The Ultimate Guide to Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Article at a Glance:
- Lion’s Mane is a functional mushroom with a long history of use in traditional medicine to improve memory, enhance cognitive function, and promote nerve and brain health.
- Bioactive compounds extracted from Lion’s Mane have been found to possess a wide range of benefits for the body. They may support immune function, provide anti-aging effects, and have other health benefits.
- For a tasty and convenient way to incorporate lion's mane into your everyday life, try our vegan gummies, which contain 500mg of Lion's Mane per serving.
Mushrooms have been used as both food and medicine for thousands of years. More than 14,000 varieties of mushrooms have been identified over the centuries, and a little over 2,000 of them are edible! These are known as functional mushrooms.
What’s more, some 200+ of those edible mushrooms are known to possess activities that may benefit human health, wellness, and performance.
One such mushroom is Lion’s Mane -- known as Hericium erinaceus.
What is Lion’s Mane, what does it do, what are Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits, and how can you add them to your routine?
Let’s dig deeper and learn more about these magnificent mushrooms!
What is Lion’s Mane?
Lion's Mane is a functional mushroom with a long history of use in traditional medicine to improve memory, enhance cognitive function, and promote nerve and brain health.
Unlike other mushrooms you’re used to seeing (and eating), lion’s mane doesn’t come with the standard cap and stalk. Rather, lion’s mane has long, flowing, white tendrils, thus resembling the appearance of a lion’s mane.
Lion's Mane is found prevalently in East Asian countries and is commonly found under the other names:
- Hedgehog Mushroom
- Monkey’s Head Mushroom
- Old Man’s Beard
- Bear’s Head
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are very nutritious and are rich in B vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. They are also a good source of essential minerals such as manganese, zinc, and potassium.
In addition, they are gaining much attention for their beneficial effects on the body, especially the brain, heart, gut, and immune system.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have a flavor that many describe as similar to seafood such as crab and lobster. They can be enjoyed raw, dried, or cooked.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are found in many grocery stores, restaurants, supplement stores, online, and in some of your favorite coffee varieties. You can get your daily dose of Lion’s Mane as a powder, capsule, or, our favorite, a delicious gummy.
What Does Lion’s Mane Do?
Lion’s Mane (as well as all other mushrooms) are composed of two distinct parts:
- Fruiting Body (cap and stem)
Now, most of you reading this are familiar with the fruiting body of mushrooms -- it’s the part we typically eat.
The mycelium, on the other hand, is something with which few individuals are familiar.
In simple terms, the mycelium can be thought of as the mushroom's expansive "root" network. It's thin and wispy, similar to a spider web.
But which offers bigger benefits, the mycelium or the fruiting body?
While both the mycelium and fruiting body contain important bioactive compounds, the fruiting body is more highly concentrated in bioactive goodies, which positively benefit health.
These bioactive compounds extracted from the fruiting body or mycelium of Lion’s Mane have been found to possess a wide range of biological activities, including positive impacts on:
- Normal inflammatory response
- Oxidative stress
- Healthy blood sugar
- Heart Health
Both the fruiting body and mycelium have bioactive effects (positive impact on how the body functions).
In the fruiting body, the primary bioactives are a family of hericenones and beta-glucans, also known to support immune function.
The mycelium of Lion’s Mane is particularly rich in compounds called erinacines, which are involved in nerve growth, function, and communication.
As we mentioned at the outset, Lion’s Mane gained notoriety for its cognitive health benefits, but its benefits don't stop there. Let's look closer at how Lion’s Mane supports cognitive function and overall long-term health.
How Does Lion’s Mane Support Cognitive Function?
The brain's ability to process information and form new connections typically declines with age. Because of this, mental functioning and memory usually get worse in older adults.
The two aforementioned compounds found in Lion’s Mane, hericenones and erinacines, are thought to be responsible for the growth of brain cells to support cognition and memory. Let’s discuss how they may do this.
Hericenones are the primary family of bioactives found in lion's mane's fruiting body, though it contains varying amounts of erinacines (though not as much as the mycelium).
This family of bioactives has been shown to possess the ability to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis and promote neurite outgrowth in nerve cells (neurons).
Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a neurotrophic factor and neuropeptide (brain protein) that affects the growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival of various neurons responsible for helping the brain process and transmit information.
Additionally, one of the hericenones (hericenone D) has been found to act as effectively as epinephrine (adrenaline), which also happens to be a powerful stimulator of nerve growth factor.
