A mane on a lion signals the male's strength and fitness. On a mushroom, it signals vigorous nootropics. Lion's mane is a descriptive name for Hieracium Erinaceus, an edible mushroom native to North America, Europe, and Asia.
Lion's mane benefits were recognized in Chinese cuisine and traditional Chinese medicine. Multiple results of recent human and animal studies implied the benefits of Lion's mane for the immune system, brain health, and the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Before deciding which Lion's mane supplement to get, let's first understand how and why Lion's mane is good for you, explore the scientific evidence behind its health benefits, and learn how to cook the mushroom or consume it in supplements.
What Is Lion's Mane Mushroom?
The mushroom has a unique appearance, a softball size cluster with long white spines dangling from its end. It is commonly cultivated in Asia and grows wildly on dead and living trees like the American beech tree.
Adding Lion's mane to salads and soups summons a seafood-like taste, particularly a lobster-like taste familiar in gourmet cooking.
Lion's mane is rich in proteins and fiber and low in fats. It contains abundant amounts of calcium, thiamine, vitamins, and essential amino acids.
The proximate composition of Lion's mane shows a percentile content of 20.8% protein, 66.9% carbohydrates, 7.81% crude fiber, 2.8% fats, and 8.9% ash. It also contains essential amino acids such as threonine, methionine, valine, isoleucine, arginine, leucine, phenylalanine, and lysine.
Lion's mane mushroom also contains vital minerals like sodium (157mg), potassium (29163mg), phosphorus (6121mg), zinc (59mg), magnesium (1166mg), copper (13mg), manganese (11mg) and calcium (395mg) .
Lion's Mane Health Benefits
1) Treating Depressive Disorder
Lion's Mane Can Be An Alternative Medicine For Depression.
Clinical and pre-clinical studies show that Lion's mane has anti-inflammatory and neurological effects that can mitigate depressive disorder and recommend it as complementary and alternative medicine for treating depression .
Cookies Infused With Lion's Mane Reduce Anxiety.
Four weeks intake of Lion's-mane-infused cookies helped female participants in a study to lower their depression symptoms. The study recognized how Lion's mane significantly impacted the Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (of the CES-D) score and the Indefinite Complaints Index (ICI) score compared to a placebo group. The study reasons a possibility of using Lion's mane intakes in reducing anxiety and depression .
Some CBD oils can also be effective in the treatment of depression. Read more about that here.
Enriched Lion's Mane Reverses Depressive Behaviors.
Another study shows that enriching Lion's mane's mycelium (the vegetative part of the fungus) with the Erinacine-A substance could reverse depressive-like behaviors caused by restraint stress. The impact of Lion's mane was explained by the modulation of monoamine neurotransmitters and the regulation of the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) pathways. The study confirms the potential of Lion's mane usage in treating depressive disorders .
2) Promoting Brain Health
Neurite Outgrowth Is Induced By Lion's Mane Extracts.
NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) is an essential neurotrophic factor that affects brain health by promoting neurons' growth and differentiation.
Extracts of the medicinal Lion's mane mushrooms can induce the NGF synthesis in nerve cells, promoting brain maintenance and preserving functions .
Lion's Mane Triggers The Regeneration Of Damaged Nerves.
Polysaccharides are the most abundant carbohydrate found in food. The polysaccharides existing in an extract of Lion's mane mushroom were shown to promote neuronal survival. Other extracts of Lion's mane's dried fruiting bodies were also found to reduce stress-induced cell death. Both results indicate that Lion's mane minimizes the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and the regeneration of damaged nerve cells .
Oral Intakes Of Lion's Mane Can Improve Cognitive Impairment Among Adults.
Another study conducted on 50 to 80 years old participants tried to examine Lion's mane oral administration's efficacy. The participants were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. They consumed four 250 mg tablets containing 96% of Lion's mane dry powder during the trial. At 8, 12, and 16 weeks of the trial, cognitive function scores improved in the studied group compared to a placebo group .
3) Boosting The Immune System
Lion's Mane Has Promising Potential In Immunotherapy.
HEP3 is a protein extracted from Lion's mane. That protein exhibits immunomodulatory activity that revealed potential in improving the immune system. The protein works on regulating the composition and metabolism of gut microbiota (80% of immune cells are located in the gut). It also plays a role as a food compound in the case of excessive antibiotics usage in inflammatory bowel disease, as observed in a mice model. Research suggested that Lion's mane could be used for immunotherapy as a drug or dietary component .
The Mucosal Immune System Enhancements Caused By Lion's Mane Compounds.
The immunomodulating activity of Lion's mane was investigated in another mouse model. The study also reported improvements in the immune function triggered by Lion's mane extracts.
Our mucosal immune system is responsible for defending our body against antigens and infections. It prevents microbes from infecting the body's moist interfaces with the external environment while avoiding inflammatory responses. The compounds of Lion's mane were able to regulate the mucosal immune activity leading to boosting immunity .
Guide To Cooking Lion's Mane Mushrooms
It is not common to buy Lion's mane mushrooms in most western grocery stores comparing to Asian markets. Yet, it is possible to acquire cultivated or wild mushrooms in some specialty shops.
If you got the chance to get fresh Lion's mane, here is a quick guide on how to prepare it in steps:
- Clean the mushroom's spines of any specks of dirt and, when necessary, cut any tree-parts that are still attached to the fungus body.
- Cut the mushroom into slices, as you usually do with meaty mushrooms.
- Without using any oil or butter, cook the mushroom slices on both sides until they release their juice and shrink to almost half their size.
- Now, season the mushrooms as you desire; you may add butter, garlic, onion, or other vegetables to them and continue cooking on low-to-medium heat until they start to become a bit brownish.
Lion's Mane Mushroom Supplements
For such a specialty mushroom, using supplements seems to be a more practical option. Many of the studies we reviewed have applied extracted compounds or powder forms of the mushroom. Nevertheless, buying supplements from Amazon or eBay, or even other local retailers must be carried out with caution.
Many supplement sellers would promote their Lion's mane supplements using exaggerated health benefits without profound research backing these claims. The FDA has once issued a warning letter to one of these sellers, “Pure Nootropics,” who has exaggerated benefits as such “brain injury recovery” for their Lion's mane supplement .
Lion's mane, like most supplements, can have side effects, especially for people who have a history of allergies or asthma.
Doses used in studies investigating cognitive function impacts have been about 250 mg of tablets with 96% lion mane powder four times a day (1 g/day). Other studies used tablets with dosages of 3g/day and 5g/day. You will need to follow the label instructions of a trusted seller, and it is always advisable to consult your doctor when using a Lion's mane supplement for the first time in your diet.
Lion's Mane Mushroom Benefits: The Bottom Line
Significant recent research proposes substantial health benefits of Lion's mane, primarily with mild depression cases, enhancing cognitive abilities, and boosting the immune system.
The growing attention around Lion's mane is justified by the increasing numbers of studies on humans and animals that confirm the health benefits of the mushroom's consisting compounds.
Eating Lion's male mushrooms or supplementing them in your diet with compatible and convenient doses can help treat neurological and psychological disorders. Under certain conditions, it can even prevent brain and immune-related diseases.