What is Lion's Mane Mushroom?
Lion's mane is a wild-growing mushroom found throughout the temperate and sub-Arctic regions of the northern hemisphere. It's also sometimes called the bear's paw, squirrel's tail, or yamabushitake (Japanese). It's usually sold dried and in capsules or as a dried powder. The lion's mane mushroom is an edible fungus with long, tooth-like spines. This spiny texture gives the mushroom its name – it's said to resemble a mane.
The lion's mane is closely related to shiitake and maitake mushrooms but has a different look and texture. It has a spongy, fibrous texture that breaks apart into long, silky threads. These threads are what give the lion's mane its exceptional medicinal properties.
Nourish Your Body
Studies have shown that the lion's mane mushroom can support a healthy metabolism and regulate blood sugar. It may be instrumental in preventing or managing metabolic disorders like diabetes. Boosting your metabolism helps your body process calories and nutrients more efficiently, leading to better results from your diet.
Lion's mane also has adaptogenic properties, which can help your body respond to stress more effectively, primarily mentally and emotionally. This supports a healthy response to daily challenges, so you don't become overwhelmed or suffer from stress-related disorders.
Lion's mane mushroom is also a rich source of antioxidants, which can help protect your body against free radicals. Free radicals are a byproduct of metabolism, but some are unstable and can cause damage to your cells and DNA. Antioxidants may help to neutralize these harmful molecules
Boost your Mood and Support Mental Health
Lion's mane mushrooms have long been used in traditional medicines to restore a healthy balance in the mind and body. Scientists have discovered the unique compounds behind this ancient wisdom and are realizing their potential as a mental health aid. The lion's mane mushroom is rich in mood-regulating amino acids, specifically tryptophan, and serotonin. These compounds are found in many antidepressant drugs and nutritious foods like turkey, bananas, and dairy.
Lion's mane is unique because it's one of the few superfoods containing serotonin and tryptophan. Studies have found that those taking lion's mane supplements report significantly reduced stress levels, anxiety, and improved mood. This may be due to the increase in serotonin and tryptophan in their bodies, which are known to support mental health.
Help with Digestion
Whether you're feeling under the weather, stressed out, or otherwise not at your best, sometimes you don't have the energy to digest your food properly. This can lead to uncomfortable bloating, gas, cramps, and other digestive issues. The lion's mane mushroom has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine as a digestive aid. Modern science has now discovered the compounds behind this ancient wisdom.
Lion's mane mushrooms are rich in digestive enzymes, which help you break down your food and absorb its nutrients. They're also prebiotic, which means they're rich in fiber, support healthy gut bacteria, and can help prevent diarrhea. Lion's mane mushrooms may also help those who suffer from IBS, Crohn's, and other digestive disorders. One preliminary study found that it may help to reduce symptoms like abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Promote Skin Health
The lion's mane mushroom is also rich in probiotics, beneficial microorganisms that support your skin's health. Many skin problems, like acne, eczema, and dermatitis, are related to a health imbalance in your gut. This is because the immune system connects your digestive tract to your skin.
Probiotic-rich foods like the lion's mane can help to rebalance your skin's microbiome and prevent or treat various skin conditions. The lion's mane mushroom also works as an anti-aging remedy. It's rich in antioxidants, vitamins like B and C, minerals like iron and magnesium, and amino acids like serotonin, which may help slow aging.
Lion's Mane Research
Several studies show that lion's mane mushrooms are good for your health because they improve mental function, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, and help with digestive problems.
Several animal studies have shown that lion's mane mushrooms enhance neural growth in rats, decrease the recovery time following neural damage, and provide neuroprotective effects. Other researchers concluded that lion's mane mushrooms could potentially help treat health loss, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
New animal studies found that lion's mane extract can decrease depression and anxiety-like behaviors in mice, reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, this study suggests the anti-inflammatory effects of lion's mane could aid the treatment of depression and anxiety symptoms in humans. Animal studies found that mane extracts helped repair brain cells, improving hippocampus activity, an area of the brain that processes memories and emotions.
According to studies published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, one way that lion's mane impacts brain function is by enhancing the brain's neurite growth and associated organs. A study using animal models found lion mane extract can also combat liver, colon, and stomach cancer cells. Lion's mane also protects against stomach ulcers, enhances anxiety, cognition, and depression, and has anti-fatigue and anti-aging properties [6, 2].
Lion's mane, as well as other species of functional mushrooms, contains diverse phytochemicals, including polysaccharides, such as beta-glucan, prebiotic fiber, and digestive enzymes, which support immune health and promote healthy gut flora. In addition to potent antioxidants and immune-supporting beta-glucan polysaccharides found in functional mushroom species, lions mane contains erinacine and hericenone, the bioactive substances that provide neuroprotective properties.
Lion's mane enhances brain function over time. It provides a natural boost to attention span during the day, improves the immune system, improves neurological injuries, decreases inflammation, and has other beautiful properties. As a result, it supports neurodevelopment and protects your brain against Alzheimer's-related damage. Furthermore, animal studies also found this mushroom can aid the body's battle against Alzheimer's - a degenerative brain condition causing progressive memory loss.
