With a name as strange as its appearance, Lion’s Mane is a powerful medicinal mushroom primarily known for its brain boosting and memory enhancing properties, as well as its ability to support immune function. Native to North America, Europe and Asia, Lion’s Mane commonly grows on both living and dead broadleaf trees, and has been used for thousands of years by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. Belonging to the group known as “tooth fungus”, Lion’s Mane produces tooth or spine-like projections (which can resemble a shaggy lion’s mane, hence the name), typically around 1 centimetre in length.

Like all medicinal mushrooms, Lion’s Mane is considered an adaptogen, and has been shown to improve the negative effects of stress and stress-induced fatigue. However research into the benefits of Lion’s Mane as a natural nootropic, referring to herbs that improve mental performance (particularly memory, cognition and mood), has gained considerable attention.

Research is ongoing into the effects of Lion’s Mane on neurodegenerative diseases like Alzeimer’s, as well as dementia, cancer, depression and anxiety, the nervous system and ulcers in the digestive tract.

Active constituents
Beta-glucans, erinacines, hericenones, cyathanes, glycoproteins, ergosterols, triterpenoids.

Cautions and warnings
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult a health care practitioner prior to use.

AVAILABLE RESEARCH

Cognitive function and memory
This study on mice supports the concept that Lion’s Mane prevents the impairment of spatial short-term and visual recognition memory. Scores on the cognitive function scale improved after oral administration of Lion’s Mane in patients suffering from mild cognitive impairment. Overall, the data shows that Lion’s Mane supplementation for two months has influential effects on mice, increasing recognition memory in the hippocampus.

Brandalise, Federico et al. “Dietary Supplementation of Hericium erinaceus Increases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2017 (2017): 3864340. doi:10.1155/2017/3864340

A double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial was performed on 50- to 80-year-old Japanese men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. The goal was to examine the efficacy of oral administration of Lion’s Mane for improving cognitive impairment. At weeks 8, 12 and 16 of the trial, the Lion’s Mane group showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared to the placebo group. The results obtained in this study suggest that Lion’s Mane is effective in improving mild cognitive impairment.

Mori, Koichiro et al. “Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 23,3 (2009): 367-72. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634

This review concludes that oral supplementation of Lion’s Mane administered to wild-type mice induces a significant improvement in the recognition memory and supports the concept that Lion’s Mane induces a boost effect onto neuronal functions in non pathological conditions.

Brandalise, Federico et al. “Dietary Supplementation of Hericium erinaceus Increases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2017 (2017): 3864340. doi:10.1155/2017/3864340

This article cites a Japanese study on “subjects diagnosed with a mild cognitive decline” who received Lion’s Mane mushroom extract daily for 16 weeks. Significant increases in scores on the cognitive function scale were found as a result.

“Lion’s Mane mushroom.” Nootropics information.

Immune system
The following study investigated the antibacterial effects of Lion’s Mane on mice infected with Salmonella Typhimurium. 4 and 8 hours post-infection, the treated cells showed greater activity against the bacteria than the control. The lifespans of these mice were also significantly extended as a result of the Lion’s Mane and its Beta glucans, which are known to stimulate the immune system. These results suggest that the mushroom extract activities against bacterial infection in mice occur through the activation of innate immune cells.

Kim, Sung Phil et al. “Hericium erinaceus mushroom extracts protect infected mice against Salmonella Typhimurium-Induced liver damage and mortality by stimulation of innate immune cells.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 60,22 (2012): 5590-6. doi:10.1021/jf300897w

This study aimed to investigate the immunomodulating activity of Lion’s Man in mice, by cell-mediated immunity, humoral immunity, macrophage phagocytosis, and NK cell activity, which were all shown to be enhanced as a result of Lion’s Mane. Results conclude that the immunomodulatory effects of Lion’s Mane are most likely attributed to the effective regulation of intestinal mucosal immune activity.

