As the struggle continues finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia, science (and the rest of us) are turning to natural substances that have promise of healing and helping our brains. There are approximately 2,000 edible mushrooms and some of them are identified as having beneficial health properties. Of those, Lion’s Mane seems to be the most studied and identified as a Nootropic (substance for brain health). I’ll talk about the studies as well while we focus on the benefits.

Scientific name : Hericium erinaceus. Described as tasting like “seafood,” and compared to crab or lobster. There are some recipes out there for Lion’s Mane crab cakes. I’ll include one below.

Benefits of Lion’s Mane…

Nerve and Neuron Regeneration – Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

So healthy brains produce nerve growth factor (NGF), a family of proteins “responsible for maintenance, survival, and regeneration of neurons in adult life” (Sabaratnam [2013], NCBI). Lion’s Mane has a property that may help produce NGF and protect brain cells from cell death. Cell death is what happens in Alzheimer’s and dementia. Finding a substance that helps prevent this is amazing news.

Research has shown that lion’s mane extract can help speed recovery from brain and nervous system injuries. In one study on rats with nervous system injuries, lion’s mane reduced the recovery time by 23-41% (Julson, Healthline, 2018). Another study of older adults with mild cognitive impairment improved mental functioning while taking 3 grams of Lion’s Mane per day for four months. The improvement only lasted while they were taking it. But it works!

Scientists have yet to study the effects on humans with Alzheimer’s disease but the studies so far certainly warrant it. Hopefully, we’ll see some more proof soon. In the meantime, it is being hailed as a good preventive supplement.

Antioxidant and Heart Helper

Antioxidants fight both inflammation and oxidation. As you might have read in my Gut and Brain Connection article, inflammation is a contributing factor in diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases. Oxidation of cholesterol is what causes it to stick to arteries, hardening arteries, which can lead to heart disease (or worse).

In addition, studies in rats and mice have shown lion’s mane lowers triglyceride levels, even when on a high-fat diet. Given a daily dose of lion’s mane lowered triglyceride levels by 27%! The rats in a particular study also had 42% less weight gain after 28 days.

Another property in lion’s mane mushrooms is a compound called hericenone B, which can decrease the rate of blood clotting which also lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Anti-Inflammatory and Gut Helper

Huge help for gut health. Researchers have found that the anti-inflammatory properties of Lion’s Mane mushrooms improve gut health for people with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and helps prevent the development of ulcers. It seems to help reduce inflammation in all parts of the colon and they have found that it might help prevent ulcers even better than some acid-lowering medications.

lions mane mushrooms

Diabetes

Lion’s mane helps lower blood sugar levels which are, of course, the cause of diabetes. Wow. Julson (2018) describes in her Healthline article that the way it does this is by blocking the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which breaks down carbs. When blocked, the body is unable to digest carbs as effectively which then lowers blood sugar.

Another study on mice with diabetes also shows that it helps with diabetic nerve damage. Six weeks of daily lion’s mane mushroom extract greatly reduced pain, lowered blood sugar levels and increased antioxidant levels.

More research is needed with humans on the benefits for diabetic patients. But this shows promise.

Cancer

Studies have been done with mice using lion’s mane as a treatment. The findings are that it helps kill cancer cells and also slows the growth of tumors. One study done with mice with colon cancer found that lion’s mane reduced the spread of cancer to the lungs by 69%.

Another study (on mice) showed that cancer-fighting effects worked better than cancer medications and had fewer side effects. More study is needed for its use in fighting cancer with humans.

Immune System Helper

Lion’s mane appears to boost the immune system, protecting against viruses and bad bacteria. Research has shown it boosts the immune system in the gut which helps protect against invaders through the mouth and nose.

This seems to be due to “beneficial changes in gut bacteria” (Julson, 2018) that stimulates the immune system. Back to the gut. 😉

With good gut health, brain health is greatly boosted.

mushroom nootropic

Depression and Anxiety

It is said that up to one-third of people in developed countries have symptoms of anxiety and depression.

We also now know about the gut and brain connection and its effect on anxiety and depression. This may be why lion’s mane has been cited as helpful for depression and anxiety.

Since lion’s mane helps to regenerate brain cells and also helps improve functioning of the hippocampus (region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses), this may be another reason lion’s mane helps these two problems.

A small study of menopausal women were separated into two groups. One group was given lion’s mane daily for one month, the other group a placebo. The group taking lion’s mane reported reduced feelings of irritation and anxiety.

This link will take you to Fungi Perfect Host Defense® Lion’s Mane:

Side Effects

Very few side effects have been reported. A few people have reported rashes or difficulty breathing. Probably an allergic reaction. If you are allergic to mushrooms, then you don’t want to take lion’s mane.

Summary

Lion’s mane mushrooms are amazing. They help so many things. We talked about nerve and neuron regeneration, help with gut health and the immune system factor there, blood sugar lowering, lowering of triglycerides for heart health. Cancer helper and help for depression and anxiety. So many benefits. I’m including a video recipe for ‘crab cakes’ made with lion’s mane mushrooms if you can get a hold of some. 🙂 Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any questions, experience or comments, please do leave them below and I’ll be sure to respond. Thank you!

References:

Julson, E. (2018) 9 Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom (plus side effects). https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lions-mane-mushroom.

Leonard, J. (2018). What are the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323400.php

Sabaratnam, V, et al. (2013) Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924982/0111111