The Asian Lion’s Mane, a mushroom also known as ‘Hericium Erinaceus’, is hailed for its great medicinal benefits. It is said to increase our brainpower, improve concentration, and ease depression. This wondrous fungus is becoming more and more popular in Europe, with its neuro-enhancing effects even being described as ‘legal doping’ for the brain.
Imagine you could eat a Superfood that can:
improve cognitive function, reduce depressive disorders, increase concentration, heighten performance, boost endurance, prevent dementia and repair damaged nerve cells. To top it all off, it enhances your mood and apparently has no side-effects. Further advantages are the additional strengthening of kidneys, liver, and pancreas.
Is there such a thing? Could this be true? Apparently yes.
The Lion’s Mane Mushroom is conquering Europe
Lion’s Mane goes by many names. For example, Bearded Hedgehog Mushroom, Monkey Head Mushroom, Yamabushitake or Pom-Pom-Blanc. It owes these funky descriptions to its large, fluffy head, also scientifically called the ‘fruiting body’. It grows out of trees and deciduous plants and is reminiscent of a white lion’s mane or a shaggy Chinese Monkey head.
Lion’s Mane is a popular culinary, but also very well-researched medicinal mushroom. It is also the latest trend in nootropics: substances that claim to have beneficial effects on the central nervous system.
Lion’s Mane has been known to Chinese Medicine for centuries, however demand in Europe is also rising and thus cultivation in European greenhouses soars. Due to its hearty, lobster-like taste, the mushroom is enjoying growing culinary fame. Especially in upscale gastronomic circles, Lion’s Mane is high in demand.
Like the more popular Chinese medicinal mushrooms Reishi and Shiitake, Lion’s Mane contains very interesting compounds. All of which have a positive effect on body and mind. Therefore, nutritional supplements with Lion’s Mane extracts are gaining in popularity. Great benefits on the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) and nervous system are being reportet.1
To receive its great medicinal benefits, you can introduce Lion’s Mane as a staple to your diet. Additionally, to experience stronger cognitive effects, you can also consume Lion’s Mane extracts in capsule or liquid form.
Nootropics – Smart Drugs
Nootropics are the latest trend within the health and nutrition space. Plant extracts (also known as ‘smart drugs’) affect the central nervous system positively and are gaining popularity with modern-day users.2 Consumers of Lion’s Mane speak of great medicinal benefits. Such as enhanced mood, improved concentration and sleep. And all this without any notable side-effects.3,4
The Medicinal Benefits of Lion’s Mane: Studies
But what substances does this ‘miracle’ mushroom contain? And how exactly do they work?
Lion’s Mane has been known to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. As with other medicinal mushrooms, it is the beta-glucans (β-glucans) that make them so valuable. β-glucans are polysaccharides that have a positive effect on our immune system. This is due to their antioxidant effect. They also play a valid part in cancer research.3 The fruiting body of Lion’s Mane also contains the compounds Hericenones and Erinacines. It is these two that can influence brain performance even more positively.4
Researcher Daniela Ratto has been studying Hericium Erinaceus for years. She and her team have found that with just three grams of Lion’s Mane per day, brain function can be noticeably improved.5
A study from Saitsu et al. (2019) showed that subjects performed better in intelligence tests when using Lion’s Mane.6 Furthermore, Nagano et al. were able to determine that Lion’s Mane can reduce anxiety and depression.7
The Medicinal Benefits of Lion’s Mane: Chronic Disease Research
The scientific community is examining Lion’s Mane more and more intensively. As a result, new studies are coming out almost every week. For example, Lion’s Mane can have positive effects on Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.8
The leading fields for Lion’s Mane research3 are:
- Chronic inflammatory bowel disease
- Strengthening of the immune system
- Multiple Sclerosis
The Medicinal Benefits of Lion’s Mane: The Nervous System
Lion’s Mane offers great medicinal benefits for the nervous system. The compounds Hericenones and Erinacine accelerate the ‘nerve growth factor’ (NGF)10.