Sheng, Xiaotong et al. “Immunomodulatory effects of Hericium erinaceus derived polysaccharides are mediated by intestinal immunology.” Food & function vol. 8,3 (2017): 1020-1027. doi:10.1039/c7fo00071e

In this study, a protein was isolated from Lions Mane; this protein exhibited immunomodulatory activity, and it was concluded that Lion’s Mane could improve the immune system via regulating the composition and metabolism of gut microbiota to activate the proliferation and differentiation of T cells, stimulate the intestinal antigen-presenting cells in high-dose cyclophosphamide-induced immunotoxicity in mice, and play a prebiotic role in the case of excessive antibiotics in inflammatory bowel disease model mice. Experiments also showed that Lion’s Mane could be used as an antitumor immune inhibitor in tumor-burdened mice. The results of the study suggest that Lion’s Mane could be used as a drug or functional food ingredient for immunotherapy because of its immunomodulatory activities.

Diling, Chen, et al. “Immunomodulatory activities of a fungal protein extracted from Hericium erinaceus through regulating the gut microbiota.” Frontiers in immunology 8 (2017): 666.

In this study, a polysaccharide fraction of Lion’s Mane was extracted and isolated. For reasons such as the improvement of the adaptive immune function by enhancement of T and B lymphocyte proliferation, it was concluded that Lion’s Mane could be used as a potential immunoregulatory agent in functional foods.

Wu, Fangfang et al. “Structure characterization of a novel polysaccharide from Hericium erinaceus fruiting bodies and its immunomodulatory activities.” Food & function vol. 9,1 (2018): 294-306. doi:10.1039/c7fo01389b

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH
There is ongoing research on the effects of Lion’s Mane as it relates to the following health concerns:

Alzeimers
Lion’s Mane has been demonstrated to possess anti-dementia activity in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and people with mild cognitive impairment. In this study, the effects of Lion’s Mane on the pathological changes in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease were studied. After a 30-day oral administration to 5 month-old female mice, it was found that Lion’s Mane and its ethanol extracts  attenuated cerebral Aβ plaque burden (build up of plaque causing narrowing in vessels). These results highlight the therapeutic potential of Lion’s Mane on Alzheimer’s disease. 

Tsai-Teng, Tzeng et al. “Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease-related pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice.” Journal of biomedical science vol. 23,1 49. 27 Jun. 2016, doi:10.1186/s12929-016-0266-z

Lion’s Mane displays various pharmacological activities in the prevention of dementia in conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. This study explores its neuroprotective effects on an l-glutamic acid-induced differentiated cellular apoptosis (cell death) model and combined with d-galactose-induced Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. In the Alzheimer’s disease mouse model, Lion’s Mane administration enhanced the horizontal and vertical movements in the autonomic activity test, improved the endurance time in the rotarod test, and decreased the escape latency time in the water maze test. Their findings provide experimental evidence that Lion’s Mane may provide neuroprotective effects for treating or preventing neurodegenerative diseases.

Zhang, Junrong et al. “The Neuroprotective Properties of Hericium erinaceus in Glutamate-Damaged Differentiated PC12 Cells and an Alzheimer’s Disease Mouse Model.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 17,11 1810. 1 Nov. 2016, doi:10.3390/ijms17111810

Cancer
In this study, the anticancer effects of Lion’s Mane were examined in human acute leukemia cells. Lion’s Mane significantly reduced cell proliferation and induced apoptosis (death of cells) of HL-60 cells, accompanied by time-dependent down-regulation of p-AKT and c-myc levels. These data suggest that certain compounds from Lion’s Mane are suitable for use in potential cancer treatments.

Li, Wei et al. “Isolation and identification of aromatic compounds in Lion’s Mane Mushroom and their anticancer activities.” Food chemistry vol. 170 (2015): 336-42. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.08.078

This study aimed to investigate the effects of Lion’s Mane on proliferation, cell cycle and apoptosis of human gastric cancer cells. It was uncovered that it significantly inhibited the proliferation and colony formation of cancer cells by promoting apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. Results from this study provide in vitro evidence that Lion’s Mane may be taken as a potential candidate for treating gastric cancer.

