Last Updated: April 20, 2014
Lions mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is a medicinal mushroom and powerful superfood adaptogen for the brain, nerves and immune system.
The mushroom looks quite different than other mushroom varieties. Instead of caps and stems they grow in globular masses and have long flowing white spines or are a rusty-cream color at the end of their growth cycle.
It gets its name from these cascading tendrils that somewhat resemble the mane of a lion. This particular species is a parasitic fungus that grows hanging off of logs and trees, also referred to as hedgehog or bearded tooth mushroom.
In Japan, it is called yamabushitake or "those who sleep in mountains", referring to the Shugendo sect of "hermit monks" and their long flowing garments.
Among all the medicinal mushrooms we list on this site, Hericium erinaceus is the top super mushroom for the brain and nervous system, hands down.
Unlike any other food substance known, the mushroom has been found to be extremely effective at inducing what is referred to as "nerve growth factor" or NGF in the brain.
We personally consider lion's mane the perfect superfood for those who have experienced seizures because of its ability to elicit nerve regeneration. In such instances, it can be potentially healing to the brain after damage caused from nerve cell injury.
It is important, however, to seek the advice of your medical physician before taking lions mane mushroom as a dietary supplement if you've had any type of seizure or have been diagnosed with some form of epilepsy.
Lions mane, like other medicinal mushrooms, contains high amounts of antioxidants, beta-glucan polysaccharides and other anti-inflammatory compounds that are made available when the mushroom is heated or prepared as a powdered hot water extract. These health components are powerful immuno-modulators that support "deep immune health" and are currently being research for their effects at decreasing tumor growth. (*)
Other specific active ingredients in the mushroom include the Hericium erinaceus species-specific constituents such as erinacines, hericenones and hericerins in addition to other secondary metabolites like other resorcinols, steroids, mono- and diterpenes.
Consistent use of lions mane, taken in concentrated doses as a supplement, is potent nourishment for nerve regeneration and has been shown in research to help improve memory and increase mild impaired cognitive function. (*)
In some of the first studies conducted in Japan in the 1990's, by Dr. Hirokazu Kawagishi, it was discovered that the mushroom stimulates the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), a protein that encourages neuron growth and development.
Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a neuropeptide that acts as a neurotrophin, chemicals that help to stimulate and control neurogenesis or the growth of new neurons. NGF essentially plays a key role in the maintenance, survival and regeneration of neurons or nerve cells.
NGF gene therapy has been studied as a potential treatment for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's. (*)
Lions mane mushroom has been shown to be exceptionally active in stimulating
the synthesis of nerve growth factor, containing the two unique
compounds: hericenones and erinacines.
erinacines constituent, which is especially potent in the mushroom mycelium, is one of the most
powerful NGF inducers of all natural compounds. It has been shown to promote the production of new
neurons within the brain itself, particularly the hippocampus region. (*)
In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms it states, " In conclusion, the aqueous extract of H. erinaceus contained neuroactive compounds which induced NGF-synthesis and promoted neurite outgrowth in NG108-15 cells."
The mushroom was proven effective for its ability to efficiently stimulate neuron growth that may be helpful for repairing neurological trauma in stroke victims, particularly ischemic stroke. In one study, it was concluded that "H. erinaceus offers neuroprotective effects
after ischemic brain injury and has the ability to scavenge free
radicals, this being related to endoplasmic reticulum stress signaling." (*)
In addition, other research on mice indicates that "H. erinaceus prevented impairments of spatial short-term and visual recognition memory induced by amyloid β(25-35) peptide." (*)
Amyloid plaques form when pieces of beta-amyloid proteins (from fatty membranes around nerve cells) clump together. These smaller sticky proteins can build up and block the neurotransmission or the signals between cells as well as trigger an inflamed condition. This process is believed to play a role in Alzheimer's and various other neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson's.
In the previously mentioned 2016 study entitled "Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease-related pathologies", lion's mane was shown to reduce "cortical and hippocampal amyloid plaque burden."
We have come across some herbalists using lions mane, along with cordyceps mushroom and a host of other herbs, like astragalus, for the natural treatment of Lyme's disease.
One such person is Stephen Buhner author of "Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections."
The recommend dosage for Lyme's disease is:
Lion’s mane tincture - ½ tsp 3 x daily
More research is underway about lions mane and its effectiveness as a treatment for helping to eliminate the spirochaete bacteria from the brain and spinal cord. This treatment of course goes along with an implemented herbal regime for the immune system.
Lions mane and its nootropic properties as a cognitive enhancer have been known to boost mood and lessen anxiety in healthy individuals.
In one 4-week study conducted on women who consumed cookies baked with a powdered lions mane extract, results identified the mushrooms potential at reducing depression and anxiety in subjects tested. (*)
The neurotrophic NGF stimulating effects of concentrated lions mane mushroom extracts also appears to promote myelin repair (*) and could also be helpful for various psychiatric disorders, including depression.
If you are an individual diagnosed with clinic depression, it is however important to seek medical advice before pursuing self-treatment.
Lion's mane can be helpful for problems of the digestive tract such as stomach and duodenal ulcers, as well as for cancers of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.
The Chinese, who have been using the mushroom for hundreds of years, particularly value its benefits for various stomach ailments, including ulcers and gastritis.
Gastritis is an inflammatory condition and irritation of the stomach
lining. Hericium erinaceus is known to act as an anti-bacterial compound against
the Helicobacter pylori bacteria linked to gastritis and related ulcerative disorders.
Interestingly, the mushroom extract is approved by the Chinese Ministry of Health for chronic superficial gastritis treatment.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is considered good for five of the internal organs as well as for its benefits at activating digestive functions.
As a digestive tonic, its effects are believed to be due to the present of beta-glucan polysaccharides, along with polypeptides and fatty acids. These substances also enhance the function of the gastric mucus barrier, important for a healthy colon and digestive tract.
has shown that these H. erinaceus polysaccharides, along with adenosine and
oleanolic acids, stimulate the induction of interferons and modulation
of the immune system, helpful for healing stomach related health issues.
Like all medicinal mushrooms, lion's mane needs to be heat processed to make its compounds bioavailable to humans. Commercial brands therefore either "activate" mycelium through steam processing or employ hot water extraction techniques on the fruiting body.
The best and most therapeutically effective way to use this mushroom is as a concentrated dietary supplement and there are many company's these days offering a variety of quality organic mushroom products.
Lion's mane is available as a bulk powder, encapsulated powder or less frequently as a liquid solution.
We recommend full spectrum powders or brands that include both the mycelium (the potent white thread-like biomass) as well as the fruiting body of the mushroom itself.
Freshly harvested or dried mushrooms can be steamed, prepared in soups and stews or as a tea decoction. They have a mild seafood like flavor resembling lobster or shrimp.
This species is in fact quite common as a culinary mushroom and popular in French cuisine as a gourmet delicacy called "pom pom du blanc."