NGF (Nerve Growth Factor):
- Supports Neurotransmitters
- Regenerates damaged nerves
- Improves the general function of nerve cells
Studies show that after-stroke recovery significantly improved with Lion’s Mane.12 In addition, Lion’s Mane medicinal compounds have a strong effect on the brain. More precisely on the astroglial cells. These are the cell tissues in the nervous system. They enhance our ability to concentrate and reduce our perceived stress levels.5,13 Furthermore, the fungus can boost brain performance, even in old age.5
With all these benefits it is no surprise that Hericium Erinaceus is marketed as a ‘smart-drug’. Being a nootropic means that Lion’s Mane has compounds with neuro-enhancing effects. A so-called ‘brain doping’ without any artificial drugs.
In any case, always consult your health practitioner before consuming nootropics. Especially if you are not 100 % aware of the potential new effects. Even with well researched plants, isolated hypersensitivities, such as stomach upset, can occur.
In general, however, legal nootropics rarely report side effects. Rather, they are characterised by their positive impacts on body and mind.2,4
Lion’s Mane Medicinal Benefits: Digestive Tract
Studies on the GI tract revealed that Lion’s Mane’s triterpenes strengthen the intestinal walls and thus have a very calming effect. This in turn improves the formation of antibacterial proteins, which can help alleviate many illnesses such as leaky gut-, irritable bowel syndrome and gastritis.14
Protection of Kidney, Liver and Pancreas
Lion’s Mane compounds can also protect against organ damage. This positive effect is often observed in toxicity tests on the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Additionally, Lion’s Mane can help to regenerate the liver in the event of alcoholic poisoning.14
Other noteworthy compounds in Lion’s Mane are:
- Lovastin, which lowers cholesterol naturally
- Ergothioneine, a heavy metal binding substance
When eaten as food, you can simply prepare Lion’s Mane like any other mushroom. Cook in a little oil or butter and season accordingly. Other popular preparation methods are soups or broths. According to TCM, these help to draw out Lion’s Mane medicinal properties. Lion’s Mane is also popular in teas, smoothies, and vegetarian spreads.
The maximum daily dose is three grams per day for capsules and tinctures. To improve cognitive function, you can take a daily dose from 500 – 1,000 mg, up to three times per day.15
Lion’s Mane Cultivation
Fortunately, many important medicinal mushrooms are cultivated today. Meaning you don’t have to laboriously collect them in the forest. Cultivation helps to monitor their growth. This is an advantage because mushrooms not only accumulate nutrients but also pesticides and other pollutants.
The Hericium is cultivated in so-called production bags with sawdust from deciduous trees. This happens usually in green- or specific grow-houses. The mushroom spawn is placed in the bags with the sawdust. After watering, the spawns are left to do their thing in well-ventilated conditions. Within only a few weeks, the mushroom’s mycelium pervades the entire bag. When the appropriate degree of maturity is reached, several holes are punched in the bags. After only a few days, the fruiting bodies grow out and are ready for harvest.
Lion’s Mane delivers on all levels. It is not only a tasty ingredient for your dinner party but also a cognitive-enhancing superfood that is well-worth trying out.
If you want to give Lion’s Mane a go, you should look out for high-quality producers. High-quality supplements mean that the tablets contain 100 % fruiting bodies. Furthermore, avoid products with additives, fillers, or binders. Read labels! Furthermore, try and buy organic. And remember, always consult your health practitioner before starting a new supplement regime.
When buying the mushroom whole, look out for transparency and try to buy organically certified. This is to avoid contamination with heavy metals and other harmful pollutants.
Grow Your Own
Did we get you excited about Lion’s Mane? If so, we can help you grow your very own at home: with this easy-to-use Lion’s Mane Grow Kit from Upcycled Mushrooms. Click here.
Or learn how to become your very own mushroom grower, by taking part in our new mushroom grow course. Click here.
- Diling C, Xin Y, Chaoqun Z, Jian Y, Xiaocui T, Jun C, Ou S, Yizhen X. Extracts from Hericium erinaceus relieve inflammatory bowel disease by regulating immunity and gut microbiota. Oncotarget. 2017 Sep 6;8(49):85838-85857. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.20689. PMID: 29156761; PMCID: PMC5689651.
