Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Best Lionsmane MushroomLion’s mane, or Hericium erinaceus, is an edible fungus that grows on the sides of dead and decaying trees in North America, Europe and Asia. It has a host of equally fun names such as bearded hedgehog mushroom, pom pom mushroom and beaded tooth fungus.

“Lion’s mane” gives it an air of power that we believe it deserves – this mushroom is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been the focus of extensive research in recent years for its nootropic actions and energy-boosting potential.

Lion’s mane is rich in three key medicinal constituents:

  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants reduce cellular damage, protect DNA, boost energy, support immune cells.
  • Polysaccharides: Lion’s mane contains over 35 polysaccharides, including B-glucans. These promote nerve growth, support gut health, boost metabolism of toxins.
  • Glycoproteins: These structures contain glucose and protein and promote healthy cell-to-cell communication, may have anti-cancer actions, and boost the immune system.

This unique composition gives Lion’s Mane a variety of supplemental applications. Below we’ll cover the most notable use-cases followed by potential use cases. At the very bottom, you can view our top 5 recommended Lion’s Mane supplements.


Notable Lion’s Mane Supplemental Applications

Lion’s Mane for Nerve Health

Problems with peripheral nerves are common due to a large range of injuries, diseases, tumours and even side effects of medications. Moderate nerve damage can manifest as numbness or loss of sensation, a sharp or burning pain, and partial loss of control or function; severe nerve damage results in a total loss of function of the motor, sensory and autonomic functions of the affected region.

In many cases, regeneration of the nerves and relief of symptoms may be possible.

Lion’s mane has been investigated for its use in nerve regeneration and protection. It appears that the polysaccharides in lion’s mane may stimulate the synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF), promote differentiation of neurons, and support their survival [5].

  • An animal study in 2011 showed that lion’s mane extract increased the rate of recovery after peripheral nerve injury in rats [3].
  • Lion’s mane may be a great complimentary treatment in recovery from a vitamin B12 deficiency. The myelin sheath, a fatty white substance that surrounds the axon of nerve cells and is essential for nerve impulse conduction, is damaged in a B12 deficiency leading to nerve damage and nervous system illness. In vitro studies have shown that lion’s mane extracts can strengthen the myelin sheath [6].

All of these studies are in vitro or animal models – there’s no evidence yet that lion’s mane can consistently improve nerve function in humans.

That said, it is totally possible – there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence and the traditional use of lion’s mane mushroom in Chinese Medicine counts for a lot! Speak to a TCM practitioner or an integrative doctor if you’re interested in using lion’s mane for nerve regeneration.


Lion’s Mane for Brain Function

Along with its promotion of nerve growth factor (NGF) secretion, lion’s mane extracts have been shown to enhance nitrite outgrowth – the spread of neuronal axons and dendrites which send impulses from one nerve body to another. By promoting this growth, lion’s mane may be able to boost the communication between neurons in the brain which could mean sharper thinking, better memory, faster reaction times and greater protection against dementia.

  • A double-blind placebo-controlled study of 50-80year old Japanese adults with mild cognitive impairment showed that supplementing with 250mg of dry lion’s mane powder, or placebo, for 16 weeks. The participants in the lion’s mane group showed significant improvement and decreased symptoms of dementia compared to the placebo group. Unfortunately, this improvement declined after [1].
  • Animal studies have shown that it lion’s mane may promote relief of symptoms and protect the brain against further physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and brain nerve damage. [3][4][5]

The popular nootropic Alpha brain by Onnit contains Lion’s Mane.


Lion’s Mane for Anxiety & Depression

NGF is intimately linked with the nervous system and can help to regulate the body’s “fight or flight” response. It can affect the activity of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system and has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

While lion’s mane mushroom can boost the synthesis of NGF in the body, only one study has investigated its effects on mood disorders:

  • Taking 2g of lion’s mane (combined into cookies) for four weeks was shown to reduce symptoms of anxiousness, irritation and depression, while improving concentration in menopausal women. [2]

CAUTION: Lion’s mane may interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications for anxiety and depression. Speak to a pharmacist or integrative doctor before taking lion’s mane.