More studies on humans are needed to identify the health benefits of this mushroom. Unfortunately, little hard evidence supports using these mushrooms or supplements for most neuroprotective benefits. Recommended dosages for various benefits are unclear because there needs to be more research.
These studies do show promise in terms of benefits to digestive health. Current studies show promise across an array of areas, including brain health. Results of animal studies, test-tube studies, and small clinical trials suggest lion's mane can provide some health benefits, including supporting neuronal health. Lion's mane also can dramatically improve symptoms of the two major intestinal inflammatory disorders, gastritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, as shown in laboratory studies in mice.
One study of patients with ulcerative colitis found that taking a supplement with 14% extract from lion's mane after three weeks reduced symptoms and improved quality of life.
A 2015 study in rats fed lion's mane extract for six weeks showed positive results, including lower blood sugar levels, decreased feelings of neural aches, and increased antioxidant activity. Research suggests lion's mane mushrooms can provide several health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved cognition and heart health. A study in older adults with mild cognitive impairment found that consuming 3 grams of powdered lion's mane mushrooms daily for four months significantly improved neurological functions.
Because Lions Mane mushrooms are suggested to support healthy neural growth factors, this functional mushroom can aid cognitive function and support mental clarity*. Lion's mane has also been meant to sustain a steady mood throughout the day. A daily dose of Lions Mane is a great way to smooth over the rough edges of our emotions. It does this by supporting nerve health and growth in the hippocampus, not through altered neurotransmitters (like most anti-anxiety and anti-depressive medications).
Anxiety Relief Another 2018 study on mice found that lion mane mushrooms promoted new brain cell growth within the hippocampus after only four weeks of once-a-day treatment, which could be the reason for its anti-anxiety effects.
In one study, high-dose administration of lion's mane extracts in rats immediately following a stroke reduced inflammation, decreasing the size of a stroke-related brain injury by 44 percent. A smaller study from 2016 found that taking a fungus-based oral supplement containing 14.7% lions mantle extract can decrease the symptoms of mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. This condition causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract.
For example, according to a study conducted on rats at the Mushroom Research Center of the University of Malaya, Malaysia, researchers concluded that bioactive compounds in lion mane extract could be responsible for the gastroprotective effects on rats. Furthermore, studies show mushrooms were used to prevent oxidative stress and radical exposure to cells.
In vitro and animal studies found extracts from Lions Mane to be protective against an increase of LDL cholesterol, sometimes called bad cholesterol, increases HDL or good cholesterol, and lowers triglycerides, an early leading marker for heart disease. Using a lion's mane regularly may help your body work better and stay balanced when it's under stress from inside and outside.
For this reason, many people are turning to supplements to get ready access to the benefits of lion's mane. A 2019 small study of overweight or obese participants found that taking three capsules a day of a lion's mane supplement for eight weeks reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety by approximately 34.9% and 49.6%, respectively.
How to Eat Lion's Mane
Lion's mane mushrooms are usually sold dried and found in online marketplaces like Amazon and many health food stores. They come in powder, capsules, or bulk form and can be added to smoothies, soups, or baked goods. They have a woody, earthy flavor similar to seaweed or mushrooms, but other intense flavors can easily cover it up. They're also very affordable, with around 100 grams (3.5 oz) costing about $10. Health experts recommend taking 1-3 grams of lion's mane mushrooms daily to benefit the most. You can add them to baked goods or other recipes or take them as a supplement.
Side Effects of Lion's Mane
If you're looking to reap some of the many health benefits of the lion's mane mushroom, be aware that while it can be a powerful ally, there are also potential side effects.
For starters, the lion's mane mushroom is known to boost immunity and help fight against conditions such as arthritis and cancer. Additionally, it has been said to improve cognitive function and reduce anxiety levels. However, like any supplement or medication, you must speak with a doctor before starting any new regimen if you consider using lion's mane mushrooms.
The lion's mane mushroom can also cause mild side effects such as nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you experience these symptoms after taking lion's mane mushroom, discontinue use immediately and consult with a medical professional.
Who Should Avoid Lion's Mane Mushrooms?
Lion's mane mushrooms are generally safe for most people, but you should avoid taking them if you have an autoimmune disorder or are on blood-thinning medications. Make sure to consult with your doctor before using any supplements.
Several rare but severe side effects are associated with lion's mane mushroom supplements, including allergic reactions, diarrhea, bleeding, and cramping. People taking anticoagulant medications should be careful. Lion's mane mushrooms also contain high polysaccharides, which can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Lion's mane mushrooms are an ancient superfood rich in many compounds supporting various health aspects. They have a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, and modern science has now discovered the unique properties behind this ancient wisdom.
They're an adaptogenic, mood-regulating superfood that can support a healthy metabolism, regulate blood sugar, boost mental health, and promote healthy skin.
Lion's mane mushrooms are also very nutritious, low in calories, and cost-effective. They can be eaten as tea, baked goods, or other recipes or taken as a supplement. Health experts recommend taking 1-3 grams of lion's mane mushrooms daily to benefit the most.