What are Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) Mushrooms?


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Are you curious about all the hype around mushrooms as a superfood and their health benefits (and side effects) on your life? The lion’s mane mushroom is one of the more popular of these varieties.

The lion’s mane mushroom, which can be enjoyed in various ways, has medicinal and culinary purposes in many Asian countries. In addition to tasting delicious, mushroom extracts can be incorporated into over-the-counter health supplements to help combat cancer, improve cognitive health, and prevent stomach ulcers without any notable side effects.

Keep reading for a complete guide to the uses, benefits, and side effects of the lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus).

What Are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?

The lion’s mane mushroom is a species of bearded tooth fungus native to Europe, Asia, and North America. They grow in clumps of stringy spines, and their fruit bodies can be collected for use in cooking.

Large, white, and shaggy in appearance, the lion’s mane mushrooms have many uses in Asian medicine and cuisine. As their name suggests, these edible mushrooms closely resemble an actual lion’s mane and grow on dead oak and other hardwood trees.

What’s So Interesting About These Crazy-looking Fungi?

On top of boasting a plethora of health benefits when taken as a dietary supplement, Hieracium Erinaceus (that’s mushroom for lion’s mane) has a distinct flavor that mimics seafood, specifically lobster or crab meat.

Lion’s mane tends to be a versatile mushroom in recipes, as it can be used sauteed, eaten raw, dehydrated, or added to a stir fry dish. In addition, it’s an extraordinarily juicy and meaty mushroom that is fairly easy to cook and store.

Further, like all mushrooms, the lion’s mane mushroom is a vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free food with its own health benefits.

What Are Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?

Lion’s mane mushrooms contain bioactive chemicals that benefit the body, particularly heart function, brain cells, and the intestinal immune system.

Here are some of the health benefits that Hericium Erinaceus intake can have on the body.

Improved Immune System Function

A healthy immune system defends the body from viruses, bacteria, and other organisms that cause disease. Conversely, compromised immune health increases the body’s susceptibility to illness.

According to some animal studies, lion’s mane mushroom can support immune health by increasing intestinal productivity, thus protecting your body from airborne pathogens.

While the research on the lion’s mane mushroom benefits is still evolving, one study on the topic found daily lion’s mane extract supplementation nearly doubled the lifespan of mice inoculated with a fatal dosage of salmonella bacteria.

More testing can better understand the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms on the human immune system.

Reduced Anxiety and Depression

According to a 2015 study, one-third of people who live in developed countries suffer from anxiety and depression. However, according to a research study on rodents in the same year, mice that were fed lion’s mane mushroom extract had fewer depressive behaviors and blood indicators that suggested depression.

Over the last decade, numerous animal studies support the notion that consuming mushroom extract promotes reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.

One of the more significant human studies on the subject studied a small group of Japanese women who reported several health concerns like struggling with sleep quality and experiencing menopausal symptoms. One group of the women was given cookies made with lion’s mane extract, and the other was a placebo group.

The women who consumed the lion’s mane extract reported fewer feelings of anxiety and irritation than those who received a placebo.

Improved Brain Health

As you age, your brain’s ability to forge new pathways and learn new skills drastically decreases. This is why mental competence deteriorates as you get older. Researchers today are working to establish an understanding of the relationship between a lion’s mane and a boost in mental functioning.

While most of the research on the relationship between lion’s mane extract and cognitive function has been conducted on mice, there is some evidence to suggest a positive correlation in humans as well.

Based on the findings of a 2017 study(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237458/), mice were given lion’s mane mushroom as dietary supplements, showed improvements in memory and object recognition.

Further, according to research, lion’s mane mushrooms contain two specific chemicals that can boost brain cell growth: hericenones and erinacines. This suggests that lion’s mane supplements could potentially combat mild cognitive impairment and increase brain health.

Potential for Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain illness that causes progressive memory loss and has been biomedical research subject for decades.

While no scientific research has been conducted to determine whether the lion’s mane mushroom is effective for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in humans, animal research suggests mushroom extracts may help combat the disease.

When an individual has Alzheimer’s disease, compounds called amyloid-beta plaques collect in the brain. Research(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133811/) suggests that lion’s mane intake can minimize memory loss symptoms in mice and protect the brain cells from damage caused by these plaques.

Some of the lion’s mane mushroom’s cognitive benefits may be explained by its ability to increase neuron growth and protect the brain from Alzheimer’s-related damage.

It is important to note that all research conducted has been test tube studies or on animals. More human studies are needed to draw scientific conclusions related to the cognitive health benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms.

Combats Cancer

When DNA becomes damaged, usually due to inflammation, the body’s cells uncontrollably divide and replicate, thus becoming cancer cells. Biomedical research suggests that medicinal mushrooms possess unique qualities that help fight cancer.

Lion’s mane mushrooms are high in antioxidants, which serve to reduce inflammation and oxidation in the body and destroy cancer cells.

Research Findings on Cancer-Fighting Properties in Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Below is a summary of research conducted on the correlation between the lion’s mane mushroom and the body’s ability to fight various types of cancer.

  • When lion’s mane extract is combined with human cancer cells in a test tube, the cancer cells die more quickly. This was shown in several varieties of cancer cells, such as stomach, blood, liver, and colon cancer. Further, lion’s mane medicinal mushroom demonstrated the capacity to inhibit the spread of cancer.
  • In one experiment comprised of mice with colon cancer, consuming lion’s mane extract reduced disease metastasis to the lungs by 69%.
  • In another study, lion’s mane extract was found to be more successful than typical cancer treatments at reducing tumor growth in mice and having fewer adverse side effects.