The researcher also found that NGF synthesis alone was not enough to account for the strength of these positive results. Further research is needed to investigate whether lion’s mane also influences hormones and autonomic nerve activity to relieve anxiety, depression and irritability.


Lion’s Mane for Exercise Performance & Recovery

Lion’s mane is a big energy enhancer. The combination of antioxidants and nerve-supporting polysaccharides give a boost of energy within hours of consuming extracts of this mushroom. The effects seems to neutralise over long-term use, supplying a steady stream of energy without a noticeable spike – great to support energy when starting a regular exercise program.

Aside from its energy-boosting properties, lion’s mane may help to prevent muscle fatigue and improve recovery.

Anaerobic respiration creates a product called lactic acid, or lactate, which can be converted into ATP without the presence of oxygen. During intense exercise, the lactic acid may build up in the bloodstream faster than the body can burn it off – this is called the “lactic threshold” and it can cause temporary but super unpleasant symptoms known as lactic acidosis:

  • Muscle aches
  • Burning
  • Rapid breathing
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea

Even without crossing the lactic threshold, lactic acid causes muscles to weaken and fatigue to set in. Muscle soreness and stiffness can last for days after an intense workout.

Good news – lion’s mane has been shown to boost the body’s metabolism and excretion of lactic acid. In an animal study, polysaccharides from a Hericium erinaceus extract were shown to reduce levels of lactic acid in mice who were exercised to fatigue [7].

Bad news – the research is limited to this single study, and it’s an animal model, not human! Again, anecdotal evidence suggests that lion’s mane is effective at enhancing energy for workouts.


Lion’s Mane for Cardiovascular Health

Lion’s mane has been shown to reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and control weight in a number of studies. But guess what’s missing? You guessed it – human trials.

Animal studies have shown that lion’s mane extract may:

  • Reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Increase HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).
  • Decrease weight gain on a high fat diet. [13] [14]

This may be due to the activity of lion’s mane on the gut – the polysaccharides in this mushroom promote the secretion of short chain fatty acids in the large intestine, which have been linked to healthier lipid profiles. They may also boost the conversion of cholesterol into bile for excretion, or reduce the absorption of fat in the intestines [15].


Lion’s Mane for Gut Health

Polysaccharides from other funguses have been used to reduce inflammation, improve the integrity of the gut wall and support the gastrointestinal microbiome [10]. To date, no human trials have investigated the effects of lion’s mane on the gut, but as per usual, the animal studies are promising:

  • An animal study showed that lion’s mane polysaccharide extracts inhibited the secretion of inflammatory cytokines IL-6, IL-8, and IL-12 while promoting anti-inflammatory IL-10 action in the gut, and protected against stomach ulcers and mucosal injury [8].
  • A 2014 in vitro study showed that polysaccharide extracts of lion’s mane could inhibit the growth of the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers, Helicobacter pylori [9].

Where these effects extend to the human health is unknown, and may be wishful thinking. Proceed with caution – common side effects for lion’s mane include gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea and nausea. If you already have a gut condition, it may exacerbate symptoms. Speak to a naturopath or herbalist before taking lion’s mane for gut health.


Potential Uses for Lion’s Mane

Despite its potent medicinal constituents and its traditional use, the few human studies available for lion’s mane limits the claims we can really say about this powerful mushroom. Animal and in vitro studies explore a wide range of applications for lion’s mane extracts and suggest that there is huge potential for this fungi:

  • Pain Relief: One animal study suggest lion’s mane may have an analgesic effect by suppressing calcium signaling between pain-related neuronal cells. [12]
  • Wound Healing: In a rat model, wounds treated with a lion’s mane extract healed faster and showed greater synthesis of collagen than those treated with water alone [11].
  • Blood Glucose Control: Lion’s mane was shown to regulate blood glucose levels in diabetic and non-diabetic rats [16].
  • Bone Health: An in vitro study showed that the antioxidant actions of lion’s mane extract inhibited osteoclast activity which could reduce bone turn-over and protect against osteoporosis [17].
  • Immune Boosting: In vitro studies show that lion’s mane can improve both cell-mediated and innate immunity, boost Th1 activity, and promote maturation of dendritic cells to regulate immune responses [18][19].

