Benefits and Side Effects of Lion's Mane Mushroom
Health Benefits of Lion's Mane (Hericium Erinaceus)
Can something so strangely shaped really assist with increasing brain function, reinforce a good mood, boost immune system function, and even help with improving memory?
Lion's mane mushrooms are relatively large, tousled-like in appearance, white in color, and when full-grown, resemble a lion's mane.
The scientific designation of Lion's mane is Hericium Erinaceus, which is Latin for a hedgehog. This name makes sense after close inspection because the mushroom resembles a spiky little hedgehog. But most people refer to this mushroom as lion's mane.
This saprophytic mushroom mainly grows on dead organic material and is commonly found in the woods, growing on decaying trees (4). Don't let that gross you out because not only can you eat this mushroom (most people assimilate the taste to a seafood flavor), but lion's mane can also be used for medicinal reasons. The therapeutic benefits are extortionary, considering we are only talking about a single type of mushroom. Improved mood, memory, and even immune system function are all fantastic benefits of using lion's mane mushrooms extracts. It is not only a delicious mushroom to eat but proves itself as a medicinal powerhouse.
Let's discuss three distinct advantages that Hericium Erinaceus can offer.
- May Improve Memory
Hericium Erinaceus's more famous benefits include stimulating nerve growth while repairing nerves, helping increase memory capacity, and improving brain function.
As we grow older, our brains decrease in the ability to develop new neural connections. This degradation results in many people noticing a cognitive decline in function as they get older.
Luckily, two compounds are linked to the regeneration of brain cells that happen to be critical ingredients of lion's mane. These are called hericenones and erinacines, and both compounds are based on the lion's mane mushroom's active ingredients (1). These ingredients help synthesize nerve cells sprouting in the brain and may even be helping the brain repair itself.
Studies have even suggested that the critical ingredients in lion's mane might even assist with protecting against Alzheimer's disease, a common degenerative disease of the brain that equates to worsening memory loss (1). Although no official research has been conducted on how lion's mane affects mental conditions, such as Alzheimer's, it does seem to improve brain function.
Lion's mane is not only great for the physical health of your brain but also your emotional wellbeing as well (5).
A staggering 33% of people in the US and other developed nations suffer from depression and anxiety. Some scientists would attribute these conditions to inflammation. Inflammation is a natural bodily response to dangerous provocations such as irritants that your body has difficulty eliminating (6).
According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, there are strong correlations between system inflammation and depression. Since depression is so strongly related to anxiety, both can be linked to inflammation (7).
Hericium Erinaceus's active ingredients help combat inflammation and thus assist with treating anxiety and depression. Although additional human experimentation needs to be done, initial studies suggest that lion's mane mushrooms may help with some mild symptoms of depression and anxiety (7).
- Immune System Function:
The immune system is a critical part of the body because it is responsible for combating viruses and other harmful pathogens. A robust immune system equates to more protection, and a weakened immune system usually leads to an increased risk of becoming ill.
During a study conducted on mice, it was concluded that due to the benefits of some of the active ingredients of Hericium Erinaceus, there is a strong correlation between the benefits of lion's mane mushrooms and a more productive healthy immune system (8).
Studies found that lions mane mushrooms have a solid correlation to increasing the activity of the intestinal system by stimulating gut bacteria in a beneficial way for the immune system. The study took mice provided with lion's mane mushrooms and compared them to mice without this supplement after injecting them with a deadly bacterium. The supplemented mice had a higher survival rate than those without the supplement.
Although more research is required to make definite correlations between the benefits of lion's mane mushrooms and the immune system, thus far, the research has been promising (9).
Who should consider taking Hericium Erinaceus?
While everyone is different, and this article is not offering medical advice, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.
With that said, who would be the ideal person to consider Hericium Erinaceus?
While this answer might not surprise you, it is simple: Anyone who would like to improve their memory, mood, and immune system function.
Lion's mane may benefit anyone from the elderly with a cognitive impairment to younger adults who want to better their mental and physical health.
Pregnant women should avoid using lion's mane products due to insufficient research available to us at this time. Lastly, anyone who has a sensitivity or allergy to mushrooms should avoid this product.
Lions mane supplements are a great start if you want to reduce anxiety symptoms in depression while improving your health.
Does it work?
According to a randomized controlled trial, published by the National Institute of Health, that was performed on thirty men and women between the ages of 50 - 80 years old, all with diagnoses of mild cognitive impairment, with the hopes of determining the benefits of Hericium Erinaceus.
To do so, they used a scale-based cognitive function test that was conducted periodically during a 16-week trial on all 30 participants. In addition, the study provided half of the participant's placebos, and participants provided the other half lion's mane.
The halves of participants given lions mane were provided 250 mg tablets three times per day for 16 weeks. Their findings were astonishing, concluding that the halves that were provided lion's mane saw a massive increase in scores on the cognitive function test.
Suggesting that lion's mane revealed no adverse effects and, at the same time, improved cognitive health (3).
Recommended Amount of Lion's Mane Supplement
It is essential to consult your medical provider when determining a proper dosage of any supplement.
Although lion's mane is still being tested here in the United States, there is nothing new about its medicinal and culinary purposes. This supplement has a long history of being consumed in many Asian countries, long before being noticed in the United States. Thus, lion's mane mushrooms and their abstract do appear to be very safe.
Since many studies are still in their infancy here in the United States, an official recommended dosage has yet to be determined.
Although, most people taking the Hericium Erinaceus supplement use around 250 milligrams per day. Lions' mane supplements come in many forms, including capsules, powder, liquid, tablets, and even cooking mushrooms.
What is the most suitable time to take lion's mane?
There have been reports on the benefits of taking lion's mane right before bed. Many people struggle with either falling asleep or staying asleep. The supplement can have adverse effects on both your body and mind if you're missing out on the vast health benefits provided by a restful night of sleep. While lion's mane is known for improving cognitive abilities and increasing the nerve growth factor in our brains, it can stimulate adrenals, causing a stress reduction when taken before bed. The supplement can assist you with winding down before a restful night's sleep.
Being able to reduce stress is an essential element of falling asleep. Many people report having difficulties "quieting their minds" when falling asleep. By taking this supplement before a time, you could be reducing your stress while activating regenerative attributes to get a good night's sleep. Lions' mane is not a stimulant. Thus, there should be no issues taking a dose before your planned bedtime.
Possible Side Effects
While studies have yet to see any serious adverse effects, even at high doses, there have been rare reports of people having trouble breathing or skin irritation. Side effects are most likely due to allergies, but it is essential to consult your primary care provider before trying any new supplements or medicines (2).
To answer our initial question asked at the beginning of this writing, it is an astounding YES. Lion's mane extracts possess enormous health and wellbeing benefits that everyone should at least consider adding to their dietary regiment.
Hericium Erinaceus extracts improve memory, mood, and even immune system function. While more Hericium Erinaceus research needs to be completed, Hericium Erinaceus polysaccharides have been around for a very long time and have proven their beneficial qualities in many cultures throughout Asia. With nearly no negative Hericium Erinaceus side effects reported, it is an impressive edible mushroom with medicinal values.
While research of this beautiful mushroom is still in its infancy, more studies are required to establish its place in modern medicine. Yet, there is no argument that the Hericium Erinaceus supplement can improve mood, memory, and even immune system function.
- Erica Julson, MS, RDN, CLT, 9 Health benefits of Lion's Mane Mushroom (Plus Side Effects), May 19, 2018
- Tara Hammonds, Lion's Mane: A new candidate for profitable forest mushroom cultivation, April 6, 2015