Lion’s Mane Benefits: The What & Why
The Quick Scan
If you’re entering into the mushroom and adaptogen space, one of the first two words you’ll come across are Lion’s. Mane. No, not the mane of an actual lion, this is one of our top functional mushrooms that’s gained much popularity for its astounding benefits to our cognition. It has short white strands of cascading “hair” that somewhat resembles the mane of a lion. The short way to remember it? Lion’s Mane for your Brain. Yep, it rhymes.
The quick and dirty: A functional mushroom that supports cognition, focus, creativity and productivity. Tastes earthy and light, not at all like a culinary umami mushroom. Sans caffeine, full of focus.
Supplements, Lion’s Mane with Coffee, and How to Ensure Top Quality
A Little More Juicy
Ready for more? In this section, we’ll go over:
Used for millennia in Native American traditions and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this unique mushroom is both a delicious culinary delicacy as well as a traditional folk medicine. Native Americans would use it topically as a styptic, to stop bleeding, while in China, it was often prescribed for digestive issues. Today, it’s used in Michellin Star restaurants for its striking resemblance in taste and texture to seafoods like lobster.
But most often, it’s used for cognitive support, to “turn on” the brain instead of reaching for a third or fourth cup of coffee. If using Lion’s Mane for its focus benefits, make sure you are getting an organic, log-grown, fruiting body that has been properly extracted. Do your best to stay away from lab-grown Lion’s Mane, especially if the product says mycelium. This means you’re purchasing the growing medium—a cereal grain like oat or rice—with a bit of mushroom “roots”, and if it hasn’t been extracted, even worse, your body can’t access all the beneficial compounds in the Lion’s Mane that actually contribute to its cognitive benefits. Before looking at dosage, make sure you know what you are getting! The real mushroom (fruiting body) that has been extracted, is organic and log-grown, is the way all folk traditions have been using these fungi. Plus, current studies show that this OG form of the mushroom contains 10-30x the amount of beneficial compounds. It’s the gold standard, to put it simply.
Once the above criteria are met in a Lion’s Mane supplement, then you can start looking at dosage. Because a powder full of ground up oats with some mushroom roots, even if it’s 2000 mg, is nothing like a real mushroom that has been extracted and then sprayed dried back into a powder. Don’t be fooled—not all “Lion’s Mane powders” are the same!
So let’s say you’ve vetted your products, you know you’re getting the most traditional and scientifically backed effective Lion’s Mane, from there, how much should you take? An effective dose of Lion’s Mane extract is between 500 mg - 1500 mg. I recommend starting small and then building up from there after a few days. Always check in with your body and how you’re feeling, because each body requires a different amount to feel their best.
Benefits start plateauing around 3,000-5,000 mg/day, but compounds like Vitamin C can help delivery in the system. This is why I love pairing Lion’s Mane with Vitamin C rich foods or herbs like Rose Hips, citrus, or berries. While there isn’t any wrong time to take Lion’s Mane (since there is no caffeine, remember!), it's a great addition to your morning beverage (Lion’s Mane Coffee, anyone?), or in the early afternoon when that mid-day slump starts creeping in.
We only use extracted, log-grown fruiting bodies of Lion’s Mane mushroom. Our best selling product with Lion’s Mane is our Mushroom Ground Coffee (or instant for on-the-go!). We also have a caffeine-free Lion’s Mane Elixir, which is a formula that combines Lion’s Mane extract with Rose hips (for all the Vitamin C) and Rhodiola and mint, which you can use on its own, or have that Lion’s Mane with coffee.
Find the right option that works for you and stay consistent with it! Studies find that the benefits are felt while consuming Lion’s Mane and then fade after a few days without it in your system. Curious about Lion’s Mane mushroom side effects? It’s an adaptogen and as such, is touted as one of the safest options to support focus without side effects.
Lion’s Mane Extract(ed): How It Actually Works
Super Nerd Alert
Oh, you’re still here? I love people like you. Welcome to the deeper, juiciest part of this article.
Did you know that each species (fruit, tree, vegetable, animal, fungi, etc.) has a Latin name which acts as its sort of universal name. No matter what language you speak or country you're tuning in from, the Latin name stays the same. This is the most authentic botanical or mycological way to refer to a species. Then there are common names, which there can be many of, unlike the Latin name which there is just one of. Example, my full name (equivalent to a Latin name) is Danielle Broida, but people call me (common name, nickname) Dee or Dani.
Our species in point’s full, Latin name is Hericium erinaceus (puts its hand out to formally introduce itself). One of its common names, like our nicknames, is Lion’s Mane. Latin names always have a first and last name, italicized, with the first letter in the name capitalized and the second name lower case. And what’s cool about the Latin name, is that it often gives us information about potent compounds, where it grows, what it looks like, and more.
Hericium erinaceus tells us that this mushroom has two key constituents: hericenones and erinacines. What do these do? Well, they are light enough to cross the blood-brain barrier and can help our brain produce more of the protein, Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). The role of this protein is to regenerate neurons in our brain. And our brain can only access these compounds if the mushroom has been extracted. Why?
Well, mushrooms have a compound in their cell wall called chitin, it’s the same compound found in crustaceans (think shrimp, lobster, or crab shells)- pretty tough exterior right? So this is where it becomes critical to extract, since that is the one guaranteed way to break down chitin and ensure all the beneficial compounds, in this case the hericenones and erinacines, are actually bioavailable to the body. Be wary of words like fermented, micronized, and raw on mushroom packaging. Only the word extraction guarantees that the chitin has been broken and your body can access all the goodness inside.
I know this is a mouthful but since you’ve read this far, I know you are ready to experiencethe practically magical benefits of organic, log-grown, fruiting bodies extracts of Lion’s Mane. Bottoms up!
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AUTHOR: Danielle Ryan Broida, RH (AHG)
As a Registered Herbalist (AHG), Holistic Nutritionist, and Instructor of Mycology, my passions all blossom from the natural world. I believe fungi are the most important teachers on our planet, silently guiding us towards a world of more connection with each other, the earth, and the answers we need to solve many of Earth’s problems. As the current Instructor of Mycology at CSCH and National Educator at Four Sigmatic, I’m so excited to bring you more education on functional mushrooms, adaptogens, and wellness, totally free.