Can This Weird-Looking Lion’s Mane Mushroom Make You Smarter?
Most of us would love to be smarter, faster and healthier. Could it be as simple as a eating a mushroom to help you -- cue Alice in Wonderland. Of course not, nothing is ever that easy, but there is ample research that supports that Lion’s Mane can protect from cognitive decline, boost memory, support immunity, and enhance a sense of focus during meditation as reported by monks historically.
At Higher Mind, we are in love with this beautiful mushroom and will share with you why it is so special.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium eranceus) grows abundantly throughout North America, Europe and Asia. While native to all four continents, it has only been recently used amongst Western culture, and it’s value only historically understood throughout Asia in regions like China and Japan.
The mushroom physically looks like the mane of lion, long white and shaggy with rich tentacle-like dreadlocks of mushroom wisdom busting out from all sides. It resembles spongy neuronal tissue, just like the brain (often in nature things very conveniently provide visual cues). It generally grows on harder surfaces rich in plant cellulose, namely trees in wooded areas.
Lion’s Mane and its constituents have been studied fairly extensively in animal models and more recently in smaller clinical trials with humans. While Lion’s Mane has revealed itself as solution for various health concerns, this mushroom has rapidly grown a reputation for its brain health benefits and cognitive boosting properties. While there haven’t been a ton of studies in humans (mostly conducted fairly recently), there has been fairly extensive research in animal models. Use has widely grown in recent years amongst bio-hackers and wellness lovers with rave reviews across the board.
1. Neuroprotective Properties
Lion’s Mane is truly one of a kind. There is no other herb or mushroom that’s been found in nature that seems to have the same effect on nerve growth factor and BDNF. This mushroom is the closest thing that’s been found in nature to a solution to regenerate nerve cell functioning. This mechanism of action is also thought to help protect the brain for environmental toxins and defend against the natural effects of aging on the brain. There is also some evidence of interaction with parts of the brain's reward circuitry, specifically kappa-opioid receptors in the brain, that are related to learning and memory.
2. Improved Cognitive Functioning & Mental Focus
This mushroom is magic, perhaps not in the traditional sense of being psychedelic, but it’s still a magic mushroom nonetheless. If you’re looking for natural, non-toxin brain steroids look no further than our fungal friend Lion’s Mane. Evidence points to this mushroom helping support cognitive functioning, boosting mental focus and improving memory. Research in humans found positive results on mental functioning in the elderly. This mushroom is thought to have mood boosting properties and helps to promote a focused, calm and peaceful state of mind. Animal models show reduction in beta-amyloid plaque, a major bio-indicator that this mushroom can help to restore brain health. Actives in Lion's Mane are thought to easily cross the blood-brain barrier for optimal neural-activity.
3. Immune Support
Lion's Mane, like most medicinal mushrooms, contains beta-glucans and polysaccharides indicated to help support healthy immune functioning. Studies in animal models have found enhanced immune functioning and anti-cancer activity from use of Lion's Mane. The mushroom has positive effects on insulinemic response and blood sugar response (8) and seems to have various anti-inflammatory properties, all of which largely work together on various pathways in tandem to keep the body’s immune system in tip-top shape. Our body has an entire neuroimmune system that functions to protect the brain from pathogens. Not only does this mushroom work on the brain, it also works on the immune system, which could then help further protect our brain.
4. Mood Boosting Properties
A few recently studies seem to indicate a positive mood boosting effect from Lion’s Mane. Recently, a study conducted upon Japanese menopausal women (they gave them Lion’s Mane cookies and the control placebo) and found positive results in improving the sense of well-being. Other compounds such as Amycenone have been tested in mice and has been found in animal models to help reduce depression and anxiety.
5. Psycho-Spiritual Effects
This mushroom has been revered through history for its culinary, spiritual, and medicinal properties documented primarily throughout Asia. Buddhist Shaolin Monks historically used this mushroom in meditation practice to enhance spiritual energy or “Qi”, as it was thought to help increase vital life force energy. It was referred to in Japan as “yamabushitake” which means “Mountain Priest Mushroom” and sounds very much like something supernatural a Japanese anime character would chow down on regularly.
What to Look for in a Quality Lion’s Mushroom Supplement
Whenever possible shoot for USDA organic products. Mushrooms always consist of an inner and an outer network. The inner network is generally known as the mycelium, and the outer network known as the fruiting body. Products grown in the wild generally have both parts and indoor-grown often, but not always only contain the mycelium. When using mycelium products, gluten free oat substrates are often preferred to rice as they are higher in cellulose (these mushrooms naturally grow on trees so it’s a more nature-identical substrate for actives to grow).
Sometimes fruiting body products have richer levels of active compounds, however these ingredients are grown outdoors, meaning the growing environment isn’t controlled - that makes it important to make sure the source doesn’t have heavy metals.
Also, look to use a heat based extract to breakdown any potential anti-nutritional factors the mushroom may have produced in self-defense against predators (evidence around this has only shown up for the argarius family of mushrooms, however hasn’t been researched much with other mushrooms). Using heat on fruiting bodies can also help break down chitin, a dense structural compound which makes the actives harder to absorb and assimilate.
Depending on the extract and source, benefits can be achieved with as little as few hundred milligrams and can exceed up to several grams daily. Benefits can also be achieve taking every other day rotating with other medicinal mushrooms. We've made sure that Higher Mind products have the necessary amount you need to have the full effects.