Brain Health

Discover The Memory-Boosting Secret of Lion's Mane Mushroom Capsules

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Discover The Memory-Boosting Secret of Lion's Mane Mushroom Capsules about undefined

This slippery, "bearded" mushroom may hold the secret to a brain that outperforms to the centenarian mark and beyond. And fear not... if you despise the texture of mushrooms, you can gain its incredible benefits by taking it as a pre-measured mushroom capsule. Simple -- and simply delightful for your brain.

Key Takeaways

  • Lion's mane has been nicknamed "the brain mushroom" and has been consumed as food or used as mushroom capsules in traditional medicine for thousands of years.
  • Modern research is confirming what Chinese medicine has long claimed -- that Lion's mane mushrooms support brain health, sharpen memory, and improve cognitive function.
  • Many studies show that lion’s mane increases nerve growth factor, which can support a healthy, happy mood and promote longevity.

What is Lion's Mane Mushroom?

Lion's Mane mushroom, scientifically known as Hericium erinaceus, is an edible and medicinal mushroom. It's identified by its strange appearance, with its long, shaggy, white or cream-colored spines that resemble a lion's mane, hence its name.

Lion's mane is known by other names too -- tree hedgehog, bearded tooth, monkeyhead. And it looks something like a pom-pom.

Lion's mane mushroom capsules could keep your brain sharp as a tack for a long life, boost nerve growth, protect myelin sheaths, and help you excel in your daily activities no matter your age.

Lion's Mane Mushroom's Long History in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Chinese culture, Lion's mane mushrooms or mushroom capsules are considered the "elixir of life," and they're enjoyed as part of a daily diet.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a system of medical care that extends back thousands of years in China. It uses holistic modalities, including herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, diet, exercise (like Qigong and Tai Chi), and lifestyle practices.

Lion's Mane mushrooms have a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its potential health benefits. These mushrooms contain various bioactive beneficial compounds, including polysaccharides, hericenones, and erinacines, which are believed to contribute to its medicinal properties.

Lion's Mane Mushroom -- What are the Benefits?

Lion's mane mushroom boasts some pretty incredible benefits -- and they stand as a category of one for their ability to nourish multiple organs including the liver, heart, lungs, kidney, spleen, and yes, even the brain. A recent review described the whole mushroom as a veritable all-around preventive claiming it's "antioxidant, anti-virus, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulating, anti-microbial, and anti-diabetic."

As if that weren't enough, numerous laboratory studies show that the bioactive compounds in Lion's mane mushroom also help strengthen digestive health, support your heart, boost your immune system and even ward off illnesses associated with aging.

Cognitive Function -- Increases Brain Power

Lion's mane mushroom offers multiple benefits for the brain. And when added together, it makes a pretty astounding package. These benefits include:

  • Protecting brain cells from breaking down and disintegrating with age.
  • Protecting against cognitive decline caused by amyloid beta, the sticky plaque associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease.
  • Enhancing myelin sheath production -- the sheath that protects the nerves and allows healthy brain function.
  • Improving memory and cognition.
  • Promoting new brain cell growth.

Improves Memory and Thinking

In 2023 a study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, researchers tested a compound from Lion's mane called NDPIH. It's found in the hippocampus area of the brain and is responsible for memory and learning. You'd be amazed what they found! Exposing brain cells to NDPIH caused them to DOUBLE brain cell growth compared to untreated cells. What's more, the neurons grew stronger and formed more connections to enhance memory even further.[1]

In another study, a double-blind placebo-controlled study on Lion's mane mushroom found that adults over age 50 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) -- a frequent precursor to Alzheimer's disease -- experienced startling improvements in memory, as well as scoring higher on all memory and thinking tests.

Another test showed improvements in independent living activities such as walking, dressing and eating in all seven Alzheimer's patients who took Lion's mane supplements.

But the benefits help young adults too... not just the over-50 crowd. Jam-packed schedules, stress, social media, and a load of heavy expectations can pull you in a hundred directions per hour.

