Lion's Mane

The Ultimate Guide to Lion's Mane Mushrooms

The rare Edible Lion's Mane Mushroom / Hericium Erinaceus / pruikzwam in the Forest. Beautifully radiant and striking with its white color between autumn leaves and the green moss.

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 biological activities. They may support immune function and provide anti-aging effects and a number of general 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! 

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 -- Hericium erinaceus

What is lion's mane, and what benefits does it offer? 

Let’s find out!

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.[1]

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
  • Yamabushitake
  • Houtou

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)
  • Mycelium

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.

When it comes to deriving benefits from medicinal mushrooms, including lion's mane, there's a discussion between which is "better," the mycelium or the fruiting body.

Both the mycelium and fruiting body contain important bioactive compounds (which we'll discuss more in-depth in a second). Still, generally speaking, the fruiting body is more highly concentrated in bioactive goodies.

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:[2][3][4][5][6][7][8]


  • Normal inflammatory response
  • Oxidative stress
  • Healthy blood sugar
  • Immunity
  • Heart Health

Regarding the fruiting body, the primary bioactives are a family of compounds called hericenones and beta-glucans (which are also known to support immune function). The mycelium of lion's mane is particularly rich in erinacines.

As we mentioned at the outset, lion’s mane has long been used for its cognitive health benefits, so now let’s take a closer look at how lion’s mane supports cognitive function and long-term brain health.

How Does Lion’s Mane Support Cognitive Function?

If you recall from above, that lion's mane contains various bioactive compounds, with two of the most prominent ones being hericenones and erinacines.

Hericenones

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).[9]

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 exert a similar degree of bioactivity as epinephrine (adrenaline), which also happens to be a powerful stimulator of nerve growth factor.[10]

Erinacines

Erinacines are a group of 15 diterpenoids primarily found in the mycelium (as noted above), and they have been found in research to possess a variety of biological activities, including:


  • Enhancing nerve growth factor (NGF) release
  • β-amyloid deposition
  • Expression of insulin-degrading enzyme

Erinacines have also been noted to upregulate central cholinergic system function in Alzheimer’s-induced mice, as evidenced by increased acetylcholine and choline acetyltransferase concentrations in the hypothalamus.

FYI, acetylcholine is commonly referred to as the "learning neurotransmitter," and choline acetyltransferase is the enzyme that facilitates the production of acetylcholine.

What Are the Benefits of Lion’s Mane?

Increased Nerve Growth Factor

As already previously, the primary benefit of lion's mane is its ability to increase the activity of nerve growth factor (NGF), which has several downstream effects, particularly in regard to cognitive function and supporting 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.[11] 

Additional animal models also demonstrate that lion's mane may improve memory and cognitive function in older adults.[12][13]

Neuroprotection

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 further elucidate the neuroprotective effects of lion’s mane, consider this animal study in which mice were injected with the neurotoxic peptide β-amyloid.

Following injection, the mice were placed into a standard "Y" maze designed to test their memory.

During the trial, mice were fed with 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.[14]

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.[19] 

This suggests that lion’s mane may possess mood boosting effects via modulation of important neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline) that affect mood and well-being.

Other Benefits of Lion’s Mane

Beyond its cognitive health benefits, lion's mane has been found to exhibit several other alluring activities, including:


  • Healthy inflammatory response and oxidative stress
  • Normal blood sugar (via inhibition of alpha-glucosidase -- an enzyme that digests carbs in the small intestine)
  • Increased collagen content and bone density
  • Immune system function
  • Improved circulation
  • Gut and liver protection

The Bottom Line on Lion’s Mane

Lion's Mane is a mighty mushroom -- one that has been used for centuries to promote cognitive function and support long-term brain health. It also may support immune function and provide anti-aging effects and a number of general health benefits.

Simply put, lion’s mane is one “funky fungi” that warrants further investigation, and for those of you looking to further optimize your nootropic stack, 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.

