Lion’s Mane Mushroom: The Ultimate Brain Booster

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Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus)

The medicinal effects of lion’s mane, Hericium erinaceus have been long documented in scientific studies of Eastern traditional medicine. Lion’s mane is a medicinal and edible mushroom native to North America, Europe, and Asia and has been used for centuries as a food source and as a herbal medicine in several Asian countries. In the last 10 years or so, this medicinal mushroom has attracted considerable attention because of its potential therapeutic capabilities in neurodegenerative diseases. In the East, the respect for these fungi dates back many centuries, as it was known as “spirit plants” and was believed to provide longevity and spiritual potency.

Overall Information

According to research published in the Journal of Restorative Medicine, in Chinese and Japanese medical systems, the lion’s mane has traditionally been used to nourish the gut, fortify the spleen, and also as an anticancer agent. This mushroom is widely consumed, because of its nutritional qualities and perceived health benefits. The mushroom is rich in some physiologically important components, especially β-glucan polysaccharides, which are responsible for anti-cancer, immuno-modulating, hypolipidemic, antioxidant, and neuroprotective. Lion’s mane has also been reported to have anti-microbial, anti-hypertensive, anti-diabetic, and wound healing properties among other therapeutic potentials. Mushrooms are considered nutritionally functional foods and a source of physiologically beneficial medicines.

In traditional medicine, it’s said to be nutritive to our five internal organs, such as the lung, heart, spleen, kidney, and liver. While it’s used to promote good digestion, strength, and general vigor. Lion’s mane mushroom is also used to improve symptoms of qi deficiency (a lack of “vital energy”) in traditional Chinese medicine and is often ingested for issues involving the central nervous system, insomnia, and weakness.

Health Benefits And Clinical Studies

Enhances Brain Function and Benefits the Nervous System: Lion’s mane is considered to naturally enhance brain performance and function; this mushroom can be considered a nootropic. This natural substance can be taken orally for the improvement of memory, focus, and cognition. This mushroom is one of the most thoroughly researched mushrooms due to its positive impact on brain cells and cognitive functions. This incredible fungus may have a revolutionary impact on neurodegenerative diseases. Lion’s mane has a long history of being used as a brain-boosting supplement. The Chinese Buddhist monks used lion’s mMane powder in their tea, claiming it helped focus on their meditation and increase overall brain power.  Modern science has set out to examine the validity of these claims and is finding promising results.

  •  The consumption or supplementation of lLion’s mane is reported to increase nerve growth factor (NGF). Lion’s mane contains hericenones (derived from the fruiting body of the mushroom) and erinacines (derived from the mycelia of the mushroom). Erinacines are cyathin diterpenoids, Erinacines are reported to have the greatest biological activity, especially erinacine A (Li et al, 2018; Khan et al, 2013). Improves Mental Health and Overall Well-Being:  This mushroom is known to help individuals feel better by improving sleep and reducing the effects of mental health issues. The powerful polysaccharides extracted from lion’s mane have been shown to fight fatigue in mice trials. They also have the ability to adjust circadian rhythms back to normal, as they did on mice in a study conducted at the Department of Agro-environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture at Kyushu University, which is particularly significant for people who are at risk for dementia.
  •  One method by which a lion’s mane affects brain function is by enhancing “neurite outgrowth” in the brain and related organs. According to research published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. Neurite outgrowth refers to the growth of axons and dendrites from neurons. By increasing this growth, it could potentially be possible to slow or reverse cell degeneration in the brain which is the main characteristic of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  •  According to animal research published in the Journal of Translational Medicine. Taking lion’s mane supplementation has been found to have potential protective effects on the spread of Parkinson’s disease, which is also another neurodegenerative disorder. While this research is still in its infancy stages and has not progressed to large-scale human trials in most cases, the consistent effect lion’s mane mushroom has been found to have on brain cells should not be overlooked.
  • A 2012 study conducted in Malaysia found that consuming lion’s mane mushroom could actually regenerate damaged cells from peripheral nerve injury, an injury affecting the delicate tissue between your brain and spinal cord.
  •  When studying how brain diseases might be affected by particular medications or treatments, scientists often use what is known as the PC12 cell line for testing. Extracts and various forms of lion’s mane mushroom seem to have a major impact on PC12 cells. Lion’s mane protects them from damage and delays their cell death significantly. This finding may prove to be extremely important for the prevention or treatment of brain conditions.
  •  In animal research published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, lion’s mane mushroom stimulated cognitive function and helped improve memory in mice, both with and without an Alzheimer’s model. Multiple studies have found an inverse correlation between lion’s mane and Alzheimer’s-related symptoms, meaning that after consuming the mushroom extract, the mice’s symptoms improved.
  •  The danger of ischemic injury, damage caused by a lack of blood flow to neurons is also of significance when you’re talking about brain damage and disease. In laboratory tests conducted in Taiwan, the lion’s mane mushroom has been shown to help prevent this type of injury.

