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 Lion’s Mane?
- Lion’s Mane – A Functional Mushroom
- Lion’s Mane – A Nootropic With Brain Benefits
- Additional Lion’s Mane Mushroom Health Benefits
- How to Take Lion’s Mane Extracts
- How to Identify a Quality Lion’s Mane Supplement
- Final Takeaway
What is Lion’s Mane?
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 fermented, extracted, 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. Lion’s Mane 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 – 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 mushroom 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 mushroom powder supplement 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 – A Nootropic With Brain Benefits
Any substance or supplement that can enhance brain performance can be classified as a nootropic. “Nootropic” is a word that has come into popular parlance in recent years as the supplement industry has increased its focus on identifying natural and synthetic substances that can be taken orally for improving memory, focus, and cognition. However, even a simple and widely used substance such as caffeine can be considered a nootropic, because it boosts brain function.
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.
Hericenones and Erinacines: Compounds for Neurological Health
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.
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). These are also the compounds behind some of the other brain-boosting traits of Lion’s Mane mushroom. Let’s take a closer look at those benefits below.
Lion’s Mane Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)
Lion’s Mane can 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).
Lion’s Mane for Memory & Cognition
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 (8). Their scores then worsened after ceasing the mushroom consumption.
A study on healthy middle aged individuals using Lion’s Mane also showed beneficial results of improving cognitive function and short term memory (42). Lion’s Mane has potential for promotion of cognitive health based on these findings.
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 for memory and cognition:
“Since starting to take Lion’s Mane Mushroom capsules I have seen a significant improvement in my memory.” – Nancy
“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 for Anxiety & Mood
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 animal 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). This clinical trial found Lion’s Mane supplementation was able to decrease anxiety while decreasing feelings of irritation and frustration (37).
Here’s feedback on the effects of Lion’s Mane on mood that we’ve received from some of our customers:
“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
Lion’s Mane for Focus & Mental Energy
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 and focus they get from this mushroom extract.
“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
“So far I have had great success supplementing with these mushrooms. Vitality!!!! And clear energy. Not stimulating, yet feels as if you are reaching into the soil and pulling strength from the earth. Highly recommend” – Parker
Lion’s Mane for Brain Fog
Brain fog can be a symptom of an aging brain. It can also accompany a number of conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Chronic Fatigue Syndroms (CFS), Lupus, insomnia, menopause, and even pregnancy. Brain fog can also be a side effect of certain medications.
Lion’s Mane is a multi-benefit and natural way to gently help combat brain fog:
“Both my parents take Lion’s Mane and it helps them with brain fog and cognitive function. I can definitely see the difference.” – Kelly
“I take 3 capsules a day and my mind feels sharper and I get less brain fog (which has been a big problem when i don’t sleep well enough, so most of the time now). I tried 3 different brands so far and this seems to be the most potent of the bunch.” – Olli
Lion’s Mane for Sleep
Lion’s Mane also works by advancing the sleep-wake cycle and decreasing wakefulness during the active phase of sleep (REM). Therefore, Lion’s Mane before bed could be helpful for delayed sleep phase syndrome (43). In addition, Lion’s Mane has further immune-modulating properties that help us deal with external stressors. This, in turn, helps us achieve more restful sleep.
You can also use Lion’s Mane in the morning when you wake up. This helps to restore your biorhythm by keeping you alert and priming your brain for optimal function during your waking hours.
“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 enhancing general vitality (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:
Lion’s Mane for Inflammation
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).
Lion’s Mane for Heart Health
Heart health is a common concern among people 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.
Lion’s Mane for Digestive health
Lion’s Mane may help with stomach discomfort and overall digestive health (30, 31). Inflamed digestive tissues decreased and microbiome diversity increased in a study using a Lion’s Mane protein, two favorable outcomes in irritable bowel diseases (40). Lion’s Mane is used traditionally to support the digestive organs in Chinese medicine. Recent discoveries in the gut-brain axis suggest that the connection between the two systems is very important to brain health (41).
Lion’s Mane for 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 modulating enzymes in the small intestine (32).
Lion’s Mane for the Immune System
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). Mice studies show Lion’s Mane can modulate intestinal mucosal activity to support immune system strength (39).
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.
For information about other mushrooms that can support pet health, read our article Medicinal Mushrooms for Pets.
While human studies into this wide range of beneficial health effects continue, it is undeniable that Lion’s Mane extract can be an amazing supplement that contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Whether you’re wanting to improve focus, support metabolic health, or improve your digestive health, Lion’s Mane is a great option that has been in use for centuries.
How to Take Lion’s Mane Extracts
Real Mushrooms offers two Lion’s Mane products, one in capsule form and one in loose powder form.
Lion’s Mane Capsules
Real Mushrooms’ organic Lion’s Mane capsules are loaded with powder that is extracted for maximum potency and made of the pure, organic fruiting-body. The ease of taking capsules makes this option a popular choice, since the dosages are pre-measured.
We recommend taking 2 capsules daily for health maintenance.
Lion’s Mane Powder
Real Mushrooms’ 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
Lion’s Mane Dosage
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.
Lion’s Mane Safety and Potential Side Effects
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 avoid Lion’s Mane until approved by their health care provider. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should seek a doctor’s approval before taking Lion’s Mane. People taking prescription medications, particularly anything related to cognition or blood thinning, should seek a doctor’s advice before adding functional mushroom supplements to their routine.
How to Identify a Quality Lion’s Mane Supplement
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 mycelium on grain (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).
Learn the 4 key questions to ask about any lions mane product you are considering purchasing in our article, Find the Best Lion’s Mane Supplement: The 4-Point Buying Guide.
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.
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