Want to boost your health this year? Then get in on the trend of putting lion’s mane mushroom in your diet. With a distinctive appearance and numerous health benefits, this mushroom variety can be found whole to use in foods as well as for supplements and teas. Let your health roar with lion’s mane mushrooms and see what benefits they have in store for you!
What is it?
Hericium erinaceus, the scientific name for lion’s mane mushrooms is also called ‘hou tou gu’ or ‘yamabushitake.’ It’s a large, shaggy and white mushroom that looks much like a lion’s mane.
In fact, that’s the reason it’s called ‘lion’s mane mushroom.’ Used for culinary and medicinal purposes, this mushroom is quite popular in Asia, especially for those in Japan, China, Korea, and India.
While you can eat these mushrooms (and they taste great!), they can be more difficult to find for culinary usage. However, you should see them in the form of supplements, extracts, and powders which make them easy to incorporate into your daily intake. Because they have so many wonderful health benefits, you should consider putting lion’s mane mushrooms on your plate or even in your daily supplements.
Where is it grown?
Typically, lion’s mane mushrooms grow on dead and decaying logs of hardwood. Since they’ve been used in Asia for ages, it’s only natural to assume these mushrooms grow there natively. They also grow in Europe and North America.
How does it taste?
One of the most delightful things about lion’s mane mushroom is that it has such a delicate, juicy, and tender taste. It’s little wonder people have started turning to it more and more for culinary usage since it has such an umami taste that can replace meat with ease. Most people say it tastes like seafood, particularly crab or lobster.
9 Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
1. May be helpful for dementia
As you age, your brain steadily declines with forming new connections. This is likely the reason older adults have worse mental functioning. With lion’s mane mushrooms, studies have found that they have special compounds that can boost brain cell growth.
In animal studies, lion’s mane may be the answer to protecting against Alzheimer’s disease. For a study with mice, the extracts of this mushroom showed it could reduce memory loss and prevent neuronal damage. True that there are no studies for this mushroom’s benefits on humans with Alzheimer’s, the boost in mental functioning for animals is quite promising.
2. Provides protection for the digestive tract
Did you know you can develop ulcers anywhere in your digestive tract? These thing are caused by the overgrowth of a particular bacteria and can damage your stomach’s mucous layer. What causes this? Long-term use of NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
If you worry about this, lion’s mane mushrooms may be able to help you. They can protect from stomach ulcers by halting the growth of that bacteria, H. pylori. Additionally, lion’s mane mushrooms can help reduce inflammation and prevent the tissues in your intestines from becoming damaged. They may even be effective for inflammatory bowel diseases.
3. Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
These days, it’s easy to see why so many people experience the symptoms of depression and anxiety. A number of causes can bring them on, though one of the most fascinating finds is that chronic inflammation could be behind it. Scientists found that lion’s mane mushroom extract has an anti-inflammatory effect that works wonders on reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, at least for studies involving mice.
More animal studies found that lion’s mane mushrooms can be helpful for regenerating brain cells and helping the hippocampus function. That part of the brain is what helps you process your memories as well as emotional responses.
While these are animal studies, it is promising since researchers are under the belief that improving the function of the hippocampus could reduce anxiety and depression. Plus, there is one small study on humans where cookies with lion’s mane mushrooms were eaten by menopausal women daily for a month. In it, the subjects reported a reduction in feelings of anxiety and irritability. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, or both, it may be helpful to add lion’s mane mushrooms to your diet.
4. Reduced risk for heart disease
Has your doctor told you that you’re at risk for heart disease? If you’re obese, have high cholesterol and high triglycerides, you’re much more likely to get blood clots. Lion’s mane extract may be able to help with these factors to reduce your risk.
There were studies conducted in mice and rats that found that lion’s mane mushrooms can improve fat metabolism and lower the levels of triglycerides. Another study involved giving rats a diet high in fat plus a dose of lion’s mane extract each day. These rats had lower triglyceride levels and nearly half as much weight gain in less than a month.
In test tubes, they found even more promising news for those with heart health woes and how lion’s mane mushrooms can help. It was found that this mushroom can help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol while in your bloodstream. Because oxidized cholesterol binds to the walls of your arteries, it hardens them and makes your risk for stroke and heart attack rise. Need more proof? Lion’s mane mushrooms contain hericenone B, a compound that can decrease blood clotting and lower your risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s a wonderful mushroom to keep your heart healthy. Even if you don’t have heart problems, take this advice to heart and keep yours healthy!
