Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

What Are Lion's Mane Mushrooms?

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a culinary mushroom widely consumed in Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and China, where it also has a long history of use for its beneficial health properties. Lion’s Mane is characterized by its long, soft projections that resemble the mane of a lion. It is also called Hou Tou Gu (monkey head mushroom) in Chinese and yamabushitake (mountain monk mushroom) in Japanese. 

Figure 1. Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus). Source: Wikimedia Commons. Image created by user Richard Sullivan (enchplant) at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images. CC BY-SA 3.0

Lion’s Mane fruiting body (i.e., the stem and cap of the mushroom) and mycelium (i.e., the underground structures) contain a large variety of bioactive compounds, including erinacines, hericenones, steroids, alkaloids, lactones, polysaccharides (particularly β-glucans and α-glucans), and glycoproteins (particularly glucan-protein complexes); erinacines and hericenones are the two most important classes of constituents isolated from the mycelium and fruiting body of H. erinaceus, respectively [1,2]. Due to the properties of these bioactive compounds, Lion’s Mane has antioxidant actions and supports healthy immune signaling and protective mechanisms in several tissues and organs.

Lion’s Mane is one of the most popular nootropics because of its reported activities related to nerve and brain health.

Lion’s Mane has traditionally been used as a natural remedy to support gastrointestinal health and promote good digestion, and support nervous system function and promote general vigor and strength [2–4]. Currently, Lion’s Mane is one of the most popular nootropics because of its reported activities related to nerve and brain health. 

Lion's Mane Benefits

Brain Health

One of the most interesting actions of Lion’s Mane is its ability to support healthy brain structure. This has been shown mainly in animal and in vitro studies. 

For example, in aged mice, Lion’s Mane partially recovered the aged-related reduction of motor function by helping to prevent the loss of volume in the cerebellum, a part of the brain that has a key role in motor control and that also supports cognitive functions [5]. Lion’s Mane also promoted neurogenesis in the cerebellum of aged mice [6], as well as in the hippocampus of non-aged mice [7,8].

Studies in vitro showed that Lion’s Mane promoted the growth of axons and dendrites [9,10] and stimulated the maturation of oligodendrocytes, the glial cells of the CNS that produce myelin, as well as the actual production of myelin—a protein that forms a sheath around axons that protects and isolates them and supports nerve impulse conduction [11,12]. It also supported synaptic transmission in slices of the hippocampus [13].

Studies in vitro showed that Lion’s Mane supported neuroprotective functions in the brain by diminishing oxidative stress and abnormal immune signaling.

These actions in promoting healthy neuron and brain structure may be linked to a support of neurotrophic and neuroprotective mechanisms. Neurotrophins are a family of proteins that promote the development, growth, survival, and function of neurons. Lion’s Mane has been shown to stimulate the activity of two of the main neurotrophins: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) [10,14–16] and nerve growth factor (NGF) [8,9,17]. Lion’s Mane also supported neuroprotective functions in the brain by diminishing oxidative stress and abnormal immune signaling [5,18–20]. 

By promoting healthy brain structure and function, Lion’s Mane may potentially contribute to a support of cognitive function. Accordingly, Lion’s Mane has been shown to support memory in healthy animals [10,21] and reverse the age-related decline of memory in an animal model of physiological aging [6].  

In human studies, Lion’s Mane administration to older individuals with poor cognitive function helped to maintain BDNF levels, attenuated a deterioration of brain structure (loss of white matter), promoted neural organization, and supported cognitive function.

In human studies, Lion’s Mane administration to older individuals with poor cognitive function helped to maintain BDNF levels, attenuated a deterioration of brain structure (loss of white matter), promoted neural organization [14], and supported cognitive function [22].

Gut Health

Several studies have shown, including one in humans, that Lion’s Mane may promote a healthy gut microbiota composition by supporting the abundance of beneficial microbes, such as Akkermansia muciniphila, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus, and  reducing the presence of undesirable microbes [23–28]. Furthermore, it may support the metabolism of gut microbes, namely the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are molecules that interact with human cells and influence the activity of the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems [26,29–31]. Lion’s Mane also supported a healthy intestinal mucosa by enhancing the expression of intestinal tight junction proteins that help to maintain gut barrier function, which is essential to isolate our body from unwanted microbes and their metabolites [32].

Immune System

Lion’s Mane has been shown to modulate the production of immune signaling molecules, such as cytokines, in a manner consistent with a more balanced and healthy immune response [27,33]. It also supported immune responses in the gut [26,28,32] and, in mice with poor immune function, helped to restore their immune defenses [26].

Antioxidant Defenses

Lion’s Mane contains several compounds with antioxidant properties [1,34] and several studies have shown that Lion’s Mane supports antioxidant defenses in multiple organs, including the gastrointestinal tract, liver, and brain [5,32,33,35]. It does so by supporting the levels of antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase, leading to a reduction in markers of oxidative stress [32].

Lion's Mane Supplements

Lion’s Mane supplements may differ on the bioactive compounds they provide depending on whether they are obtained from the fruiting body or the mycelium: the fruiting body is richer in hericenones, while the mycelium provides higher amounts of erinacines. This means that their benefits may differ. Nevertheless, both fruiting body and mycelium have been shown to support healthy brain structure and function in preclinical studies.

Lion's Mane supplements are a great option to support neuroprotective and neurotrophic mechanisms and brain health, particularly healthy brain structure. In addition, they also promote gut health and a healthy gut microbiota, which can contribute to a support of whole-body health and also healthy brain function through the gut-brain axis [36]. These are the main reasons why we’re including Lion’s Mane (as RealLionsMane™) in Qualia Mind 2.0, the upcoming upgrade of Qualia's flagship nootropic, the next addition to the Qualia supplements line. We are using a fruiting body extract—it takes 1000 grams of the fruiting body part of the mushroom to make 125 mg—and selected this form (rather than mycelium) based on N=1 experiences reported by biohackers and because this form has shown promising outcomes in clinical research (supported cognitive performance in individuals with poor cognitive function) [22]. 

Lion's Mane FAQs

Can Lion's Mane help with brain fog or memory?

While there are no clinical studies linking Lion's Mane to brain fog or memory support in healthy individuals, there are studies that show it supports healthy brain structure, which is a crucial element of healthy brain function and cognitive performance.*  

How long does it take to see benefits from Lion's Mane?

Lion’s Mane supports neuroprotective and neurotrophic mechanisms and healthy brain structure. These actions may promote healthy brain function and cognition with continued use by supporting the structural integrity of neurons and neural pathways. Its benefits may develop gradually and may be maintained even after discontinuing use.* 

Is it safe to take Lion's Mane every day?

Lion's mane is an edible mushroom. In clinical studies, its daily intake as a powder or extract for several weeks was not associated with any serious adverse effects.* 

Explore more Qualia supplements.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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