I had a task to do, but what was it? If only I could remember.
That midday brain fog sets in. Your brain fog might have been there when you first woke up. Eek!
Mushrooms to the rescue?
Some research is suggesting that yes, mushrooms can help your brain function better and support natural cleansing processes. A mushroom that is getting a lot of research focus for this is called Lion’s mane.
Lion’s mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are very much like their name: majestic like a lion in appearance. They also happen to be delicious.
As you may know, medicinal mushrooms are healthy, and the lion’s mane mushroom is getting some attention for its unique ability to influence our brain. Our brains are just like every other part of our bodies: it needs healthy food to properly cleanse from toxins and function well.
In this post, learn about Lion’s mane benefits, how to eat them, and how to supplement Lion’s mane.
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What are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
Considered both a culinary and medicinal mushroom, Lion’s mane are used in traditional Chinese medicine and eaten among mushroom enthusiasts across the world. Lion’s mane is also known as the Hedge Hog Mushroom, Satyr’s Beard, Yamabushitake, Bearded Tooth Fungus, or the Bearded Tooth Mushroom.
Growing under trees and on trees, these white mushrooms look and feel feathery and soft. They are delicious to most people and taste a bit like crab or lobster.
I agree with the reviews. Lion’s mane mushrooms are very delicious.
Popular in Asian cuisine, the Lion’s mane is also gaining recognition as a seriously delicious food in North America too. Not only popular as food, this healthy mushroom is being used all over for its potential medicinal effects in the body, especially brain function.
Why worry about brain function and memory?
Over 80 percent of the aging population will have a chronic disease, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease are on the rise. Chemicals in foods are linked to a host of neurological conditions, including memory loss, too.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 66 seconds, someone in the United States will get this debilitating disease.
Experts today understand that inflammation plays a role in brain dysfunction and memory loss and loss of cognitive health.
The food we eat plays a big role in how much inflammation we have and also, not surprisingly, the amount of Alzheimer’s disease risk we have.
What should we eat?
Brain cells thrive on a healthy diet.
We should all strive to eat a healthy diet for healthy brain function that reduces inflammation by cutting back on foods like:
- Processed foods
- Added sugars
- Food additives
- Fried foods
- Sugary drinks
In addition, adding in the following healthy foods may help reduce risk of memory and cognitive dysfunction:
- Healthy proteins like wild caught fish, grass fed meats, legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Vegetables like broccoli, onions, carrots, and more
- Whole fruits like berries, pineapple, melons
- Mushrooms like Lion’s mane, button mushrooms, chaga mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, cordyceps mushrooms, reishi mushrooms, and more
- Unprocessed fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil
Lion’s Mane benefits
Lion’s mane mushrooms can be considered food as medicine. Research supports that you may gain many health benefits from choosing to eat Lion’s mane.
Here are 14 reasons to eat Lion’s mane and supplement Lion’s mane.
High in antioxidants and healthy compounds
As you might imagine, the Lion’s mane mushroom is quite nutritious, full of antioxidants, and has the potential to improve our health.
This is because Lion’s mane are rich in:
- Palmitic acid
- Erinacines (diterpenoid erinacines)
Conditions for growing Lion’s mane vary quite a bit, so the exact nutrition of these mushrooms likely vary a lot too.
Each 100 gram serving has about 24 calories, 2 grams protein, and 3 grams of carbohydrate.
Erinacines are thought to be the major active compounds of Lion’s mane.
Lion’s Mane increases nerve growth factor
According to the journal of Translational Medicine, nerve growth factor is a substance that helps with growth and repair of both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
This is important because scientists used to think that nerves couldn’t grow or repair.
We now know that certain food compounds may help support nerve health by enhancing nerve growth factor.
Lion’s mane is one such food that has been able to increase nerve growth factor, at least in cell and animal studies so far. This means that the lion’s mane may help to increase myelination and growth of nerves.
Another term for this is neurogenesis.
Tip: What diseases benefit from neurogenesis and myelin growth and nerve plasticity? People with depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, nerve injuries, strokes, and spinal cord damage.