5. Can aid in recovery for nervous system injuries
While you are reading this, your nervous system is busy sending messages to control all your bodily functions. When you suffer an injury to the brain or spinal cord, paralysis or loss of mental functions may be difficult to heal, if you can heal them at all. Lion’s mane mushroom may be able to speed up recovery for these kinds of injuries. How? Because this mushroom could stimulate the growth and repair of your damaged nerve cells.
What’s more, lion’s mane mushroom has been revealed to reduce recovery time when it was given to rats with injuries to the nervous system. It could be what helps reduce the severity of brain damage following a stroke too. High doses of lion’s mane mushroom extract were given to rats immediately following a stroke and it decreased inflammation as well as the size of the injury. Nothing as of yet has been conducted on humans with nervous system injuries, but the results in animal studies have created a bright light at the end of the tunnel for many.
6. Could help with cancer
Cancer is a horrible disease that damages DNA and makes cells divide and conquer out of control. There is buzz that lion’s mane mushroom can fight cancer because it has some special and unique compounds. What’s really fascinating though is that when researchers mix lion’s mane extract with human cancer cells in test tube studies, the cancer cells die quickly.
More studies are needed but that’s certainly good news, isn’t it? On top of that, lion’s mane mushroom research has revealed that it can also slow the spread of cancer. While it was in mice with colon cancer, the mice that received this mushroom extract reduced the spread of cancer.
7. May effectively manage diabetes symptoms
If you have diabetes, those high blood sugar levels can lead to serious complications including kidney disease, nerve damage, and loss of vision. Lion’s mane mushrooms could be helpful for those with diabetes by improving blood sugar control as well as reducing the common side effects that come with this condition.
Regarding animal studies, they have shown that lion’s mane can significantly lower blood sugar levels for both normal mice and diabetic mice, even in low dosages. The way it works is that lion’s mane lowers blood sugars by blocking the enzyme alpha-glucosidase.
Additionally, mice that had nerve damage from diabetes and took lion’s mushroom extract for 6 weeks had majorly reduced pain as well as lowered blood sugar levels. The potential this mushroom has for therapeutic assistance for humans is wonderful and as more research comes out, it is hoped that we will know even more about how it can benefit those with these issues.
8. Helps boost immunity
You probably already know that if your immune system is strong, it will protect you from all sorts of pathogens that cause diseases. But if your immunity is wavering, your body is at greater risk for developing disease from intruding bacteria and viruses.
In animals, lion’s mane mushroom boosts immunity by increasing intestinal immune system activity. This could be from causing beneficial changes in the gut bacteria. Even though this research is still developing, it will be great to see how lion’s mane mushrooms could be a wonderful measure of immune protection for humans in the future.
9. Minimizing inflammation in the body
When chronic inflammation and oxidative stress happen in the body, they are the common factors for many diseases including cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders. Lion’s mane mushrooms have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that could reduce how these diseases affect us.
Lion’s mane has the 4th highest antioxidant activity out of 14 different species of mushrooms and as such, is recommended for getting antioxidants into your diet. In animal studies, it reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. The potential benefits it has for taming inflammation and oxidative stress are something that researchers are continuing to explore, but since it’s a delicious mushroom, it can’t hurt to start featuring it more prominently on your plate.
Side Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
In any of the human studies that exist with lion’s mane mushrooms, none have really delved into the side effects. However, it is mostly deemed as a safe mushroom for human consumption. In studies with rats, no adverse side effects were reported even at higher dosages.
If you are allergic to mushrooms or have a sensitivity, you should avoid all mushrooms though, including lion’s mane mushrooms. Some people have had difficulty breathing or experienced skin rashes after having lion’s mane mushrooms, though these effects are likely the cause of allergies.
Usage of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s mane mushrooms are wonderful for use in culinary formats. You can eat them raw or cook them and enjoy the taste and benefits. When fresh lion’s mane mushrooms are sauteed, they can give off a taste like a crab or lobster. And since they’re so nutritious, it’s a good idea to eat them, if you can find them fresh.
Alternatively, you can drink them in tea or take a supplement. Lion’s mane has protein, complex carbs, vitamins, and minerals that will benefit your body. It also has bioactive substances that may be the reason it demonstrates so effectively in the studies cited above.
If you’d like to eat lion’s mane mushrooms, you can simply put them on your plate raw or add them to a salad. You can quickly sauté them with seasonings and add them as a side dish that way, or keep them whole so you can add them to a sandwich. Because the taste replicates a more meaty and savory flavor, it would be the perfect way to make a meatless meal.
