Nootropic Effects of Lion’s Mane: The Smart Mushroom
ByKatarina Meister, ND •March 8, 2023
Lion’s mane, Hericium erinaceus, is a recognized edible and medicinal mushroom that has been used for thousands of years and eaten regularly in countries such as Japan and China.[i] Lion’s Mane is named for its resemblance to a lion’s mane, is also called monkey head mushroom, yamabushitake (“mountain monk mushroom”), or bearded tooth carpophore. More broadly speaking, mushrooms have been used for centuries and noted for their medicinal properties as early as 450 BCE where Hippocrates found mushrooms to have anti-inflammatory effects to help cauterize wounds.[ii]
Lion’s mane has a variety of benefits ranging from supporting and nourishing the gut, modulating the immune system, as well reducing inflammation. It also has anti-tumor effects.[iii] [iv] In this post we are going to focus on its most well-known nootropic effects which aim to protect the nervous system and support brain functions, specifically with focus and memory. Whether you are in school, trying to learn something new or maintain your memory and mental clarity, Lion’s Mane is the mushroom of choice!
Improve Cognitive Functions
Lion’s Mane is most well-known for its effects to support a healthy brain and boost cognitive functions.[v][vi] Cognitive functions include learning, thinking, reasoning, memory, problem solving, decision making and maintaining focus. A study investigated Lion’s Mane for the treatment of mild Alzheimer’s Disease and found a significant improvement in cognition.[vii] Lion’s mane shows great potential for improving symptoms associated with ADHD, although more research is warranted.
Neuro Protective Effects
Lion’s Mane may also help to “rewire” or regenerate the neural networks in the adult brain. Lion’s Mane has been found to promote the synthesis of neurotrophic factor called nerve growth factor (NGF).[viii] NGF, much like it sounds, helps new nerves to grow and helps with maintenance of mature nerves. Low levels of NGF have been associated with inflammation and are associated with the progression Alzheimer’s neurodegeneration.[ix] Due to its ability to increase NGF, Lion’s mane has been suggested for the treatment and prevention of dementia. In vivo, Lion’s mane was found to increase the levels of NGF in the brain after 7 days.[x] Lion’s mane is also indicated in conditions to reduce oxidative stress due to its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, and for anti-aging.[xi] [xii]
Helps to balance your mood & supports your stress response.
Traditionally, Lion’s Mane has been used for anxiety and depression. These mood balancing effects may be due to its ability to increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus from the NGF effects.[xiii] Lion’s mane can also help with perimenopausal mood swings. A study found that after 4 weeks of taking Lion’s Mane there was a significant reduction of perimenopausal mood swings (anxiety, irritability) and increase in concentration compared to placebo.[xiv]
Lion’s Mane is a safe and generally well-tolerated mushroom that you can easily add into your daily regimen. You can add it to savory dishes such as stew or beverages like hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about adding Lion’s Mane as a supplement.
[i] Mori K, Obara Y, Hirota M, Azumi Y, Kinugasa S, Inatomi S, Nakahata N. Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 Sep;31(9):1727-32. doi: 10.1248/bpb.31.1727. PMID: 18758067.
[ii] Spelman K, Sutherland E, Bagade A. Neurological Activity of Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus). Journal of Restorative Medicine. 2017;6(1)19-26.
[iii] Wang JC, Hu SH, Su CH, Lee TM. Antitumor and immunoenhancing activities of polysaccharide from culture broth of Hericium spp. Kaohsiung J Med Sci. 2001 Sep;17(9):461-7. PMID: 11842649.
[iv] Spelman K, Sutherland E, Bagade A. Neurological Activity of Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus). Journal of Restorative Medicine. 2017;6(1)19-26.
[v] Saitsu Y, Nishide A, Kikushima K, Shimizu K, Ohnuki K. Improvement of cognitive functions by oral intake of Hericium erinaceus. Biomed Res. 2019;40(4):125-131. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.40.125. PMID: 31413233.
[vi] Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, et al. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009;23(3):367-372.
[vii] Li IC, Chang HH, Lin CH, Chen WP, Lu TH, Lee LY, Chen YW, Chen YP, Chen CC, Lin DP. Prevention of Early Alzheimer’s Disease by Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Pilot Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study. Front Aging Neurosci. 2020 Jun 3;12:155. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2020.00155. PMID: 32581767; PMCID: PMC7283924.
[viii] Samberkar S, Gandhi S, Naidu M, Wong KH, Raman J, Sabaratnam V. Lion’s Mane, Hericium erinaceus and Tiger Milk, Lignosus rhinocerotis (Higher Basidiomycetes) Medicinal Mushrooms Stimulate Neurite Outgrowth in Dissociated Cells of Brain, Spinal Cord, and Retina: An In Vitro Study. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2015;17(11):1047-54. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v17.i11.40. PMID: 26853959.
[ix] Capsoni S, Brandi R, Arisi I, D’Onofrio M, Cattaneo A. A dual mechanism linking NGF/proNGF imbalance and early inflammation to Alzheimer’s disease neurodegeneration in the AD11 anti-NGF mouse model. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2011 Aug;10(5):635-47. doi: 10.2174/187152711796235032. PMID: 21631402.
[x] Mori K, Obara Y, Hirota M, Azumi Y, Kinugasa S, Inatomi S, Nakahata N. Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 Sep;31(9):1727-32. doi: 10.1248/bpb.31.1727. PMID: 18758067.
[xi] Li IC, Chang HH, Lin CH, Chen WP, Lu TH, Lee LY, Chen YW, Chen YP, Chen CC, Lin DP. Prevention of Early Alzheimer’s Disease by Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Pilot Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study. Front Aging Neurosci. 2020 Jun 3;12:155. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2020.00155. PMID: 32581767; PMCID: PMC7283924.
[xii] D’Amico R, Salinaro AT, et al. Hericium erinaceus and Coriolus versicolor Modulate Molecular and Biochemical Changes after Traumatic Brain Injury. Antioxidants. 2021;10(6):898.
[xiii] Ryu S, Kim HG, Kim JY, Kim SY, Cho KO. Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain. J Med Food. 2018 Feb;21(2):174-180. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2017.4006. Epub 2017 Nov 1. PMID: 29091526.
[xiv] Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, Hayashi C, Sato D, Kitagawa K, Ohnuki K. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. 2010 Aug;31(4):231-7. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.31.231. PMID: 20834180.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.