Lion’s mane mushroom, also known as yamabushitake, hedgehog mushroom or its botanical nameHericium erinaceus is an edible mushroom typically found in America, Asia and some parts of Europe. Traditionally consumed in Chinese cuisine as a meat substitute, Lion’s mane has also been historically used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a digestive aid.
Recent research has uncovered Lion’s mane’s ability to support cognition through enhanced release of nerve growth factor (NGF). Specifically lion’s mane has been demonstrated to;
- Support neurogenesis (via NGF).
- Act as a neuroprotective agent (by supporting myelination).
- Reduce beta amyloid induced cognitive deficit (in animals).
- Reduce symptoms of dementia (human trial).
- Promote nerve regrowth (in animals).
- Reduce anxiety and depression (human trial).
- Accelerate wound healing (rodent study).
Other Names for Lion’s Mane:
Yamabushitake, hedgehog mushroom, Hericium erinaceus, monkey’s head.
Lion’s Mane In A Nootropic Stack
Lion’s mane seems a nice addition to most stacks and could potentially pair well with ALCAR, which has been shown in vitro to enhance NGF sensitivity (1). Anecdotal evidence suggest lion’s mane seems both anxiolytic and memory enhancing, as such, it could synergy well with bacopa.
Dosing Lion’s Mane
The two human studies to date have used 2-3 grams of powdered lion’s mane extracted from fruiting bodies (2)(3). Both studies have noted benefit at these doses. It’s unclear as to whether more than 3g/day would be of additional benefit.
Lion’s Mane Structure
The majority of research has focused on two groups of compounds; hericenones and erinacines. Typically hericenones are found in the fruiting body of the mushroom, while erinacines are extracted from the mycelium (4). Both compound groups hold a number of structurally related sub compounds; 10 different hericenones (A-J) and 14 different erinacines (A-R) most of which appear to stimulate nerve growth factor release (4).
Aside from the above, Lion’s mane is rich in polysaccharides (5) and has a moderate phenol content (6).
Absorption Information For Lion’s Mane
Specific absorption data for hericenones and erinacines for humans is either unknown or unpublished. A recent study of in menopausal women concluded that it’s unknown as to whether the compounds cross the blood brain barrier. (3).
|Editors Note: Common sense would point towards these compounds crossing the BBB, given their low molecular weight and observed benefits. Still, research is yet to confirm the fact.|
Benefits Of Lion’s Main Mushroom
Supporting nerve regrowth following injury.
A small study of 18 rodents demonstrated lion’s mane’s neuroregenerative potential. Rodents were then split into 3 groups; placebo (distilled water), lion’s mane or methylcobalamin (active vitamin b-12). Rats were pretreated for 14 days. underwent surgery to crush the sciatic nerve and then underwent further treatment for 20 days post-surgery. Initial functional recovery of gait was noted after 4 days for both treatment groups while the placebo group saw no change. By day 10, toe spreading was back to normal pre-surgery levels in both treatment groups while the placebo group in receipt of distilled water was notably hindered. (7)
The researchers concluded that lion’s mane mushroom extract enhanced nerve recovery through supporting neurogenesis.
Reduction Of Beta Amyloid associated learning and memory deficits.
A study involving mice tested the ability of lion’s mane to support spatial short term memory and object recognition after exposure to beta amyloid peptides. Beta amyloid is known for reducing cognitive function in mice (8). Mice were split into 4 groups;
Beta Amyloid Peptide (35-25) + Normal Diet
Beta Amyloid Peptide (35-25) + Lion’s Mane Extract (5% of diet)
Beta Amyloid Peptide (25-35) + Normal Diet
Beta Amyloid Peptide (25-35) + Lion’s Mane Extract (5% of diet)
Lion’s mane was found to prevent the cognitive deficit induced by BA peptide (25-35) by supporting spatial memory and object discrimination in a novel recognition test. (8)
Accelerating and improving wound healing.
An extract of lion’s mane fruiting bodies was found to improve wound healing when topically applied. Researchers noted less scar width and greater blood vessel formation in the topical lion’s mane group when comparing wounds dressed with distilled water. (9)
Improving cognitive impairment in the elderly
A study involving 30 Japanese men and women aged 50-80 who suffered cognitive impairment showed a significant cognitive benefit from consumption of 3 grams of powered lion’s mane pressed into tablets (2). The lion’s mane was sourced from air dried fresh fruiting bodies. Patients were instructed to consume 1 gram, 3 times daily for a period of 16 weeks. Cognitive testing took place at weeks 0, 4, 8, 12, 16 and 4 weeks post-trial.
A statistically significant benefit was noted at weeks 8, 12 and 16 for the lion’s mane group. Interestingly cognitive scores declined significantly 4 weeks post-trial, suggesting lion’s mane would need to be taken on an ongoing basis for continued benefit.
Reduction of depression and anxiety in menopausal women
A 4 week study involving 30 post-menopausal women demonstrated lion’s mane mushroom was able to reduce self-reported anxiety and depression scores compared to placebo (3). Participants were split into two groups; powdered lion’s mane (administered via cookies – 4 cookies each day containing 0.5g powder each) or placebo cookies. After 4 weeks, patients in the lion’s mane treatment group reported less anxiety, irritability and depressive symptoms compared to placebo.
Mechanism Of Action
Enhanced NGF Release
Numerous studies have demonstrated lion’s mane’s ability to enhance NGF (nerve growth factor) release. The responsible compounds are thought to be hercinones and erinacines. A study of human astrocytes cells (10) showed enhanced NGF expression via JNK signalling while micro fed a diet of 5% dried powder for 7 days showed and increase in hippocampal NGF mRNA expression (10).
Research has shown specifically that erinacine A is capable of increasing NGF release in rats (11). Further research has demonstrated Erinaces A,B,C (12), E and F (13) are capable of enhancing NGF release in vitro. A nonspecific extract of Lion’s Mane from fruiting bodies (thought to contain hercinones) was found to enhance myelination of nerve cells in vitro (14)
Mixed research involving hericinones shows they may or may not promote NGF. On the one hand, hericinones are only found in the fruiting body of the mushroom (4) and powdered fruiting body has been found to be effective (2)(3) On the other, specific research in vitro with hericinones shows molecules C,D and E did not increase NGF mRNA in vitro (10)
|Editors Note: In the absence of specific data for each of the 20-30 hericinones and erinacines, it’s probably best to zoom out and look at the empirical data. Powdered lion’s mane (from dried fruiting body) has benefit in humans, as does hot water extract of fruiting body in humans. Knowing which hericinones and erinacines are best seems impractical. If you’re wishing to get both hericinones and erinacines, consider supplementing fruiting body and mycelium extract.|
Safety and Side Effects
Lion’s mane has been a culinary staple in Asia for thousands of years and appears to be generally well tolerated. The only minor noted side effect in human trials was gastrointestinal distress. (2)(3).