Multiple sclerosis patients may benefit from lion’s mane for this reason too.
Although inflammation is part of a healthy immune response, it becomes damaging to the body when we are constantly under inflammation due to a poor diet, stress, and toxins.
Inflammation fuels the fire of brain diseases like stroke and dementia. So it is important to decrease inflammatory compounds naturally whenever possible.
Lion’s mane decreases inflammation compounds in the body, including:
By decreasing inflammation, Lion’s mane may also reduce the risk of cancer too. In a recent study, Lion’s mane extract reduced growth and reduced size of cancer tumors. Lion’s mane rich antioxidant profile helps to explain why it may reduce inflammation so well.
Lion’s mane as brain detox food
We now know that the brain and nervous system require daily cleansing in order to function well.
Unfortunately, many people today have excess toxins from chemicals, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, alcohol, tobacco, and more.
These toxins can cause immunotoxic effects and neurotoxicity too.
And toxins impair our mitochondrial function.
According to brain experts at Amen Clinics, toxins impair brain function, so providing the body with good food and gentle detoxification can go a long way to helping optimize brain function at whatever headspace you are in right now.
Mushrooms have the ability to detoxify our world around us and also may help do the same within our body. In humans, mushrooms help improve liver function by increasing antioxidant enzymes. Some early evidence even suggests that Lion’s mane mushroom can reduce the toxic effects of alcohol on the liver.
Lion’s mane gets the most attention of all mushrooms for brain detox because research shows this mushroom’s ability to reduce beta amyloid deposits in early research work.
Tip: our glymphatic system circulates our cerebrospinal fluid and helps cleanse our brain and keep it healthy.
A good amount of rest and a diet that includes a variety of healthy foods like Lion’s mane mushrooms helps to reduce toxins in the brain through the glymphatic system.
Lion’s mane benefits for memory
Research shows that Lion’s mane benefits include memory improvement.
An example of this was a recent clinical study where people with mild cognitive impairment received either Lion’s mane supplement or placebo.
The group receiving the Lion’s mane supplement had continued improvement in memory over a period of 16 weeks. When they stopped taking the Lion’s mane, memory worsened.
By reducing nerve cell damage, Lion’s mane also may reduce the stroke severity according to early research.
Lion’s mane helps improve mood
Many people feel cheery when regularly eating mushrooms. I know I do.
However, do we have any proof that Lion’s mane mushrooms actually help reduce symptoms of depression and reduce stress?
As it turns out, a clinical study of women with depression and binge eating disorder had improved mood and sleep quality after receiving 8 weeks of Lion’s mane mushroom supplements compared to the control group.
Even more fascinating is that they continued to have improvements in mood for 8 weeks after taking mushrooms, which suggests that mushrooms may have long-lasting improvements in depression.
These women also had an increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
BDNF compound is able to help regulate the growth and regeneration of neurons in the brain.
Another study of 30 women showed similar benefits of lion’s mane: reduced depression, stress, and irritibility.
Such effects on the brain are called nootropic when they are able to make long-lasting improvements in function.
Tip: Lion’s mane can be enjoyed as part of your diet regularly and should be part of a healthy diet to optimize mood to its best potential. Your mental health may improve as a result.
One reason that chronic diseases occur is from oxidative damage due to toxins as mentioned previously.
- Lion’s mane protects neurons by increasing antioxidants, and by doing so, may reduce the chances of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
- This, in turn, helps to protect our ability to make neurotransmitters like dopamine, at least according to one study in animals.
- Hericium erinaceus mushroom may also reduce neuronal cell death, also known as apoptosis, due to free radicals.
- Dopamine is critical for a happy mood and by helping to maintain normal dopamine levels, Lion’s mane may help prevent and treat Parkinson’s disease.
Although more research is needed, adding Lion’s mane mushrooms to your diet certainly won’t hurt anything and most likely helps with several types of brain health.
May help with weight loss
Lion’s mane mushroom health benefits extend to a healthy body weight as well, especially as part of a healthy and unprocessed diet.
Eating mushrooms regularly helps to support a healthy microbiome because of their fiber content and bioactive compounds. A healthy microbiome can reduce inflammation and obesity, at least in animal studies.
