Lion’s Mane – An All-Rounder For Better Health?

We’ve all heard the phrase “heart of a lion” before. Could Lion’s Mane (Hericeum Erinaceus), also known as yamabushitake or hou tou gu, give you just that?

Okay, maybe nothing so dramatic as that will come about from supplementing with Lion’s Mane. But with heart health being just one of the many things it can improve, Lion’s mane is definitely worth looking into as an effective nootropic.

What Is Lion’s Mane?

Lion’s Mane mushrooms are large, furry mushrooms that look just like a (you guessed it!) lion’s mane. Because of their unique appearance, they have many names: Monkey’s Head, Bearded Tooth, Pom Pom Blanc, Hedgehog Mushroom and Satyr’s Beard.

The use of Lion’s Mane in both cooking and traditional medicine is widespread in Asian countries such as Japan, China, and Korea[1] though the mushrooms are also native to North America and large parts of Europe. They can most often be found high up on tree trunks (often over 40 feet from the ground). As such, they’re much easier to buy than forage for!

Because of their many health benefits, these strange-looking mushrooms are often eaten raw or cooked (fried, I found them to taste quite similar to crab). They can even be steeped in tea (and that doesn’t taste half-bad either). Outside of the kitchen, Lion’s Mane is used as a health supplement for its potent effects on the brain, heart, gut, and nervous system.

How Does Lion’s Mane Work?

Lion’s Mane contains active compounds that affect the brain and body. When ingested, neurotrophic and bioactive substances found in Lion’s Mane work on many levels:

  • Hericenones and erinacines extracted from Lion’s Mane increases the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in nerve cells, which is essential for the healthy maintenance of the nervous system [2].
  • Polysaccharide Fraction extracted from Lion’s Mane works by inhibiting H. Pylori. Since H. Pylori is associated with many illnesses and stomach-related issues, inhibiting it acts as a protection against many problems in the stomach and digestive system [3].

Lion’s Mane Benefits

The potential benefits of Lion’s Mane are many and widespread. Here’s a breakdown of the positive impact it can have on each aspect of health:

Brain Health

By stimulating the growth of brain cells, Lion’s Mane influences brain chemistry directly, and may even help to prevent dementia, a disease caused by damage to brain cells. In one study done on mice, learning deficits were significantly improved by supplementation with Lion’s Mane [].

In another study, done on older adults suffering from mild cognitive impairment, continued supplementation with Lion’s Mane resulted in better ability to perform mental tasks. Interestingly, these positive effects were lessened once supplementation stopped [5].

Mental Health

Depression and anxiety are serious mood disorders that negatively impact the lives of all who suffer from them. The causes of depression and anxiety are not fully understood, though inflammation (typically characterized by increased white blood cell activation in response to threat) is believed to play a major role. A recent study has shown that Lion’s Mane extract has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce depressive behavior in mice [6].

Gut & Digestive System Health

Stomach ulcers are painful sores in the lining of the stomach. Ulcers can also form along the internal lining of the small and large intestines. Ulcers are formed in large part by the excessive growth of a damaging bacteria known as H. Pylori. Because of its inhibiting effect on H. Pylori, Lion’s Mane is often used as a preventative measure against stomach ulcers [3].

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, the symptoms of which may be improved by supplementing with Lion’s Mane [7]. One study done on patients with ulcerative colitis found that fatigue was reduced and general quality of life improved by supplementing with a mushroom extract containing 14% Lion’s Mane [8]. It is unknown how much of the positive result in this trial stemmed from Lion’s Mane specifically.

Heart Health

The primary risk factors for heart disease are obesity, high triglyceride levels and high HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) levels. Much research has been done on the effect Lion’s Mane supplementation can have on lowering these risk factors, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

One study showed that hyperlipidemia (high levels of triglycerides and other fats) in rats and mice was effectively reduced by supplementation with Lion’s Mane, suggesting that Lion’s Mane may be used as an effective natural remedy for treating hyperlipidemia in human beings [9].

The formation of clustering blood platelets in blood vessels causes thrombosis (local blood clotting) and increases the risk of coronary events. One study found that supplementing with Lion’s Mane reduced blood platelet aggregation (the formation of clusters) was inhibited. This is because Lion’s Mane contains a compound called herecinone B, which inhibits collagen-induced platelet aggregation, and therefore reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke [10].