- Rebel C, Nootropika: Natürliche Neuro-Enhancer statt Pillen. World wide web: https://www.berlinorganics.de/ernaehrungswissen/gehirnleistung/natuerliche-nootropika/ (2020), visited on 19.02.2022
- Auerswald, M, Löwenmähne (Hericium erinaceus). Der Pilz für die Verdauung und gute Nerven (2021). World wide web: https://schnelleinfachgesund.de/hericium/ visited on 19.02.2022
- Bing-Ji Ma, Jin-Wen Shen, Hai-You Yu, Yuan Ruan, Ting-Ting Wu & Xu Zhao. Hericenones and erinacines: stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF) biosynthesis in Hericium erinaceus. Pages 92 – 98. (Apr 29, 2010). World wide web: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21501201003735556, visited on 21.02.2022
- Ratto, D., F. Corana, B. Mannucci, E. C. Priori, F. Cobelli, E. Roda, B. Ferrari, A. Occhinegro, C. Di Iorio, F. De Luca, V. Cesaroni, C. Girometta, M. G. Bottone, E. Savino, H. Kawagishi, and P. Rossi. Hericium Erinaceus Improves Recognition Memory and Induces Hippocampal and Cerebellar Neurogenesis in Frail Mice During Aging. Nutrients 11, no. 4 (Mar 27, 2019). https://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu11040715.
- Saitsu, Y., A. Nishide, K. Kikushima, K. Shimizu, and K. Ohnuki. Improvement of Cognitive Functions by Oral Intake of Hericium Erinaceus. Biomed Res 40, no. 4 (2019): 125-31.
- Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, et al. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. 2010;31(4):231‐237. doi:10.2220/biomedres.31.231 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20834180/)
- Friedman M. Chemistry, Nutrition, and Health-Promoting Properties of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia and Their Bioactive Compounds. J Agric Food Chem. 2015;63(32):7108‐7123. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.5b02914 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26244378/)
- Lai PL, Naidu M, Sabaratnam V, et al. Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(6):539‐554. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i6.30 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24266378/)
- Wong, K. H., M. Naidu, P. David, M. A. Abdulla, N. Abdullah, U. R. Kuppusamy, and V. Sabaratnam. Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium Erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2011 (2011): 580752. https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/neq062.
- Aloe L, Rocco ML, Balzamino BO, Micera A. Nerve Growth Factor: A Focus on Neuroscience and Therapy. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015;13(3):294-303. doi: 10.2174/1570159×13666150403231920. PMID: 26411962; PMCID: PMC4812798. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4812798/)
- Komiya, Y., T. Nakamura, M. Ishii, K. Shimizu, E. Hiraki, F. Kawabata, M. Nakamura, R. Tatsumi, Y. Ikeuchi, and W. Mizunoya. Increase in Muscle Endurance in Mice by Dietary Yamabushitake Mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus) Possibly Via Activation of Ppardelta. Anim Sci J 90, no. 6 (Jun 2019): 781-89.
- Liu, J., C. Du, Y. Wang, and Z. Yu. Anti-Fatigue Activities of Polysaccharides Extracted from Hericium Erinaceus. Exp Ther Med 9, no. 2 (Feb 2015): 483-87. https://dx.doi.org/10.3892/etm.2014.2139.
- Wu, Y., H. Jiang, E. Zhu, J. Li, Q. Wang, W. Zhou, T. Qin, X. Wu, B. Wu, and Y. Huang. Hericium Erinaceus Polysaccharide Facilitates Restoration of Injured Intestinal Mucosal Immunity in Muscovy Duck Reovirus-Infected Muscovy Ducklings. Int J Biol Macromol 107, no. Pt A (Feb 2018): 1151-61. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2017.09.092
- Tomen, D., Lion’s Mane, 2022; world wide web: https://nootropicsexpert.com/lions-mane; visited on 20.02.2022