The Ultimate Guide to Lion's Mane: The Brainiac Mushroom

The Lion's Mane mushroom is truly the "pride" of our mushroom beverages with a lion's share of benefits. Let us introduce you!

We like to think of our communitea as a fun place where we can gather together, provide information on our favorite ‘shrooms, discuss all things wellness, and make some bad mushroom-related puns (#sorrynotsorry).

Like any other gathering, it would be super awkward if we didn’t introduce you to our ‘shroommates before expecting you to mingle. Could you imagine mistaking a Chaga mushroom for a Reishi?

Yikes.

Never fear! These guides to each mushroom are to get that awkward small talk out of the way. We’re here to break the ice so that you know these ‘shrooms inside and out and can avoid a fungal faux pas.

All of our beverage mixes feature the same six mushrooms, which we have deemed the “6 Protectors Mushroom Immune Support Complex.” We believe that we have found the tastiest, ‘shroomiest, most immune-boosting mix of mushrooms that we could to give you a quality drink that is not only enjoyable to drink, but also gives you some awesome benefits.

Sure, we picked out these ‘shrooms specifically for their immune support, but each functional mushroom that we use has various other distinctions and benefits. We would be remiss if we didn’t give you a deep dive into each mushroom individually to let you know what makes them special.

So let’s dive in and learn all about the Lion's Mane mushroom...

 

Introduction

The Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) goes by several different names, mostly referencing its shaggy appearance. As you may have guessed, the Lion’s Mane mushroom resembles a lion’s mane, however, it has also been called the “monkey head mushroom”, the “bearded tooth mushroom”, the “old man’s beard,” the “pom-pom,” and the “hedgehog mushroom.” When held in your palm, this mushroom almost resembles a ball of shaved parmesan. Oddly enough, the Lion’s Mane mushroom doesn’t taste anything like cheese (or your common button mushroom, for that matter), and has been known to taste like lobster or crab.

Found throughout the United States, Europe, and East Asia, Lion's Mane is a highly sought-after delicacy. It has been used in Asian countries like China, India, Japan, and Korea for both medicinal purposes and everyday cooking. Growing to around 40cm, the fluffy bundle of white fronds can naturally be found on dead or dying oak, or the stumps and logs of walnut, beech, maple, or sycamore trees.

Throughout history, Lion's Mane mushrooms have been used for centuries thanks to their antibacterial properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, it was often incorporated into a tonic for overall health, and to enjoy a longer life. Meanwhile, Buddhist monks often used Lion's Mane mushroom powder made into tea, which helped them to increase their meditative focus and enhance their brain power, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

 

White, ball-shaped lion's mane mushroom in the palm of a hand

Figure 1. The Lion’s Mane mushroom resembles a little ball of parmesan in your palm, but one bite and you’ll know it’s not cheese! Photo by Ringosounds. (Shutterstock).

 

Immunitea Support

Before we go into the lion’s share of other benefits that the Lion's Mane mushroom has to offer, let’s look at what Lion's Mane does to support immunity (or “immunitea” as we like to call it ;)).

Lion's Mane immunity support mainly comes from its support of gut health. The Lion’s Mane mushroom has been shown to increase activity of the intestinal immune system. This is largely helpful due to the vulnerability of the intestines (they are a crucial way that we can become infected!).

Not only does the Lion's Mane mushroom bolster our intestinal immunity, but it has also been shown to help with inflammatory bowel disease (an autoimmune disease that leads to cramping and other bowel-related symptoms). Lion's Mane reduces the signals of inflammation, calming down the immune response and helping with oxidative stress.

 

Other Benefits

Lion’s Mane is one of the highest ranking mushrooms for antioxidant activity. Lion’s Mane antioxidative effects have been theorised to reduce the impact of a range of illnesses. But its effects aren't limited to treating oxidative stress. It also reduced inflammatory markers in rodents, suggesting uses for inflammatory bowel disease, liver damage and stroke.

In the body, Lion's Mane prevents stomach ulcers by inhibiting the growth of the damaging bacteria H. pylori. Other effects include reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels, and even demonstrating cancer-fighting abilities.

In a study of mice who suffered diabetic nerve damage, Lion's Mane reduced pain, lowered blood sugar levels, and increased antioxidant levels. It was this latter benefit that suggests reduced damage in the future. Test tube studies have shown that Lion's Mane prevents the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream. In doing so, it reduces the likelihood that cholesterol will stick to the walls of blood vessels, thereby clogging them up. This would lead to a reduction in stroke and heart attacks.

While Lion’s Mane clearly has various benefits for our bodies with relation to gut health and cholesterol, where the Lion’s Mane truly shines is its effects on the brain.

As the brain ages, new connections slow, our cognitive faculties inexorably fade. That’s where Lion's Mane comes in. Its remarkable abilities include improving focus and stimulating nerve growth factor (NGF). Stimulating NGF helps to slow the effects of aging on the brain by maintaining the neurons responsible for memory, learning, and recollection. Two chemicals are responsible for these effects: hericenones and erinacines.

But the brain benefits don’t stop there! Lion’s Mane may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other similar conditions. For patients who have Alzheimer’s disease, Lion's Mane offers neuroprotective benefits. Early studies suggest it can improve mental functioning, promoting nerve growth and slow cognitive decline. Meanwhile, for those suffering from nerve injuries, the shaggy fungus speeds recovery. This is as true for peripheral nerves, as for the brain: so, it can even help with the effects of a stroke.

Lion's Mane is also associated with better quality sleep because it has been shown to act similarly to CBD. Some have even suggested combining the two to help with sleep issues. Also similar to CBD, Lion's Mane can also be taken to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. In one study, menopausal women consuming Lion's Mane reported feeling less irritation and anxiety after a single month.

 

Lion's mane mushroom growing down from a tree

Figure 2. The fluffy Lion’s Mane is great for gut health, but its positive effects on the brain are incredibly expansive. Photo by Nikolay Kurzenko. (Shutterstock).

 

Conclusion

The Lion's Mane mushroom has a plethora of awesome benefits, but where this mushroom really shines is in the brain. From helping you get better sleep, to improving focus, to stimulating Nerve Growth Factor thereby potentially preventing neurodegenerative diseases, this mushroom can boost your brain power in several different ways.This is why we consider the Lion’s Mane to be our “Brainiac” mushroom.

If you’d like to continue your research, we encourage you to check out our blog to learn about the benefits of all of our functional mushrooms and how they compare to one another.

Have you incorporated the Lion’s Mane mushroom into your diet? What benefits have you found to taking Lion’s Mane?

 

Cover Photo by Karel Bock on Shutterstock.