 May Help Protect Against Cancer: Lion’s mane may be significant in helping treat cancer, according to multiple research. The compounds from this fungi or supplementation with lion’s mane mushroom have been found to potentially slow the progression or reverse the spread of the following.

  •  Leukemia: Llion’s mane was shown to significantly reduce leukemia cells in a Korean study. Further Korean research conducted by the Department of Molecular Science and Technology at Ajou University found that thanks to the phytochemicals in lion’s mane mushroom, it has “therapeutic potential against human leukemia.”
  •  Gastric (stomach) cancer: a study published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules found that lion’s mane caused cell death and cell cycle arrest with gastric cancer. The researchers concluded, “Our study provides in vitro evidence that HEG-5 may be taken as a potential candidate for treating gastric cancer.
  •  Lung cancer: Both cell and animal studies published in the Journal of Natural Products and Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences unearth the ability of lion’s mane mushroom to help treat lung cancer. Meanwhile, according to in vitro and animal research published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology and the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the lion’s mane exhibits anticancer activity against colon, breast, and other cancers as well.
  • Another interesting finding involved metastasis (cancer spreading) from the colon to the lung. When cancer spreads to more than the original organ in which it was found, a patient is considered to have stage IV cancer. In a study conducted on rats out of Korea, rats were given either hot water lion’s mane extract or microwaved ethanol extracts of lion’s mane mushroom. When consuming lion’s mane extract, the rats’ study showed inhibited metastasis of cancer cells to the lungs by 66 percent and 69 percent, respectively.
  • Some studies actually suggest the use of lion’s mane mushroom supplements to treat cancer, although long-term and large-scale studies haven’t been conducted to prove that as a viable option.
  • Cervical cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Breast cancer

Supports Heart and Circulatory System Health: Using extracts might help in preventing heart disease. In vitro and animal research, it’s been found that extracts of lion’s mane can prevent the increase of LDL cholesterol also referred to as “bad” cholesterol, while increasing HDL, otherwise known as “good” cholesterol. While this mushroom could lower triglycerides in the bloodstream, an early indicator of heart disease.

Blood clots: An extract of lion’s mane mushroom may be able to prevent blood clots and help reduce the risk of stroke, according to a study from the Department of Cellular Signaling; Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Tohoku University in Japan conducted on rabbit platelets.

Improve Digestive Health: Due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, the lion’s mane mushroom may improve the function of your stomach and digestive system.

Gastric Ulcers: In multiple studies, lion’s mane mushroom has been shown to protect or shrink gastric ulcers. For instance, according to a study conducted on rats by the Mushroom Research Centre at the University of Malaya in Malaysia, researchers concluded the bioactive compounds in lion’s mane extract may be responsible for the gastroprotective activity exhibited in the rats.

  • Research on mice from China which was published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms confirms, “Results indicate that the polysaccharide fraction is the active component of the H. erinaceus mycelium culture, which protects against gastric ulcers.”
  • Lion’s mane has been shown to significantly improve symptoms of two major inflammatory disorders of the digestive system, gastritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, as shown in lab studies and research on mice.

 Reduces Inflammation: The use of lion’s mane has antibacterial effects against h. Pylori, is often considered “the most successful pathogen in human history.” Many people never have symptoms of carrying the bacteria. However, for some people, it causes severe gastric conditions, like ulcers in the stomach and/or intestines.

