourth highest activity out of the group, suggesting it might be used as an excellent source of antioxidants in the diet. Antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds, are abundant in lion’s mane. These antioxidants aid in preventing free radical damage to brain cells. By reducing oxidative stress, Lion’s Mane may support the long-term health of the brain and possibly prevent age-related cognitive decline.
Amino Acids: Proteins comprise amino acids, and Lion’s Mane has both essential and non-essential amino acids. It especially contains 17 mg of Ergothioneine per 100 grams of mushroom product serving. The creation of neurotransmitters, among other physiological activities, requires these amino acids. A 2021 study has shown that ergothioneine may improve immunological function and decrease inflammation. Other amino acids are also found in mushrooms: Glutamine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Glutamic Acid, Serine, and Leucine.
Terpenes and Sterols: Organic substances included in Lion’s Mane, such as the terpenes and sterols it contains, may have neuroprotective effects. These substances may protect brain cells from injury and add to mental strength.
Micronutrients: Some micronutrients that contribute to general health are vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive substances in the Lion’s mane as it has been found to contain almost 32 bioactive compounds. They may have a less obvious effect on brain health, but a healthy body is better positioned to support brain activity and cognition. The following micronutrients and vitamins are found in the Lion’s mane, per USDA.
|Micronutrients||Amount per 100 gm|
|Vitamins||Amount per 100 gm|
|Thiamin (B1)||0.146 mg|
|Riboflavin (B2)||0.363 mg|
|Niacin (B3||1.63 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.066 mg|
|Biotin (B7)||16.9 micrograms|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3).||0.8 IU|
Health Benefits Of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
The Lion’s Mane mushroom has been given several names because of its numerous health advantages. Here are a few of the most well-known, scientifically-supported uses for lion’s mane mushrooms in health and wellbeing.
Improves Brain Function
According to a 2009 Japanese research published in Phytotherapy Research, lion’s mane may help older persons with moderate cognitive impairment. Lion’s mane extract or a placebo was given to 30 older adults with moderate cognitive impairment for 16 weeks. Participants assigned to the lion’s mane group improved much more than those assigned to the placebo group on cognitive tests administered at weeks 8, 12, and 16 of the trial.
In 2013, researchers showed that the Hericenones and erinacines in lion’s mane mushrooms increased the production of nerve growth factor (NGF). The net result was an increase of 60.6% in neurite outgrowth. In layman’s terms, lion’s mane mushroom aids in brain cell renewal.
Speeds Up Body’s Recovery Process
Various health problems can develop after an injury to the brain or spinal cord. They can take a very long time to heal and frequently result in permanent disability. Because it promotes nerve cell development and repair, lion’s mane mushroom extract may hasten healing from these injuries.
Positive results for lion’s mane in treating traumatic brain injury (TBI) are suggested by a study published in Antioxidants in 2021. Neuroprotective benefits against TBI-related inflammation and oxidative stress were seen in lion’s mane and coriolus versicolor (turkey tail) mushrooms in mice models.
Helps in Depressive Episodes
For decades, Chinese medicine has relied on lion’s mane to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. The herb can calm the central nervous system and relieve symptoms like nervousness, panic, and sleeplessness.
While many studies have been conducted on animals and proven beneficial with using lion’s mane, Extract from the lion’s mane mushroom has been shown to alleviate depression and nervousness in mice. The mushroom extract has also been found to regenerate brain cells and enhance the functioning of the hippocampus, a region responsible for processing memories and emotional responses.
A small number of studies have also been done on humans, such as,
An abstract from the Journal of Molecular Science in 2020 suggests that lion’s mane mushroom could be useful as an alternative therapy for depression. The study focuses on three potential benefits of lion’s mane for treating depression:
- Facilitating the maintenance of adequate levels of neurotransmitters
- Keeping stress-induced nerve growth loss to a minimum
- Reducing inflammatory responses that contribute to depression
Menopausal women who participated in a small 2010 study experienced a reduction in irritation and anxiety after consuming lion’s mane mushroom-containing cookies(0.5 grams of powdered lion’s mane)every day for 30 days.
Similarly, a 2021 study review included several studies demonstrating substantial anti-anxiety benefits. It has been shown that the lion’s mane has “neuroprotective functions, cytotoxicity, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and herbicidal activities,” among other purported benefits.
There is only one human evidence for the mushroom as one study indicated that consuming certain plants, such as lion’s mane, may aid in promoting good blood coagulation in humans.
In addition, the hericenone B found in lion’s mane mushrooms has been shown to slow blood clotting and reduce the likelihood of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke.
Can Reduce Against Cancer
A 2011 Korean research found evidence that Lion’s mane can be a great source of prevention against cancer as it reduces leukemia cells in the body. Another 2015 study revealed that lion’s mane mushroom’s phytochemicals may have therapeutic potential against human leukemia.
A study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms examined the impact of Hericium erinaceus on human stomach cancer cells, revealing that polysaccharides from lion’s mane mycelia may inhibit cancer development.
Functional and Adaptogenic food
Besides being nutritious, functional foods also provide additional health advantages. Adaptogenic foods aid the body in dealing with physical, biological, or chemical stress. This facilitates the body’s recovery from illness and returns to its normal, healthy state of equilibrium, and Lion’s mane is one of them.
A meta-analysis published in Nutrients reveals that plant adaptogens like lion’s mane can alleviate chronic tiredness and cognitive impairment, lower inflammation, and boost immunity.
