Once you’ve learned about the multiple health advantages of Lion’s Mane mushroom supplements, it’s time to weed through the buying options. It can be difficult to know what the best Lion’s Mane supplement is for your money. There are a growing number of brand options given that functional mushroom supplements have gone mainstream. While the dietary supplement industry is regulated, mislabelling and confusing marketing is still prevalent. It is important to be aware of what to look for when trying to find a supplement of quality. That quality will help determine whether you will get the health benefits you are looking for.
This guide will help you understand what to look for when shopping for the best Lion’s Mane supplement.
For a quick primer, skip to our Take-Away Buying Guide.
There is a lot of debate about what is the best part of this fungus to use for the specific cognitive benefits that Lion’s Mane is known for: the mushroom (fruiting body) or mycelium (the root-like fungal filaments that the mushroom grows from).
Two compounds are the area of focus of this debate: hericenones, which are found in the mushroom, and erinacines, which are found in the mycelium.
Both hericenones and erinacies have demonstrated neuronal health supporting properties in scientific studies (1). Therefore, what product should you choose: a mushroom supplement (for the hericenones) or a mycelium-based supplement (for the erinacines)?
There are two problems with opting for mycelium-based Lion’s Mane supplements:
1. Supplements made from mycelium include the grain it is grown on. This effectively dilutes the product and its medicinal compounds. Erinacines only occur in very small amounts in pure mycelium (~0.01%). The grain the mycelium is grown on further diminishes this concentration.
2. Lion’s Mane mycelium research is based on pure mycelium via liquid fermentation. Liquid fermented mycelium is very different than the myceliated grain commonly found in Lion’s Mane supplements.
Currently, most of the clinical data on Lion’s Mane is based on research using the mushroom (fruiting body) (1).
For these reasons, Real Mushrooms only uses the mushroom for our Lion’s Mane Supplements, which the existing body of clinical data supports.
Much of the research on the neurotropic and neuroprotective properties of Lion’s Mane focuses on the compounds hericenones and erinacines. However, there is no reliable lab that can test for these compounds.
Any claim that a product makes about these compounds is speculative at best.
Many Chinese suppliers are selling products with a guarantee of specific amounts of both compounds. Misleadingly, these suppliers are using UV testing methods, which are very unreliable and inaccurate and can end up quantifying the wrong compounds. These so-called compound-specific guarantees can give brands reselling these ingredients a false sense of quality and reliability.
Real Mushrooms has spent years and many thousands of dollars trying to quantify these compounds. We continue to push on and look for ways to quantify these compounds.
Once we can quantify these compounds, we can begin to optimize our products for them.
Until more reliable and repeatable testing methods become available, Real Mushrooms continues to focus on the clinical data that support the use of the mushroom in its entirety.
Many brands will add in a variety of starch, fillers, colorings, unnecessary additives, and other ingredients to their mushroom supplements. These additions provide no health benefits. Worse yet, they are an indication of a low percentage of the actual Lion’s Mane extract found in the product. This results in a lower concentration of beta-glucans (medicinal compounds) in the supplement, which indicates a lower therapeutic potency.
Product labels can be misleading. Many popular supplement brands hide the use of myceliated grain and other fillers. To get the most potent and high-value functional fungi supplement, look to the product label for the specific beta-glucan content. If the beta-glucan content is not indicated on the label, it is unlikely that the product has sufficient levels.
Real Mushrooms always includes the percentage of beta-glucans on its product labels. The beta-glucan in Real Mushrooms’ Lion’s Mane supplement is greater than 25% which is one of the highest concentrations on the market.
Beta-glucans are the primary compound in mushrooms responsible for its immune-supporting functions and other medicinal properties.
Beta-glucans are commonly regarded as being Biological Response Modifiers (BRMs) (2). BRMs work by supporting the immune system to turn up or turn down. For example, BRMs can stimulate an increased immune response that in turn enables a more effective reaction for fighting off infections. In contrast, they can also turn down an overactive immune response via anti-inflammatory cytokine modulation.
To learn more about the other health benefits of beta-glucans, read our article A Look at the Powerful Benefits of Beta-D-Glucan.
When considering a Lion’s Mane supplement, it is important to make sure you can getting a high quality product that is free of possible contaminants.
A couple questions to ask about the mushroom supplement:
Organically grown mushrooms mean that these mushrooms have been grown naturally without the use of any types of herbicides, fungicides or pesticides.
All Real Mushrooms products are tested multiple times during the production process at accredited 3rd party labs to ensure our products are free from agricultural chemicals.
One important note about capsule products is that these products cannot be USDA certified organic because the capsules themselves are not certified organic. However, you can ensure that the mushroom powder within the capsule is certified organic by checking the Supplement Facts panel on the label.
Levels of heavy metals are also an important factor as mushrooms are bioaccumulators and absorb minerals and heavy metals from their growth substrates. Real Mushrooms screens for heavy metals at multiple steps during production to guarantee that we greatly exceed the heavy metals standards set by the FDA and Health Canada.
Knowledge about the ingredients that you are incorporating into your diet is important. This rings especially true when it comes to functional mushrooms and their quality. A low-quality mushroom supplement won’t allow you to experience all the potential benefits, and your health is not something to gamble with.
The first sign of a high-quality functional mushroom product is that it is extracted from the mushroom (fruiting body) using the appropriate method. There are three methods of extraction in use with functional mushrooms:
There is some debate over which of these methods results in the highest-quality extraction. Research shows that not every method is effective for every mushroom and that some may even be detrimental as they remove medicinal constituents in the process. With that in mind, it’s important that any supplement producer understand which extraction method will provide the maximum benefit and highest efficacy in the product.
Real Mushroom’s decades of expertise and experience allow us to tailor the extraction method we use to each individual type of mushroom to attain peak potency. Our Lion’s Mane products are extracted using the hot water method and use the entire mushroom. This way we can guarantee all the medical properties and benefits are transferred to the extract, delivering a product of the highest quality that you can feel confident in.
Real Mushrooms’ supplements are trusted by leading health practitioners and naturopathic doctors around North America because of their purity and potency. In the words of one of our customers who is a naturopathic doctor, here is why our Lion’s Mane supplements are used and recommended by medical professionals:
“I am a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist, and I am so grateful to be able to recommend Real Mushrooms formulas to patients. They are of utmost quality--grown and processed properly in order to be truly rich in beneficial mushroom-derived medicinal compounds. Personally, I am using your Lion's Mane capsules as part of a neurological support program... Your mushroom extracts are the only ones I use and recommend, because they are the ones I trust most for potency and purity. Thank you for your dedication and integrity!” - Dr. Mark Bricca
Incorporating a Lion’s Mane supplement into your daily regimen can be a great resource for your health. And lucky for you, it’s never been easier to get your hands on quality medicinal mushroom supplements.
However, there are many lower quality products on the market now that functional mushroom supplements have become mainstream.
Remember these tips when you are evaluating any potential mushroom supplement, to make sure you are getting a safe, high-purity, and high-potency product:
1. Sabaratnam, V., Kah-Hui, W., Naidu, M., & Rosie David, P. (2013). Neuronal health - can culinary and medicinal mushrooms help?. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 3(1), 62–68. https://doi.org/10.4103/2225-4110.106549
2. Alberts, B., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, K. and Walter, P. (2020) Innate Immunity. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26846/>
Disclaimer: The information or products mentioned in this article are provided as information resources only, and are not to be used or relied on to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information does not create any patient-doctor relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. The information is intended for health care professionals only. The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by licensed medical physicians. Please consult your doctor or health practitioner for any medical advice.