And if you feel like takeout tonight, why not make your own? Lion’s mane mushrooms would be divine in a Chinese stir-fry. It will add a healthy measure to your meal and use far less oil than the Chinese place you always order from. To add more to the mix, throw in some tofu or cauliflower.
The possibilities are endless when you pile lion’s mane mushrooms on your plate. Many vegans are using them to replicate the taste of seafood in meatless dishes. Things like vegan crab cakes and vegan fish sticks are just a few examples of how you can turn this healthy mushroom into the main event on your plate for making meatless meals of all kinds.
Mushroom Supplements with Lion’s Mane
There are so many lion’s mane mushroom supplements out there. That’s why you need to read the labels to ensure you pick a quality option. Your lion’s mane mushroom supplement should be certified organic and be made with quality ingredients. Look on the label to see if it has high levels of beta-glucans but low levels of starch included.
For powders and tinctures, be sure they have done testing on them and guarantee the inclusion of the beneficial compounds from this mushroom. Sustainability is important too as well as having a brand that doesn’t use GMP ingredients. Purity checks are important too. Always research a brand that you plan to buy. Companies you can trust will be transparent about their supplements, what’s inside of them, and where the ingredients come from.
Still, have questions about lion’s mane mushrooms? These answers will help you make the best decision for you when it comes to using lion’s mane mushrooms for your own health.
– Can lion’s mane mushrooms help you lose weight?
Yes, lion’s mane mushrooms may help you with weight loss. In a 2018 review, regular consumption of mushrooms was said to help support weight loss. Additionally, it could help prevent weight gain. Because they tend to have a robust flavor and texture, it can make you feel fuller when you eat these mushrooms. And they taste great, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out when compared to actual meats.
– Can you eat lion’s mane mushrooms raw?
Of course, you can! Though you may not want to pick them off the trees in the woods and just start chomping. They should be cleaned first. Eat them raw or cook them if you prefer for that lobster-like taste. Maybe you could make your own version of shrimp with lobster sauce by using lion’s mane mushroom for a vegan version of this popular Chinese takeout dish!
Can you get sick from lion’s mane mushrooms?
Generally, lion’s mane mushrooms are well-tolerated, even when ingested in large amounts or high doses. There is one exception though, and that’s for those that have known mushroom allergies. If you’re allergic to any kind of mushroom, please do not take anything with lion’s mane mushrooms in it.
Does lion’s mane mushroom get you high?
Sorry to spoil the fun, but no, lion’s mane mushrooms are not psychoactive in the slightest. You cannot get high from eating them, drinking tea, or taking supplements.
How do lion’s mane mushrooms make you feel?
While lion’s mane mushrooms do not give you a high feeling, they can reduce inflammation. In your brain, this can help soothe away anxiety. You shouldn’t solely rely on lion’s mane mushrooms for treatment of anxiety without speaking to a professional, but you may find this is a wonderful and natural way (not to mention a delicious one!) to calm some of your low-grade symptoms of anxiety.
How quickly do lion’s mane mushrooms work?
With lion’s mane mushrooms as well as any medicinal mushroom, you should allow at least 2 weeks to see results. It should be noted that you should also consume it regularly to experience desired results in this time frame as well.
Does lion’s mane mushroom interact with medications?
No matter what supplement you add to your diet, you should always discuss it with your doctor if you’re taking other medications. Even other supplements could be problematic. As they are still studying the benefits and effects of lion’s mane mushrooms in humans, it’s important to note that there is still much that is unknown about this mushroom. Make sure you give your doctor a call or schedule a checkup first to prevent any problems from arising by taking something new.
Lion’s mane mushrooms can provide a tasty and nutritious addition to your meals. Since they taste like crab or lobster, you can use them for making meatless dishes without compromising on your nutrition.
But if you’re not a fan of mushrooms or seafood, you can still get the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms through supplements. Most of the benefits discussed above are still being studied and very few have been conducted on humans, however, they are deemed safe and nutritious for adding to your health.
The only exception is for those that are allergic to mushrooms, but other than that, if you want to help your health in a number of ways, try lion’s mane mushrooms and see if they help you!
About the Author
Lori Bogedin is a health and wellness writer and editor of TwigsCafe.com. She is in the restaurant business since 1999. In 2016 she was named one of the "Top Women in Business" by Northeastern Pennsylvania Business Journal.