Lion’s Mane Benefits, Uses & History

If you are looking into herbs that can help with certain issues, lion’s mane is definitely one that you should consider.

It is able to provide a vast variety of different benefits, and it may even be helpful for managing the symptoms of different health conditions.

Many studies have taken place to analyze the benefits of lion’s mane, and it is something that occurs naturally and has been used for quite some time for medical purposes.

It might be helpful to learn more about this herb, so you can decide if it could help you.

Lion's Mane Benefits, Uses & History

In this article, we are going to tell you everything that you need to know about lion’s mane, to help you better understand its benefits and uses.

We will also provide you with a brief history of lion’s mane and tell you all about what it is.

What is Lion’s Mane?

The scientific name for lion’s mane is Hericium erinaceus, but some people also refer to it as the hedgehog mushroom. It is easy to understand why it has adopted this name if you were to look at it.

This is an edible mushroom that has a very unusual appearance, and it has a history of use in traditional Chinese medicine when it comes to supporting the brain and neurological health.

Lion’s mane is native to North America, Asia, and Europe, and it is commonly found during the late summer and into the autumn.

Lion’s mane will grow on hardwoods in the wild, especially on American beech trees. The mushroom has many different stages in its life cycles, and each part of the plant has unique attributes that can support wellness and serve a different purpose for the organism.

However, it is the fruiting bodies that usually receive the most attention and these are the most commonly used part of the plant.

Fruiting bodies will come from the substrate that they grow on, and they are the part that is above the ground and completely visible.

They have been traditionally foraged and eaten in food and supplements.

The History of Lions Mane

Lion’s mane has been used as far back as 2000 years ago in Asia, and it could be found on a variety of different tree species.

When it comes to traditional Chinese medicine, it was used as a tonic that would help to support a person’s overall health and longevity.

It is thought that Buddhist monks would use lion’s mane powder as a tea that would help to enhance brain power and heighten focus during meditation.

This mushroom is also referred to as Hou Tou Gu, which means monkey head mushroom, in both China and certain parts of Japan.

In the late 1950s, traditional Chinese medicine became standardized in practice under Mao Zedong’s rule as a Communist and nationalist project, and in 1988, China started reporting artificial cultivation of lion’s mane.

The mushroom is cultivated using artificial logs, bottles, and propylene bags.

What is Lion’s Mane Commonly Used For?

Lion's Mane Mushroom

Lion’s mane is commonly used for supporting immune health and overall wellness due to the fact that the fruiting bodies of this mushroom contain polysaccharides.

It can also help to promote healthy cell growth and turnover, and it is known to be able to provide nourishment for the brain and support production of nerve growth factor.

What Are the Benefits of Lion’s Mane?

There are lots of benefits that come from using Lion’s mane, and there is lots of evidence to support many of these things.

We are going to leave a list of the benefits of using lion’s mane below for you to read about.

Could Protect Against Dementia

You may have heard of dementia, but something that you might not have known is that there is some evidence that would suggest that lion’s mane can be used to help protect against this awful condition.

Lion’s mane contains two different compounds that can help to stimulate the growth of brain cells, and these compounds are called hericenones and erinacines.

As well as this, many animal studies have found that lion’s mane can help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease, which is a degenerative brain disease that leads to progressive memory loss.

Lions mane and its extracts have been shown to reduce symptoms of memory loss in mice, and it can also prevent neuronal damage that is caused by amyloid-beta plaques.

These accumulate in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease.

One study that took place involved older adults with mild cognitive impairment that consumed 3 grams of powdered lion’s mane mushroom every day for four months.

It was found that their mental function improved significantly, but all of these benefits disappeared when they stopped taking the supplement. 

Can Relieve Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Around one third of the populations in developed countries will experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, and while there are lots of causes of these conditions, one of them that can contribute to them is chronic inflammation.

New research with animals has found that lion’s mane mushroom extract has anti-inflammatory effects that are able to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice.

As well as this, other animal studies have found that lion’s mane extract is able to help to regenerate brain cells and improve the overall functioning of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that is responsible for processes both memories and emotional responses.

Researchers now believe that the improved functioning of the hippocampus can explain the reductions in anxious and depressive behaviors.

Can Aid Recovery From Nervous System Injuries

For those that don’t already know, the nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and other nerves that travel throughout the body, and these components will work together to send and transmit signals that will control almost every bodily function.

Injuries to either the brain or spinal cord can be devastatingly serious, and it can even lead to paralysis or a loss of mental functions. Any repairable damage can take quite some time to heal.

