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11 Medicinal Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushroom

Mushrooms are a great source of nutrients and other chemicals that promote health and longevity. Today, more than 2,000 different species have been identified as edible and medicinal. There are many species of Hericium being discovered; H. erinaceus (lion's mane mushroom) is the commonly used species in China, Japan, Korea, and India for medicinal and culinary purposes.

The fruiting of H. erinaceus can occur during springtime but is much more common in the fall. These fungi are identified by their distinct succulent and strand-like growths. These saprophytic fungi are found in the northeast, growing on decaying trees such as maple and birch. It is common practice to cultivate these mushrooms on sterilized sawdust bags or on logs with dowels that contain the mycelium.

H. erinaceus has been used to:

  • promote the growth of neurons

  • provide support to the immune system

  • fight against depression and anxiety

  • accelerate the wound healing process

This medicinal activity is facilitated by many bioactive compounds found in the fruiting bodies and mycelium, including erinacines, aromatic compounds, steroids, alkaloids, and lactones (6).

1. Good source of vitamin D and vitamin B12

Sterol-containing lion's mane converts ergosterol to vitamin D upon UV light exposure (7). Hypovitaminosis D is a common deficiency today, affecting about 41.6% of the world’s population (9). Vitamin D deficiency is common among those that are obese and demonstrate poor health eminence. Untreated vitamin D deficiency can result in bone disorders that can cause severe pain. Common examples are rickets and osteomalacia. This is the weakening and softening of bones that make the bones susceptible to fractures and breakages. Implementing H. erinaceus into a diet can increase vitamin D levels and maintain bone strength due to the presence of sterols.

Vitamin B12 intake is necessary to prevent anemia and potential nervous system damage. People who follow a vegan diet are more likely to develop anemia from a deficiency in vitamin B12. This vitamin is found in eggs and dairy; therefore, those who avoid these food items must take supplemental B12 in order to prevent ailments caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. H. erinaceus has been found to contain inactive vitamin B12 lactones, which can potentially generate active versions of the B12 vitamin (7). Supplementing H. erinaceus can help vegans prevent anemia and damage to the nervous system.

2. Immune-enhancing polysaccharides

Polysaccharides found in H. erinaceus have been shown to regulate the immune system, as measured by cell-mediated immunity, humoral (body fluid) immunity, and macrophage phagocytoses in mice (1). It is evident that consumption of H. erinaceus polysaccharides promotes immune system function.

H. erinaceus has also been found to increase the production of secretory IgA (immunoglobulin A), which is essential in immune health since it blocks access of pathogens to the epithelial receptors (1). Secretory IgA (SIgA) protects the intestinal epithelium from toxins and pathogenic microorganisms (2). SIgA encourages the cleansing of pathogenic microorganisms from the intestine by blocking the access of these pathogens to the epithelial receptors (2). Essentially, lion's mane polysaccharides are effective in promoting immune health through regulating immune activities that include the use of SIgA, which is essential in protecting the epithelium from pathogens and toxic compounds.

3. Antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties & helps with focus

H. erinaceus intake has been shown to fight against depression and anxiety. A test on 30 women was conducted using the Kupperman Menopausal Index, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and the Indefinite Complaints Index in order to determine the effectiveness of lion's mane mushroom on menopause, depression, and sleep quality (3). Each woman in this group of 30 were either given a placebo cookie or a cookie containing the lion's mane for 4 weeks (3). Women who had been consuming the cookie containing the lion's mane mushroom were found to be more focused and less anxious, as compared to the women consuming the placebo cookie (3). These results show that anxiety and depression are greatly reduced with the intake of lion's mane. Women who were given the placebo showed no change in emotion or sleep quality, supporting the use of dietary lion's mane as an antidepressant and anxiolytic aide.

4. Promotes myelination and neuronal survival, which protects against dementia and autoimmunity

The inclusion of H. erinaceus in diets improves memory, reduces hyperactivity, prevents cognitive impairments, and promotes nerve factor growth. Hericerins and erinacines contained in lions mane mushroom have been shown to promote health in the nervous system.

  • Hericerins are aromatic compounds with medicinal properties found in the fruiting body of lion's mane (6).

  • Erinacines are diterpenoids with demonstrated neuroprotective properties (6). Erinacines A, B, and C were shown to promote nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis and growth activity in neurons (7). Erinacines decrease the production of lactate dehydrogenase and promote NGF in subjects, which can protect CNS neurons and help reduce the possibility of developing dementia. Lion's mane can be used to prevent or reduce the rate of dementia.

H. erinaceus promotes mental health by increasing brain levels of NGF. This neurotrophic factor is an essential protein required for the development and protection of neurons in the central nervous system (CNS). NGF promotes neuronal survival, supports axonal outgrowth, and improves brain health by producing myelination. Myelination is necessary for brain development since myelin ensures even electrical signal propagation in neurons, while also coating and guarding against other forces that can negatively affect neurons (4). Without neuroprotective factors, neurons can deteriorate, resulting in dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. If myelination does not occur frequently, or if demyelination occurs, neurodegenerative autoimmune diseases can result.

H. erinaceus can help protect against these diseases or delay their detrimental effects if a subject is already diagnosed. Therefore, it is recommended that patients who are battling neurodegenerative autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis, or neuromyelitis optica include myelination-promoting supplements to their diet in order to encourage the growth of the myelin sheaths that protect these nerves. As indicated, lion's mane is a good approach to improving myelination in the brain.

50-80 Japanese men and women that were diagnosed with cognitive impairment were given an oral dose of H. erinaceus in order to determine the efficacy of the fungi in improving cognitive impairment (5). 30 subjects were separated into two groups of 15; one group received a placebo while the other group received the lion's mane mushroom. After eight weeks, the subjects consuming the lion's mane had increased scores on the cognitive function scale, while the placebo group showed no difference in cognitive function (5). This trial showed that lion's mane is an effective agent in refining minor cognitive impairment. Although this cannot cure many cognitive impairments, it can help improve lesser impairments.

5. Reduces fatigue, promotes energy balance, and enhances muscle recovery

Lion's mane has shown to pro