Lion's mane is an unusual-looking medicinal mushroom that has long white or cream-coloured dangling spines. It is native to parts of Asia, North America and Europe, where it commonly grows on dead or decaying hardwood trees, particularly American beech and birch. Lion's mane is considered to be a culinary delicacy, while its rare nutritional compounds make it a medicinal mushroom that has nourishing, immune-strengthening and anti-inflammatory qualities.
The History of Lion's Mane Mushroom
The many health benefits of lion's mane have made it a highly-prized polypore that has been celebrated around the world for thousands of years. In Japan it is called Yamabushi, after the Yamabushi sect of Buddhist mountain hermits and monks who are believed to possess supernatural powers. The monks brew the raw mushroom to make an elixir which helps them to improve their focus and concentration so that they can meditate for longer periods of time.
It’s also a superstar superfood in Traditional Chinese Medicine, as it’s prescribed to treat a range of digestive and nervous system disorders. Legend has it that those who ingest lion's mane mushroom will have nerves of steel and the memory of a lion.
Lion's Mane Nutrition Overview
Lion's mane mushroom contains a number of vitamins, minerals and polysaccharides, 22 phyto compounds (including flavonoids and alkaloids), beta-glucans, nerve growth factors and antioxidants. It’s also high in protein and low in fat.
Lion's Mane For Brain Health
World famous mycologist, Paul Stamets, believes that lion's mane is a smart mushroom and that it can help to improve focus, memory and creativity. Science backs up these claims, as it one of the rare natural substances on earth to be classified as a nootropic. Nootropics have been proven to enhance cognitive function in healthy individuals.
Out of 240 species of medicinal mushroom, lion’s mane is the only one that contains two nerve growth factors. Dr. Kawasagi first identified the presence of the erinacines and hericenones compounds in lion’s mane mushrooms. Both of the nerve growth factors are naturally produced by the body, although the NGFs produced outside of the brain are too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier, so they are unable to repair damaged brain cells. As we age, NGF production in the brain slowly diminishes, which can lead to a range of neurological issues.
What makes lion’s mane mushroom so special is that the nerve growth factors present in it have a very low molecular weight, so they can easily pass through the barrier and work their magic in the brain. NGFs play an essential role in keeping the nervous system healthy and strong. Scientific studies have revealed that lion’s mane is also able to repair the fatty white myelin sheaths that surround the nerves. The discovery of NGFs is considered to be one of the most important scientific findings of this century: it even earned its discoverers the Nobel Prize for medicine back in 1986.
Because of these reasons, lion's mane is considered to be an excellent supplement for people suffering from neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and dementia. It’s also a good supplement for students of all ages, because of its ability to improve focus and concentration.
Lion’s Mane for Better Moods
Another benefit of lion’s mane mushrooms is that they can help to balance moods, reduce anxiety, lower stress levels and even help reduce menopausal symptoms. Scientists at Kyoto Bunkyo University conducted a study with cookies. There were two control groups: one where the women were given a placebo cookie, and the other where the cookie contained the lion’s mane mushroom extract. Results showed that the group who took the lion’s mane mushroom cookies displayed a large reduction in menopausal symptoms.
Lions Mane Mushroom Health Benefits at a Glance
Aids Digestion: Polysaccharides help to nourish the digestive system
Nerve Growth: Naturally stimulates the production of nerve growth factors
Anti-Inflammatory: Reduces inflammation
Anti-Bacterial: Protects against infections and harmful bacteria
Anti-Candida: Offers protection against yeast infections
Anti-Aging: Antioxidants help to fight free radical damage
Immune Support: Helps to strengthen the immune system
Brain-Boosting: Promotes optimal brain health
Memory Enhancer: Displays nootropic effects for better memory and concentration
Mood Balancer: Can help to reduce irritability and anxiousness
Lowers cholesterol: Fights high cholesterol levels
How to Buy the Best Lion's Mane Mushroom
The highest quality lion's mane mushrooms are typically wild-crafted and prepared without the use of excess heat and chemicals. Always choose a product which is a 100% pure and has no added fillers or preservatives. Lion's mane mushroom powder should be kept in airtight packing and stored in a dry, dark and cool place. Lion's mane mushroom is now available in a range of forms including powders, concreted extracts, tinctures, tablets and capsules.
Lion's Mane Dosage and Side Effects
If it’s your first time taking a medicinal mushroom then we recommend starting with a 1/2 a teaspoon dose and then up that to a teaspoon dose if you wish to do so. Lion’s mane is typically taken once or twice a day, and it’s best to take it first thing in the morning.
