Lion’s Mane Mushroom: 3 Supplement Brands Worth Trying
Mushrooms have existed for millions of years and used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until recently that the numerous medicinal properties of some types of mushrooms were scientifically confirmed and their health benefits unearthed.
One of the most valued medicinal mushrooms is lion’s mane mushroom, which is scientifically known as Hericium Erinaceus. This edible mushroom natively grows in North America, Europe and Asia.
Several recent studies have revealed that lion’s mane mushroom possesses several medicinal effects making it a considerable tool in combating certain health problems and disorders, and supporting overall mental and physical well-being.
Facts About Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane mushroom contains many bioactive compounds including erinacines, hericenones, hericerins, alkaloids, resorcinols, steroids and lactones.
It is rich in polysaccharides, especially beta-glucans, which are believed to have medicinal activities including antioxidant, immunomodulatory, neuroprotective, neuroregenerative, hypolipidemic, anti-cancer, anti-gastric ulcer, anti-fatigue and anti-aging.
Both the fruiting body and the mycelium (root-like structure of mushrooms) have been shown to contain bioactive compounds that have pharmacological effects. Many dietary supplements include extracts from the mycelium of lion’s mane, which is easier to produce, however, the fruiting body does have a higher medicinal value.
The optimal dosage of lion’s mane mushroom has not been established due to lack of human studies. The generally recommended dosage ranges from 500mg to 1000mg of the extract taken up to three times a day, preferably with a meal.
If you are interested in learning more about the biological activities and potential therapeutic benefits of lion’s mane mushroom (hericium erinaceus), then check out the following scientific review [PDF].
Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Some of the scientifically confirmed benefits of lion’s mane mushroom include:
- May protect against cognitive decline and memory disorders, like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- May improve immune function.
- May reduce anxiety and depression.
- May protect against some types of cancer and fight tumor growth.
- May lower blood sugar levels and alleviate diabetic neuropathy.
Please keep in mind that the suggested uses and benefits of this mushroom are mostly based on preliminary studies that showed promising results. To date, lion’s mane has not been proven as an effective treatment for any disease or disorder.
If you are a generally healthy person then this supplement may be of little or no benefit to you. It is not likely to have any significant effect on memory or cognitive function in healthy individuals.
Mycelium vs. Fruiting Body
Most people recognize mushrooms by their unique shape, which looks like, well, a mushroom! The most distinguished above-ground part of the mushroom is its fruiting body, which often looks like a cap with gills on the underside, or, in the case of lion’s mane, a clump of dangling spines with a pale white or yellowish color.
The fruiting body develops during late stages of the mushroom’s life cycle and it contains the spores (seeds). There is another important part of the mushroom that mostly grows underground, and it is called mycelium (plural: mycelia).
Mycelium develops during early stages of the life cycle after the spores germinate. It grows into a network of fine, thread-like hyphae or filaments that act as the roots of the fungus. Mycelium contains enzymes and other compounds that help decompose organic matter and absorb nutrients from the growing medium.
Many manufacturers harvest the mushroom while it is still in the mycelial growth phase before it actually develops into a mature fruiting body. This is done for the sake of efficacy as it is a faster and less costly process.
Products made from the fruiting bodies of the mushroom (in addition to other parts) or their extracts are believed to have a higher nutritional and therapeutic value as opposed to those made from mycelial cultures. Nevertheless, both have been shown to contain bioactive compounds with potential health benefits.
For example, studies show that lion’s mane mycelium contains natural compounds called erinacines, which stimulate nerve growth factor synthesis and possess neuroprotective properties.
Before You Buy
You may have heard many claims and rave reviews about the benefits of this mushroom for mental clarity, memory, cognition, etc., but please keep in mind that this is a food supplement not a quick fix drug.
It is not likely that you will notice any significant positive changes, if any, after taking lion’s mane mushroom for a few weeks or months. Yes, it can potentially improve brain health and function, just like many other brain-healthy foods — for example, oily fish, blueberries, olive oil and avocados have all been shown to improve mental health and function, so what difference do you feel after having any of these? In the short run, not much! That’s pretty much the same effect you’ll get from lion’s mane mushroom and most other dietary supplements.
If you are looking for a quick mental or memory boost, then don’t waste your money because you won’t get that! You’re better off sticking with coffee or a caffeine + theanine supplement. But if you are looking for a supplement with potential long-term mental enhancement and neuroprotective benefits, then lion’s mane mushroom is worth adding to your dietary arsenal.
Best Brands of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplements
You can find this mushroom in most nutrition stores (locally and online) in raw powder form or as a standardized extract. Most people opt for capsule formulas, but if you’d like to mix it with coffee, tea or another drink (it doesn’t really taste good!) then go with the powder.
The following are two of the best, high quality lion’s mane mushroom supplements I’d recommend:
1Real Mushrooms is a Canadian company that specializes in manufacturing organic mushroom extracts made from fruiting bodies. They sell lion’s mane extract in capsules ($29.95 for 120 capsules) and powder ($29.95 for 60 grams).
2Lion’s Mane Plus by Oregon’s Wild Harvest contains a blend of organic lion’s mane mushroom (mycelium and fruiting body), organic ginkgo biloba leaf extract, and a few essential vitamins. One bottle costs $24.62 and contains 60 gelatin capsules.