Known in Latin as Hericium erinaceus, Lion’s Mane is an ancient mushroom native to North America, Europe and Asia. It’s sometimes referred to as Hedgehog Mushroom, Yamabushitake or Houtou. Unlike most mushroom species, which have spines that project from a branch, the spines of Hericium erinaceus project outward, giving it that unique look of a lion’s mane. These mushrooms grow on both living and dead broadleaf trees and are common in the late summer and fall months. Research shows that Lion’s Mane mushroom can benefit both mental and physical health.
Lion’s Mane Brain Benefits
Lion’s Mane has a long history of being used as a brain-boosting supplement. Every time you speak or make a movement or recall someone’s name, nerve impulses are transmitted lightning-fast through a long line of neurons. These neurons need good nutrition to do their jobs. A healthy brain is one in which neurons get the nutrition they need to thrive and can transmit nerve impulses quickly. Compounds called hericenones and erinacines, when extracted and isolated from Lion’s Mane, have qualities that help protect neurons and nerves as we age.
Let’s take a closer look at the brain research:
1) Lion’s Mane can help in supporting the health of nerve tissue known as Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Studies show that Lion’s Mane compounds can help promote the growth of nerve tissue and support motor function. These benefits are linked to increased production of NGF, helping to maintain the health of neurons in our brains.
2) Another study showed that compounds from Lion’s Mane may support nerve impulse transmission as well as support short and long-term memory. Interestingly, the same compounds were found to counter oxidative stress on the brain.
3) A Japan study showed that adults with mild memory problems associated with aging who were administered Lion’s Mane mushroom powder scored better on a test of brain function than those who did not take the extract. Their scores then worsened after ceasing the mushroom consumption.
Additional Health Benefits
Stress & Mood Support
Studies have shown that Lion’s Mane supports healthy neuron production in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates emotions. A small clinical trial out of Japan found that Lion’s Mane mushroom consumption found that Lion’s Mane supplementation was able to decrease anxiety while decreasing feelings of irritation and frustration.
Lion’s Mane also works by advancing the sleep-wake cycle and decreasing wakefulness during the active phase of sleep (REM). Lion’s Mane also has immune-modulating properties that help us deal with external stressors. This, in turn, helps us achieve more restful sleep.
Note: while helpful with sleep, it is best to use Lion’s Mane in the morning when you wake up. This helps to restore your biorhythm by keeping you alert and priming your brain for optimal function during your waking hours.