Erinacines are a group of 15 diterpenoids (plant compounds) primarily found in mycelium (as noted above). They have been found in research to possess a variety of biological activities, including:
- Enhancing nerve growth factor (NGF) release
- Improving nerve development and function
- Protecting nerves from damage
Erinacines have also been noted to support neurotransmitter function, specifically in the nerves responsible for carrying signals and messages from one nerve cell to another.
It is said to do this by supporting acetylcholine levels, the "learning neurotransmitter" in the nervous system.
Lion's Mane Mushroom Benefits
Several Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits are reported in the research, and here are some of the highlights.
Increased Nerve Growth Factor
The primary benefit of Lion’s Mane is its ability to increase the activity of nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein similar to insulin that helps support the health of our nervous system.
When NGF is activated, it has several beneficial effects regarding cognitive function and long-term brain health.
For example, a study involving 50-80-year-old Japanese adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment found that individuals supplementing with a total of three grams of Lion’s Mane every day for 16 weeks experienced significant increases in scores on cognitive function.
Animal models also demonstrate that Lion’s Mane may improve memory and cognitive function in older adults.
In addition to stimulating nerve growth factor, one of the other main benefits of Lion’s Mane is its ability to protect healthy brain function.
To demonstrate the neuroprotective effects of Lion’s Mane, consider this animal study in which mice were injected with the neurotoxic protein β-amyloid.
Following injection, the mice were placed into a standard "Y" maze designed to test their memory. During the trial, mice were fed a regular diet or one containing a Lion’s Mane supplement.
The mice that didn't receive Lion’s Mane lost their ability to memorize the maze. However, the mice receiving the Lion’s Mane supplement for 23 days performed significantly better in the Y-maze test.
The mice even regained their "curiosity" ability, as evidenced by their time exploring new objects they encountered compared to older ones with which they were already familiar.
Additional animal studies have found that Lion’s Mane administration may help prevent the loss of spatial short-term memory and visual recognition memory.
Supports Healthy Mood and Well-Being
Animal studies have found that the mycelium extract of Lion’s Mane can restore depleted levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
This suggests that Lion’s Mane may possess mood-boosting and memory effects by regulating levels of these important neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline).
Other Benefits of Lion’s Mane
Beyond its cognitive health benefits, Lion’s Mane has been found to exhibit several other health benefits, including:
- Healthy inflammatory response and reduction of oxidative stress - Studies have shown Lion’s Mane has the potential to be neuroprotective to the central nervous system.
- Supporting normal blood sugar by inhibiting alpha-glucosidase activity -- an enzyme that digests carbs in the small intestine. When this enzyme is blocked, the body can better remove sugar from the blood to be properly digested and absorbed.
- Increased collagen content and bone density to support strong skin and bones - Rat studies have shown that Lion’s Mane increases collagen levels, speeding wound healing and enhancing antioxidant activities.
- Supporting immune function - A strong immune system is imperative for overall health. Animal research shows Lion’s Mane mushroom increases the activity of the intestinal immune system. This protects the body from harmful viruses and bacteria entering the gut.
- Improved circulation - Lion’s Mane mushrooms support healthy heart ad blood vessels in several ways. The compound hericenone can support normal blood flow and protect the heart.
- Gut protection - Lion’s Mane may benefit gut health and maintain a well-balanced microbiome.
With all of these possible benefits, especially for our brain, it's no wonder Lion’s Mane is valued beyond just supporting a healthy brain.
The Bottom Line on Lion’s Mane
Lion’s Mane is a mighty mushroom that has been used for centuries to promote cognitive function and support long-term brain health. Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits include supporting immune function and providing anti-aging effects, among other health benefits.
Lion’s Mane is one "funky fungi" that warrants further investigation. For those of you looking to optimize further your nootropic regimen, including Lion’s Mane in it is a no-brainer!
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Gummies
At this point, you're probably wondering the best way to incorporate this magnificent mushroom into your life? While lion's mane supplements are available as capsules, extracts, and powders, we prefer gummies since they are convenient, easy to take, and mess-free.
Each Fungies® gummy contains 500mg of lion's mane per serving (standardized to contain 30% Beta-Glucans) and is gluten-free, gelatin-free, and vegan-friendly. Did we mention that they're delicious too?
So grab a bottle (or two) today and experience the power of lion's mane firsthand.
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