Get Your Gummies

References

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  2. Rahman M.A., Abdullah N., Aminudin N. BioMed Res. Int. 2014;2014:828149. doi: 10.1155/2014/828149.
  3. 21. Yi Z., Shao-Long Y., Ai-Hong W., Zhi-Chun S., Ya-Fen Z., Ye-Ting X., Yu-Ling H. Evid.-Based Complement. Altern. Med. 2015;2015:595480. doi: 10.1155/2015/595480.
  4. Wang J.C., Hu S.H., Su C.H., Lee T.M. Kaohsiung J. Med Sci. 2001;17:461–467.
  5. Zhang Z., Liu R.N., Tang Q.J., Zhang J.S., Yang Y., Shang X.D. Phytochem. Lett. 2015;11:151–156. doi: 10.1016/j.phytol.2014.12.011.
  6. Mori K., Ouchi K., Hirasawa N. Int. J. Med. Mushrooms. 2015;17:609–618. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v17.i7.10.
  7. Liang B., Guo Z., Xie F., Zhao A. BMC Complement. Altern. Med. 2013;13:253. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-253.
  8. Yang B.K., Park J.B., Song C.H. Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 2003;67:1292–1298. doi: 10.1271/bbb.67.1292.
  9. Bing-Ji Ma, Jin-Wen Shen, Hai-You Yu, Yuan Ruan, Ting-Ting Wu & Xu Zhao (2010) Mycology, 1:2, 92-98, DOI: 10.1080/21501201003735556
  10. Zhang CC, Cao CY, Kubo M, Harada K, Yan XT, Fukuyama Y, Gao JM. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jul 30;18(8):1659. doi: 10.3390/ijms18081659. PMID: 28758954; PMCID: PMC5578049.
  11. Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Phytother Res. 2009;23(3):367-372. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634.
  12. Zhang J, An S, Hu W, et al. Prokai-Tatrai K, ed. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2016;17(11):1810. doi:10.3390/ijms17111810.
  13. Brandalise F, Cesaroni V, Gregori A, et al. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2017;2017:3864340. doi:10.1155/2017/3864340.
  14. Mori K., Inatomi S., Ouchi K., Azumi Y., Tuchida T. Phytother. Res. 2009;23:367–372. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2634.
  15. Tsai-Teng T., Chin-Chu C., Li-Ya L., Wan-Ping C., Chung-Kuang L., Chien-Chang S., Chi-Ying H.F., Chien-Chih C., Shiao Y.J. J. Biomed. Sci. 2016;23:49. doi: 10.1186/s12929-016-0266-z.
  16. Kuo H.C., Lu C.C., Shen C.H., Tung S.Y., Hsieh M.C., Lee K.C., Lee L.Y., Chen C.C., Teng C.C., Huang W.S., et al. J. Transl. Med. 2016;14:78. doi: 10.1186/s12967-016-0831-y.
  17. Li, I-Chen, et al. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, vol. 12, 3 June 2020, 10.3389/fnagi.2020.00155. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.
  18. ‌Wong K.H., Naidu M., David P., Abdulla M.A., Abdullah N., Kuppusamy U.R., Sabaratnam V. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2011;2011:580752.
  19. Chiu C.H., Chyau C.C., Chen C.C., Lee L.Y., Chen W.P., Liu J.L., Lin W.H., Mong M.C. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018;19:341. doi: 10.3390/ijms19020341.
  20. Yang PP, Chueh SH, Shie HL, Chen CC, Lee LY, Chen WP, Chen YW, Shiu LY, Liu PS. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020 May 13;2020:2890194. doi: 10.1155/2020/2890194. PMID: 32508945; PMCID: PMC7244964.
  21. Kim, S. P., Kang, M. Y., Choi, Y. H., Kim, J. H., Nam, S. H., & Friedman, M. (2011). Food & Function, 2(6), 348–356. https://doi.org/10.1039/c1fo10030k

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