Lion’s mane mushroom is non-toxic and it is considered to be safe to use for people of all ages. The most common reported side effect is that of itchy skin, which can be an indication that there is a boost in the production of nerve growth factor in the body. Always talk to your doctor if you experience any serious side effects after taking the mushroom.
How to Use Lion's Mane Mushroom
Whole lion's mane mushrooms are considered to be a gourmet delicacy, as when sauteed they have a delicate and slightly chewy flavour which has earned them the nickname of the lobster of the woods. Their texture makes them a popular meat alternative in Chinese cuisine. While it certainly tastes delicious when used this way, the best way to ingest the mushroom for therapeutic purposes is to use a concentrated extract powder. These types of powders can contain up to ten times the amount of nutrients of the raw mushroom, plus they are ready to use. You can add the powder to smoothies, shakes, juices and teas, as well as to all kinds of dishes.
Lion's Mane Mushroom Recipes
Lion's Mane Tea
One of the quickest ways to get your dose of lion's mane mushroom is to use a powder to make a tonic tea. Just add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the powder to a mug filled with warm (not boiling) water, stir and then enjoy immediately. You can flavour your tea to your tastes by adding coconut, seed or nut milks, natural sweeteners and spices. You can even go a step further and add other medicinal mushrooms, superfoods, tonic herbs and teas. Here are a few ingredients you can experiment with:
Medicinal Mushrooms: chaga, reishi, tremella, maitake, shiitake, cordyceps, turkey tail
Tonic Herbs: he shou wu, schizandra berry, ashwagandha, pine pollen, matcha
Superfood Powders: spirulina, chlorella, maca, baobab, pink pitaya
Teas: Matcha, gynostemma, mint, chamomile, raspberry, ginger, lemon
Brain Power Smoothie
This smoothie has been designed with brain health in mind so that you can sip your way to smarter. Chia seeds are rich in Omega-3 acids which the brain needs to transmit signals and keep blood sugar steady, while raspberries and blueberries contain nutrients that help the brain to function optimally. The frozen banana helps to add a touch of cool creaminess to the smoothie.
Ingredients (1 serving)
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp lion's mane mushroom powder
1/2 a frozen banana
1 cup of coconut milk
Pop all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender, and then whizz them up until smooth. You can add more coconut milk or water if you want to dilute the smoothie a little or some extra banana to thicken it up. Make sure that you enjoy the smoothie immediately, although you can pour the mixture into ice lolly molds and freeze them to make some tasty frozen treats.
Lime Cocoa Energy Bites
These tasty little balls are perfect for having on-hand at work or at the gym. Many store-bought energy bites and granola bars are full of preservatives, sugar and other nasties, luckily these beauties are made from all-natural ingredients, so you can devour them guilt-free. An added bonus is that they are vegan, gluten-free and they do not require any cooking. We recommend that you make a big batch and store them in the fridge ready for when you next get the munchies.
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup cashews
1 1/2 cups of pitted sticky dates (Medjool is best)
Juice from three limes
1/2 cup desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
1 tbsp of lion's mane mushroom powder
Add the nuts into a food processor or high-speed blender like the Nutribullet, then quickly blend until all the nuts are finely chopped. Be careful not to blend too much or you’ll end up with a creamy nut butter. Add the remaining ingredients minus half the coconut, and then blend for a very short time so that the ingredients start to clump together. If they are not sticky enough then you may need to add a touch more lime juice or water. When the mixture is the perfect consistency, roll it into small bite-size balls. Roll the balls in a thin layer of the desiccated coconut and a touch of the lime zest. The energy balls will last up to a week when stored in an airtight container in the fridge, although we doubt they will last that long.
Lion's Mane Overview
With its wide spectrum of healing properties, it’s clear that lion's mane mushroom is an ancient superfood for the modern individual. Whether you want to improve your memory or nourish your nerves, Lion’s mane will make a great addition to your diet.
Name: Lion's Mane
Scientific Name: Hericium Erinaceus
Common Names: Pom Pom Mushroom, Hedgehog Mushroom, Bearded Tooth Mushroom
Lion's Mane References and Sources
Lion's Mane Books
There are thousands of scientific studies and references on lion's mane mushroom and its health benefits. If you want to learn more about it, as well as other medicinal mushrooms, we highly recommend these books:
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: The Cancer Ward
Nong, Shen: Shennong Bencao Jing (The Classic of Herbal Medicine)
Wolfe, David: Eating for Beauty
Stamets, Paul: Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World