You may have heard about Lion’s Mane before, and this exotic Chinese mushroom is certainly popular with some great dishes but it may also provide some value as a brain enhancer.
There is only limited research that has been conducted about it, but it is believed that this particular ingredient may help to improve brain regeneration and plasticity, fight beta-amyloid proteins that often lead to brain degenerative problems, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and help to protect neurons, which are essential for keeping the brain healthy and protecting it against prolonged periods of stress.
The difference with lion’s mane.
The main difference with Lion’s Mane is that there are over 2,000 different mushroom species that are currently being used in various foods and even herbal health practices. The vast majority of these mushrooms offer some health benefits, and there are numerous mushrooms that provide medicinal value. However, most of those are focused upon immune support.
Lion’s Mane is quite a bit different because it is the only mushroom that has been shown to provide brain health support.
There are two compounds found in Lion’s Mane that are of primary concern to researchers with regard to overall brain health and improvement. They are hericenones and erinacines. While there is some dissension in the research community with regard to these active compounds, it is believed that the erinacines provide the most positive effects for overall brain health.
At its core, Lion’s Mane may be most notable for its ability to positively impact nerve growth in the brain. Nerve growth is incredibly important for a variety of reasons.
Let’s talk about Nerve Growth Factor.
Nerve Growth Factor, or NGF, is essential for overall brain health for a variety of reasons.
- It helps to differentiate fresh stem cells into specialized brain cells.
- It helps to regulate biological activities directly associated with brain plasticity, and memory.
- It helps to maintain healthy brain cells over an extended length of time.
- It organizes and maintains brain cells throughout the nervous system (Conner).
It is believed that when the Nerve Growth Factor is deficient, it can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. By focusing on NGF, researchers are zeroing in on helping to reduce the impact of brain degeneration.
One of the major problems of NGFs is that they can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. As a result, the only way to improve the levels of NGF in the brain is to boost the natural production of it.
Lion’s Mane has compounds that can cross the blood-brain barrier. This makes it incredibly beneficial as a brain supplement, especially with regard to Nerve Growth Factor.
One particular research study found that Lion’s Mane, at least the erinacines, “have potential as medicine for degenerative neuronal disorders such as Alzheimer’s and peripheral nerve regeneration (Ma et al).”
What about the limited research?
Most of the research conducted on Lion’s Mane has been done on animals or in petri dish settings.
One study was conducted on mice (Mori K, et al) who were given 5% dry powdered Lion’s Mane for seven days. These mice showed an increase in NGF in the hippocampus. The researchers concluded that this particular mushroom “contains active compounds that stimulate NGF synthesis.”
In another study (Wong, et al), Lion’s Mane extract was given to rats in a liquid form. These rats had peripheral nerve injuries and the researchers were interested in whether this particular supplement could help repair some of that nerve damage. What the researchers found was that the rats who received Lion’s Mane recovered faster and showed positive signs of nerve regeneration.
Researchers in a different study wanted to see how Lion’s Mane would impact myelin sheaths (Kolotushkina, et al). Myelin sheath wrap brain cells and protect them and also help them function in many different ways. The researchers found in this in vitro study was that Lion’s Mane health myelination began sooner and finished faster. They concluded that this “demonstrated a regulatory effect on the process of myelin genesis in vitro.”
As for human-based studies, there have been a few of note. The most significant was conducted on 30 men and women between the ages of 50 and 80 who had been diagnosed with some type of mild cognitive impairment (Mori, et al). The participants were given a placebo or 250 mg Lion’s Mane three times every day for 16 weeks.
Subjects were tested on a variety of cognitive function scales before beginning their supplementation. They were also tested at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, and once more 4 weeks after stopping supplementation.
The researchers in this particular study found that those taking Lion’s Mane showed higher cognitive performance scores during supplementation. However, when supplementation ceased, the increased performance levels stopped. This is a pretty good indicator that Lion’s Mane can be extremely beneficial as a brain supplement.
Side effects are minimal.
Because Lion’s Mane is actually food, a mushroom, and it is widely used in a variety of food items, it is generally considered safe and well tolerated. It is not commonly associated with any significant side effects, aside from certain side effects common to consuming the mushroom itself, but that would likely be associated with other types of mushrooms as well for the particular individual.
It comes in many forms.
There are a variety of different forms in which Lion’s Mane comes. It can come as clean Lion’s Mane, which is basically powdered mushroom and is the cheapest form available.
Lion’s Mane extracts are bit more potent and can come in a 14:1 concentration.
Standardized Lion’s Mane is designed to provide exact levels of active ingredients. They are generally standardized to 30% and 50% polysaccharides.
Scoopable Lion’s Mane powder can be added to water, juice, shakes, and more.
Lion’s Mane tea may not be as effective as some may believe.
The best dosage.
It seems the best dosage for Lion’s Mane as a brain supplement is 500 mg per day. While the research study we looked at earlier that was performed on humans provided 750 mg per day, other reviews and research suggests that lower concentrations may actually stimulate Nerve Growth Factor better.
You can always begin taking Lion’s Mane at 500 mg dosages per day and then increase and determine whether you notice any actual improvement in your own cognitive function.