Lion’s Mane mushrooms so-called because of their vague resemblance to the mane of a lion. They are white or lightly-colored mushrooms with long, hanging spines. These highly sought-after mushrooms are popular both for culinary and medicinal purposes. It is often said to have a pleasant, seafood-like flavor.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms grow on decaying trees in the northern hemisphere, including Europe, Asia, and North America. In China, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are called “Houtou” or “Shishigashira“, and in Japan, their common name is ”Yamabushitake”. Colloquially they are also known by many different names, including
- lion’s mane mushroom,
- monkey head mushroom,
- bearded tooth mushroom,
- satyr’s beard,
- bearded hedgehog mushroom,
- pom-pom mushroom,
- or bearded tooth fungus.
Identified by the scientific community as Hericium erinaceus, Lion’s Mane is a type of saprophytic mushroom. This means “an organism, especially a fungus or bacterium, that lives on and gets its nourishment from dead organisms or decaying organic material”. Saprophytes are able to break down organic material into simpler compounds that are more easily absorbed by other organisms.
History of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have a long history of documented use within TCM, or “Traditional Chinese Medicine”. They are considered an effective treatment for a plethora of symptoms ranging from fatigue to gastrointestinal upset to neurological disease. They are also said to be beneficial to the liver, lung, spleen, heart, and kidneys. According to TCM, some of these particular ailments, especially those which impact the central nervous system, are associated with Qi deficiency.
Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms for Your Health
The medicinal value of Lion’s Mane mushrooms cannot be overstated, as they have been called upon for ages to treat or alleviate many common medical concerns that still plague us today. Not only do Lion’s Mane mushrooms support immune health and discourage tumor growth, but they also contain vital antioxidants that may help to protect the body from some of the most harmful effects of aging, especially neurological decline. They have also shown the potential to help protect against heart disease and may help lower blood sugar to manage diabetes.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are also widely used to improve mental clarity and combat “brain fog”. In addition to being used to enhance focus and concentration. Lion’s Mane mushrooms also help to encourage athletic recovery and reduce fatigue and support a healthy nervous system and ideal gastrointestinal functioning.
Similarly to many of the most popular medicinal mushrooms, Lion’s Mane has been found to be rich in beta-glucans. These substances are believed to support ideal functioning of the immune system – also known as immunomodulation – meaning that they can help to encourage a healthy immune response in times of need, while also having the added benefit of discouraging an overactive immune response, which is often at the heart of many persistent autoimmune conditions.
Discourages Tumor Growth
Along with many varieties of medicinal mushrooms, Lion’s Mane is potentially helpful in the treatment of many different types of cancers. Unique compounds within the mushroom may help to inhibit the proliferation, or duplication, of cancer cells. These same compounds may also help to slow or prevent the cancer cells from spreading to other regions of the body. It is important to note that these results have not yet been replicated with human subjects. Still, these findings provide exciting motivation to continue research into Lion’s Mane’s potential role in the battle to end cancer.
Protects against Oxidative Damage
Lions Mane mushrooms have a lot in common with reishi, chaga, and cordyceps mushrooms, including their ability to protect the body from the damaging effects of oxidative stress. Known as antioxidants, these substances help to defend against free radicals, which are potentially harmful molecules that naturally accumulate in the body over time. These damaging effects are commonly associated with aging and often considered unavoidable, however, adopting a diet that is full of antioxidant-rich foods is a proven way to reduce and even reverse some of this damage. Oxidative stress most commonly affects major organs including the brain and may contribute to neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
In laboratory studies, Lion’s Mane mushroom extract has been shown to improve fat metabolism and lower triglycerides in rats that were fed a high-fat diet. One study observed that rats that were given Lion’s Mane extract showed 27% lower triglyceride levels and 42% less weight gain than rats that were not given the extract.
Other in vitro experiments found that Lion’s Mane extract may help to prevent cholesterol from hardening within the bloodstream and attaching to the walls of arteries. Additionally, the mushrooms contain a compound called hericenone B, which has anticoagulant benefits and may decrease blood clotting. These studies provide insight as to why Lion’s Mane mushroom extract could help to prevent heart attack or stroke.
We must note that the anticoagulation, or anti-clotting, effects of Lion’s Mane could be contraindicated in patients who are already taking anticoagulant medication, as well as those who have a blood clotting disorder. As always, before beginning any new supplements, please discuss them with your personal, trusted medical professional.
Lowers Blood Sugar and Reduces Nerve Pain
Lion’s Mane may be very valuable for those living with the effects of diabetes, as the mushrooms not only reduce blood sugar levels but may help to reduce neuropathic pain as well!
Animal studies have demonstrated that Lion’s Mane leads to lower blood sugar levels in both diabetic and non-diabetic mice, even at low dosages. This may be because Lion’s Mane blocks the alpha-glucosidase enzyme, leaving the body unable to digest carbohydrates in the small intestine.
