Functional mushrooms are finally getting their well-deserved attention as researchers discover new ways they can benefit our health and wellbeing. The Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits a number of systems in the body. It is an increasingly popular option around the world for its ample health benefits, unique look, and exquisite taste.
This guide will explore Lion’s Mane in a variety of different ways. First, we’ll examine its origin and history to find out just where this interesting fungus came from. We’ll dive into the multitude of health and wellness benefits (including interesting, lesser-known characteristics) that a person can benefit from by including Lion’s Mane in their lifestyle.
We’ll also look at how it is extracted for supplement use, how to determine if a Lion’s Mane product is of high quality and potency, and who can experience Lion’s Mane mushroom benefits.
There is a lot to unpack about this fascinating health booster, so let’s look at where it came from, how it’s been used, and where it can be found today.
In This Article:
- What is a Lion’s Mane Mushroom?
- Lion’s Mane – Why it’s a Functional Mushroom
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits for the Brain
- Additional Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits for Health
- How is Lion’s Mane Extracted?
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom vs Mycelium – Which to Choose?
- What to Know Before Taking Lion’s Mane Supplements
- Final Takeaway
What is a Lion’s Mane Mushroom?
Lion’s Mane is an ancient mushroom originating from Asia. Its culinary and medicinal uses can be traced back through China, Japan, and India over thousands of years¹. Lion’s Mane has been known by various other names through its ancient history, from “monkey head mushroom” in China to “mountain monk mushroom” in Japan to “bearded tooth” and “pom-pom” mushroom in North America.
The most common Lion’s Mane species is known as Hericium erinaceus, while the colloquial name of the mushroom comes from its resemblance to a lion’s mane from the animal kingdom (22). The first thing many will notice about Lion’s Mane is its striking appearance. Its long, thin tendrils and bright white coloring paint a unique picture in comparison to other fungal varieties.
This versatile mushroom can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Lion’s Mane’s taste is often compared to seafood like crab or lobster, and it is frequently used as a vegetarian meat replacement in China and other parts of the world. The extracts are used in a wide variety of health supplements.
Today, Lion’s Mane is found and sourced all over North America, Europe, and Asia, with different cultures using it in a variety of ways. It grows in the summer on hardwood and is often found on American beech trees. Research is linking Lion’s Mane mushrooms to a wide variety of mental and physical health benefits, leading to a rise in popularity for this fungus.
Lion’s Mane – Why it’s a Functional Mushroom
Lion’s Mane is characterized as a functional mushroom for its vast array of potential health benefits. Some other well-known varieties of functional mushrooms include Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, Maitake, and Shiitake.
Lion’s Mane is rising through the ranks of its peers because of its wide range of benefits, including supporting a healthy inflammation response and boosting brain function, which makes it a very attractive option for those looking to add a supplement as part of a healthy lifestyle.
However, before exploring Lion’s Mane’s potential and making it part of your daily routine, it is important to understand the potential benefits to your health and how to find a supplement product that will be of high enough quality to actually deliver these benefits. There are many supplements on the market of less-than-pristine quality that will not provide your body with the bioavailable potency of these mushrooms.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits for the Brain
Lion’s Mane has a long history of being used as a brain-boosting supplement. Chinese Buddhist monks used Lion’s Mane powder in their tea, claiming it helped them focus in their meditation and increase overall brain power (23). Modern science has set out to examine the validity of these claims and is finding promising results.
Lion’s Mane Benefits at a Glance:
- Neurological Health
- Mood & Mental Health
- Focus, Memory, Cognition, and Sleep
- Additional Lion’s Mane Mushroom Health Benefits
Compounds called hericenones and erinacines, when extracted and isolated from Lion’s Mane, have qualities that may protect neurons and nerves in our bodies. The unique neuroprotective effects of these Lion’s Mane compounds are speculated to shield the brain from normal mild cognitive decline associated with aging (22). To understand how these compounds work, let’s take a deeper dive into what is needed for proper brain function.
