The lion’s mane mushroom’s benefits are many. In fact, Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the lion’s mane mushrooms to ease symptoms of cancer, and stomach issues. The ancient usages of this fungus are corroborated by modern research that suggests these unique mushrooms have both anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial qualities.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are white, large mushrooms. They get their name from the fact that their shaggy head looks much like a lion’s mane. With both medical, and culinary uses in much of Asia, they are enjoyed in several different forms. You will find them delicious, when eating them raw, cooking them, drying them, or steeping them in a tea. Their taste compares to seafood, such as lobster or crab.
The lion’s mane mushroom is also known by these other names:
- Bear’s head
- Hericium erinaceus (Latin)
- Hedgehog mushroom
- Houtou (China)
- Monkey’s mushroom
- Old man’s beard
- Yamabushitake (Japan)
Additionally, you will find them in over-the-counter supplements, as an extract. Interestingly, Lion’s mane mushrooms benefit the gut, heart, and brain. Let’s take an in-depth look at the benefits, and other interesting studies and facts, for Lion’s mane mushrooms.
Overview of Lion’s Mane
A recent study shows two compounds of this mushroom stimulate the growth of brain cells. These brain cells are known as the hericenones and the erinacines. Additionally, there are animal studies that suggest the lion’s mane mushroom benefits include effectiveness for Alzheimer’s disease.
Overall, lion’s mane extract shows in studies to reduce memory loss in mice and prevent neuronal damage from Alzheimer’s disease. More human research must take place, however, studies on rats suggest that lion’s mane mushroom benefits include; stimulating brain cell growth, and providing protection against damage.
Lion’s mane contains vitamins and minerals. But, it also contains some interesting specific compounds. The molecules hericenones and erinacines work together to stimulate nerve growth, and regeneration. Additionally, lion’s mane works to decrease inflammation, act as an antioxidant, while stimulating the immune system.
Cooking lion’s mane reveals an interesting seafood-like flavor. This might be nice for people who are allergic to seafood. Instead of seafood, fry some lion’s mane mushrooms in seasonings, to provide a crispy finish and great flavor. Keep reading for a lion’s mane mushroom recipe below.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits
The healthy aging of our skin is of concern to everyone. Additionally, most of us know that one of the best things for our skin is collagen. Interestingly, one study found that the polysaccharides, that come from this mushroom, increase collagen levels and antioxidant enzyme activities in rats.
Anxiety and Depression Relief
Do you know that approximately one-third of all people, who live in industrialized countries, currently experience anxiety and depression? Of course, there are many factors that go into the causes of depression and anxiety, but it is a well-known fact that chronic inflammation contributes to these mental health issues.
Fortunately, lion’s mane mushroom extract, in a study with mice, showed amazing anti-inflammatory effects, that naturally reduced symptoms of both anxiety, and depression.
If you want to help regenerate brain cells, and improve the functions of your hippocampus, these studies might be of interest to you. Through these studies, researchers believe that improving the functioning of the hippocampus explains the lowering of anxiety, and depression, in the test rats.
Another study with humans, found that menopausal women who ate lion’s mane cookies daily for one month, reduced feelings of anxiety.
There are two current studies on rats for bone density with the use of lion’s mane. One study showed inhibition of the production of cells that break down bone tissue.
Additionally, the polysaccharides in lion’s mane show, in this study, to improve bone strength by increasing density. There are, however, no current studies on human bone density.
Lower Blood Sugar Levels
A high blood sugar level, is the debilitating culprit of diabetes. Moreover, when blood sugar is chronically high, it causes other serious illnesses, such as; kidney damage, nerve damage, and even vision loss.
In studies done on mice, the results show lower blood sugar levels, in both normal and diabetic mice.
Another study shows that lion’s main mushroom extract blocks alpha-glucosidase enzyme activity enough, to effectively break down carbs in the small intestine. This enables the small intestine to more easily absorb carbs, which helps lower blood sugar levels.
In a human study, Japanese men and women, ranging in age from 50 to 80-years-old, who are diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, experienced improvement in cognitive function, while taking lion’s mane. The results also show that it must be taken continually for positive effects. This is an excellent study to add to the evidence for lion’s mane mushroom benefits.
The chemical, acetylcholine, that helps nerve cells communicate, naturally decreases over time as we age. But, with Alzheimer’s, they drop too low. In fact, in some patients, they drop a debilitating 90 percent. As a result, many of the drugs in current use to treat Alzheimer’s disease, work to increase acetylcholine levels.
Amazingly, in a study done with mice, who had Alzheimer’s disease, the results from the use of lion’s mane, show improvements to cognitive function, and enhanced production of acetylcholine.
An additional study with mice who had Parkinson’s disease, shows findings that suggest lion’s mane slows down the progression of the disease.
Circadian rhythm, refers to our body’s natural process of regulating the sleep-wake cycle, that repeats every 24 hours. In a test with mice, the administration of lion’s mane resulted in decreased wakefulness, toward the end of the active phase.
Because the disorder of dementia is intricately linked with the circadian rhythm, some believe further study must be done, to study the possible lion’s main mushroom benefits, for not only dementia, but also Alzheimer’s disease and delayed sleep disorder.
Cancer Prevention Possibilities
Damage to the DNA that causes cells to divide, and replicate rapidly out of control, is what leads to cancer. Amazingly, research exists that suggests cancer-fighting abilities are present in lion’s mane extract.