That's why researchers wanted to find out if Lion's mane mushrooms could help healthy young adults ages 18 to 45. They gave young adults both a single acute dose and chronic dose (over 28 days) of Lion's mane mushroom capsules. One hour after the acute dose, participants performed the Stroop test considerably faster and experienced less stress.[5] By the way, the Stroop test, also known as the Stroop Color and Word Test, is a psychological assessment used to measure cognitive flexibility, attention, and processing speed. It was first introduced by John Ridley Stroop in 1935.

As another example, neurobiologist Rita Levi-Montalcini played a key role in the discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF), for which she won the Nobel prize at the ripe old age of 77. She went on to live to 103 -- still involved in research till the very end of her life. The brain uses NGF to build nerve networks in the brain. However, NGF production drops as you age, which is a potential reason for cognitive decline. Boosting NGF should boost new brain cell production and improve communication, function, and life expectancy of existing cells.

Unfortunately, you can't take NGF by mouth because it doesn't pass through the blood-brain barrier. Fortunately, there's a work-around. You can give your body the raw materials it needs to make more NGF -- through the beneficial compounds found in Lion's mane mushroom.

Lion's mane authority Dr. Hirokazu Kawagishi of Shizoka University in Japan, discovered the beneficial compounds hericenones and erinacines in Lion's mane, which do pass through the blood-brain barrier and boost NGF 5-fold in cell cultures.[2]

Enhances Mood

In the mood category, a study of 30 postmenopausal women found those taking Lion’s mane mushroom supplement capsules were less anxious and depressed, enjoyed improved concentration, and felt better about life. The improvements were only seen in the lion's mane group and not in the placebo-controlled group.

An abstract in the Journal of Molecular Science in 2020 highlighted three ways in which Lion's mane can support a happy mood:[3]

  • Ensuring the presence of sufficient neurotransmitters
  • Reducing the loss of nerve growth brought on by stress
  • Minimizing brain inflammation

Research shows that people with major depressive disorder may not have as much nerve growth factor as non-depressed people, says a 2015 meta-analysis in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. [3]Nerve growth factor supports important aspects of mood regulation.

Furthermore, research shows that people living with major depressive disorder may have lower nerve growth factor than non-depressed people, according to a 2015 meta-analysis in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.[4] Nerve growth factor helps nerve cells specialize, grow and remain healthy, which are important aspects of mood regulation.

Many studies show that lion’s mane increases nerve growth factor.

Fortifies Gut Health for Better Digestion

Peptic ulcers and chronic inflammation due to the colonization of h. pylori within the digestive tract are a significant health problem around the world. One study showed that pre-treatment with Lion's mane protected the gastric mucosa, which plays a key role in protecting the GI tract against bacteria, and can encourage diversity within the GI tract.

How To Use Lion's Mane

There are many ways to use Lion's mane -- as a fresh food, powder for coffee, tea, or recipes, or as a supplement.

Eating the Mushroom as Food

Lion's mane is a versatile food in the kitchen. You can even make a "vegetarian" version of "crab cakes" with them, as they have a similar flavor. Or make lion's mane into tea, or a thick comforting soup.

Adding one or two cups of lion's mane mushrooms daily into meals is considered beneficial. It's a good idea to verify the source of your mushrooms to ensure highest quality.

Supplementing with Mushroom Capsules

If you prefer an easier approach, capsules are the way to go. They travel anywhere, no prep needed. Plus, they're a measured, consistent dose of Lion's mane that give you the brain boost and support you're looking for.

If you choose a supplement, here are a couple other things you should know... Mushrooms are made up of two parts: the mycelium and the fruiting body.

The mycelium is the network of roots that crawl along underground. The fruiting body is the part you see -- the stem and the top. There's ongoing debate over what the healthiest part of the Lion's mane mushroom is, but most of the research seems to point to the fruiting body. The fruiting body is where the beta glucans, the beneficial part of the mushroom, lives.

Why You Want Polysaccharides in Your Lion's Mane Supplement

A strong and well-known Lion's mane component is polysaccharides. Saccharides are chains of sugars containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. The prefix shows how many saccharides are linked together -- in this case, "poly-" means many. Beta-glucans are one type of polysaccharide -- a type known for their potent immune qualities. They promote bacterial diversity, a healthy weight, and a robust immune system.

