Lion’s Mane Mushrooms – If you’re into supplementation or regularly use sports nutrition blends, you’re likely familiar with medicinal mushrooms, often touted as powerful adaptogens and functional food. While medicinal mushrooms have steadily been gaining in popularity in the West over the last 10 + years, the medicinal use of mushrooms has a well-established history in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that dates back thousands of years, and in that time, science has identified a variety of unique bioactive compounds in fungi species, that each offers its own distinct benefits to health. Indeed, medicinal magic mushrooms have been used for everything from stress management, to enhancing immunity, promoting longevity, protecting heart health, stimulating brain function and energy, supporting weight management, and boosting athletic performance.
What is Lion’s Mane?
No two medicinal mushrooms are alike. Indeed, there are a wide variety of medicinal mushrooms available on the market – each with its distinct composition and health benefits. Among these, one mushroom stands out as a major Superfood – Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus), named after its characteristic long, shaggy spines reminiscent of a lion’s scruff.
Lion’s Mane offers a variety of health benefits – one of the most impressive of which is its nootropic abilities which allow it to stimulate the growth of brain cells, thus helping to improve cognitive ability, including better object recognition and recognition memory. Because of these observed benefits, researchers have concluded that Lion’s Mane may have the potential to treat cognitive impairment as seen in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Just as interestingly, research has shown that Lion’s Mane extract can help boost regeneration and speed recovery in instances of nervous system injury.
Beyond Brain Health – Other Lion’s Mane Benefits
Lion’s mane mushrooms have been studied in-depth in a range of therapeutic applications.
Lion’s Mane and Immunity
This unique mushroom is frequently used to boost immune function, most specifically by stimulating the intestinal immune system. In fact, research has demonstrated that Lion’s Mane supplementation encourages the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which, given that 70 to 80% of our immune system resides in the gut, naturally strengthens immunity.
Lion’s Mane and Stress
As a potent adaptogenic mushroom, Lion’s Mane offers powerful stress support and can help rebalance key neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin – which are implicated in a variety of mood-based symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, depression, anxiety, lack of focus, insomnia, and others. Research further tells us that Lion’s Mane can reduce the levels of inflammatory markers interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), which naturally increase in response to stress, thus enabling us to better manage stress and associated symptoms.
Lion’s Mane and Exercise Performance & Recovery
Last but certainly not least, Lion’s Mane is a staple of sports nutrition where it is used either in isolated form in complex pre-or post-workout blends thanks to its unique anti-fatigue properties. Lion’s Mane also increases tissue glycogen, our muscles’ energy stores, as well as antioxidant activity, which further supports exercise performance.
Athletes and the gym crowd also generally appreciate this mushroom’s ability to increase energy, improve focus and concentration, modulate inflammation, speed up recovery time, accelerate fat metabolism, reduce weight gain, and improve overall body composition.
What to Look for in a Lion’s Mane Supplement?
You can find Lion’s Mane supplements in liquid or powdered extract, as well as in capsule form both online and in your favorite vitamin store. Lion’s Mane gummies have also recently joined the scene, as has Lion’s Mane coffee, for that extra kick of mental and physical energy right when you need it. As mentioned above, Lion’s Mane can be purchased by itself, in isolated form, as well as in complex blends either for sports performance, immune support, stress management, as well as in memory, brain & cognitive health formulas along with other nootropics and herbs like ashwagandha, reishi, cordyceps, and ginkgo biloba.
You should ideally look for one that is 100% organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free, as well as one from a brand that does third-party testing to ensure your mushroom supplement is free from pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, and other environmental pollutants. This is key since mushrooms are extraordinary chelators, and will absorb anything and everything in the environment in which they grow. Third-party testing and certification ensure your product is 100% pure, effective, and safe.
When to take Lion’s mane, Dosing
Unlike certain other medicinal mushrooms that can be too stimulant, Lion’s Mane supplements can pretty much be taken at any time of day, whether first thing in the morning, right before or after a workout, and even before bed thanks to its anti-stress, and anti-anxiety properties. Indeed, Lion’s Mane before bed can promote relaxation and a healthy night’s sleep. A word of caution, however – medicinal mushrooms can cause digestive upset, especially when you’re just starting out, so it’s always best to take your supplement with a meal, or a solid snack.
Lion’s Mane supplements are typically recommended in a dosing range between 300-3,000 mg, one to three times daily. The appropriate dose for you will be a function of the reason why you’re using it. If you’re wanting to take high doses, speak to a qualified health care provider for case-specific advice on dosing your Lion’s Mane.
Lion’s Mane is generally well-tolerated even taken in higher doses (as high as 2.3 g per pound of body weight) over an extended period. The only rare side effects reported with the use of Lion’s Mane are breathing difficulty and skin rashes as a result of an allergy.
Roos Jonsin is a Canadian naturopath and researcher dedicated to helping people live healthier lives through education about vitamins, herbs, and nutritional supplements. Roos also consults with suppliers and manufacturers with product development and marketing. National Nutrition is Canada’s leading health & nutritional supplements store, also voted as the Best Health Food Store in Canada by the experts at Canadian Health Food Association.