Wang, Kai et al. “Erinacerins C-L, isoindolin-1-ones with α-glucosidase inhibitory activity from cultures of the medicinal mushroom Hericium erinaceus.” Journal of natural products vol. 78,1 (2015): 146-54. doi:10.1021/np5004388

The aim of this study was to evaluate the anticancer efficacy of two extracts Lion’s Mane against three gastrointestinal cancers (liver, colorectal and gastric). It was concluded that Lions’ Mane extracts are active against liver cancer, colon cancer, and gastric cancer cells in vitro and tumor xenografts (a tissue graft or organ transplant from a donor of a different species from the recipient) in mice in vivo. The compounds have the potential for development into anticancer agents for the treatment of gastrointestinal cancer used alone and/or in combination with clinical used chemotherapeutic drugs.

Li, Guang et al. “Anticancer potential of Hericium erinaceus extracts against human gastrointestinal cancers.” Journal of ethnopharmacology vol. 153,2 (2014): 521-30. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.03.003

This study investigates the antimetastatic activity of four edible mushroom extracts using colon carcinoma cells as an indicator of inhibition of cell migration to the lung. Extracts of Lion’s Mane strongly elicited cancer cell death and inhibited metastasis of cancer cells to the lungs by 66% and 69%, respectively. Dietary administration of Lion’s Mane extract reduced the formation of tumor nodules in the lung by about 50% and 55%, respectively, and prevented increases in lung weight caused by cancer cell metastasis. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of Lion’s Mane as a beneficial antimetastatic agent.

Kim, Sung Phil et al. “Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) mushroom extracts inhibit metastasis of cancer cells to the lung in CT-26 colon cancer-tansplanted mice.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 61,20 (2013): 4898-904. doi:10.1021/jf400916c

Depression and anxiety
Evidence suggests that inflammation plays a role in the pathophysiology of depression, and that anti-inflammatory substances have antidepressant effects.The purpose of this study was to examine whether amycenone (extracted from Lion’s Mane) has an effect on depression-like behaviour in mice. It was noted that pretreatment with amycenone demonstrated antidepressant effects, concluding that Lion’s Mane shows anti-inflammatory and antidepressant effects in an inflammation-induced mouse model of depression. 

Yao, Wei et al. “Effects of amycenone on serum levels of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-10, and depression-like behavior in mice after lipopolysaccharide administration.” Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior vol. 136 (2015): 7-12. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2015.06.012

This study evaluated whether Lion’s Mane could reduce anxiety and depressive behaviours in an adult mouse. Male mice were administered Lion’s Mane or saline once a day for 4 weeks. Open field and tail suspension tests were performed 30 minutes after the last administration of Lion’s Mane, followed by a forced swim test 2 days later. It was concluded that chronic administration of Lion’s Mane showed anxiolytic (used to reduce anxiety) and antidepressant-like effects in mice.

Ryu, Sun et al. “Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain.” Journal of medicinal food vol. 21,2 (2018): 174-180. doi:10.1089/jmf.2017.4006

This study investigated the clinical effects of Lion’s Mane on menopause, depression, sleep quality and indefinite complaints. 30 females were randomly assigned to either a Lion’s Mane group or a placebo group, and took Lion’s Mane cookies or placebo cookies for 4 weeks. Results showed that Lion’s Mane intake has the possibility to reduce depression and anxiety in females.

Nagano, Mayumi et al. “Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake.” Biomedical research (Tokyo, Japan) vol. 31,4 (2010): 231-7. doi:10.2220/biomedres.31.231

Ulcers in the digestive tract
This study aims to identify the active component, with anti-gastric ulcer function, from the extracts of Lion’s Mane. In the experiment, anti-gastric ulcer activity was evaluated using an ethanol-induced ulcer model in mice. The results suggest that the polysaccharide fraction (an active component of Lion’s Mane) can significantly decrease the ulcerated area compared with the control group. These results indicate that the polysaccharide fraction is the active component of Lion’s Mane, and is what protects against gastric ulcers.