Every time you speak or make a movement or recall someone’s name, nerve impulses are transmitted lightning-fast through a long line of neurons. You may remember from biology class that these neurons have gaps between them and that the gaps are called synapses. For impulses to travel easily through the synaptic gap from one neuron to another, their path needs to be free and clear.
Critically, neurons need good nutrition to do their jobs. Just as a functional country needs a system of transportation to deliver parcels to its inhabitants, a functional brain needs a system of transportation to deliver nutrients to its neurons.
A healthy brain is one in which neurons get the nutrition they need to thrive and can transmit nerve impulses quickly.
Animal tests indicate compounds from Lion’s Mane may support nerve impulse transmission as well as support short and long-term memory (22). Interestingly, the same compounds were found to counter oxidative stress on the brain (22).
Research on Lion’s Mane effect on brain health has also been conducted in humans. A study in Japan showed that adults with mild memory problems associated with aging who were administered Lion’s Mane mushroom powder scored better on a test of brain function than those who did not take the extract (22). Their scores then worsened after ceasing the mushroom consumption.
Lion’s Mane has also been shown to help in supporting the health of nerve tissue. Animal studies show that Lion’s Mane compounds can help promote the growth of nerve tissue and support motor function (22). These benefits are linked to increased production of nerve growth factor (NGF), a compound that maintains the health of neurons in our brains (23).
Clearly, Lion’s Mane is showing itself to be an incredible ally in supporting cognitive function. Research into how it can help improve the quality of life for many is ongoing. Feedback from some of our customers about our Lion’s Mane supplements provides even more insight into how effective these supplements can be:
“Since starting to take Lion’s Mane Mushroom capsules I have seen a significant improvement in my memory.” – Nancy
“Both my parents take Lion’s Mane and it helps them with brain fog and cognitive function. I can definitely see the difference.” – Kelly
Mood & Mental Health
These brain-boosting properties can have a positive effect on an individual’s mental health as well. Millions of people worldwide struggle with occasional worry and blue mood, and there are studies that show Lion’s Mane’s mood-lifting properties can help (11,12).
Animal studies have shown Lion’s Mane to support healthy neuron production in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates emotions. This may support a positive mood and relieve occasional stress (35).
In fact, a small clinical trial out of Japan found that Lion’s Mane mushroom consumption found exactly that, and suggested that the mechanism was different from its NGF-enhancing effects (37).
Focus, Memory, Cognition, and Sleep
Just like the Buddhist monks, you can add our Lion’s Mane mushroom capsules to your supplement routine to help maintain your focus, boost your productivity, and increase your efficiency.
In fact, a number of the people who use our organic Lion’s Mane extract supplements are students or professionals who enjoy the additional mental energy, focus, memory retention, and sleep quality they get from this mushroom extract.
Here’s feedback on the effects of Lion’s Mane on cognition and mood that we’ve received from some of our customers:
“I have used the Lion’s Mane in my matcha latte for the last six months. I do not have brain fog, no afternoon slump and my processing and retention of information is much better. People at work have actually asked me how I do it! I have switched from other suppliers of mushroom supplements to Real Mushrooms and I can feel the difference.” – Michelle
“Real Mushrooms Lion’s Mane is amazing. Within 10 minutes of use I feel a positive rush and a boost to my mood. Throughout the day I feel more focused and don’t get that afternoon fog anymore. I would definitely recommend their products to anyone” – Gareth
“I am experiencing much better mental focus as well as higher quality sleep. I switched from a different manufacturer’s Lion’s Mane after learning about Real Mushrooms on a podcast. The quality is definitely here and it is noticeable! Thanks Real Mushrooms.” – Rich
Additional Lion’s Mane Mushroom Health Benefits
Lion’s Mane mushroom is linked to a plethora of potential health benefits beyond the cognitive and neurological world. Traditional Chinese Medicine has promoted the use of Lion’s Mane for thousands of years as a tonic for everything from digestive health to a healthy inflammation response (22). In fact, one of the most popular Lion’s Mane products in China is a biscuit that is used for tummy troubles.
