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Ancient cultures have been accessing the powers of plant medicine for millennia and modern science is only just beginning to understand how some compounds found within plants can contribute to our overall good health.
If you’re wondering what benefits may be offered by the lion’s mane mushroom, according to the latest scientific research, then you’re in the right place. In this article we’ll be looking at:
- What is lion’s mane?
- Lion’s mane mushrooms benefits
- Lion’s mane mushrooms side effects
- Where to buy lion’s mane mushrooms
Lion’s mane mushrooms: A beginner’s guide
Alongside CBD, mushroom supplements are also enjoying a surge in popularity as more people learn about the positive influence they’re able to exert on our brains and bodies. Lion’s Mane, along with cordyceps, chaga, turkey tail and reishi are some of the more popular mushroom supplements on the market today.
What is lion’s mane?
Lion’s mane (Latin name Hericium erinaceus) is a species of mushroom that grows in large, shaggy, white clumps that resemble a lion’s mane. Because of its unique appearance, it’s also known as the pom pom mushroom and bearded hedgehog mushroom.
These mushrooms grow on hardwood trees, particularly favoring the American beech tree, in the summer and fall and while they are mostly found feeding on dead trees, they are also known to be parasitic, feeding off living hardwood trees too.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are harvested for both culinary and medicinal purposes. They have a delicate flavor (akin to lobster or crab), and like shiitake and oyster mushrooms, are prized in gourmet cooking.
They can be consumed raw or cooked and are often steeped to make tea, but the easiest and most common way to access the health benefits of the lion’s mane mushroom is to take a capsule that contains the dried, powdered mushroom or mushroom extract.
Lion’s mane mushrooms benefits
So, what is lion’s mane mushroom good for? Like other medicinal mushrooms, lion’s mane has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
They contain bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides, beta-glucan, hericenones, and erinacines. When you take lion’s mane, these compounds are able to exert influence in our bodies in a number of positive ways, including relieving anxiety and depression and offering protection against dementia.
Lion’s Mane and anxiety
Researchers believe that lion’s mane could be useful and effective on symptoms of anxiety and depression for a number of reasons.
Sometimes, depression and anxiety can be caused by chronic inflammation and mounting evidence suggests that anti-inflammatory substances can exert antidepressant effects. One 2015 study and another 2018 study, showed that the anti-inflammatory properties of lion’s mane was able to reduce depressive-like behavior in mice.
In other animal studies, lion’s mane extract was also shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice. However, these researchers believe that the improvements shown were a result of lion’s manes’ neurogenesis effects in the hippocampal area of the brain.
The hericenones and erinacines compounds found in lion’s mane mushrooms have been shown to stimulate the growth of brain cells.
The hippocampus plays a major role in learning, memory, and emotions and researchers believe that improved functioning in this area may be responsible for the anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects of lion’s mane mushrooms.
There has also been one small study on humans that supported this theory, effectively reducing depression and anxiety in menopausal women after taking lion’s mane for just four weeks.
Boost mental function
As you get older, your brain’s ability to grow and form new connections declines, so it’s thought that the neurogenesis effects of lion’s mane may also help boost brain function and offer protection against dementia.
There have been several animal studies that support this theory, but just one small human clinical study to date. In this 16 week study, either lion’s mane powder or a placebo was given to patients, aged between 50 and 80 years old, suffering from mild cognitive impairment.
At weeks 8, 12, and 16 of the trial, the group given lion’s mane showed significant improvement in cognitive function compared to the placebo group. However, four weeks after the trial ended, cognition declined again significantly, suggesting lion’s mane can potentially make a huge difference to brain function, albeit on a short-term basis.
The antioxidant and neuroprotective properties of Lion’s Mane are also of great interest to researchers studying Alzheimer’s disease. In 2016, a team of researchers concluded that compounds within lion’s mane may help to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as this.
Speed recovery and reduce injury
Further to this, it’s thought that lion’s mane’s ability to stimulate new nerve growth could also help speed up the recovery process of nervous system injuries. There haven’t been any human studies to confirm that this works in humans, but there are several animal studies that support this theory.
One study on rats showed that lion’s mane extract was able to reduce recovery time by anywhere between 23% and 41%.
In another study, high doses of lion’s mane extract were administered to rats immediately following a stroke. By decreasing inflammation in the brain, lion’s mane extract reduced stroke-related brain injury by a huge 44%.
Risk of heart disease
Lion’s mane may benefit the heart and blood vessels in a variety of ways. There haven’t been any human studies in this area yet, but preclinical evidence is compelling.
In one study, the hericenone B contained within lion’s mane was shown to slow down blood clotting, meaning it has the potential to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Other studies on mice and rats have shown that lion’s mane can effectively improve fat metabolism and lower triglyceride levels, both of which could help mitigate the risk of heart disease.
Inflammation and boost immune system
Lion’s mane also possesses powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which could reduce the impact of multiple diseases and conditions, from heart disease to inflammatory bowel disease.
In one animal study, lion’s mane helped suppress inflammation and reduce oxidative stress in mice with acute intestinal inflammation. In another, lion’s mane extract effectively reduced liver damage caused by acute alcohol exposure.
Lion‘s mane mushrooms side effects
No adverse side effects were recorded in any of the animal or human studies previously mentioned. And although there haven’t been any human studies that specifically focus on the side effects of lion‘s mane mushrooms, they appear to be likely safe, even at high doses.
One study examined the potential toxicology of lion’s mane while researching its neuro-health properties. They found that all studies (up to 2018) have suggested that lion’s mane is safe, with good tolerability and no adverse side effects.
However, if you have allergies to mushrooms then lion’s mane supplements should be avoided as they could trigger allergy symptoms.
Where to buy lion’s mane mushrooms
If you’re considering adding lion’s mane mushrooms to your diet, then you’ll be pleased to hear that we have them right here at Green Unicorn Farms. Certain medicinal mushrooms possess qualities very similar to those offered by CBD and we’ve combined these two powerful plant-based remedies into one capsule to boost the benefits offered.