How To Take Lion’s Mane

Given the lack of human studies for this fungi, it may be worth seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner or western herbalist for personalised advice on whether lion’s mane will work for you. If you’re convinced by the anecdotal data, here’s our best advice on how to take it:

Eating the mushroom is likely the safest way to try lion’s mane.

Apparently it tastes kind of like lobster when it’s cooked. Cut the mushroom head into ½ inch thick steaks and fry them in olive oil, salt and pepper – that’s it!

Supplemental forms of lion’s mane usually contain higher concentrations of the mushroom’s medicinal qualities, and they’re convenient to take.

Some supplements are made by simply drying and powdering the mushroom while others are potent extracts that contain higher concentrations of polysaccharides.

The method and quality of extraction determines the efficiency and dosage of the end product, so stick to well-known brands.

CAUTIONS:

  • Lion’s mane can boost Th1 immune response. Avoid if you suffer from a Th1 autoimmune condition.
  • Glycoproteins can trigger allergies. Avoid if you are suffering from active allergies.
  • Side effects of lion’s mane can include gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhoea and nausea.

Dosage: Because of the limited human trials done on lion’s mane, there is no general ideal dose. Speak to a qualified herbalist for personalised advice.


Best 5 Lion’s Mane Supplements

#5 Host Defence Lion’s Mane (500mg, 60 capsules)

Lions mane mushroomHost Defence have packed 500mg of lion’s mane powder into starch-free vegetarian capsules. Each capsule contains ~275mg of polysaccharides and 2.5mg of fatty acids. The mushrooms used are grown and harvested in the USA, and Host Defence is a trusted brand with key certifications – USDA Organic, bee friendly, gluten free, and non-GMO project certified. This is a great product to try if you’re looking for a convenient way to try out whole powdered lion’s mane.


#4 Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Mushroom Elixir Mix (20 x 3g packets)

Lions Mane Mushroom SupplementFour Sigmatic are leading the pack when it comes to mushroom elixirs. Their Lion’s Mane Mushroom Elixir Mix contains powdered lion’s mane extract with peppermint, star anise and stevia for taste. But when it comes to taste, you may be able to taste the forest that the mushrooms were picked from… One reviewer said, “Tastes like the back of a stamp with earthy tones…” and another shared that the brew is “Not delicious, but makes my brain feel better” – keep in mind that lion’s mane infusions may not be to everyone’s tastes, but reportedly work well for cognition, focus, energy and anxiety.


#3 Wild Shroom Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extract 10:1 Concentrated Powder (2oz)

Lions Mane PowderWild Shroom have extracted, dried and powdered the pure fruiting bodies of the lion’s mane mushroom – the parts with the most potent medicinal constituents. This powder can be blended with smoothies, added to coffee or tea, or used in baking. Wild Shroom also recommend taking it as a pre-workout with water, honey and a dash of pink salt for a quick energy boost. The taste is reportedly similar to a graham cracker… maybe if you have a good imagination?

This is a highly concentrated and clean lion’s mane extract – ½ a teaspoon is a recommended dose, and the only ingredient is the mushroom extract itself – no fillers, binders or flow agents. Even better, Wild Shroom offer a 100% money-back guarantee!


#2 Primal Herb Neuro Shroom Extract Powder (572mg, 114g)

Lions Mane BlendPrimal Herb have combined three potent nootropic mushrooms with bacopa, huperzia and black pepper – a potent blend to promote cognition, memory, energy and mood. Each ½ teaspoon dose contains a hefty 572mg of lion’s mane mushroom extract with 30% polysaccharides, along with good amounts of cordyceps and reishi extracts.

Primal Herb use a double-extraction method with purified water and non-GMO ethanol to get the majority of active and bioavailable compounds out of the mushrooms. They then purify, filter, concentrate and dry the extract in a way that retails as much medicinal action as possible.

This is a great choice if you’re looking for a lion’s mane mushroom blend to primarily support brain power.