  •  A 2015 study out of Japan found that the lion’s mane mushroom was able to reduce inflammation in fatty tissue. This is very important because fatty tissue inflammation is a factor in the formation of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Acts as a Powerful Antioxidant: The molecules in lion’s mane mushroom have antioxidant abilities and may prevent and relieve the oxidative stress caused by poor nutrition, exposure to chemicals in the environment, and daily stressors that naturally occur in our everyday life.

Wound healing: One specific way these antioxidants may be useful is in the healing of wounds. A study at the University of Malaya found that a liquid extract of lion’s mane sped up wound healing significantly compared to natural healing in rats.

These antioxidants may also:

Consuming lion’s mane mushroom may also be a natural way to help treat depression and anxiety.

  • In one study, 30 women were given either a placebo or lion’s mane for four weeks. Researchers concluded, “Our results show that HE intake has the possibility to reduce depression and anxiety and these results suggest a different mechanism from NGF-enhancing action of H. Erinaceus.” This seems to be related, in part, to the inflammation factor related to depression, as shown in mice studies.

Improves Immune Function: Lion’s mane seems to have the ability to enhance immune system function in a manner also related to the polysaccharide content in the fungus, according to research performed on mice.

May be Useful for Managing Diabetes: A 2013 animal study showed marked improvement in blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, and various other diabetes symptoms when an extract of lion’s mane mushroom was given to them. Possibly because of the antioxidant activity of lion’s mane, administering it to animals also seems to relieve pain caused by diabetic neuropathy. (46)

Botany & Foraging

Known in Latin as Hericium erinaceus, lion’s mane is native to North America, Europe, and Asia, although it’s not cultivated widely in areas outside of Asia. It’s sometimes referred to as Hedgehog Mushroom, Yamabushitake or Houtou, and it belongs to the tooth fungus, or hydnoid fungi, group. Lion’s mane mushrooms have long, dangling spines that are usually greater than a centimeter in length. Unlike most mushroom species, which have spines that project from a branch, the spines of Hericium erinaceus project outward, giving it that unique look of a lion’s mane. These mushrooms grow on both living and dead broadleaf trees and are common in the late summer and fall months. 

Used in Japan for centuries and possibly millennia, the odd-looking fungus is revered by Buddhist monks and understood to be almost a mystical source of nutrition. A sect of Buddhist monks known as the Yamabushi wears a garment known as the “suzukake,” fashioned from many long strands of fur, that bears a striking resemblance to the lion’s mane mushroom and probably accounts for why the mushroom is known in some areas as the yamabushitake. Some sources state that it was reserved for royalty at different times in the past.

Nutrition

Research suggests that lion’s mane is a source of at least 32 bioactive compounds. Although it’s hard to pinpoint the vitamin and mineral content of lion’s mane, it’s believed to be a rich source of potassium, zinc, iron, and selenium. One reason lion’s mane has been researched for a wide variety of purposes is because of the polysaccharides it contains. Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrate structures, like glucose. Lion’s mane mushroom contains beta-glucan polysaccharides, which are known scientifically to have correlations with various health benefits, like heart health and immune responses.Lion’s mane mushroom is a nootropic food that is very popular in traditional Chinese medicine. A large body of research has focused on this brain-boosting mushroom in the last few years, and the results are nothing short of astounding. Like many powerfully beneficial foods, the lion’s mane mushroom has been known for some time in parts of Asia to be great for various body functions and conditions. Research shows that this special fungus possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunostimulating properties in cells, animals, and humans. It has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal mushroom, especially among traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

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Risks and Side Effects

Lion’s mane mushroom is a generally safe food item. Multiple animal studies have found it to be non-toxic at different dosages, even over extended periods of time. There have been isolated reports of lion’s mane mushroom side effects, including one of contact dermatitis and another of respiratory distress related to consuming lion’s mane. If you choose to eat this mushroom and have any symptoms, such as burning/itching skin, inability to breathe properly or swollen lips, consult your doctor immediately.

*for educational use only. The information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult a qualified physician or health practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any condition. This site is also not to be used as the final word in identification. Never eat anything you haven’t positively identified at least three times before. Please use your common sense and be safe!

References

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits, Uses, Recipes and Side Effects – Dr. Axe

Lion’s Mane (also known as Hericium erinaceus)

Anti-fatigue activities of polysaccharides extracted from Hericium erinaceus