Lion’s Mane, a non-psychoactive mushroom, also known as “bearded tooth fungus” or “hedgehog mushroom”, has been recognized as a powerful superfood that can enhance brain function and help with a number of other ailments. Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, lion’s mane is widely available in supplement form. Scientific research shows that lion’s mane contains a number of health-promoting substances, including antioxidants and beta-glucan. [7] Read on to find more details about what science is showing us about Lion’s Mane.

    Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the Brain

    Lion’s mane increases NGF levels in the brain – enhanced neuronal growth, regeneration and synaptic plasticity [1]

    As its name suggests, NGF is involved primarily in the growth, as well as the maintenance, proliferation, and survival of nerve cells (neurons). The neuropeptide is needed to prevent nerve cell damage.

    By increasing NGF, Lion’s Mane can help alleviate symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, etc). 

    Depression and Anxiety

    New animal research has found that lion’s mane mushroom extract has anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice [8] [9].

    Other animal studies have found that lion’s mane extract can also help regenerate brain cells and improve the functioning of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses [10][11].

    Researchers believe that improved functioning of the hippocampus may explain the reductions in anxious and depressive behaviors in mice given these extracts.

    Nervous System

    Research has found that lion’s mane mushroom extract may help speed recovery from these types of injuries by stimulating the growth and repair of nerve cells [12][13][14].

    In fact, lion’s mane mushroom extract has been shown to reduce recovery time by 23–41% when given to rats with nervous system injuries [15].

    Lion’s mane extract may also help reduce the severity of brain damage after a stroke.

    In one study, high doses of lion’s mane mushroom extract given to rats immediately after a stroke helped decrease inflammation and reduce the size of stroke-related brain injury by 44% [16].

    Ulcers, Crohns and Colitis

    An animal study found that lion’s mane extract was more effective at preventing alcohol-induced stomach ulcers than traditional acid-lowering drugs — and without any negative side effects [17].

    Lion’s mane extract can also reduce inflammation and prevent tissue damage in other areas of the intestines. In fact, they may help treat inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease [18][19][20].

    One study in people with ulcerative colitis found that taking a mushroom supplement containing 14% lion’s mane extract significantly reduced symptoms and improved quality of life after three weeks [21].

    Diabetes

    Lion’s mane mushroom may be beneficial for diabetes management by improving blood sugar control and reducing some of these side effects.

    Several animal studies have shown that lion’s mane can cause significantly lower blood sugar levels in both normal and diabetic mice, even at daily dosages as low as 2.7 mg per pound (6 mg per kg) of body weight [22][23].

    One way that lion’s mane lowers blood sugars is by blocking the activity of the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which breaks down carbs in the small intestine [24].

    When this enzyme is blocked, the body is unable to digest and absorb carbs as effectively, which results in lower blood sugar levels.

    In addition to lowering blood sugars, lion’s mane extract may reduce diabetic nerve pain in the hands and feet.

    In mice with diabetic nerve damage, six weeks of daily lion’s mushroom extract significantly reduced pain, lowered blood sugar levels and even increased antioxidant levels [25].

    Heart Health

    Studies in rats and mice have found that lion’s mane mushroom extract improves fat metabolism and lowers triglyceride levels [26].

    One study in rats fed a high-fat diet and given daily doses of lion’s mane extract observed 27% lower triglyceride levels and 42% less weight gain after 28 days [27].

    Since obesity and high triglycerides are both considered risk factors for heart disease, this is one way that lion’s mane mushrooms contribute to heart health.

    Test-tube studies have also found that lion’s mane extract can help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream [28].

    Oxidized cholesterol molecules tend to attach to the walls of arteries, causing them to harden and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Therefore, reducing oxidation is beneficial for heart health.

    What’s more, lion’s mane mushrooms contain a compound called hericenone B, which can decrease the rate of blood clotting and lower the risk of heart attack or stroke [29].

    Cancer

    Some research suggests that lion’s mane mushroom has cancer-fighting abilities, thanks to several of its unique compounds (30, 31).

    In fact, when lion’s mane extract is mixed with human cancer cells in a test tube, they cause the cancer cells to die at a faster rate. This has been demonstrated with several types of cancer cells, including liver, colon, stomach and blood cancer cells (32, 33, 34).

    However, at least one study has failed to replicate these results, so more studies are needed (35).

    In addition to killing cancer cells, lion’s mane extract has also been shown to slow the spread of cancer.

    One study in mice with colon cancer found that taking lion’s mane extract reduced the spread of cancer to the lungs by 69% (36).

    Another study found that lion’s mane extract was more effective than traditional cancer medications at slowing tumor growth in mice, in addition to having fewer side effects (37).

    Stress

    Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are believed to be at the root of many modern illnesses, including heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders (38).

    Research shows that lion’s mane mushrooms contain powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that may help reduce the impact of these illnesses (39).

    In fact, one study examining the antioxidant abilities of 14 different mushroom species found that lion’s mane had the fourth highest antioxidant activity and recommended it be considered a good dietary source of antioxidants (40).

    Several animal studies have found that lion’s mane extract reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in rodents and may be especially useful in the management of inflammatory bowel disease, liver damage and stroke (41, 42, 43, 44).

    Lion’s mane mushrooms may also help reduce some of the health risks associated with obesity, as they have been shown to decrease the amount of inflammation released by fat tissue (45).

    Immune System

    Animal research shows that lion’s mane mushroom can boost immunity by increasing the activity of the intestinal immune system, which protects the body from pathogens that enter the gut through the mouth or nose (46).

    These effects may partly be due to beneficial changes in gut bacteria that stimulate the immune system (47).

    One study even found that supplementing with lion’s mane extract daily nearly quadrupled the lifespan of mice injected with a lethal dose of salmonella bacteria (48).

    Other Benefits

    • Improves myelination – enhanced neuronal communication and nerve regeneration [2]
    • Increases long-term synaptic potentiation – improved memory [3][4]
    • Decreases glutamatergic transmission – decreased neuronal excitability and excitotoxicity [3][4]
    • Protects neurons from endoplasmic reticulum stress [3][4]
    • Anxiolytic [5]
    • Anti-inflammatory effects [6]

    Lion’s mane is often found in powdered form, which can be mixed into hot/cold drinks, smoothies or even mixed into foods when cooking. You can also purchase it in capsulated form, which many find to be a more convenient way to consume.

    You can find Lion’s Mane in Osmosis Brain Boost microdosing capsules.

    Sources

    [1] Lai PL, et al (2013). Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushrooms, 15(6):539-54. doi: 10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v15.i6.30

    [2] Kolotushkina EV, et al (2003). The influence of Hericium erinaceus extract on myelination process in vitro. Fiziol Zh, 49(1):38-45. PMID: 12675022

    [3]  Phan CW, et al (2015). Therapeutic potential of culinary-medicinal mushrooms for the management of neurodegenerative diseases: diversity, metabolite, and mechanism. Crit Rev Biotechnol, 35(3):355-68. doi: 10.3109/07388551.2014.887649

    [4] Sabaratnam V, et al (2013). Neuronal health – can culinary and medicinal mushrooms help? J Tradit Complement Med, 3(1):62-8. doi: 10.4103/2225-4110.106549

    [5] Nagano M, et al (2010). Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res, 31(4):231-7. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.31.231

    [6] Nagano M, et al (2010). Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res, 31(4):231-7. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.31.231

    [7]  Jiang S, Wang Y, Zhang X. Comparative studies on extracts from by different polarity reagents to gain higher antioxidant activitiesExp Ther Med. 2016;12(1):513-517. doi:10.3892/etm.2016.3279

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