Lion's Mane, a medicinal mushroom that's earned its name from its fluffy, white, hair-like appearance, is gaining some serious traction in the world of natural nootropics–substances designed to improve cognitive function.
Why? This "mind mushroom" may have considerable benefits for improving memory, processing speed, mood, and overall brain health, with an emphasis on brain cell growth and healing. In fact, researchers have pinned it as a potential therapy for dementia patients, although Lion's Mane research is still in its preliminary stages.
Want to know more about Lion's Mane cognition benefits? Keep reading to see the research and learn how this mind mushroom is used:
Table of Contents
Lion’s mane may help to improve various facets of cognitive and mental functions, including memory, processing speeds, and mood.
Human evidence is limited, but the medicinal mushroom shows promise for managing cognitive decline in older adults.
Using a nootropic stack with lion’s mane may be the best way to reap the cognitive benefits associated with the mushroom.
Lion's Mane Cognitive Benefits According to Research
Lion’s Mane has been in medicinal rotation for hundreds of years, and even ancient physicians pinned it as a brain-boosting substance. In fact, it’s well known to be one of the best natural nootropics for improving memory. Now, modern research has helped to uncover some of the ways that the mushroom may be beneficial.
Currently, based on the research available, we know that lion’s mane may have some potential for improving cognitive performance, stimulating nerve cell growth, balancing mood, and boosting immunity.
Let’s take a look at the science behind lion’s mane’s cognitive benefits:
Improved Cognitive Performance
Most of what we believe about lion’s mane’s cognitive benefits come from anecdotal reports, but there is some evidence to show how well lion’s mane may work to improve cognitive performance. For now, most studies involve either animals or elderly subjects. Some evidence points towards lion’s mane as a potential treatment for dementia.
According to a 2017 animal study, lion’s mane may have a positive impact on object recognition and memory. One human trial found that regular lion’s mane doses helped to improve cognier performance in adults between the ages of 50 and 86 compared to the placebo group. Further research suggests that lion’s mane may be beneficial for preventing cognitive decline caused by neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Though these performance and memory enhancing effects are important, they still need to be researched more thoroughly. Luckily, this is not the reason that lion’s mane has garnished a reputation as the “mind mushroom.” That title is attributed to its ability to stimulate the the nervous system:
Nervous System Repair
One study found that Lion’s Mane extract may encourage the growth of new nerve cells and may stimulate faster healing within the nervous system by stimulating the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Another study confirmed these effects–Lion’s mane was capable of increasing nervous system repair in rats with nerve damage compared to control subjects.
Thanks to these benefits, lion’s mane may not only be useful for healing brain damage, but it may help to improve neural pathways over time to improve all facets of cognition and processing speed.
According to a 2012 study, lion’s mane’s protective benefits may go even further. This research evaluated lion’s mane’s antioxidant activity and found it to have the fourth highest of fourteen most common medicinal mushrooms.
In other words, lion’s mane may help to protect against free radical damage, a primary cause of age-related cognitive decline and tissue damage. Antioxidants also help to lower inflammation, which is a primary culprit in various pain-related conditions, brain fog, fatigue, and more.
Improving Gut Health
If you didn’t know, now you know–brain health starts in the gut.
In fact, a majority of your neurotransmitters are produced in the gut and travel up the vagus nerve to the brain. According to one animal study, lion’s mane may be able to boost the activity of healthy gut bacteria. This gut bacteria, known as “flora,” plays a heavy role in the body’s immune system and the production of neurotransmitters.
Another study even confirms that lion’s mane’s ability to improve the growth of gut bacteria may have a positive impact on the immune system. This is one way that lion’s mane can have a significant impact on both physical and mental health over time.
According to a 2015 study, lion’s mane may be useful for combating both anxiety and depression. This study, which involved animal subjects, found that subjects displayed fewer depressive behaviors and improved blood markers indicating a decrease in depression after taking lion’s mane regularly. Another 2018 study also suggests that lion’s mane could potentially be useful for treating depressive disorders, though more evidence is needed to fully understand this potential application.
Human evidence is limited, but one small study found that women who ingested lion’s mane regularly saw significant improvements in sleep quality and menopausal issues, including lower anxiety levels, compared to the placebo group.
How is Lion's Mane Used?
If these benefits sound like the fix you need, you're probably wondering how to best use lion's mane to improve cognition in your daily life. Luckily, adding lion's mane to your wellness regimen is pretty simple if you find the right product and understand how to dose it correctly.
Before you get started, here are some things to consider:
Types of Lion's Mane Formulas
In the world of mushroom medicinals, you'll hear buzzwords like “double extracted” and “myceliated mushroom products.” Unfortunately, there is a right and wrong way to make medicinal mushroom products, and the manufacturing process heavily impacts the quality of the final products.
You want to find a lion’s mane supplement that has a beta-glucan content of at least 20%. For this, you'll need to find a lion’s mane supplement made only from mushroom fruiting bodies, not from mushroom mycelium. You can learn more about the difference in mushroom fruiting bodies and mycelium by reading “Mushroom Mycelium: What Is It and How Can We Use It to Our Advantage?,” but we’ll sum it up quickly:
Fruiting bodies (the mushroom portion) contain between a beta-glucan content of between 10% and 30%, while the beta-glucan content of mycelium (the root-like web beneath the surface) is usually less than 5%.