In this study, mice with diabetic nerve damage were treated with Lion’s Mane extract for six weeks, after which time they showed reduced pain, along with lowered blood sugar and increased antioxidant levels. This demonstrates Lion’s Mane’s potential as an adjunct therapy for diabetes management, but more human trials are needed.
While controlling blood sugar levels is often the most critical aspect of managing diabetes, again we must stress the importance of discussing the use of any supplements with your own personal trusted medical professional prior to use. In some cases, combining Lion’s Mane with prescription medications could cause blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low, resulting in hypoglycemia.
Enhances Mental Clarity & Improves Focus
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are what is considered a natural nootropic. Nootropics are substances that improve brain function, including “memory, creativity, motivation, and attention”. This study showed that Lion’s Mane extract improved short-term memory in mice, and could potentially improve cognitive performance in humans as well, though more investigation is required.
It has also been suggested that some of the symptoms of impairment that we often attribute to “brain fog”, could actually be associated with anxiety and/or depression. Some of these symptoms include an inability to concentrate or remain focused on tasks, or a lack of motivation to do things one usually enjoys.
Lion’s Mane has shown promise in the treatment of mild forms of anxiety and depression, and may help improve cognitive performance and mental wellness for those experiencing “brain fog”. Specifically for patients struggling with mild symptoms, Lion’s Mane extract could provide a gentler, more-easily tolerated alternative to prescription medications, which are often fraught with undesirable side-effects. However, as always, we highly recommend discussing these options with your personal medical care provider before making any changes to your current supplement and/or medication routine.
Fights Fatigue and Encourages Athletic Recovery
Fatigue – which refers to a diminished capacity for work and decreased ability to efficiently accomplish tasks – is a struggle for nearly all of us, at some point. Fatigue can affect the body mentally and physically and can impact everything from our professional lives to our household chores, to our recreational or athletic interests. Physical fatigue in particular is often experienced by those who participate in more demanding sports or exercise. In this study, mice who were given Lion’s Mane mushroom extract showed significantly lower levels of blood lactic acid, serum urea nitrogen, and malondialdehyde, all of which are associated with the symptoms of fatigue. Lion’s Mane was also shown to increase tissue glycogen, which functions as the energy storage for our muscles, as well as antioxidant activity, which helps to protect against the increased oxidative stress produced by intense physical exertion.
Supports Nervous System Health and Repair
Some animal studies and limited human trials have demonstrated that Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain certain neurotrophic compounds called hericenones and erinacines that could stimulate the brain’s production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) to encourage new nerve growth throughout the nervous system, helping to alleviate both neuropathic pain and cognitive decline. These compounds may also help to prevent the formation of amyloid-beta plaques that contribute to the neuronal damage seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Promotes Gastrointestinal Health
Stomach ulcers (also known as peptic ulcers) are painful sores that develop along the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine. In the United States alone, these types of ulcers affect over 200,000 people every year. They are usually caused by an overgrowth of the H. Pylori bacteria, and/or damage to the stomach lining that is often associated with extended use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications. Lion’s Mane mushroom extract can help prevent and heal ulcers by killing the bacteria and helping to protect the sensitive mucous layer that lines the stomach.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms have additional benefits for the gastrointestinal system beyond the protection of the stomach lining. These mushrooms, along with several other types of medicinal mushrooms, may help improve the symptoms associated with certain conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Crohn’s Disease by helping to decrease the persistent inflammation that is the cause of these symptoms.
Where can I find Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
Lion’s Mane may be one of the best mushrooms to forage, as – unlike many other species of medicinal mushrooms – there are no other mushrooms that share their resemblance. They are found throughout the northern hemisphere, growing on a wide variety of decaying hardwood trees. Probably the most important thing to bear in mind when gathering fresh Lion’s Mane mushrooms is to make sure that the mushrooms you gather are in good condition and not housing mold or rot.
While foraging for fresh mushrooms is one of our favorite hobbies, we also understand that many of our friends do not have the time to forage for their own Lion’s Mane, or may not live in an area where these mushrooms are likely to grow in the wild. Lion’s Mane mushrooms can also be grown at home using a substrate, or growing medium.
It is worth considering that some of the most desirable components of medicinal mushrooms are not water-soluble. This means they are not as likely to be well-absorbed when consumed raw or brewed into tea, even though these are still nice occasional options for enjoying your Lion’s Mane.
If you are interested in adding mushrooms to your daily wellness routine, we highly suggest opting for a high-quality extract or tincture. Our favorite is the North Spore Lion’s Mane tincture. This tincture is made from fruiting bodies, instead of mycelium, to maximize health benefits.
Additionally, like all North Spore tinctures available in our shop, the Lion’s Mane tincture is produced using a double extraction technique that involves a month-long alcohol soak followed by a hot water decoction. This process results in the optimal extraction of both alcohol- and water-soluble constituents. All tinctures sold in the shop are intended to be taken up to three times daily as desired and can be enjoyed alone or mixed into water, juice, coffee, tea, or matcha.
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