- 1 Summary
- 2 Benefits and Effects
- 3 How it Works
- 4 Dosage
- 5 Side Effects
- 6 Stacking
- 7 Where to Buy
- 8 Closing Thoughts
Lion’s Mane is an ancient Chinese medicinal mushroom that’s developing a strong following in the world of modern smart drugs. Its ability to enhance overall cognitive function, proven neuroprotective qualities, and linked to the production of NGF, or Nerve Growth Factor, is making Lion’s Mane one of the most promising and popular natural nootropics.
Used for centuries as a general tonic and health treatment, the Lion’s Mane Mushroom (also known as Hericium Erinaceus, Yamabushitake or Satyr’s Beard) is native to China, Japan, North America and Europe. Though it was traditionally prescribed as a general restorative, its effect on the brain has always been recognized, and ancient physicians used it to treat what we would now describe as neurodegenerative diseases.
In recent years the considerable nootropic capabilities of Lion’s Mane have come to the fore, sparked in large part by the discovery of its connection to NGF, a protein that is crucial for the survival and function of nerve cells. Lion’s Mane increases the amount of NGF in the brain, which enhances cognition by reducing inflammation, encouraging neural growth, and improving overall brain health.
But while cognitive enhancement is among the most significant benefits of Lion’s Mane, it’s far from the only one; studies suggest that Lion’s Mane is a powerful neuroprotectant that could be useful in the treatment of a startling variety of conditions ranging from cardiovascular health to obesity and even some types of cancer.
Lion’s Mane is a unique nootropic; just about everything about it, from effects to timeframe to methods of action are quite different from modern nootropics like the racetams. But ongoing research continues to confirm its potency and potential as a brain and cognition enhancer, and many are finding Lion’s Mane to be a valuable addition to their supplementation regimen.
Benefits and Effects
Enhanced Memory and Brain Function
Of course, the biggest draw for Lion’s Mane supplementation is for its nootropic effects. Lion’s Mane has been clinically demonstrated to enhance cognition including improved memory and recall. It also helps with maintaining focus and attention – something practically every person can benefit from. By increasing a person’s ability to place focus on work or study, individuals will find themselves becoming more efficient in the school or workplace. Lion’s Mane is a natural supplement that improves overall brain function.
There is a human study that was performed in Japan that consisted of 50- to 80-year-old individuals that were diagnosed with mild cognitive decline. They were administered Lion’s Mane extract at a total daily dose of 3 g per day for 16 weeks. They found a significant increase in scores on the cognitive function scale without any adverse effects.
Neuroprotection and Nerve Growth Factor
Although most people are initially interested in Lion’s Mane for its nootropic benefits, it also has an impressive ability to prevent and treat nerve damage.
There are over a dozen studies that support the claim that Lion’s Mane supports neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons, resulting in permanent improvements to brain health.
A study conducted by the Tohoku University in 2008 explored the effects of mushrooms on nerve growth and came to a startling conclusion. Specifically, they concluded that out that out of all the edible mushrooms available today, it is only Lion’s Mane that has a positive impact on nerve repair. What happens is that some particles of Lion’s Mane are digested and distributed through the body – allowing them to cross the blood-brain barrier. Once these particles manage to pass the line, they are capable of directly stimulating the production of enzymes that release the Nerve Growth Factor and repairing nerve myelin. This ability to enhance nerve regeneration could be helpful in managing current conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, senility, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s Disease, and other neurological problems.
Depression and Anxiety
Human studies also suggest that Lion’s Mane can help improve depression and anxiety symptoms after several weeks of supplementation.
Other Health Benefits
The most traditional use of Lion’s Mane in Chinese medicine is to treat stomach problems. Current research has shown that there is sufficient mineral content to back up this traditional application. It contains antibacterial properties and provides anti-inflammatory effects.
Other notable effects that can also be helpful for individuals include regulated blood sugar and cholesterol levels. These additional properties make it ideal for adults who are suffering from diabetes or have heart problems.
The mushroom also helps with detoxification, capable of removing the harmful materials that float inside the body. Hence, it doesn’t just prevent problems but also boosts the immune system, preparing it for infections and bacteria.
How it Works
Lion’s Mane’s mechanisms of action are quite different from those of other nootropics. While the racetams and other synthetic smart drugs work by modulating the production of various neurotransmitters, Lion’s Mane enhances cognition by increasing the amount of Nerve Growth Factor or NGF in the brain.
NGF is a neurotrophin, a small secreted protein that is essential for the growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival of neurons. Though it is secreted in the brain and is crucial to optimal brain function, there is evidence that NGF is circulated through the entire body and is essential for maintaining a stable internal environment in response to changes in external conditions.
