Lion’s Mane Benefits: A New Wonder Supplement, Or A Waste Of Time?

Fact Checked By Dr Mark Watson M.D.

Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a unique, edible mushroom that has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its purported health benefits. Also known as the lion's head mushroom, this fungus is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It is easily identified by its distinctive, cascading, icicle-like spines that hang from a single, white body.

Today, modern science has begun to explore and validate the many benefits of lion's mane, making it an increasingly popular natural remedy for various health concerns.

Unfortunately, whilst there is some evidence to support some lion’s mane health benefits, some claims are overblown and many lion’s mane supplements contain only a fraction of the required dosages for it to have these effects. It’s still very early in the research process for lion’s mane, with a lot of the studies being animal based rather than human.

This comprehensive guide will delve into what’s actually well backed, the nutritional composition, and potential benefits of lion's mane, as well as provide practical tips on how to incorporate it into your diet.

Nutritional Composition of Lion's Mane Mushroom

Lion's mane mushroom is a nutrient-dense superfood that offers a wide range of essential vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. It is an excellent source of B vitamins, which play a crucial role in maintaining optimal brain function and overall health. Additionally, lion's mane is rich in minerals such as potassium, zinc, iron, and selenium. [1]

Apart from its vitamin and mineral content, lion's mane also contains a variety of unique compounds that may have some interesting medicinal properties. These include hericenones and erinacines, [2] which have been found to stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) – a protein that plays a critical role in the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons. [3]

Lions Mane Dosage: How Much Lion’s Mane Should I Take?

The most reliable human trial on lion’s mane that showed results was tested at 1000mg 3 times a day. This was in a powdered form in a capsule. [4]

There have been smaller studies which have shown lion’s mane can improve cognitive function in doses as low as 1000mg a day, but this is generally the lowest dose reported to be effective. [5]

Lion’s Mane Side Effects

As such, we would say this is the recommended dosage. There were also no notable Lion’s Mane side effects reported during this trial.

There has been one case study of a 62 year old man experiencing serious lion’s mane side effects at commonly taken doses, but that is the only reported case to date. [6]

Beyond that, Lion's mane is generally considered safe for consumption, with few reported side effects. Some individuals may experience mild digestive discomfort, such as gas or bloating, when consuming lion's mane for the first time. However, these side effects are usually temporary and resolve on their own as the body adjusts to the new addition to the diet.

It is important to note that individuals with mushroom allergies or sensitivities should exercise caution when consuming lion's mane. If you are unsure whether lion's mane is suitable for you, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating it into your diet.

The Claimed Benefits of Lion's Mane

a. Cognitive Enhancement and Brain Health

One of the most well-known and researched benefits of lion's mane is its ability to enhance cognitive function and protect the brain from age-related decline.

The hericenones and erinacines found in lion's mane stimulate the production of NGF, which supports the health and function of neurons. This, in turn, can lead to improved memory, concentration, and overall cognitive performance. [3]

Several studies have demonstrated the positive effects of lion's mane on cognitive health. For instance, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that elderly participants who consumed lion's mane extract for 16 weeks experienced significant improvements in cognitive function compared to those who consumed a placebo. [7]

Additionally, animal suggests that lion's mane may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's by promoting the growth and repair of nerve cells. [8,9]  Although it should be noted that many animal trials are not replicable in humans.

There has been 1 human trial so far on 49 Alzheimer’s patients which showed positive results, significantly improving cognition, with 1gram of Lion’s Mane taken daily. [5]

b. Immune System Support

There are many claims that Lion's mane could be a potent immune booster, thanks to its high content of beta-glucans [10] – complex carbohydrates that have been shown to stimulate the immune system and enhance its ability to fight off infections and diseases.

Unfortunately, the only direct studies we have are on animals, although due to our knowledge of how beta glucans work it’s reasonable to make some claims on the mushroom’s performance. [11]

Moreover, lion's mane has been found to exhibit potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant [12] properties, further contributing to its immune-boosting effects. Which we will come to in more detail a little bit later. These properties can help reduce inflammation, combat oxidative stress, and support overall health and well-being by removing free radicals.

c. Reducing Anxiety and Depression

Another remarkable benefit of lion's mane is its potential to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is attributed to the mushroom's ability to stimulate the production of NGF, which has been linked to improved mood and reduced feelings of anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, whilst there have been some human studies most have been on animals. [13,14]

The 2010 study published in the journal Biomedical Research found that women who consumed lion's mane cookies for four weeks experienced a significant reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms compared to those who consumed a placebo. [15] While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind this effect, the existing evidence suggests that lion's mane may be a promising natural remedy for managing mental health issues.

d. Promoting Heart Health

Lion's mane has also been shown to support heart health by reducing the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. For example, research has found that lion's mane can help lower high cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure, and prevent the formation of blood clots – all of which contribute to a healthier heart and reduced risk of heart disease. [16,17]

There have been a lot of animal and in vitro (test tube studies) which suggest that Lion’s Mane is effective for heart health, and the mechanisms are reasonably well understood so there’s a decent chance of this passing to human trials, although we wouldn’t say it’s anywhere near conclusive.

e. Helps Reduce Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

Lion’s mane contains several known antioxidants, antioxidants help the body remove free radicals, which place the body under oxidative stress damaging cells. [18]

Whilst there haven’t been any direct human trials the anti-oxidant contents of Lion’s Mane itself have been well studied and in 2012 studies found that lion’s mane had one of the highest contents of antioxidants found in mushrooms. [19]

There have been multiple animal studies to suggest that it can help combat inflammation related illnesses such as IBD. [20] As well as human studies on it’s ability to treat ulcers, [21] and it’s potential anti-inflammation effects could be part of that, although there is more to lion’s mane and gut health as we’ll get to now.

f. Lion’s Mane and Digestive Health

There are two main causes of stomach ulcers, inflammation and an overgrowth of H. Pylori. [22] As we’ve mentioned Lion’s Mane does contain some ability to reduce inflammation, the interesting element is that it has been shown to inhibit the growth of H. Pylori in test tubes, [23] although there haven’t been human trials.

