You've been using medicinal mushrooms for a while now. You've felt the immune upgrade, the increased resilience and adaptability plus countless other amazing benefits that come with their use. Then you start hearing words like 'nootropic' and 'smart drugs' coming up again and again. Nootropics are a hot topic right now (check out this article 'What Are Nootropics') and have absolutely permeated the West in the last few years, as evidenced by their popularity amongst top CEO's, biohackers, longevity enthusiasts, athletes and more.
The concept of upgrading your brain's machinery makes absolute sense and in our fast-paced 21st century, there is no better time to be looking at naturally-derived nootropics to help increased recall, thought-firing capacity and promote stronger mental output (minus the side effects from regular brain boosters like caffeine).
Nootropics cannot be mentioned without mentioning Lion's Mane mushroom. Similarly, Lion's Mane shouldn't be mentioned without the word nootropic!
Read on to get the full download on why we love Lion's Mane so much.
The Latin name "Hericium erinaceus" literally translates to Hedgehog mushroom and as the western name suggests, bears a striking resemblance to the mane of a lion. Various species of Lion's Mane exist, however, they all share that classic ocean-coral appearance of their fruiting body and provide many of the same neuroprotective and nootropic benefits.
This amazing fungus grows on decaying coniferous trees and is found mostly in Asian continents (although it does also feature in North America and some areas of Europe). Traditionally it featured mainly within Traditional Chinese Medicine as a digestive tonic and prescribed for gastric ulcers as well as general debility and neurasthenia.
Although the roots of this particular mushroom are steeped in both Japanese and Chinese medicine, Lion's Mane has really caught the attention of the Western world in recent years and continues to be explored in animal and human research settings, showing some really promising preliminary results. The focus of modern research on Lion's Mane continues to explore its neuroregenerative capacity, however, some of the many beneficial actions associated so far with its use are antimicrobial, immunomodulating, cognition-enhancing, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hepatoprotective and anti-ulcer actions. We encourage you to head to Google Scholar and check out the research on this wonder mushroom.
One of the most amazing things about medicinal mushrooms such as Lion's Mane, is that they possess unique long-chain polysaccharides known as beta-glucans. These polysaccharides act as "biological response modifiers" in humans. This means when ingested, they awaken and greatly augment our own native immune cells to carry out actions in which they are inherently designed to do but may be executing poorly - such as expose and remove decaying cells, improve surveillance to pathogenic threats and regulate rogue inflammation in the body.
A huge literature review was conducted in 2014, summarising all the available experimental and clinical research available on Lion's Mane to date. Significant beta glucan-induced immune activation was seen in every single research published and available. This suggests Lion's Mane offers potent benefits for immune dysregulatory conditions, inflammatory disorders and stealth infections (1).
Lion's Mane has been dubbed as being "neuron food", which is the result of the impressive findings in research settings where it has been shown repeatedly to boost nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF levels have been correlated with the initiating stages of cognitive disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It is thought that specific molecules within Lion's Mane (namely hericenone and diterpenoids) are able to pass through the blood-brain-barrier, which is how they may stimulate NGF.
In 2009, a double-blind-placebo-controlled study was carried out on 30 men aged 50 to 80 in Japan who were suffering from dementia (poor memory, confusion and language impairment). Compared to placebo, the Lion's Mane group at 8, 12 and 16 - week intervals all showed dramatically improved cognition scores as measured by the HDS-R dementia scale (2).
Symptoms such as short-term, spatial and visual recognition memory losses observed in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease injected with amyloid B plaque were all mitigated compared to control groups after oral delivery of Lion's Mane mushroom extract. The researchers observed significantly augmented levels of neurite-growth-factor (NGF) in the hippocampus of these mice (3).
A 2008 study aimed to isolate and observe the potential neurotrophic activities of four various medicinal mushrooms, including Lion's Mane, Maitake, Eringi and Agaricus on NGF gene expression within human astrocytoma cells. Among the four, the ethanol extract of Lion's Mane was the only botanical observed to promote human NGF mRNA gene expression as well as neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells in a concentration-dependant manner (4).
Perhaps one of the most touted pieces of research on Lion's Mane mushroom came about following a 2012 study where extracts were given to mice who had undergone crush-induced peripheral nerve damage, to monitor the neuro-regenerative capacity of those given the treatment. Compared to controls that were given B12 injections, the Lion's Mane group over the course of 14 days showed dramatically enhanced motor functional recovery rate, regeneration of axons, re-innervation of motor end plates and neuromuscular junctions. The authors claimed this to be up to 50% faster compared to their counterparts as measured by morphological evaluation and return of limb function (5)
An interesting trial was conducted on 30 menopausal women, who were also afflicted with depression and anxiety. The authors hypothesized that due to Lion's Mane known NGF stimulatory effect, that it may be able to augment the autonomic nervous system, boost overall brain function and lift symptoms experienced by these menopausal subjects. At the conclusion of the four-week intervention, scores of depression, sleep quality and indefinite complaints were all significantly reduced compared to controls (using a range of emotional, sleeping and menopausal assessment measures). Researchers suggest that these improvements may be initiated through a different mechanism than the NGF-enhancing action they hypothesized, which may highlight a hormonal modulatory action of Lion's Mane (6).
It's so easy. Like all the SuperFeast herbs, it is suggested you start small (try 1/4 teaspoon) and build-up, as you see fit. A nice maintenance dose is 1 good heaped teaspoon daily. SuperFeast herbs and blends come ready to ingest, they are powerful powdered extracts, ready to go.
Lion's Mane has a delicious taste. In fact, if we were to be more specific, we would call it the taste of "honeycomb, burnt butter and dry wood chips". This wonder mushroom is ready to ingest - it's bioavailable and is not temperature sensitive. This means you can add it to hot or cold foods and drinks.
A popular way to get Lion's Mane in, due to it's palatable taste, is to sprinkle straight onto your salad, soup or curry.
Lion's Mane appears to have an excellent tolerability profile and no side effects have been reported in the available scientific literature.
We love Lion's Mane for epic brain health guys. If you are suffering from any cognition issues, memory, brain fog, brain trauma or injury, we highly suggest jumping on Lion's Mane. Check out this link to see where SuperFeast Lion's Mane comes from. And if you are feeling extra brainy, check out our 21 days of Brain Health for education and heaps of tips.
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A really interesting one today community. Mason talks about which tonic herbs are your ally during Spring.