This mushroom gets its name for looking just like the scruff of a lion, and has some very impressive health benefits.
Lion’s mane (a.k.a. Hericium erinaceus) is native to North America, Europe, and Asia, and is quite distinctive in appearance, with its white pom-pom, shaggy-looking mane. According to Dr. Axe;
One study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry lists the benefits by stating lion’s mane mushroom is “antibiotic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, anti-fatigue, antihypertensive, anti-hyperlipodemic, anti-senescence [anti-aging], cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, and neuroprotective, and improves anxiety, cognitive function, and depression.”
That is quite a list!
Lion’s mane is also known by a few other names, due to its unique appearance; hedgehog mushroom, yamabushitake, and bearded tooth mushroom, sheepshead, satyr’s beard, and monkey’s head.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits
According to Wellness Mama;
Lion’s mane is known for its effects on the central nervous system. Chinese medicine practitioners have used lion’s mane medicinally for centuries to:
– fortify the spleen
– nourish the gut
– as an anti-cancer drug
– promote digestion
– increase vigour and strength
– help ulcers and chronic gastritis
It is also thought to be helpful with insomnia, weakness, and low strength or energy… and research is still uncovering other benefits.
Lion’s mane mushrooms may also help with the following:
Lowering Inflammation & Oxidative Stress
One study examining 14 different mushroom species found that lion’s mane had the 4th highest concentration of antioxidants, while a 2015 study confirmed that lion’s mane was able to reduce inflammation in fatty tissue.
This is important, as antioxidants help reduce oxidative stress in the body that cause disease. Furthermore, according to Dr. Axe;
These antioxidants may also:
– Help prevent osteoporosis
– Protect against alcohol-induced liver damage, as shown in research on mice
– Slow the aging of skin, as displayed in a study on rats
Improve Cognitive Health
Research has shown that lion’s mane may help to improve focus by encouraging nerve growth factor (NGF).
According to Wellness Mama;
NGF is a neuropeptide that helps regulate growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival of neurons or nerve cells. These neurons are like messengers, sending and processing information from the brain to the rest of the body. This research also shows that it can help improve photographic and short-term memory.
A study conducted on older adults with mild cognitive impairment, found that consuming just 3g of powdered lion’s mane daily for 4 months significantly improved brain function. However, these benefits disappeared when supplementation was discontinued.
Lion’s mane has also been thought to help reduce anxiety and depression. This may be due to its effect on the autonomic nervous system (part of the nervous system that controls automatic functions, such as breathing, heartbeat, digestive processes, etc.), and its ability to stimulate NGF.
The sympathetic nervous system falls under the autonomic nervous system, and it controls the ‘fight or flight‘ response. When someone is experiencing anxiety or depression, the sympathetic nervous system is working on overdrive, while the parasympathetic nervous system (a.k.a the ‘rest and digest‘ system) is lowered. NGF may help to restore balance between the autonomic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which can help reduce depression and anxiety.
According to Dr. Axe;
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.”
Reverse Neurodegenerative Diseases
By stimulating NGF, this may be beneficial for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia.
Polysaccharides, a compound found in these mushrooms, were shown to be neuroprotective. Furthermore, neurite outgrowth, the growth of axons and dendrites from neurons (which essentially means neurons growing and learning in their “job” as messengers), also improved. With this increase in growth, it could potentially slow down or reverse cell degeneration in the brain (which is the common cause for developing diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s).
Assist Recovery from Nervous System Injures
Damage to the nervous system can be devastating, and in serious cases may result in paralysis or loss of mental functions, where healing can be a slow process.
According to Dr. Axe;
A 2012 study found that consuming lion’s mane mushroom could help regenerate damaged neurons from peripheral nerve injury (an injury affecting the tissue linking the brain and the spinal cord). This is also one of the reason’s why lion’s mane may help protect against the spread of Parkinson’s disease.
Lion’s mane may also help reduce the severity of damage to the brain after a stroke.
According to an article published on Healthline;
In one study, high doses of lion’s mane mushroom extract given to rats immediately after a stroke helped decrease inflammation and reduce the size of stroke-related brain injury by 44%.
Protect against Cancer
Lion’s mane may be effective against certain cancer cells.
According to Dr. Axe;
In varying degrees, compounds from or supplementation with lion’s mane mushroom has been found to potentially slow the progression or reverse the spread of:
– Gastric (stomach) cancer
– Lung cancer
– Cervical cancer
– Liver cancer
– Colon cancer
– Breast cancer
More research however is required in this area.
Improve Digestive Health
The polysaccharides found in lion’s mane may help improve gastric issues, with studies showing its ability to protect against or even shrink gastric ulcers.
In an article published by Dr. Josh Axe, he states;
Research on mice from China published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms confirms this, noting that “results indicate that the polysaccharide fraction is the active component of the H. erinaceus mycelium culture, which protects against gastric ulcers.”
Risks & Side Effects
While there are no known side effects of lion’s mane mushroom, and it’s generally considered safe to consume, funguses have been known to cause allergic reactions such as skin rashes or breathing difficulties. So, always check with your doctor before consuming lion’s mane or any new product, particularly if you have allergies to other mushrooms. Furthermore, always read the label for the proper dosage, and follow the instructions on the label carefully.
How to Use
Lion’s mane isn’t a common food you’ll find at your local grocery store, but an Asian market might have some available. Another option is to grow your own at home using starter kit!
Always ensure supplementation is in conjunction with a healthy diet.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction.
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Lots of love,
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9 Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Plus Side Effects). (May 19, 2018). Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lions-mane-mushroom
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Lee, Kam-Fai; Chen, Jiann-Hwa; Teng, Chih-Chuan; Shen, Chien-Heng; Hsieh, Meng-Chiao; Lu, Chien-Chang; Lee, Ko-Chao; Lee, Li-Ya; Chen, Wan-Ping; Chen, Chin-Chu; Huang, Wen-Shih; Kuo, Hsing-Chun. (August 27, 2014). Protective effects of Hericium erinaceus mycelium and its isolated erinacine A against ischemia-injury-induced neuronal cell death via the inhibition of iNOS/p38 MAPK and nitrotyrosine. Pub Med. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25167134/
Leonard, Jayne. (October 22, 2018). What are the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms?. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323400
Wong, Cathy. (Updated: March 9, 2020). The Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane. Very Well Mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-lions-mane-89474
Paredes, Rebecca. (December 21, 2020). How Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits Memory, Focus and Mood. Bulletproof. Retrieved from https://www.bulletproof.com/supplements/dietary-supplements/lions-mane-mushroom-benefits/
Roberts, Shelly. (July 1, 2021). Your Guide to Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits and How to Use This Superfood. Om. Retrieved from https://ommushrooms.com/blogs/blog/lions-mane-mushroom-benefits-m2