When fed lion’s mane, rats lost weight and the researchers believe it is because the mushroom activates a substance in the body called PPAR𝞪, which in turn helps to burn fat in the liver.
Lion’s mane boosted fat metabolism in this study too.
We can’t be sure that the same happens in people, however.
The benefits of Lion’s mane mushroom also may include diabetes benefits.
Seems circular, but this is also a possible advantage for your healthy brain too. This is because experts now know that uncontrolled diabetes damages brain tissue and leads to memory loss.
Everything is connected.
Lion’s mane may help reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes according to early research work. This is because they may slow digestive absorption of carbohydrates similar to some diabetes medications.
By slowing carbs, you may feel more full too.
As it turns out, Lion’s mane mushrooms also may help with diabetic nerve pain too.
Mushrooms are well-known for their digestive health benefits because they have a healthy amount of fiber.
Most people don’t know that the type of fiber in mushrooms is distinctly different from other types.
- Beta glucan fibers and other polysaccharides in mushrooms help support digestive health by increasing the number and diversity of probiotics in the digestive tract.
- Using lion’s mane mushrooms may also reduce symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease too, by lowering inflammatory compounds such as NF𝜿B and TNF𝞪.
- Several animal studies show that H. Erinaceous mushroom may reduce H. Pylori infections too.
Your gut is your second brain: feed it well.
Tip: By reducing inflammation and promoting healthy bacteria, Lion’s mane is likely to be of benefit to your digestive tract, although more research is needed.
May increase energy
In today’s over-caffeinated world, we need some good alternative options that increase energy naturally.
Many kinds of mushrooms are supportive of energy, such as cordyceps, which increases cellular ATP.
Lion’s mane also has anti-fatigue properties while promoting restful sleep. By providing energy support while reducing free radicals, these medicinal mushrooms also have anti-aging effects.
Learn more about cordyceps and energy in this post.
May increase longevity and reduce heart disease
Heart disease remains the number 1 killer in the world and reduces lifespan and healthspan of the majority of people.
Mushrooms are no stranger to heart health either because they help boost antioxidants and reduce inflammation, and may even reduce harmful blood clots while supporting healthy blood pressure levels.
Lion’s mane also may decrease harmful fats in the blood called triglycerides and reduces harmful forms of cholesterol.
By increasing a substance called FoxP3, Lion’s mane also may help balance out immune cells involved in heart disease.
Tip: Mushrooms have long been considered a heart healthy food and Lion’s mane offers some unique heart health benefits like helping immunity.
May improve bone health
Age-related bone loss is very common, but did you know that certain foods may help prevent osteoporosis? Lion’s mane are rich in vitamins, such as vitamin D, for bones and joints.
Lion’s mane mushroom was able to reduce bone loss activity in an animal study recently.
Research has yet to examine the effects of Lion’s mane on bone health in people, but odds are, it won’t hurt.
Lion’s mane mushroom benefits the immune system
When talking about immune system benefits and anti-inflammatory benefits of Lion’s mane, we are often talking about the same thing.
- Around 80% of your immune system is dictated by your digestive health and Lion’s mane helps your digestive tract.
- If mushrooms help reduce inflammation, they support a normalized immune response in the body. By boosting antioxidants in our bodies, Lion’s mane mushrooms help achieve this.
- Also, by helping support a healthy microbiome, the body is more likely to be able to fight off foreign invaders like harmful viruses and harmful bacteria.
This is the beauty of eating healthy foods like Lion’s mane-they help achieve balance in multiple systems in the body.
Many experts today, such as Dr. Rhonda Patrick from Found My Fitness, finds that achieving a healthy immune response is achieved through achieving optimal nutrients, a gut-healing diet, and through foods like mushrooms.
Tips for cooking lion’s mane mushroom
Let’s not forget one of the main benefits of the mane: It tastes good. Food is a simple pleasure so when it is tasty and healthy…win-win! Lion’s mane are great when paired with most any savory dish.
