Lion’s Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus), have a long history of use in traditional forms of medicine, most notably Chinese and Ayurvedic. In fact, Lion’s Mane’s use stretches back centuries, with it being used to treat a wide range of common ailments.
Lion’s mane can be used fresh or dried in traditional medicine, or as a supplement as part of a modern diet.
Why Take Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
There are plenty of health benefits to be gained from regularly taking Lion’s Mane mushroom as part of your supplement regime.
Firstly, it can be very effective in treating various health concerns, including anxiety, depression, high cholesterol, inflammation, ulcers, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
It is also commonly used to improve digestive health, bolster immune function, and even ward against common types of cancer.
However, a lot of this relies on either tentative scientific research or stronger anecdotal evidence, which limits Lion’s Mane’s credibility somewhat. Though research from animal-based research, test-tube studies, and small clinical trials support the notion that Lion’s Mane may indeed offer some great health benefits, more is required before we can comfortably talk in certainties.
This being said, there are some common areas that Lion’s Mane mushrooms have typically been found to be effective in improving.
Improving Brain Function
You will often see Lion’s Mane mushroom in common nootropic supplements – also known as ‘smart drugs’. There are a couple of very good reasons for that. The first is brain function – Lion’s Mane is thought to be able to greatly enhance cognitive health and function in both healthy adults and those with mild cognitive impairments.
Animal studies have shown that Lion’s Mane may help in protecting against memory problems caused by excessive amyloid beta build up. Amyloid beta form the brain plaques commonly associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. It may also protect against ischemic stroke.
Human trials, though small and a little outdated (the flagship study was way back in 2009), have backed this up. They showed improvements in cognitive function in a group that took Lion’s Mane compared with those that took a placebo.
Again, more substantial evidence is needed. However, the tentative data we have thus far do seem to support Lion’s Mane’s traditional role in Chinese medicine as a brain booster, and also support its use in nootropic supplements.
Reducing Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
The second reason you’ll often see Lion’s Mane in nootropic supplements has to do with its role in combating depression and anxiety. It is an adaptogen, meaning that taking it can lead to a calmer, more positive state of mind, giving you a clear cognitive advantage whilst also improving your overall wellbeing and quality of life.
The literature is actually quite sound here, too. As recently as 2020, scientific literature reviews have cited Lion’s Mane as a potential alternative treatment for depression, whilst a 2021 research review showed promising evidence for its anxiety fighting effects.
Lion’s Mane seems to bring neuroprotective functions to the brain, as well as anti-diabetic, anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial, cytotoxicity, and herbicidal activities.
Protecting Against Cancer
It’s not all in your head, either. There are some far more wide-reaching benefits to be gained from including Lion’s Mane in your supplement program. One of the key benefits here is in protecting against cancer.
For example, it was suggested in a study in 2011 that it may knock out leukemia cells. Another 2011 study suggests that it might help in reducing cancerous colon tumor cells, or even in fighting off colon cancer altogether. The working theory is that this may happen in part through an increase in activity of cells related to your immune function.
This is all taken from animal studies, however. Comprehensive data are needed from human trials before we can be any more certain.
Animal studies also suggest a potential use for Lion’s Mane mushrooms in managing the symptoms and effects of diabetes. It is thought that Lion’s Mane can aid in glucose and insulin level regulation, which would represent a fantastic leap forward in diabetes treatment.
Taking Lion’s Mane Mushroom
As above, there are plenty of ways you can take Lion’s Mane mushrooms.
You can simply eat the nootropic prevalent mushrooms themselves. You can get them dried as a snack. They are perfectly edible raw, too, though are perhaps more palatable when cooked. Include them in stir fries or pastas – they will give a slightly seafood taste, with plenty of people comparing the flavour to something like lobster or crab.
However, this can be a hassle. You don’t want to have to eat them every day – you don’t want every meal you eat to taste of fish!
I would suggest that the most sustainable way of taking in Lion’s Mane mushroom daily, in decent quantities, is to go with powder. This powder can obviously go into any food or beverage. It works well enough stirred into coffee, though the taste will not be for everyone (I personally don’t like it). Tea is perhaps a wiser choice. Stir it into a regular cup of tea or simply brew it with hot water.
You can take Lion’s Mane mushroom up to three times per day, though realistically once or twice should do it. Going over this limit can cause stomach and digestive upset. Try to keep within 250 mg and 750 mg daily for the best results with the fewest side effects.
Lion’s Mane mushroom tea works well in the morning or when drunk on an empty stomach. However, this may give you the above mentioned stomach and digestive upset, especially if you’re new to it. Experiment a little and find out what works best for you.
Alternatively, you can often find powder in capsules, especially combined with other supplements such as nootropics. This may be the easiest, most effective way of taking it.
As above, there are some side effects to be wary of when first bringing Lion’s Mane mushrooms into your supplement regime.
Firstly, it’s important to note that we don’t really have any data on long term effects of Lion’s Mane supplementation. We really don’t know much about long term Lion’s Mane use at all outside of anecdotal evidence surrounding its inclusion in traditional forms of medicine.
There are some concerns that it may worsen symptoms of asthma and aggravate common allergies like hay fever. If you suffer with either of these conditions, or with any other common allergies, make sure that you talk to your healthcare provider before taking Lion’s Mane mushroom. If you do include it in your supplement regime, make sure that you track symptoms and stop if you find them getting worse.
Finally, we’ve mentioned stomach and digestive upset.
If you suffer with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or any similar concerns, be wary when changing your supplement regime. Learn what triggers your symptoms and avoid it if possible. Know that Lion’s Mane mushroom may well do so. This being said, as an adaptogen, it may reduce stress levels, a common contributor to IBS and similar issues.
There are also some groups of people who should avoid using Lion’s Mane mushrooms. This includes pregnant or breastfeeding women, as there is simply not enough research to show whether or not it is safe to take Lion’s Mane mushroom, or in what doses, in these situations.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms may also lower your blood glucose levels. This is good for plenty of people. However, beware it if you’re diabetic. It can go too far, especially when coupled with diabetes medication. Be sure to monitor your glucose levels regularly.
It may also be unwise to use Lion’s Mane mushrooms if you take any kind of blood thinner or anticoagulant/anti-platelet drugs, as it can cause issues with blood clotting that may lead to excessive bleeding or bruising.
Beware, too, that some people are simply allergic to Lion’s Mane mushrooms. If it disagrees with you in any way, stop taking it immediately and consider seeking medical attention.
Always talk to your doctor if you’re unsure about any supplement.
The Verdict On Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
As we have seen, there are plenty of potential uses and health benefits to be gained from Lion’s Mane mushrooms. They are kind of awkward to include in any significant way in your diet. However, supplementation makes them a lot more viable.
I would always recommend a good quality nootropic like Mind Lab Pro which includes it as part of their formula. Though a little pricey, you’ll be able to benefit from everything offered by a smart drug at the same time as getting your daily dose of Lion’s Mane mushroom.
This article was written by: James Dixon – SOMA Analytics PT, Nutritionalist & Published Author
James Dixon is one of the key players in the SOMA Analytics’ team. He is a personal trainer and is educated to Masters level. He is a published author and is a keen advocate of high quality nootropic supplements. James enjoys helping others to reach their peak both physically and mentally and believes that expressing his knowledge through his writing is an effective way to positively impact the wellbeing of others on a larger scale.