Lion’s Mane is a mushroom that has been used for centuries for its natural medicinal value. Hericium erinaces, as it’s referred to in scientific literature, has shown tremendous potential in helping to stimulate the growth of new brain cells, support immune health, and act as a broad-spectrum anti-inflammatory. Getting to know this wondrous natural nootropic compound may help you understand how to support your cognitive health.
- Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaces, Yombashitake) is a stringy-looking mushroom with medicinal value.
- Hericenones and Erinacines are the two classes of bioactive compounds to which most of the health benefits of Lion’s Mane are attributed to.
- Has two distinct parts: Mycelium and Fruiting Body
- Each contains vastly different compositions of bioactive alkaloids.
- Boost the immune system, helps grown new brain cells, fights inflammation
- Available as a nootropic supplement in several forms including powder, capsules, and tinctures.
When it comes to understanding the benefits of herbal and natural compounds, it’s generally a matter of two things: bioactive compounds and preparation methods. In other words, what natural goodness does a compound have and how do we get it out?
Lion’s Mane has two primary classes bioactive compounds to which most of its cognitive benefits are attributed. These are Hericenones and Erinacines, each of which is comprised of several distinct compounds such as Hericenone A, B, C, and Erinacine A, B, C. This is just a simple example. There are plenty more individual compounds found in Lion’s Mane that are attributed to benefiting the brain.
As to the second matter, the getting it out part, there are some important considerations to make. What chemicals are used, shelf-life implications, bioavailability issues—these are all relevant to any compound. Where Lion’s Mane is unique is in that it has two distinct areas in which beneficial compounds are found (or not found). The fruiting body and the mycelium of Lion’s Mane contain very different compositions of Hericenones and Erinacines. As a general rule, Erinacines are found in the mycelium and Hericenones are found in the fruiting body (R). There’s some overlap, but this is a good basic description.
So what does all that mean when it comes to selecting a Lion’s Mane nootropic supplement? If you choose a supplement that only contains an extract or powdered form of a single part you’re likely to miss out on some of the cognitive goodness that Lion’s Mane has to offer! Most supplements elect to included full spectrum blends. For example, the Mind Lab Pro Nootropic contains a full-spectrum extract of Lion’s Mane to ensure both Hericenones and Erinacines are found in significant amounts.
The benefits of Lion’s Mane are still a hot topic of investigation for researchers. Initial human tests indicate that results seen in animal models will indeed carry over, at least for the most part. This compound still remains understudied compared to many compounds but that is a common situation for non-patentable compounds. If big pharma can’t slap a patent on it they’re not going to fund researchers to study it. Below you’ll find a list of some benefits of Lion’s Mane that do have some scientific support and explanation for their methods of action on the human body and mind.
Helps Grow New Brain Cells
The human brain’s ability to generate new tissue has, historically, been regarded to sharply decline as we age. This process, known as neurogenesis, has been debated heavily in recent years. It’s now a common opinion among the scientific community that certain nutritional and lifestyle factors may help greatly extend the range in which a person’s brain can regenerate and form new synaptic connections.
Two extracts from Lion’s Mane, Hericenones and erinacines, have demonstrated their ability to induce nerve growth factor (R) one-way new brain tissue is formed). There’s not currently any research indicating the influence of Lion’s Mane on age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. However, studies among the elderly do indicate a significant improvement in general cognitive function among those taking Lion’s Mane (R).
Lion’s mane has also demonstrated potential in helping to address the underlying causes of diseases such as Parkinson’s—at least in animal models (R). In these cases, researchers observed Lion’s Mane as reducing the death of dopamine-producing cells, several dead cells from inflammatory-related processes, and even the ability to reverse some motor defects. Overall, very exciting.
Helps Address Anxiety & Depression
The nature of anxiety and depression is unknown but often when symptoms of one are present so are symptoms of the other. The active compounds in Lion’s Mane have acted on areas of the brain that are associated with anxiety and depression—but there isn’t strong data to connect their ability to improve symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Animal studies have found that Lion’s Mane helps reduce inflammation in these areas in such a way that could help treat anxiety and depression, but there have only been limited human studies to back this notion up (R)(R). This initial data suggests that Lion’s Mane’s positive influence on symptoms of anxiety and depression may have a larger place in medicine in the future.
Natural Immune Booster
The immune system has dramatic ramifications on how every aspect of our bodies function, including our minds (R). Lion’s Mane has demonstrated strong promise in helping to boost the immunological health of our digestive tracts (R). You might be wondering how the heck that’s going to help mental function? Modern science has shown an inseparable connection between neurological health and digestive health. This is referred to as the gut-brain-axis (GBA) (R). This complex system isn’t fully understood, but a good rule of thumb is that health guts support healthy brains.
Lion’s Mane comes in several different forms which each have advantages over one another. As opposed to some supplements that only come in encapsulated forms, Lion’s Mane is commonly available as a powder, capsule, or liquid extract (tincture.) Here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits of each:
Powder: Easy to mix in with smoothies or other foods.
Capsule: Convenient for traveling & exact dosing.
Liquid Extract: Purest, most-concentrated form.
As discussed earlier, it’s important to gauge whether any of the above forms contain only a single part (mycelium or fruiting body) of the Lion’s Mane mushroom. Without both, you’re getting short-changed.
Side Effects and Dosage
Lion’s Mane is such an under-studied compound, at least as far as medical use is concerned, that it’s hard to say what dose one should take. After reviewing several studies, there seems to be little evidence that there are any negative side effects associated with reasonable doses of Lion’s Mane (R).
Animal models have tested doses as high as 5000mg/kg of body weight without noticing any negative side effects. That’s like a 165-pound person taking, roughly, 375,000mg of Lion’s Man and in other words—eating it like food! Consumer-sold supplements tend to provide single-serving doses in the range of 250mg – 1500mg.
Lion’s Mane has all the hallmark characteristics of a medicinal herb that should be on everyone’s radar. It has enough scientific support to merit further investigation, has strong initial results among human tests, has a spectrum of identified bioactive alkaloids, and has little to no side effects (even in large doses.) While you might not turn into a mathematical genius overnight, taking Lion’s Mane seems to be a relatively safe endeavor to assess what benefits it may offer you. We consider it one of the best natural nootropics on the market today!