What is Lion’s Mane Mushroom?
Lion’s Mane, also known as Hericium Erinaceus, Yamabushitake or Satyr’s beard is a Nootropic mushroom that is native to North America, China, Japan and Europe. The use of this mushroom dates back centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, where it was historically recognized to have some value on brain function and was said to both give you “nerves of steel and a memory of a Lion”.
Records indicate that Lion’s Mane was traditionally used as both a general tonic and to treat several health conditions. It was most commonly prescribed by ancient practitioners to treat digestive problems and what we now characterize as nervous system disorders.
Interestingly, it is believed that Buddhist Monks used this mushroom for centuries in the form of tea to boost brain power and enhance their ability to concentrate while meditating.
Modern science has helped us understand the value of Lion’s Mane Mushroom. It has been discovered to contain hericenones and erinacines, two unique compounds that are considered to be the most potent, nature-derived stimulators of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).
NGF is a protein secreted in the brain that is essential to the growth, repair and survival of neurons, making it a crucial factor in optimal brain function and linked to neuroplasticity. The discovery of this important protein in the 1950s by Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen led them to receive a joint Nobel Prize in 1986.
The interest in Lion’s Mane Mushroom as a Nootropic lies in its unique method of action and effects. This supplement increases NGF levels in the brain, which has the potential to not only support cognition but may help to protect against cognitive dysfunction and age-related memory loss.
Additionally, Lion’s Mane Mushroom contains up to 30 active ingredients including beta-glucan, polypeptides and polysaccharides which may have a positive effect on supporting the immune system, the heart and possibly inhibiting the growth of certain cancers.
Let’s examine the benefits and effects associated with Lion’s Mane Mushroom supplement, potential side effects and dosage guidelines.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Effects
The main Nootropic action of Lion’s Mane lays in two of its main active ingredients, Hericenones and Erinacines that stimulate synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor or NGF, a protein-like molecule thought to support the growth of new neurons and nerves, the development of connections between neurons and their survival rate.
Studies suggest that NGF also works throughout the body promoting optimal functioning of organisms and maintaining stability in the internal environment as a defense to external changes.
NGF supports nerve myelination. Myelin is a fatty layer that wraps around the axon of your nerve cells to provide insulation. The healthy accumulation of myelin is known to enhance the efficiency, speed and maintenance of electrical signals sent through the axon by preventing the impulse from leaving it.
Since the brain highly consists of nerve cells, this may help speed up the processing and transmission of information which may facilitate memory recall and increase the speed to which we form thoughts.
In addition, the encouragement of healthy myelination may lead to preserving neurons from the damage of age and even possibly repairing damaged axons that help maintain healthy cognitive function.
Since damage to the myelin sheath is thought to promote the build-up of amyloid-beta fibrils that lead to plaque deposits in the brain, a problem highly associated with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Lion’s Mane supplement may be a potentially useful tool in its treatment in the future.
Additionally, Erinacines found in Lion’s Mane are thought to work by crossing the blood-brain barrier and stimulating the development of new neurons (nerve cells in your brain) and the growth of synapses or junctions used by neurons to communicate.
It is estimated that we have approximately 100 billion neurons and trillions of connections in the brain, that receive, process and transmit information via signals that somehow make up our “thoughts”.
The possibility of generating new neurons is linked to the discovery of the effects of NGF, which is now known to be able to continue the development of the neural network which once was believed to come to an end after the first two years our lives.
This is a very important factor since the idea of fluid intelligence is largely based on the number of neuronal connections in the brain, which get lost as we age and the theory of neuroplasticity or the brain’s ability to form new neural connections, learn and reorganize itself as we get older.
Finally, Lion’s Mane seems to be associated with reducing anxiety and depression through its biological activities. A study conducted over a 4 week period on a group of 30 women stating symptoms of menopause, depression and reduced sleep quality were given hericium Erinaceus cookies which resulted in lowering problems with concentration, feelings of irritability and agitation compared to placebo.
Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s Mane Mushroom is a natural supplement that is suggested to have many positive effects on improving overall brain function, promoting brain health and enhancing cognition such as memory and recall.
In a placebo-controlled clinical trial, individual ages 50-80 diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment were given 250 mg tablets of Lion’s Mane extract 3 times daily for 16 weeks. The result of this trial showed significantly higher scores on cognitive function compared to the placebo group, with no adverse side effects. After 4 weeks of termination, their scores decreased significantly, suggesting Lion’s Mane Mushroom is effective at improving mild cognitive impairment.
One of the most hopeful benefits of Lion’s Mane is its potential to improve nerve disorders. Multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia all have nerve deficiencies at their core.
In addition, Lion’s mane is thought to stimulate proteins called interferons that are known to elevate white blood cell counts. Interferons help cells to raise their anti-viral defenses, supporting the body’s healing process.
In fact, this includes reducing general inflammation in the body, boosting the function of stomach mucus barriers and helping to speed up the healing of ulcers. This may explain why this medicinal mushroom was reportedly used in traditional medicine for digestive problems and continues to be used in China to help in the treatment of stomach cancers.
Finally, Lion’s Mane supplement is thought to support in the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It has shown no signs of toxicity or adverse side effects in scientific research.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Side Effects
Thus far Lion’s Mane Mushroom is considered to be a safe supplement with few reported side effects. Additionally, there are no reported interactions with medications or reported toxicity levels but it is always recommended to consult with your doctor first before using new supplements.
Although in tests on mice, Lion’s Mane has shown no signs of toxicity, even at dosages up 5 g/kg, it is recommended to stay within the appropriate dosage guidelines.
Lion’s Mane Dosage Guidelines and How to Use
The recommended dosage of Lion’s Mane Mushroom is difficult to determine since it can depend on the strength of the extract. Additionally, there is no official recommended dosage available since the few human studies that were conducted administered very high doses (1,000 mg- 3,000 mg per day) to test toxicity.
What is most commonly available is 10:1 extract (30% polysaccharide) with the typical daily dosage ranging between 500 mg-1,000 mg which can be divided up once to three times per day.
For new users of Lion’s Mane, it is recommended to start at the lower but still effective range of the daily dosage, 300 mg-500 mg, taken once per day until you are more familiar with the effects before raising the dosage or frequency.
It is good to note that Lion’s Mane does not produce immediate effects and may take time (weeks to months) before realizing all the benefits of this supplement.
For more immediate cognitive boosts, you can stack Lion’s mane (or take it in combination) with more fast acting Nootropics such as those from the Racetam family, Aniracetam, Pramiracetam, Oxiracetam or others but add a good source of choline in addition to this stack to ensure the availability of choline is there to produce Acetylcholine in order to avoid the potential risk of headaches.
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