Lion’s mane mushroom, also known as hou tou gu, is a shaggy looking edible and medicinal mushroom used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for various purposes. 1
While the mushroom can be cooked and consumed in culinary dishes, it the extracts that provide the most medicinal effects. Various chemical analysis's have determined that the lion’s mane mushroom possesses medicinal, bioactive constituents that positively effect the human body, particularly the brain, heart and immune system.
In fact, there are numerous clinical trials that have proven a therapeutic effects of Lion's mane, here are just a few of the most impressive:
Science-Backed Benefits of Lion's Mane
Brain Tonic: All aging is, is the inability to regenerate the body. The stress of aging slows the metabolism, which decreases our bodies ability to produce the necessary energy to rejuvenate. This process effects every part of the body and might explain why cognitive functioning declines with stress, aging and disease. 2
Fortunately, our lifestyles, diet and other factors can slow this process. Looking to lion's mane for help, various studies have discovered that lion’s mane extracts have two special compounds (hericenones and erinacines) that assist in the regeneration of new brain cells. 3
Further studies have found that the brain-tonifying effects of lion’s mane may actually make it a novel preventative agent for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Studies verified that extracts of Lion's Mane can reduce symptoms of cognitive decline like memory loss and also prevent neuronal damage caused by amyloid-beta plaques, which tend to accumulate in the aging, Alzheimer's diseased brain. 4, 5, 6, 7
Yet another study found that people with mild cognitive dysfunction who supplemented 3 grams of powdered lion’s mane mushroom daily over the course of 4 months had improved mental function. This effect was verified by clearly noticing that their enhanced cognitive function seized once they stopped supplementing. 8
Anti-Anxiety & Depression: Recent research studies have noticed that lion’s mane mushroom extract has anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects. 10, 11
Further studies done on animal have found that lion’s mane extract's ability to regenerate brain cells and improve the functioning of the hippocampus, may explain the positive effects on those with anxiety and depression. The hippocampus is a region of the brain that assists us in processing memories and emotions. 12, 13
The positive effects of Lion's Mane in anxiety and depression models are still in the early stages. However, one study done on menopausal women found that supplementing lion’s mane extract daily for 1 month resulted in reduced feelings of irrationality and anxiety via self-assessment tests. 14
Rejuvenate Nervous System: The nervous system works together with the brain, spinal cord and nerves to send and receive signals that effect every bodily function. If an injuries to the brain or spinal cord the effects can be drastic and healing can be slow.
Luckily, these incidences are rare and lion’s mane extract can actually help speed-up the regeneration of the nervous system by stimulating the growth and repair of nerve cells. 15, 16, 17
In fact, one of lion’s mane extract's claim to fame effects is the ability to promote the production NGF (nerve growth factor). And has even been shown to speed recovery time by 23–41% when given to mice with nervous system damage. 18
Antioxidant & Anti-Inflammatory: Oxidative stress occurs when a cell becomes stressed or injured and isn't adequately supplied with the energy it needs to repair. As an example, if a cell is deprived of glucose or oxygen, the byproduct will be oxidative stress. Other factors like the increased functioning of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) attribute as well. If chronic, then inflammation will occur, and together these two are thought to be at the root, cellularly, of most diseases, including aging. 19
The good news; there are many simple foods and herbs that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have confirmed that lion’s mane mushrooms make that list and possess powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that may be preventative for various disease states. 20
In one study that examined the antioxidant effects of 14 different mushrooms, it was found that lion’s mane was the 4th most potent antioxidant-rich mushroom. 21
Additionally, various studies that have observed that lion’s mane has the ability to reduce many bio-markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in mice with inflammatory bowel disease, liver damage and stroke. 21, 22, 23, 24
One of the more impressive effects of lion’s mane in this regard is its ability to decrease the inflammatory effects of free circulating fatty acids, a contributing stress in diabetics. 25
Immune Enhancing: In TCM and clinical trials, most mushrooms are known to possess immunomodulating abilities. For example, animal studies show that lion’s mane extract can positively modulate the functioning of the intestinal immune system, which in TCM, enhances the Wei Chi and protects the body from pathogens and toxins that might invade the sinus, air ways or gut. 26
In other words, lion's mane was found to have beneficial effects on gut bacteria that positively effect the functioning of the immune system. 27
In fat, one study found that supplementing with lion’s mane extract on a daily basis more than quadrupled the lifespan of mice who had been induced with a lethal dose of salmonella bacteria. 28
The Bottom Line
Lion's Mane extracts are powerful, natural remedies with effects that have been proven by many different scientific trials. In conclusion, lion’s mane can improve the health of the brain and protect against brain aging, it can work to reduce mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, repair the nervous system and protect the immune system and body from inflammation and oxidative stress - and more!
As it turns out, TCM has been right all along about Lion's mane and now we have the research to prove it. However, with anything else, experiment is key, so despite the great supply of research available, always continue to learn more and work with skilled herbalist and practitioners when possible!
For learning more or purchasing Lion's Mane extract, visit our online Tonic Herb Shop.