Because of Lion’s Mane’s positive impact on the heart and blood vessels, a strong case can be made to advocate its use as both a preventative and a curative natural treatment for coronary health.

Immune System

A healthy immune system is essential to fight off infection and protect from disease. Conversely, an unhealthy immune system puts us at increased risk of diseases caused by viruses and bacteria, as well as making us more prone to suffering general illnesses.

Because Lion’s Mane can improve gut health, it can simultaneously boost immunity due to its positive effect on the millions of protective bacteria present in our guts. By regulating gut bacteria, immunity can benefit in turn [11].

In one study, daily supplementation with Lion’s Mane extract caused mice to live four times longer than their control group when exposed to the salmonella virus. [12]

Cancer Prevention and Treatment

Cancer is an often life-threatening disease, caused by the uncontrolled multiplication of cells. It comes in many forms and is often life-threatening.

A compound found in the fruiting bodies of Lion’s Mane mushrooms, known as Cerebroside E, is believed to have many cancer-fighting properties. A study has shown it to have beneficial effects in cancer treatment [13].

Another study showed that Lion’s Mane extract may be therapeutic against human leukemia. Cancer cells mixed with the extract died much faster than those in the control group [14].

How To Take Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane is available as a supplement in pill form, though it is most commonly found in powdered form, making it easy to mix with food or liquids. Just stir it into your tea, or add it to your soup! It can be purchased online or in many natural health-food shops. While there has not been enough study done to establish a clear recommended dose, most clinical trials use between 750mg and 3,000mg per day. As concentrations in supplement form can vary, we recommend following the instructions included with whichever product you purchase.

Some studies showed that health benefits achieved from Lion’s Mane supplementation only lasted for as long as supplementation was continued [5]. For this reason, we recommend continuous use for maximum benefit.

Lion’s mane is considered very safe for human consumption, even at high doses.

Lion’s Mane Side Effects

Some side effects such as skin rashes and trouble breathing have been reported, though these instances were likely caused by a general sensitivity/allergy to mushrooms [15]. We recommend that anyone with a known or suspected mushroom allergy avoid the use of Lion’s Mane in any form. Skin itching may be caused by an increase in Nerve Growth Factor activity.

As no studies involving pregnant women have been carried out, it is recommended that women in term avoid supplementing with Lion’s Mane, at least until further evidence to support its safety for this group is carried out.

My Experience With Lion’s Mane

I have been taking Lion’s Mane in powder form for over three months now. While it’s impossible to attribute cause and effect accurately (Lion’s Mane is not the only nootropic I have been taking lately), I have noticed a few improvements that I suspect are owed to this strange-looking mushroom:

The biggest difference I’ve noticed in myself since I began dosing with Lion’s Mane (1,000mg, twice daily) is an improvement in my cognitive functioning. I find myself thinking a bit sharper, and I’ve been better able to recall words that used to evade me (I swear I’ve gotten better at crosswords!).

I was worried about supplementing with Lion’s Mane at first, because I’ve always had a bit of a complaining stomach. However, I’ve experienced no discomfort or upset as a result. Aside from a slight disruption in my sleep schedule (I tossed and turned a bit during my first few nights after beginning to dose), I haven’t experienced any kind of side effects, mild or otherwise.

Overall, I’d summarize my experience with Lion’s Mane as subtle. I feel slightly sharper, but nothing overly dramatic. Many of the other purported health benefits are impossible to measure personally (triglyceride levels etc.). I’m planning on upping my dose to see if it will have a more pronounced effect on me – I’ll report back with any changes!

Where to Buy Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane can be purchased as an extract from https://www.purenootropics.net/. I buy from these guys because they offer free domestic shipping and a 30 day money back guarantee. It’s hard to go wrong with that. Every product is also tested pretty stringently for purity and quality, which is nice to know.

If you are interested in nootropics beyond just Lion’s Mane, there is also a product called “Mind Lab Pro”, which is a blend of 11 different nootropics, including Lion’s Mane. If you’re curious, why not check out my Mind Lab Pro review for more information?

Conclusion

So there you have it: Another nootropic with great promise. More studies involving human subjects will need to be carried out before we can get a full idea of the extent of health benefits Lion’s Mane can offer.

For now, we have a pretty good idea that it can do some good!

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