First identified in the 1950s by Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen, who later won a Nobel prize for its discovery, NGF has been extensively studied and shown to be one of the primary building blocks of brain health and neuroplasticity. The presence of sufficient NGF enhances cognition by encouraging the growth and branching of axons, the long threadlike nerve cell extensions along which impulses are conducted; insufficient NGF impairs cognition by leading to neuronal decay and the eventual death of nerve cells. The more axons that exist and the better their health, the more rapidly and efficiently impulses can be transmitted and the better the cognition and overall brain function.
Another way in which NGF enhances cognition is by promoting myelination, the development of the lipid/protein sheath that encases and protects axons. Myelin acts much like an electrical insulator, increasing the speed at which impulses travel along the axons by increasing the electrical resistance of the neural cell walls and preventing the impulse from dissipating or leaving the axon.
Myelination also lays the groundwork for the repair and regrowth of severed or damaged axons, providing a track along which regrowth can occur. This activity is an important process in protecting the brain from the ravages of aging, and may also be useful in the treatment of neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis as well as psychiatric disorders including dementia, depression, schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Ongoing research suggests that the NGF production stimulated by Lion’s Mane may also have significant anti-anxiety and mood elevating benefits, and may facilitate weight loss by improving fat metabolism.
Unlike most modern nootropics, Lion’s Mane does not produce immediately noticeable effects and must be taken over time to experience its many benefits.
The dosage recommendations of Lion’s Mane depends on the potency of the extract. For a commonly available 10:1 extract (30% polysaccharide content), a typical dosage to experience its effects ranges from 500-3000 mg per day.
Dosing higher should not cause any adverse effects, but there is no evidence that quantities over 3 g per day will result in any further benefits.
When choosing a Lion’s Mane supplement, make sure that it uses a combination of both hot water and alcohol extraction to ensure that all the desirable medicinal compounds are successfully extracted from the mushroom. This type of dual extraction ensures that you reap the whole spectrum of natural benefits from Lion’s Mane such as stimulating the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and promoting neuroprotection. Choose your source of Lion’s Mane supplement accordingly.
There are very few reported side effects that arise from Lion’s Mane supplementation.
Most users that experience side effects report a sensation of itchy skin which may be explained by an increase in Nerve Growth Factor. Unless accompanied by other allergy-like symptoms, this is most likely the cause and may actually be an indication that the Lion’s Mane is increasing your NGF levels.
Lion’s Mane has been tested in mice and has shown no signs of toxicity even up to 5 g/kg and is therefore considered very safe. It is still recommended to supplement within the recommended dosages.
Lion’s Mane is very effective on its own, but it can also be combined, or “stacked,” with other supplements for even greater results.
Lion’s Mane Stack for Immediate Cognitive Boost
When racetams are part of a stack it’s particularly important to include a high-quality choline supplement like Alpha GPC, CDP Choline, or centrophenoxine to ensure that there is ample choline available for transformation to acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter most closely associated with cognition.
Lion’s Mane Stack for Long-term Cognitive Enhancement
Lion’s Mane’s most desirable benefits lie in long-term supplementation (several weeks to months) resulting in lasting improvements to brain function.
Some of the supplements that best complement Lion’s Mane include uridine and fish oil, both of which protect cellular membranes; zinc, which regulates synaptic function; and ALCAR or Acetyl-L-Carnitine, which reduces brain cell death.
Other good additions to a Lion’s Mane stack would be Pregnenolone or P5, which encourages production of new neurons, and melatonin, which reduces neuronal death.
Lion’s Mane Stack for Universal Cognitive Enhancement
For a preformulated nootropic that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing supplements, including Lion’s Mane, designed to optimize a wide array of cognitive functions, we recommend Mind Lab Pro.
Mind Lab Pro’s strategy aims at all aspects of memory, mental performance, mood and stress resistance, and brain repair, and maintenance. Their combination of nootropics is designed to affect brain energy, neurotransmitters, brain blood flow, brain waves, neuroprotection, and regeneration.
Read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.
Where to Buy
Lion’s Mane supplements are relatively easy to purchase. Lion’s Mane extract is available in both bulk powder and capsule form from various online vendors.
We recommend buying Lion’s Mane extract online from PureNootropics.net, as they are a one-stop shop for cognitive enhancing supplements. Their Lion’s Mane is derived from organic whole fruiting body extracts, with not only testing to verify the percentage of active beta-glucans, but also that starch content is low, and that there are no pesticide residues.
Alternatively, if you’d like to take a supplement that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing nootropics, including Lion’s Mane, we recommend Mind Lab Pro. Read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.
Lion’s Mane is a unique and exceptionally promising natural nootropic that has been proven to improve brain health, enhance cognition, and protect the brain against injury, disease, and the effects of aging.
Though it doesn’t have the immediate effects of modern synthetic nootropics it may be a highly effective supplement and deserves a close look from anyone that wants real, long-lasting, improvements to memory and brain function.
Planning to start a new supplementation regimen? See our medical disclaimer.