Reduced Symptoms of Diabetes

When your body no longer has the ability to control its blood sugar levels, you develop a condition known as diabetes. A body in a state of diabetes has chronically elevated blood sugar levels, which can, over time, cause damage to nerve cells in the extremities, vision loss, and kidney disease.

When taken as a dietary supplement, Lion’s mane mushrooms can make your blood sugar levels easier to control and reduce some of the symptoms of diabetes.

The mushroom can help lower blood sugar levels by halting the alpha-glucosidase enzyme, which is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates in your small intestine. Consequently, the body cannot absorb and properly digest carbs, resulting in lower blood sugar levels.

In experimental diabetic rats, lion’s mane mushroom powder was found to relieve diabetic nerve pain(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4415746/) and decrease blood sugar levels. However, further research is needed to discover whether it is a viable treatment alternative in humans.

Improved Digestive Health

Lion’s mane may benefit digestive health by combating inflammation, which may be useful for patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The mushroom may also improve immunological function and promote the formation of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Biomedical research reports that lion’s mane mushrooms contain antibacterial properties that may aid in digestion. Animal studies, specifically in mice, complement these findings by demonstrating that lion’s mane extracts may prevent stomach ulcers.

Prevention of Stomach Ulcers

While anywhere in the digestive tract are susceptible to the development of ulcers, those in the stomach are of the most common in humans.

Stomach ulcers are typically caused by either an H. pylori infestation or damage to the stomach mucosal layer through long-term usage of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs).

Further, several test tube studies have found that lion’s mane extract can actually inhibit the growth of H. pylori. Still, no studies have been conducted to determine whether it has the same effect inside the stomach.

With further testing, scientific research could show that by suppressing the growth of H. pylori and protecting the stomach lining from injury, lion’s mane extract may protect against the formation of stomach ulcers.

Prevention of Gastrointestinal Diseases

Lion’s mane extract has also been linked to treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. As previously mentioned, the mushroom’s unique compound is known to reduce inflammation and protect intestinal tissues from damage.

In one notable study, researchers found that people with ulcerative colitis who took a mushroom herbal supplement that contained 14% lion’s mane extract experienced relief from their symptoms.

They even reported a significant increase in their quality of life after taking lion’s mane in supplement form for three weeks.

It’s worth noting that the herbal supplement utilized in this research contained a variety of other mushrooms, making it difficult to draw definite conclusions on the benefits of lion’s mane.

Other Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits

Improved Heart Health

Rat studies(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237458/) have revealed that mushroom extracts may contribute to lowering your cholesterol and preventing it from oxidizing in your bloodstream. Lion’s mane can also speed up your metabolism and aid in weight loss.

Furthermore, lion’s mane mushrooms contain a chemical known as hericenone B, which can slow blood clotting and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Accelerating Wound Healing

Lion’s mane mushroom extracts may be useful for treating skin lesions. For example, a study on rats with neck wounds discovered that applying lion’s mane extract topically resulted in faster recovery.

More research is needed, however, before the medical profession can suggest lion’s mane mushrooms for topical use on people.

Enhanced Nervous System Recovery

Your nervous system collaborates to send and receive signals that control nearly every bodily function. Consequently, brain and spinal cord injuries can be catastrophic. They frequently result in paralysis or loss of mental skills and can have a long recovery time.

According to certain animal studies, extracts of lion’s mane mushrooms promote faster repair and regrowth of nerve cells by 23–41% in rats.

Further, lion’s mane extract may also help minimize the severity of post-stroke brain damage. Unfortunately, while these findings from animal studies are promising, human research is currently insufficient.

What Are The Side Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?

The majority of studies on lion’s mane mushrooms have involved animals. However, it appears to be safe to eat the mushrooms in moderation, as many people in Asian countries do. Because dietary supplements are not subject to the same standards as food and medication items, the safety and usefulness of lion’s mane supplements are less certain.

Encouragingly, even when the test rats were given high doses of the lion’s mane supplements, no negative side effects were reported.

While little is known about the effects of long-term use of lion’s mane, there is some risk that lion’s mane may aggravate allergy and asthma problems.

As a result, if you have a history of allergies, asthma, or any other medical issue, you should see your doctor before using lion’s mane or any other supplement.

How Much Lion’s Mane Do I Need?

When deciding how much lion’s mane mushroom extract you should add to your diet, keep in mind that your unique dosage will be determined by your age, health, size, sensitivity, and, of course, your reasons for choosing to try lion’s mane in the first place.

The more severe the problem you’re attempting to address, the more lion’s mane you may require to make a discernible change.

Recommended Dosage of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extract

The typical dosage for improving cognitive function and immune health is about 1000mg daily. It would be best if you took the lion’s mane supplement with food and lots of water to help avoid nausea. Dosages ranging from 250mg to 750mg per day have also been demonstrated to be helpful.

Recommended Preparation of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplements

To avoid a bitter taste, sauté your mushrooms until the outer layer is crispy if you are preparing them for consumption.

Supplements are also available in health food stores, some grocery stores, and online in these forms:

  • Tablet
  • Capsule
  • Powder
  • Liquid

The most popular way to ingest the supplement is by taking just one capsule per day, but putting a scoop of lion’s mane powder in coffee or tea or whipping up a mushroom stir fry is a delicious manner of reaping the benefits of this superfood.

Final Thoughts

In animal and in human research, lion’s mane mushrooms and their extracts show promise. However, there is not yet enough data to justify their use in treating or preventing any human health issue.

Most people should be able to consume lion’s mane mushrooms safely for culinary purposes. On the other hand, people who want to take lion’s mane supplements should consult a doctor beforehand.