#1 Noomadic Lion’s Mane Mushroom Capsules

Best Lion's Mane SupplementNoomadic use a double-extraction of lion’s mane to create this potent formula. Each capsule contains 500mg of lion’s mane mushroom extract with 30% polysaccharides, and absolutely nothing else added – no binders, fillers, flow agents, additives or preservatives. The capsules are totally vegan friendly and free from common allergens including egg, dairy, soy and gluten.

This is a high quality extract in convenient capsules and at a great price. Reviews boast that this stuff kicks in quickly and keeps on providing good energy and immune support.

View Noomadic Lion’s Mane on Amazon Here


Further Reading:

[1] Mori, K., et al. (2009) Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a doubleblind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res., 23, 367– 372. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18844328

[2] Nagano, M., et al. (2010) Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. 31, 231–7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20834180

[3] Wong, K. H., et al. (2011) Peripheral nerve regeneration following crush injury to rat peroneal nerve by aqueous extract of medicinal mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2011, 580752. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21941586

[4] Zhang, J., et al. (2016) The neuroprotective properties of Hericium erinaceus in glutamate-damaged differentiated PC12 cells and an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Int J Mol Sci., 17:11, 1810. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27809277

[5] Park, Y. S., et al. (2002) Effect of an exo-polysaccharide from the culture broth of Hericium erinaceus on enhancement of growth and differentiation of rat adrenal nerve cells. Cytotechnology., 39:3, 155 – 162. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19003308/

[6] Kolotushkina, E. V., et al. (2003) The influence of Hericium erinaceus extract on myelination process in vitro. Fiziol Zh., 49:1, 38 – 45. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12675022/

[7] Jianqing, L., et al. (2015) Anti-fatigue activities of polysaccharides extracted from Hericium erinaceus. Exp Ther Med., 9:2, 483 – 487. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4280918/

[8] Shao, M. R. (2014) Protective Role of Hericium Erinaceus Polysaccharides on Gastrointestinal Mucosa Function. Thesis for the Degree of Master of Science, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, pp. 4–5.

[9] Zhu, Y., et al. (2014) Preparation characterization, and anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of Bi3+-Hericium erinaceus polysaccharide complex. Carbohydr. Polym., 110, 231–237. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24906751

[10] Sam, Q. H., et al. (2017) The Fungal Mycobiome and Its Interaction with Gut Bacteria in the Host. Int J Mol Sci., 18:2, 330. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5343866/

[11] Abdulla,M. A., et al. (2011) Potential activity of aqueous extract of culinary-medicinal Lion’s Mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) in accelerating wound healing in rats. Int J Med Mushrooms., 13:1, 33 – 39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22135902

[12] Liu, P. S., et al. (2017) Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), Modulates Purinoceptor-Coupled Calcium Signaling and Murine Nociceptive Behavior. Int J Med Mushrooms., 19:6, 499 – 507. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29199560

[13] Yang, B. K., et al. (2003) Hypolipidemic effect of an Exo-biopolymer produced from a submerged mycelial culture of Hericium erinaceus. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem., 67:6, 1292 – 1298. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12843656

[14] Hiwatashi, K., et al. (2010) Yamabushitake mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) improved lipid metabolism in mice fed a high-fat diet. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem, 74:7, 1447 – 1451. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20622452

[15] He, X., et al. (2017) Structures, biological activities, and industrial applications of the polysaccharides from Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) mushroom: A review. Int J Biol Macromol., 97, 228 – 237. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28087447

[16] Liang, B., et al. (2013) Antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activities of aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus in experimental diabetic rats. BMC Complement Altern Med., 13, 253. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3852124/

[17] Li, W., et al. (2017) Antioxidant and Anti-Osteoporotic Activities of Aromatic Compounds and Sterols from Hericium erinaceum. Molecules., 22:1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28085076

[18] Sheng, X., et al. (2017) Immunomodulatory effects of Hericium erinaceus derived polysaccharides are mediated by intestinal immunology. Food Funct., 8:3, 1020 – 1027. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28266682

[19] Kim, S. K., et al. (2010) Hericium erinaceum induces maturation of dendritic cells derived from human peripheral blood monocytes. Phytother Res., 24:1, 14 – 19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19441068

About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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