With a stringy, white fruiting body, lion’s mane mushroom is an edible, unique-looking fungus that resembles—you guessed it—the mane of a lion. But there’s a lot more to this mushroom than its unusual appearance. Lion’s mane is a powerful nootropic with roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It offers a range of incredible, science-backed healing properties that have people jumping on the lion’s mane bandwagon left and right. In this article, we’ll be focusing on five health benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms that will make you want to add it to your routine ASAP!
Here are 5 Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushroom:
1. Improve focus, memory, and clarity
Lion’s mane is often referred to as “the smart mushroom” because of its ability to improve memory, focus, and clarity. This mushroom’s potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties increase blood flow to the brain, leading to improved cognitive performance and a reduction of brain fog. In one study, taking lion’s mane extract led to improvements in humans diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.
Additionally, research suggests that lion’s mane may help protect against memory problems caused by the buildup of amyloid beta—a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease.
2. Support nerve health and recovery
Research shows that lion’s mane mushroom fuels the creation of an important compound called nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF is a protein that stimulates the production of new nerve cells and strengthens existing ones. This means that lion’s mane may encourage damaged nerves to grow and repair more quickly.
These findings are a big deal and could play an important role in slowing or reversing cell degeneration in the brain which is the major cause of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.
3. Help alleviate anxiety and depression
While there are many possible causes of anxiety and depression, chronic inflammation is thought to be a major contributing factor. Animal research has demonstrated that lion’s mane has powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice. Other animal studies have found that lion’s mane can help regenerate brain cells and improve the functioning of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses.
4. May protect against cancer
Exciting preliminary research suggests that lion’s mane may offer protection against cancer. One study, for instance, found that lion’s mane helped reduce the size of cancerous colon tumors in mice. The study’s findings suggested that lion’s mane may help fight off cancer, in part, by increasing activity in certain cells involved in the immune response.
5. Boost the immune system
Research has shown that lion’s mane may stimulate activity of the intestinal immune system, which is the body’s defense against pathogens that enter the body through the mouth and nose. While research is still in its initial stages, one study found that giving mice lion’s mane nearly quadrupled the life span of those injected with a lethal dose of salmonella.
Where can lion’s mane be found?
At this point, you’re probably wondering how you can get your hands on this miraculous mushroom. Lion’s mane can be found on decaying hardwood trees, such as oak, maple, and birch, throughout the northern U.S. and Canada in the late summer and fall.
Even though lion’s mane has a distinctive appearance, it’s recommended that mushroom foraging novices seek the guidance of more experienced foragers and practice caution when harvesting and consuming any wild mushroom.
Find a trusted source for your lion’s mane
While harvesting wild lion’s mane is an option (if you do proper research on how to do so), you can also purchase it online in supplement form from a reputable supplier. It’s important to understand, however, that not all lion’s mane supplements are created equal.
Choose a company whose lion’s mane is wild harvested or organically cultivated, carefully extracted, and tested for contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, microbes, and gluten. Always check the ingredient label of a lion’s mane supplement before purchasing it. If it lists any ingredients like “mycelium on grain” or other fillers, it’s best to avoid it. Instead, seek a product that uses fruiting bodies, the part of the mushroom with the most healing compounds.
The bottom line
Whether you’re seeking a clearer, more focused mind, more inner peace and joy, or protection from some of the world’s most destructive diseases, lion’s mane is definitely a mushroom worthy of a spot in your supplement cabinet.
All referenced sources are linked in the blog.