Modern research is again showing these ancient techniques correct, as Lion’s Mane demonstrates it can improve mental, cognitive, and physical well-being in a wide variety of ways. Below are some of the additional ways Lions’ Mane could potentially improve your health:
- Inflammation response – Functional mushrooms are well known as antioxidant powerhouses that support a healthy inflammation response, so it’s no surprise that Lion’s Mane’s properties make it a heavyweight in that field (13).
- Heart health – Heart health is a common concern among men and women in the United States. Research is showing how Lion’s Mane may support the health of the cardiovascular system. Maintaining a healthy weight is linked with cardiovascular well-being. Animal studies show that mice fed a high-fat diet showed improved metabolism and healthier weight when administered Lion’s Mane extracts (27). Lion’s Mane may also work to maintain arterial flexibility by preventing cholesterol from oxidizing (28). Hericenone B, a compound extracted from Lion’s Mane, has also been found to support healthy blood clotting (29). All these benefits combine to help keep your heart and cardiovascular system healthy.
- Digestive health – Lion’s Mane may help with stomach discomfort and overall digestive health (30, 31).
- Blood sugar balance – Balanced blood sugar is a key element of overall health. Lion’s Mane has been shown in animal studies to help keep blood sugar levels steady by blocking the production of carb-crunching enzymes in the small intestine (32).
- Immune system strength – A healthy immune system is critical in protecting the body from foreign invaders. Lion’s Mane, like other functional mushrooms, can be a helpful ally to the immune system. Studies conducted in vitro indicate it may support a healthy immune response by helping to regulate gut and intestinal bacteria (36).
While human studies into this wide range of beneficial health effects continues, it is undeniable that Lion’s Mane extract is an amazing supplement that contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Whether you’re wanting to improve focus, balance blood sugar, or improve your digestive health, Lion’s Mane is a great option that has been in use for centuries.
You can start to experience these benefits for yourself with our Lion’s Mane mushroom powder. It is a high-quality, certified organic supplement with no fillers to ensure you receive the maximum benefit possible.
How is Lion’s Mane Extracted?
Knowledge about the ingredients you’re 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 (4):
- Hot water
- Dual extraction – both hot water and alcohol
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 (5). 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.
Our mushroom extracts 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 polysaccharide 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
Lion’s Mane Mushroom vs Mycelium – Which to Choose?
There is a lot of debate about what is the best part of this fungus to use for specific cognitive benefits – the mushroom or mycelium. 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.
Erinacines are showing a lot of promise, and many consumers have trended towards mycelium-based Lion’s Mane products as a result. What these consumers don’t know is that there currently is no reliable way to test for these compounds.
In addition, most mycelium-based products are myceliated grain, and Lion’s Mane mycelium research is based on pure mycelium via liquid fermentation, which is very different from myceliated grain. Given that these erinacines only occur in very small amounts in pure mycelium, it’s important to ask how much of this compound is actually present when a large amount of grain is part of the product.
As you can see from the table above, there is very little erinacine A in Lion’s mane pure mycelium (0.01%) so how much is there in grain based mycelium?
Even Hericenone C is only showing up in the mushroom at 0.15%, though this is a 10x increase over erinacine A content.
Currently, most of the clinical data on Lion’s Mane is based on research using the mushroom (fruiting body). There is one paper with clinical data that uses both the mushroom as well as pure mycelium (38).
For these reasons, Real Mushrooms only uses the mushroom for our Lion’s Mane Extract, which the existing body of clinical data supports.
The Problem with Focusing on Hericenones and Erinacines
It may be surprising to learn that there is no reliable lab test for hericenones or erinacines. Any claim that a product contains these compounds is speculative at best. Many Chinese suppliers are selling products with a guarantee of specific amounts of both compounds, but they’re using UV testing methods, which are very unreliable. These so-called compound-specific guarantees can give brands reselling these ingredients a false sense of quality and reliability.