Protects Against Age-Related Cognitive Decline
The ability of the brain to grow and generate new connections normally reduces with age, which may account for the reduction in cognitive abilities seen in many elderly people. Compounds found in lion’s mane mushrooms have been shown to promote brain cell proliferation and protect against damage.
A 2011 study published in Biomedical Research found that lion’s mane can protect against memory issues caused by amyloid beta accumulation, a substance linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Also, supplementation with 1 gram of lion’s mane mushroom per day for 49 weeks significantly improved cognition test scores compared with a placebo in a trial of persons with moderate Alzheimer’s disease published in 2020.
In addition to its many other health benefits, this edible mushroom is a real fighter for your digestive system as it is high in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that promotes human health in various ways.
As per animal studies, lion’s mane extract protects other parts of the intestines from inflammation and tissue damage. They could help treat inflammatory bowel illnesses, including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
Also, patients with ulcerative colitis who took a mushroom supplement containing 14% lion’s mane extract substantially improved their symptoms and quality of life after 3 weeks, according to research published in 2016.
How Lion’s Mane Works
Let’s look into the mechanism of action of Lion’s Mane:
Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) Stimulation: The primary mechanism of action for Lion’s Mane is the stimulation of nerve growth factor (NGF).
The survival and maintenance of many different types of neurons, including sympathetic and sensory neurons, depends on NGF. Lion’s Mane promotes NGF synthesis, which aids in the development, maintenance, and defense of nerve cells, especially in the brain. Memory and other mental abilities may benefit from this.
Protection Against Apoptosis: The body utilizes apoptosis, or programmed cell death, to eliminate old or malfunctioning cells and create room for new ones. However, too much apoptosis may cause problems, particularly in the brain. Luckily, Lion’s Mane prevents neurons from starting self-destructive sequences, reducing the risk of cell death. This function as a neuroprotector is critical for ensuring good brain health.
Neural Outgrowth and Myelination: Lack of myelin may cause mental decline and neurological problems since it is necessary for nerve cells’ support, protection, and insulation.
Approximately 60% of neuronal outgrowth stimulation may be attributed to the bioactive chemicals found in Lion’s Mane. That’s because it stimulates the growth of synapses between neurons, improving mental acuity and memory. Myelin, a critical material that covers nerve cell axons, may expand with the help of Lion’s Mane.
Dosage And Best Way to Consume
Insufficient research has been conducted on lion’s mane to establish standard dosages and preparation. However, there is evidence that one gram of mushroom once a day is safe to consume for up to 16 weeks. While in a survey based on reported usage, participants reported consuming up to 3 grams of lion’s mane mushroom daily.
So, what’s the best way to include Lion’s Mane mushrooms into one’s diet? What you want to achieve and whether or not you have access to the Lion’s Mane mushroom are the two most important factors here.
The lion’s mane mushroom can be used as a supplement in capsule or powder form or as a raw ingredient in cooking. Its powder or flour is used in savory dishes like stew and sweet beverages like hot chocolate.
A high-quality supplement is your best choice if you’re looking for a quick and simple approach to get the advantages of Lion’s Mane mushrooms. They are available in capsules, powdered form, tablets, and tinctures. You can get the most out of your Lion’s Mane with the supplements, which are simple to use and very handy.
Still, the best practice is to consult your doctor about any dietary supplement to determine whether lion’s mane suits you and the optimum dose for your health requirements.
Possible Side Effects of Lion’s Mane
Although lion’s mane has been the subject of promising studies, most have been conducted on animals. But like any natural supplement, there is a possibility that lion’s mane may exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms.
A dietary supplement containing lion’s mane mushroom has been linked to very few adverse events, as per a 2022 research. Potential adverse effects include:
- GI distress
- Rashes (when applied topically)
Since its safety during pregnancy and lactation has not been well studied, lion’s mane should be avoided.
When used in moderation, lion’s mane mushrooms pose no health risks and are well tolerated by the vast majority of their users, but the best practice for those with a history of allergies, asthma, or any other medical issue is to talk to their doctor before taking any supplement, including lion’s mane.
Drug Interactions of Lion’s Mane
It has been claimed that the lion’s mane mushroom has antiplatelet properties, inhibiting blood clots’ formation. When used with blood thinners (anticoagulants), this may increase your risk of bleeding.
Research suggests that lion’s mane mushroom may lower blood sugar levels, and combining it with other herbs or supplements with the same effect might lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels.
Lion’s mane causes allergies in certain people. If ingesting a lion’s mane causes swelling of the neck or breathing difficulties, get medical care right away.
Effective Timeline And Dosage of Lion’s Mane
3 weeks: As per the study done in 2016, the intake of 14% extract of Lion’s mane with a combination of other substances as a supplement improved the overall health of the participants in 3 weeks.
1 month: Anxiety was reduced with 500 mg of lion mane extract daily for 4 weeks in a sample of 30 women.
4 months: An improvement in moderate cognitive impairment was shown in a trial involving 30 Japanese women who were administered 1 g of lion’s mane daily for 16 weeks.
49 weeks: Intake of 1 gram of lion’s mane extract for 49 weeks has been found to improve cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s
Yet, when it comes to a holistic approach specifically targeting brain health, Lion’s Mane seems to have an edge. It’s not just about short-term cognitive boosts but potentially long-term neurological protection. Its unique compounds, like hericenones and erinacines, are at the forefront of ongoing research into neurodegenerative diseases.