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

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidative
  • Antidiabetic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antihyperglycemic
  • Hypolipidemic

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 have 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
  • Reducing β-amyloid deposition
  • Increasing expression of insulin-degrading enzyme
  • Mediating neuropathic pain

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 individuals with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's.[12][13]

Neuroprotection

In addition to stimulating nerve growth factor, one of the other main benefits of lion’s mane is its ability to reduce deposits of β-amyloid -- a toxic protein whose accumulation has been linked to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s.

In essence, lion’s mane (via decreasing β-amyloid deposition) may help protect against cognitive decline.

Based on this activity, it’s no wonder that lion’s mane has been investigated as a possible treatment for:

  • Cognitive Impairments[14]
  • Alzheimer’s Disease[15]
  • Parkinson’s Disease[16]
  • Ischemic Stroke
  • Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss)

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.[19]

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 -- both of which decline as Alzheimer's disease progresses.

Most recently, a 2020 study involving individuals over 50 years old with a probable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease found that individuals receiving three 350 mg of lion’s mane mycelium extract for 49 weeks demonstrated higher Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI), Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) scores and achieved a better contrast sensitivity tan individuals receiving placebo.[17]

Researchers concluded that lion’s mane extract is “safe, well-tolerated, and may be important in achieving neurocognitive benefits.”

Repairs Nerves

Lion’s Mane extract has been shown to stimulate nerve growth factor, which promotes neuron regrowth after injury. Animal studies have found that supplementation with lion’s mane extract may help repair gluteal nerve damage, helping the rats to walk again.[18]

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 antidepressant-like effects via modulation of important neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline) that affect mood and well-being.

Reduce Neuropathic Pain

Not only does lion’s mane support brain health, but it may also help reduce perceptions of pain.

Animal studies have shown that lion’s mane mycelium may inhibit P2R-mediated signaling in cells and reduce heat-induced pain in mice.[20]

P2R (Purinoceptors) relay pain perception from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system and play an important role in transmitting neuropathic pain signals. 

A 2020 study in mice also found that lion’s mane can relieve neuropathic pain as well as neuroinflammation.[20]

Other Benefits of Lion’s Mane

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

  • Antibacterial effects
  • Decreased inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Reduced 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 (via a reduction in blood clotting)
  • 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

  1. Chong PS, Fung ML, Wong KH, Lim LW. Therapeutic Potential of Hericium erinaceus for Depressive Disorder. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Dec 25;21(1):163. doi: 10.3390/ijms21010163. PMID: 31881712; PMCID: PMC6982118.
  2. Rahman M.A., Abdullah N., Aminudin N. Inhibitory effect on in vitro LDL oxidation and HMG Co-A reductase activity of the liquid-liquid partitioned fractions of Hericium erinaceus (Bull.) Persoon (Lion’s mane mushroom) 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. Protective effect of ethanol extracts of Hericium erinaceus on alloxan-induced diabetic neuropathic pain in rats. 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. Antitumor and immunoenhancing activities of polysaccharide from culture broth of Hericium spp. 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. A new diterpene from the fungal mycelia of Hericium erinaceus. Phytochem. Lett. 2015;11:151–156. doi: 10.1016/j.phytol.2014.12.011.
  6. Mori K., Ouchi K., Hirasawa N. The anti-inflammatory effects of lion’s mane culinary-medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (higher basidiomycetes) in a coculture system of 3T3-L1 adipocytes and RAW264 macrophages. Int. J. Med. Mushrooms. 2015;17:609–618. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v17.i7.10.
  7. Liang B., Guo Z., Xie F., Zhao A. Antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activities of aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus in experimental diabetic rats. BMC Complement. Altern. Med. 2013;13:253. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-253.
  8. Yang B.K., Park J.B., Song C.H. Hypolipidemic effect of an exo-biopolymer produced from a submerged mycelial culture of Hericium erinaceus. 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) Hericenones and erinacines: stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF) biosynthesis in Hericium erinaceus, Mycology, 1:2, 92-98, DOI: 10.1080/21501201003735556
  10. Zhang CC, Cao CY, Kubo M, Harada K, Yan XT, Fukuyama Y, Gao JM. Chemical Constituents from Hericium erinaceus Promote Neuronal Survival and Potentiate Neurite Outgrowth via the TrkA/Erk1/2 Pathway. 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. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009;23(3):367-372. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634.
  12. Zhang J, An S, Hu W, et al. The Neuroprotective Properties of Hericium erinaceus in Glutamate-Damaged Differentiated PC12 Cells and an Alzheimer’s Disease Mouse Model. 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. Dietary Supplementation of Hericium erinaceus Increases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice. 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. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. 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. Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease-related pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice. 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.  Hericium erinaceus mycelium and its isolated erinacine A protection from MPTP-induced neurotoxicity through the ER stress, triggering an apoptosis cascade. J. Transl. Med. 2016;14:78. doi: 10.1186/s12967-016-0831-y.
  17. Li, I-Chen, et al. “Prevention of Early Alzheimer’s Disease by Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium Erinaceus Mycelia Pilot Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study.” 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. “Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae).” 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. Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium produces antidepressant-like effects through modulating BDNF/PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signaling in mice. 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. Effects of Hericium erinaceus Mycelium Extracts on the Functional Activity of Purinoceptors and Neuropathic Pain in Mice with L5 Spinal Nerve Ligation. 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). Mechanism of Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake) mushroom-induced apoptosis of U937 human monocytic leukemia cells. Food & Function, 2(6), 348–356. https://doi.org/10.1039/c1fo10030k


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