Mycelium products also usually contain a significant amount of starch that’s leftover from the harvesting process because mycelium is difficult to separate from its growing medium. In other words, mycelium, although a crucial part of the mushroom’s growth cycle, is not as therapeutically active as the mushroom’s fruiting body and products made from mycelium are degraded and impure.
You also want to find a single extracted product, despite the fact that double extracted products are usually marketed as superior. Here's why:
Single extracted mushroom products are usually hot water extracted. Hot water is a great way to break away the mushroom’s chitin layers, or the polymer layers that are hard for the body to break down. The chitin contains the mushrooms bioactive beta glucan content, so the result of this first extraction is a potent, biologically active mushroom extract.
The second phase in a double extraction technique uses alcohol, which some brand’s will claim is used to remove whatever bioactive compounds are left behind in the mushroom. The problem is that alcohol destroys the beta glucan content in the mushroom extract, resulting in an extract formula that is particularly impotent.
Finally, look for a lion’s mane extract, not a whole mushroom powder, for the most potent and biologically active form of lion’s mane’s beta-glucans.
Lion’s mane is made and sold as a supplement in the US, which means it's not regulated according to the same strict rules used to make pharmaceuticals. In other words, it's up to you to do your due diligence in assessing the quality of lion’s mane supplements before you buy them.
Look for a product made by an experienced manufacturer in a cGMP compliant manufacturing facility. Also ensure that the lion’s mane products you buy are independently tested to prove label accuracy and purity.
Lion’s Mane Dosing Styles
There are many different types of lion’s mane products available, though some dosing styles are easier to work into your daily wellness regimen. Lion’s mane capsules and powders are two of the best ways to take this medicinal mushroom daily.
Capsules are mess-free and tasteless, but provide a rigid dose that can't easily be altered. Lion’s mane powder, on the other hand, makes it easy to adjust your dosage as needed. A lion’s mane coffee powder or other beverage blend is a perfect example of how simple it can be to incorporate this functional fungus.
Avoid lion’s mane tinctures, which are normally made with alcohol and therefore contain little to no beta glucans. Many people enjoy using a lion’s mane nootropic stack, or a blend of nootropic mushrooms and other supplements designed to work synergistically with each other.
If you want to take full advantage of the "functional" side of functional mushrooms, consider a mushroom super-blend like our Lucid Coffee, Chai, or Matcha powders. It takes full advantage of the benefits of these superfood mushrooms by pairing Cordyceps, Maitake, Tremella, and Lion's Mane, plus powerful nootropics, like BCAA's, L-Theanine, Alpha-GPC, and more.
When Should I Take Lion’s Mane?
Lion’s Mane is best taken in the morning, about an hour before cognitive tasks. Of course, lion's mane is not particularly stimulating, so it's okay to take it whenever you can best fit it into your schedule.
The most important thing to remember is that lion;s mane needs to be taken daily to reap the most benefit. Over time, it may enhance brain healing and growth to permanently improve cognitive functions. Studies typically involve routine daily doses, and some have shown that the cognitive benefits of lion’s mane do not persist after stopping the daily doses.
Lion's Mane Dosage for Cognition
In research, lion's mane doses ranging from 750 milligrams to 3,000 milligrams have been used with success. This amount will vary based on the type of products you choose, and smaller amounts will be needed when using a lion's mane extract (concentrate) versus a whole mushroom product.
Because nootropic compounds have synergistic effects, less lion's mane may be needed to reap cognitive benefits when using a multifunctional nootropic blend. If you choose a high-quality, well made product, you can likely follow the dosage instructions given on the label, but feel free to start low and increase your dosage over time until you reap the full cognitive benefits you’re after.
Is Lion’s Mane Safe to Take Daily?
In research, lion’s mane mushroom has been generally well tolerated both by human and animal subjects. In fact, the mushroom was not found to produce any adverse effects in rodents, even when used in high doses. Most people can take lion’s mane daily without issue.
While no serious health effects have been linked to lion’s mane, it's important to remember that everyone will respond differently to medicinal mushrooms and nootropic supplements. If you experience adverse effects, discontinue use and talk to your doctor.
Where to Buy Lion’s Mane Nootropic Blend for Cognition
If you’re looking for a lion’s mane supplement to help boost your cognition and support brain health, you may want to look at a nootropic blend, or a formula that contains lion’s mane and other nootropics that combine harmoniously with the mushroom to enhance its effects.
Lucid is just that–a mastermind combination of medicinal mushrooms + nootropics that’s designed to unlock the full potential of your brain and body. With lion's mane, cordyceps, L-theanine, BCAA’s, and more, the Lucid nootropic stack is carefully crafted to support cognition, focus, energy, endurance, and immunity. It’s a single, delicious morning drink that puts your brain in drive–without the drawbacks of traditional “energy drinks.”
Check out our three flavor varieties:
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