However, research has discovered that lion’s mane can help to speed up the recovery process following certain nervous system injuries by stimulating the growth and repair of nerve cells.

Lion’s mane can reduce the recovery time by around 23 to 41 percent. It can also help to reduce the severity of brain damage after a stroke.

It Can Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

There are lots of different risk factors for heart disease, like obesity,  high triglycerides, large amounts of oxidized cholesterol and an increased tendency to get blood clots.

However, research actually suggests that lion’s mane can help to influence some of these factors and lessen the risk of heart disease. 

Studies that have taken place with rats and mice have found that lion’s mane can help to improve fat metabolism and lower triglyceride levels.

One study has even concluded that rats with a high-fat diet and daily doses of lion’s mane extract observed 27% lower triglyceride levels and 42% less weight gain after just 28 days.

As these are two things that are risk factors for heart disease, this is just one of the ways that lion’s mane can contribute to heart health.

Test tube studies have also concluded that lion’s mane extract can help to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Oxidized cholesterol molecules will usually attach to the walls of arteries, which can cause them to harden and increase the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Reducing this oxidation is really beneficial for heart health. 

Lion’s mane also contains a specific compound that is called hericenone B, which is something that can lower the rate of blood clotting, and the risk of heart attack and stroke.

It Can Help With Managing Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that arises when the body is no longer able to control blood sugar levels, which means that these levels are consistently elevated.

Chronic high blood sugar levels can eventually lead to other complications, like kidney disease, nerve damage in the hands and feet, and a loss of vision.

Lion’s mane can be beneficial for those that live with diabetes by helping to improve blood sugar control and reducing some of these side effects.

A variety of studies with animals have shown that lion’s mane can cause lower blood sugar levels in both normal and diabetic mice. Even when low dosages are used in as low as 2.7 mg per pound of body weight, results are still significant.

One of the ways that lion’s mane is able to lower blood sugars is by blocking the activity of the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which is what is used to break down carbs in the small intestine.

When this enzyme is blocked, the body is not able to digest and absorb carbs as it should, which results in lower blood sugar levels. As well as being able to do this, lion’s mane can also work to reduce the diabetic nerve pain that occurs in the hands and feet.

After 6 weeks of taking lion’s mane on a daily basis, mic that experienced diabetic nerve damage has significantly reduced levels of pain, lowered blood sugar levels, and also increased antioxidant levels.

May Help Fight Cancer

Cancer actually occurs when DNA becomes damaged and causes cells to divide and replicate in a way that cannot be controlled.

Some research would suggest that lion’s mane has the ability to fight cancer due to its many beneficial compounds. When lion’s mane is mixed with human cancer cells in test tubes, it actually causes the cancer cells to die at a faster rate.

These results have been shown with liver, colon, stomach, and blood cancer cells.

However, it is worth being aware of the fact that at least one study has not replicated the same results, and more studies are needed for this evidence to be conclusive.

Although, as well as the potential ability to kill cancer cells, lion’s mane extract has also been shown to slow down the spread of cancer by up to 69%.

Boosting the Immune System

A strong immune system will be able to protect the body from bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing pathogens. Alternatively, a weak immune system will put the body at a higher risk of developing infectious diseases.

Animal research shows that lion’s mane can help to boost immunity by increasing the activity of the intestinal immune system, which is what protects the body from pathogens that enter the gut through either the mouth or nose.

The effects of this can be due to the beneficial changes in gut bacteria that stimulate the immune system.

One study that took place even found that supplementing with lion’s mane extract on a daily basis actually almost quadrupled the lifespan of mice that were injected with a lethal dose of salmonella bacteria.

The Uses of Lion’s Mane

Lion’s mane mushrooms can be eaten either raw, cooked, dried, or steeped as a ta, and their extracts are often even used in over-the-counter health supplements.

The taste of them is often described as being like seafood, similar to crab or lobster. If you are looking for a milder taste, then it is recommended to cook them until the outer layer is crispy in order to get rid of the bitter taste.

You can get supplements in stores in the form of capsules, liquid, tablets, and powder. The doses of these supplements will vary, but you should always carefully follow the instructions on the label.

It can also be beneficial to discuss taking any new supplements with your doctor. Just like with any other supplement, you can gain the most benefits when you take lion’s mane mushrooms consistently.

How to Cook Lion’s Mane Mushroom

You can cook lion’s mane in the same way as any other mushroom, and when it is cooked, it has a flavor and texture that is similar to crab or lobster.

However, it is often better to take this as a capsule as it can be difficult to get hold of.