Liu, Jian-Hui et al. “Anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of bioactive components isolated from Hericium erinaceus.” Journal of ethnopharmacology vol. 183 (2016): 54-58. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2015.09.004

The gastroprotective effects of Lion’s Mane against ethanol-induced ulcers in rats were investigated in this study. Its effects on the ulcer areas, ulcer inhibition, gastric wall mucus, gross and histological gastric lesions, antioxidant levels, and malondialdehyde (MDA) contents were evaluated in ethanol-induced ulcer in vivo. The extract promoted ulcer protection as demonstrated by a significant reduction of the ulcer area. Furthermore, it exhibited a significant protection activity against gastric mucosal injury by preventing the depletion of antioxidant enzymes. It is therefore speculated that the bioactive compounds present in Lion’s Mane may play a major role in gastroprotective activity.

Wong, Jing-Yang et al. “Gastroprotective Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.:Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Extract against Ethanol-Induced Ulcer in Rats.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2013 (2013): 492976. doi:10.1155/2013/492976

This study investigates the anti-inflammatory activity of ethanol extracts of Lion’s Mane in an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) model. 20 mice were exposed to dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) in their drinking water for 7 days to induce acute intestinal inflammation. Results showed that orally administrated ethanol extract of Lion’s Mane could significantly improve body weight and colon length, and decreased the intestinal bleeding of DSS-treated mice compared with DSS-treated mice not given Lion’s Mane. These results suggest that Lion’s Mane can be applied as a protective agent in the treatment of IBD.

Qin, Mingming et al. “Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ethanol Extract of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), in Mice with Ulcerative Colitis.” International journal of medicinal mushrooms vol. 18,3 (2016): 227-34. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v18.i3.50

To investigate whether Lion’s Mane is clinically effective in alleviating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), extracts were administrated for 2 weeks in rats with IBD induced by trinitro-benzene-sulfonic acid (TNBS) enema. Taken together, Lion’s Mane extracts promoted the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and improved the host immunity in vivo IBD model, which shows clinical potential in relieving IBD by regulating gut microbiota and immune system.

Diling, Chen et al. “Extracts from Hericium erinaceus relieve inflammatory bowel disease by regulating immunity and gut microbiota.” Oncotarget vol. 8,49 85838-85857. 6 Sep. 2017, doi:10.18632/oncotarget.20689

Nerve damage
This review examines a model case study of the activity of Lion’s Mane in promoting functional recovery following injury to the peroneal nerve in adult female rats, with the aim of exploring the possible use of this mushroom in nerve repair. The activities of Lion’s Mane were compared to activities exhibited by mecobalamin (vitamin B12), which has been widely used in the treatment of peripheral nerve disorders. One example result includes the return of hind limb function and normal toe spreading earlier in treated groups than in the negative control (non-treated) group. This, is addition to other positive results concludes that daily oral administration of Lion’s mane could promote the regeneration of injured rat peroneal nerve in the early stage of recovery.

Wong, Kah-Hui et al. “Neuroregenerative potential of lion’s mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (higher Basidiomycetes), in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury (review).” International journal of medicinal mushrooms vol. 14,5 (2012): 427-46. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v14.i5.10

Studies have shown that out of 2000 different types of edible and/or medicinal mushrooms, only a few mushrooms have been used for neurohealth activity, Lion’s Mane being one of the most well established for its regenerative capability in peripheral nerve. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential of Lion’s Mane to stimulate neurite outgrowth in dissociated cells of brain, spinal cord, and retina from chick embryo when compared to brain derived neurotrophic factor. Neurite outgrowth activity was confirmed in all tissue samples. 

Samberkar, Snehlata et al. “Lion’s Mane, Hericium erinaceus and Tiger Milk, Lignosus rhinocerotis (Higher Basidiomycetes) Medicinal Mushrooms Stimulate Neurite Outgrowth in Dissociated Cells of Brain, Spinal Cord, and Retina: An In Vitro Study.” International journal of medicinal mushrooms vol. 17,11 (2015): 1047-54. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v17.i11.40