Until more reliable testing methods are available, Real Mushrooms continues to focus on the clinical data that support the use of the mushroom in its entirety.
What to Know Before Taking Lion’s Mane Supplements
How to Find Quality Lion’s Mane
It’s important to know how to purchase, prepare, and consume functional mushrooms in order to experience the most benefits and avoid any potential side effects.
Lion’s Mane can sometimes be found at farmer’s markets or specialty grocery stores. They can be cooked or grilled similar to other common mushrooms. Their dense and meaty texture may surprise you! Many people compare their flavor to a mild crab or lobster taste.
With supplements, it’s very important to look for sourcing and purity. Many brands will add in a variety of fillers, colorings, unnecessary additives, and other ingredients that provide no additional health benefits. These additions are potentially harmful and an indication of a low percentage of the actual Lion’s Mane extract found in the product.
These additives also lead to poor bioavailability and lower the probability of efficient absorption into the human body. To get the most potent and high-value functional fungi supplement, extracts must be made from the mushroom (fruiting body), rather than the mycelium (19), and specify beta-glucan content (medicinal compounds).
Even product labels can be misleading. Many popular supplement brands hide the use of myceliated grain and other fillers. This makes it difficult to distinguish whether a supplement contains an extract or the entire mushroom and whether it was made with the mushroom (fruiting body) or its root structure (mycelium).
How to Take Lion’s Mane Extracts
Real Mushrooms offers two Lion’s Mane products. Our Lion’s Mane mushroom powder is made from the mushroom (fruiting body) to ensure maximum efficacy. This creates a product rich in medicinal compounds that we are proud of and this powdered form is very convenient.
Here are some easy and fun ways to add Lion’s Mane powder into your daily routine:
- Stir it in your morning coffee, tea, or hot chocolate (click here for some mushroom coffee recipe inspiration)
- Add it to a mushroom broth or soup for a nutritious lunch or dinner
- Make it the star ingredient of a raw vegan chocolate cake
- Add it to your morning smoothie to start your day with a boost
The recommended dosage for adults is 1/2 or 1 gram per day but always check with your health care provider before starting any new supplement. For added convenience, we also offer Lion’s Mane mushroom capsules. Adults should take two capsules per day as a supplement.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits for Pets
Functional mushrooms aren’t just beneficial to humans either! The powder is safe for animal consumption and can provide many of the same benefits to dogs and cats when added as a supplement to their meals. Many holistic veterinarians are prescribing functional mushrooms to pets as natural alternative treatments and overall health boosters.
Cautions to be Aware of
While the health benefits of Lion’s Mane are numerous and well-documented, a small number of people should be careful before adding it to their regular morning ritual.
Anyone with a mushroom allergy should tread carefully to ensure Lion’s Mane does not cause a reaction. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should seek a doctor’s approval before taking any type of ingredient that affects inflammation or oxidation. People taking prescription medications, particularly anything related to cognition or mental health, should seek a doctor’s advice before adding functional mushroom supplements to their routine.
From its ancient origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine to modern research finding a myriad of health-boosting abilities, Lion’s Mane is an incredible functional mushroom. It has risen among its fungal peers to become one of the most popular functional mushroom supplement options.
Lion’s Mane has been shown to have intriguing brain-boosting abilities and is being studied as a potential aid for supporting cognitive function throughout the ages. It may support the health of the nervous system, the digestive system, and the cardiovascular system, while also supporting a healthy response to inflammation. Studies continue into how Lion’s Mane can boost overall health.
Anyone can add Lion’s Mane to their supplement routine today. You can be confident that Real Mushroom’s organic products are extracted with the most efficient methods to provide you with the maximum benefits. It’s never too early (or late!) to start thinking about your health, and Lion’s Mane extracts are a multi-benefit, convenient, natural, and organic biological powerhouse to add to your routine.
*Disclaimer: 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.
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