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Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) on Brain Functions

Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) on Brain Functions

Suppose you have noticed pom-pom-shaped growths on the trunks of trees, such as beech or oak. In that case, these might be lion’s mane mushrooms (hericium erinaceus), known for their many beneficial health effects, especially on cognitive functions. Lion’s mane has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes but has recently attracted interest because of its neuroprotective effect.

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What Is Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion Mane mushroom

Medicinal mushroom use dates back to ancient Greece when physician Hippocrates discovered their potential anti-inflammatory properties.

Lion’s Mane mushroom, also known as Hericium erinaceus, hou tou gu, or yamabushitake, is a large, white, shaggy mushroom that resembles a lion’s mane as it grows. These mushrooms contain bioactive substances that have various beneficial effects on the body, particularly the brain, heart, and gut. They are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes in Asian countries.

Remember: Lion’s mane grows on old or dead broadleaf tree trunks. It consists of a visible fruiting body (the mushroom) and root-like mycelium, both containing health-boosting compounds.

Lion’s Mane Health Benefits

The potential benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms are numerous and cover physical, cognitive, and mental health. The mushroom is a source of natural bioactive compounds and health-promoting chemicals in certain foods and plants. As a result, it exhibits disease-fighting properties, including anti-cancer, antimicrobial, and antioxidant activity.

The mushroom also offers additional health-promoting benefits:

  • Regulates blood sugar;
  • Helps to prevent excess blood lipid accumulation and protects liver health;
  • Promotes heart health;
  • Reduces high blood pressure;
  • Protects kidney health;
  • Promotes healthy energy levels and combats fatigue
  • Slows biological aging;
  • May offer potential alternative treatment for depression.
  • Research suggests that lion’s mane may protect nerves from disease or decline.

In 2020, it was shown that Lion’s mane mushrooms may be a potential alternative treatment for depression. They ensure the presence of sufficient neurotransmitters, reduce the loss of nerve growth brought about by stressful situations, and minimize inflammation linked to depression.

Read more: Therapeutic Potential of Hericium erinaceus for Depressive Disorder

Lion’s Mane’s effect on brain health

Brain health

Lion’s mane is classified as a nootropic, containing compounds that enhance brain health and function. Its effect on nerve growth factor levels may enable it to help protect against disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, which feature cognitive impairment.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial highlighted that lion’s mane may effectively improve symptoms of mild cognitive impairment.

During the trial, adults between 50 and 80 years old took four 250 mg lion’s mane tablets three times a day for 16 weeks. Testing using a cognitive function scale demonstrated that participants who took lion’s mane scored higher than the placebo group. Their cognitive abilities improved with the duration of supplementation. However, four weeks after discontinuing the lion’s mane, their cognitive test scores decreased.

Read more: Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial

The potential neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties of H. erinaceus have recently sparked interest. These properties are likely due to various bioactive components in the mycelia and fruiting bodies of H. erinaceus, including polysaccharides, phenolic acids, and terpenoids, such as hericenones and erinacines. Notably, both hericenones and erinacines can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the synthesis and secretion of nerve growth factors.

A 2020 study involving individuals with mild Alzheimer’s disease discovered that taking 1 gram of lion’s mane mushroom daily for 49 weeks notably enhanced cognitive test scores compared to a placebo.

Read more: Prevention of Early Alzheimer’s Disease by Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Pilot Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study

In 2023, it was discovered that supplementing with lion’s mane may benefit not only those with cognitive disorders but also healthy young adults.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group design investigated the acute (60 min post-dose) and chronic (28-day intervention) effects of 1.8 g Hericium erinaceus in 41 healthy adults aged 18–45. The findings suggest that Hericium erinaceus may improve performance speed and reduce subjective stress in healthy young adults.

Read more: The Acute and Chronic Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplementation on Cognitive Function, Stress and Mood in Young Adults: A Double-Blind, Parallel Groups, Pilot Study

Summary

Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s mane) shows promise in improving cognitive function and mood. These mushrooms contain compounds that stimulate brain cell growth and protect them from damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The beneficial performance-enhancing and neuroprotective effect can also be seen in healthy young adults.