Vegetarians often use mushrooms as a meat replacement, and the Lion’s mane gives a similar taste and texture to seafood.
You can cook lion’s made just like you would any other mushroom. Try adding sliced Lion’s mane to some grass fed butter and saute until browned and tender.
To make a mushroom broth, saute mushrooms in butter or ghee, then add 1 cup of water to the pan. With an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Add salt to taste.
Because Lion’s mane tastes like seafood, you can make Lion’s mane crab cakes recipes like this one.
Lion’s mane smoothie
You can make Lion’s mane mushroom recipe like a smoothie any day or simply add mushroom powder to coffee as well.
Supplementing Lion’s Mane
To get the most health benefits from eating Lion’s mane, you may want to consider supplementing them unless you have a steady supply in your diet or you are growing your own Lion’s mane mushrooms.
Lion’s mane powder or capsules are preferred over the mushroom extract forms, but some people’s digestive tract may initially do better with the extract if the don’t tolerate some kinds of fibers.
It is best to get organic Lion’s mane to avoid added chemicals. Most supplements contain the fruiting bodies of the Lion’s mane, but some quality supplements also contain the Lion’s mane mycelium too.
How to find Lion’s mane
There are 3 ways to get Lion’s mane into your diet.
- Grow your own-many companies now have mushroom growing kits so that you can grow a good amount of Lion’s mane on your own. In my experience, it is very easy to do and provides an economical way to eat Lion’s mane. You can find a Lion’s mane grow kit like this one. I used it and I got at least 4 lbs of lions mane from one kit, which translates to about $4 a pound.
- Buy locally-Local specialty mushroom shops have Lion’s mane fresh for you to buy as well. Simply search for mushroom growers in your community.
- I buy mine from Mother Fungi.
- Shop for supplements of Lion’s mane-this is a nice option for people who don’t like the taste of mushrooms and want to take a capsule.
A great way to increase the amount of mushrooms in your diet is to supplement so that you can have Lion’s mane on a daily basis, so I end up doing all three: supplementing, growing my own, and buying grow kits.
The best Lion’s mane supplements will be organic and free of fillers.
Buy Lion’s Mane Supplements
Here are a few supplement favorites that are highly rated for quality and effectiveness.
- The best Lion’s mane capsule I can find are Host Defense Lions Mane here.
- Medicinal Foods Lions Mane here as Smart Cream with Lion’s Mane and Theanine. A good mushroom powder to add to coffee or smoothies and for people on keto diets.
- And a Lion’s Mane Powder I like is Teaveli Mushroom Powder here which is an organic mushroom powder. This powder is a good one to add to savory recipes or when making your own mushroom coffee.
How to supplement Lion’s mane
A typical dose of lions mane supplement is 2 capsules a day or ½ teaspoon of lions mane powder. The dose of Lion’s mane that supplements use are between 750 mg and 3 grams per day.
You can add the lions mane powder to essentially any dish or drink you make, sweet or savory.
Other healthy brain mushrooms:
When it comes to mushrooms, variety is great. Try reishi, cordyceps, and chaga, for example.
Lion’s mane side effects
Lion’s mane are very safe when eaten as a food, but people with mushroom allergies or sensitivities should avoid eating lion’s mane mushrooms.
No known side effects, intolerances, or adverse effects have ever been shown with large amounts of Lion’s mane as shown in animal study.
That said, no large clinical trials have set out to examine the safety. Still, people have eaten mushrooms for thousands of years with no untoward issues as long as they aren’t’ allergic.
To review, Lion’s mane mushrooms is an NGF-boosting food, which helps form new neural pathways and may help reduce Alzheimer’s disease and help reduce or prevent other neurodegenerative diseases.
As an antioxidant-rich food, Lion’s mane helps to provide brain cleansing and reduces risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and more.
It also helps with synapse function, meaning we think clearer, which goes back to my original assertion: mushrooms may reduce brain fog.
The health benefits of Lion’s mane also are believed to be due to an increase in BDNF, which can reduce anxiety and improve mood.
Medicinal mushrooms are generally safe, but you should always check with your healthcare provider before making any changes in your diet or lifestyle.