In one study, the results of mixing lion’s mane extract, and human cancer cells, showed a significant reduction in cancerous cells. Also inherent in its abilities, is the Th1 response. That’s significant because Th1 fights tumors.
It is worth noting that there is current research underway, to learn the effect of lion’s mane on breast, colon, leukemia, liver, and stomach cancer.
In a study done on mice, lion’s mane decreased fatigue, lengthened exhaustive swimming time, increased tissue glycogen content, and increased antioxidant enzyme activity.
Lowered Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease risks include high cholesterol, high triglycerides, obesity, and blood clots. Interestingly, studies show significant reductions of heart disease, making this an important finding to add to the lion’s mane mushroom benefits list.
It works by lowering triglyceride levels, while improving fat metabolism. In turn, this contributes to better heart health.
Next, there is the additional benefit of reducing oxidation of cholesterol molecules, which then attach to the walls, and cause the hardening of the arteries. Therefore, the wonderful benefit of the lion’s mane, is that it reduces cholesterol build-up. That suggests that it is an excellent heart-healthy supplement.
Lower Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress, and chronic inflammation are at the root of many illnesses. For example, some of those might include autoimmune disorders, cancer, and heart disease.
Amazingly, one of the wonderful benefits of lion’s main mushroom extract, is its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. Interestingly, research shows that it helps reduce the impact of the illness.
Immune System Booster
The purpose of the immune system is to protect the body from pathogens that cause disease, along with bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, when our immune system gets weak, it puts our bodies at risk.
This study, demonstrated boosts in immunity, with increases in intestinal immune system activity. Although this is a test done with mice, it showed an increase in the lifespan of mice who were given injections of salmonella bacteria.
Improved Liver Health
Because of its ability to fight inflammation, and its powerful antioxidant benefits, it may also support liver health. In fact, in a test with mice, that possessed Salmonella typhimurium, results show increased lifespan, and there were signs of protection against liver damage.
In another test with mice, the results showed decreased liver damage from chronic alcohol exposure.
Nerve Growth and Regeneration
This interesting test on chicken embryos, showed enhanced nerve growth and regeneration. Another test on rats showed nerve regeneration after limb injury.
Nervous System Injury Recovery
A healthy nervous system works congruently, sending and transmitting signals, for every action we take with our bodies and our minds. Unfortunately, when the nervous system suffers from the damage of paralysis, or other traumatic events, it takes a long time to heal.
Lion’s mane has demonstrated in studies to help speed up recovery time, with its growth stimulating properties.
Digestive Tract Ulcer Prevention
Ulcers can pop up anywhere throughout our digestive tract; in our stomach, or small and large intestines. Their cause is twofold. One is the excessive growth of the H. pylori bacteria. The other is when the mucous layer of the stomach suffers damage. Interestingly, the damage to the stomach is often due to chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID).
What’s more, lion’s mane extract studies suggest that it might add protective factors to the stomach lining, by its inherent quality of inhibiting the growth of H. pylori.
Additionally, an animal study showed better preventative qualities for stomach ulcers from alcohol, and without the negative side effects of traditional acid-lowering drugs.
It is an edible mushroom that is safe when eaten in small, cooked amounts. It is advisable to cook them with seasonings until they have a crisp outer layer, to enjoy the subtle seafood-like flavor of this mushroom.
However, this organic supplement is also available in capsule, liquid, tablet, and powder from your local health food store, or online.
Because the dosage varies from one brand to the other, read the label instructions, and follow them carefully. If you have an adverse reaction, seek immediate medical assistance. Don’t take lions mane if you’re allergic to mushrooms.
Although human studies do not exist, that examined side effects, there are studies done on rats that show no negative side effects, even at higher dosages than one would normally take.
Some people have reported that they experienced skin rashes, and/or difficulty breathing, after exposure to this mushroom. This is most likely related to allergies.
Consult with your physician before the addition of any supplement to your daily intake.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Recipe
Here is a smooth and delicious way to treat the top of your crackers with this recipe that cooks down to a gravy! Or, you may also omit the liquids, for a tofu or pasta topping.
- Lion’s mane mushrooms – ½ pound
- Butter – 3 tablespoons
- Light cream – 2 cups
- Chopped yellow onion – ½ onion
- Chopped garlic cloves – 2 cloves
- Flour – 3 tablespoons
- Substitute olive oil for butter
- Substitute milk for cream
Over high heat in a skillet, melt one tablespoon butter. Additionally, ½ pound of mushrooms. Sauté until most of the liquid is gone.
Next, add ½ cup of chopped yellow onions and 2 cloves of garlic. Sauté until the mushrooms are brown, and the onions are soft.
Then, add 3 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir frequently until the butter mixes thoroughly with the mixture.
Next, slowly pour in 2 cups of light cream, then turn down the heat to simmer, until it reaches the consistency that you desire.
Finally, serve with crackers, pasta, or rice.
Tip o’ the Hat to Mushroom-Appreciation
You will find lion’s mane mushroom extract in over-the-counter supplements in capsule, liquid, tablet, and powder, from your local health food store, or online. The dosage will vary from brand to brand, so be sure to read the instructions carefully.
There are not a lot of studies done on humans to date, but there are many studies done on rats, mice, and other animals that suggest the benefits listed above. Additionally, the number of studies that show positive results suggest that lion’s mane mushroom benefits are something worth considering.
Remember, if you are allergic to mushrooms, this is not the supplement for you.
As always, continue your personal research, and consult with your medical professional before adding supplements to your diet.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.