It has, however, had one positive study on patients with ulcerative colitis noting remarkable improvements over a 6-week period. [24]

However, when Lion’s Mane was tested for Crohn’s it showed no improvement vs a placebo [25]. This would suggest that there’s more to the mechanisms of Lion’s Mane for digestion than is currently known.

g. Diabetes and Lion’s Mane

There is very limited evidence currently that Lion’s Mane will have any benefit in humans for treating diabetes. The claim stems from the fact that it seems to slow reproduction of an enzyme that helps us absorb sugars from the intestine. [26]

There have been some animal trials, but we are also talking about high doses, 6 grams per kg (about 3 grams per lb) of body weight. But, they were statistically significant in improving blood sugar levels. [27]

h. Lion’s Mane and Cancer

There have been some test tube studies that have shown some initial positivity, as Lion’s Mane has been shown to kill multiple types of cancer cells faster in these conditions. [28,29,30] but that is a very long way from showing anything conclusive. There have been some mice studies showing it can slow spread, [31] amongst other things, but many studies like this are done and the results are rarely replicable in humans.

The Science Behind Lion's Mane Benefits

The potential benefits of lion's mane can be attributed to its unique combination of vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. As mentioned earlier, the hericenones and erinacines found in lion's mane play a crucial role in promoting brain health and cognitive function by stimulating the production of NGF. [2]

In addition to these compounds, lion's mane also contains a variety of other bioactive substances, such as polysaccharides, terpenoids, and phenolic compounds, [1] which contribute to its immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and heart-protective effects. 

The growing body of scientific research on lion's mane has provided valuable insights into its therapeutic potential and helped validate its traditional uses. However, more studies are needed to fully understand the extent of its benefits and to uncover any additional properties that this remarkable mushroom may possess.

How to Incorporate Lion's Mane into Your Diet

There are various ways to enjoy the benefits of lion's mane, from consuming it fresh or dried to incorporating it into supplements or extracts. When selecting fresh lion's mane, look for specimens with a firm texture and fresh, earthy scent.

To prepare fresh lion's mane, simply slice it into thin pieces and sauté it in a bit of oil or butter until tender. You can also add it to soups, stews, or stir-fries for a delicious, nutrient-dense addition to your meals.

If fresh lion's mane is unavailable, you can opt for dried lion's mane or supplements, which are widely available in health food stores and online. When choosing a supplement, look for products that are made from pure, organic lion's mane extract to ensure you are getting the highest quality and potency.

Lion's Mane Supplements: What to Look for and Recommended Brands

When selecting a lion's mane supplement, it is essential to consider factors such as quality, potency, and purity. Choose products that are made from 100% organic, non-GMO lion's mane, and are free from fillers, additives, and artificial ingredients. You will also want to look for supplements standardized to be within the 90 percent range of lions mane extract.

Some reputable brands that offer high-quality lion's mane supplements include Host Defense, Four Sigmatic, and Real Mushrooms. These brands are known for their commitment to quality, transparency, and sustainable sourcing practices.

Personal Experiences and Testimonials: Lion's Mane on Reddit

Many people have shared their personal experiences with lion's mane on platforms such as Reddit, where users discuss the benefits they have experienced from incorporating this mushroom into their daily routines. Common themes among these testimonials include improved focus, memory, and mental clarity, as well as reduced anxiety and depression symptoms.

While individual experiences with lion's mane may vary, the overwhelmingly positive feedback from users in general as a testament to benefits of lions mane.

The main catch we should mention however, is that anecdotal evidence when not controlled against a placebo doesn’t tend to be very good for self reporting on cognition, memory and focus, as placebo’s are notably effective for changing self perception when it comes to nootropics and mental performance.

Final Thoughts on the Power of Lion's Mane

Whilst it’s still a little to early to be sure of the benefits of lion's mane.

The cognitive elements are looking good thus far, with the small number of human studies replicating what we’ve seen in animals, so it's inclusion in memory and brain boosting supplements seems valid.  

We can reasonably assume that it’s antioxidant content will work as we’d expect any antioxidant to thus, we can accept some improvements in inflammation are likely albeit very minor compared to other inflammation suppressing compounds available from plants.

The limited human studies on stomach health have also been mixed, suggesting that it may have some benefits there, but a lot more research is needed.

As for other areas of Lions Mane claims, we should err on the side of caution and not put too much stock int the claims around immune support, heart health or diabetes and other health conditions.

All in all Lion's Mane has a lot of potential uses, but the research is still too early to be sure for most of them.

About Fact Checker Dr Mark Watson

Dr Mark Watson is the founder of Center TRT, having graduated from stamford more than 20 years ago, he is an expert in the field of supplemental health, focusing on long term benefits of complimenary treatment. View Profile

References

1 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26244378/

2 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5987239/

3 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7266393/

4 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5987239/

5 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32581767/

6 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14714963/

7 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19809252/

8 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521003/

9 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133811/

10 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8942846/

11 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31960663/

12 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34169530/

13 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8643634/

14 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24266378/

15 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20834180/

16 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4052699/

17 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950045/

18 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/

19 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6331815/

20 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5689651/

21 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3835629/

22 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534233/

23 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30806251/

24 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27481156/

25 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24393595/

26 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5302426/

27 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3852124/

28 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24631140/

29 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3339609/

30 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6044372/

31 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23668749/


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