The Lion's mane extract used Green Valley Natural's brain health supplement called Maximum Memory Support uses an extract of 30 percent polysaccharides of the fruiting bodies, which is a powerful extract.

Safety

Most people tolerate Lion's mane mushroom supplements -- unless they have a sensitivity to mushrooms.

Some people may have minor gastric upset at the beginning of supplementing with Lion's mane. Start slow and build up to check your tolerance.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Lion's mane as studies don't know the effects in this population. If you're scheduled for surgery or have a bleeding disorder, speak with your doctor before consuming Lion's mane supplements. In both of these cases, eating lion's mane in your food would be preferable.

Also, while you can forage for Lion's mane mushrooms in the wild, you should probably avoid doing this unless you're very experienced in this and know you're not going to misidentify the mushroom and mistakenly consume a mushroom that could be toxic or even deadly.

Summary

Lion's Mane mushroom, known scientifically as Hericium erinaceus, is an edible and medicinal mushroom with a unique, bearded appearance. This mushroom has been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, often called the "elixir of life." Modern research supports its reputation, highlighting its potential to improve brain health, memory, and cognitive function. You can eat lion's mane mushrooms with meals or you can supplement with lion's mane mushroom capsules.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does lion's mane do for you?

Lion's mane supplements support your brain and cognition by increasing nerve growth factor (NGF) for faster brain processing and less stress. In addition, lion's mane helps protect your GI tract from harm and supports optimal blood sugar uptake.

Does lion's mane have any negative side effects?

Lion's mane mushroom can cause a rash or mild stomach upset in individuals who are allergic to it or to other mushrooms.

Who should avoid lion's mane?

Avoid lion's mane if you're allergic to mushrooms. Also, if you suffer from a bleeding disorder you should take extra care using lion's mane mushroom capsules and speak with your doctor about any risks.

Can lion's mane give you energy?

Lion's mane has polysaccharides that help combat fatigue and optimize brain function and a happier mood. However, it's not a stimulant like caffeine is.

Should I take lion's mane in the morning or at night?

The study that showed potent cognition improvements in just one hour after taking lion's mane suggests that you might get the biggest bang for your buck taking lion's mane in the morning. It could help your brain's processing speed and let you be your best for all your day's tasks.

However, lion's mane can also be an adaptogenic substance that can contribute to a sound and restful sleep. So, you could consider taking a split dose -- once in the morning and once at night to gain both benefits.

  1. Martínez-Mármol, R., Chai, Y., Conroy, J. N., Khan, Z., Hong, S.-M., Kim, S. B., Gormal, R. S., Lee, D. H., Lee, J. K., Coulson, E. J., Lee, M. K., Kim, S. Y., & Meunier, F. A. (2023). Hericerin derivatives activates a pan-neurotrophic pathway in central hippocampal neurons converging to ERK1/2 signaling enhancing spatial memory. Journal of Neurochemistry, 165, 791–808. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36660878/
  2. Mori K, Obara Y, Hirota M, Azumi Y, Kinugasa S, Inatomi S, Nakahata N. Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 Sep;31(9):1727-32. doi: 10.1248/bpb.31.1727. PMID: 18758067. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18758067/
  3. Chong PS, Fung ML, Wong KH, Lim LW. Therapeutic Potential of Hericium erinaceus for Depressive Disorder. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2020;21(1):163. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18758067/
  4. Chen YW, Lin PY, Tu KY, Cheng YS, Wu CK, Tseng PT. Significantly lower nerve growth factor levels in patients with major depressive disorder than in healthy subjects: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2015 Apr 1;11:925-33. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S81432. PMID: 25897228; PMCID: PMC4389916. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25897228/
  5. Docherty S, Doughty FL, Smith EF. The Acute and Chronic Effects of Lion's Mane Mushroom Supplementation on Cognitive Function, Stress and Mood in Young Adults: A Double-Blind, Parallel Groups, Pilot Study. Nutrients. 2023 Nov 20;15(22):4842. doi: 10.3390/nu15224842. PMID: 38004235; PMCID: PMC10675414. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38004235/

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