In the past two to three decades, scientists have turned to traditional medicine to look for new compounds that can be used as dietary supplements to boost health. One popular candidate is the lion's mane mushroom . In this article, we explore this ancient herbal supplement and the potential benefits it could have for your health.
What are Lion's Mane Mushrooms?
Lion's mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are a family of edible fungi widely used for culinary and medicinal purposes in East Asia . They owe their name to their appearance, as their white fruiting bodies grow as a single clump of long spines, resembling a lion's mane, and can be consumed dry, raw, cooked, or as tea.
Lion's Mane mushroom (Yamabushitake) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat various health conditions. In traditional medicine, they are beneficial for the five internal organs of the liver, lung, spleen, heart, and kidney.
Their health benefits are said to stem from the wide range of bioactive chemicals they contain, which influence many biological functions, including immunological regulation, metabolism, and even neurological activity .
Multiple mushroom research studies have confirmed the medicinal value and beneficial effects of lion's mane mushrooms. The literature suggests that the mushroom may have anti-cancer, anti-hypertensive, hypolipidemic, neuronal disease protecting activities. In addition, lion's mane may assist with mental clarity as well as immune-boosting.
Health Benefits of Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease
Lion's Mane mushrooms are well-known for their neuroprotective benefits and ability to promote growth and maintenance of neurons, contributing to good health of brain cells . Extracts from the fruiting body and mycelium of Lion's mane mushrooms have been proven to promote nerve growth in the nervous system.
Several studies have found that lion's mane has clinical benefits for neurodegenerative disorders. For example, one study demonstrated that the dietary consumption of the Lion's Mane mushroom powder or medicinal mushrooms increased short-term spatial memory and visual recognition in a model of dementia . In addition, H. erinaceus mycelia capsules have also been associated with improved cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Mild relief from depression and anxiety
In several studies, lion's mane mushrooms have been found to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. For example, one study found that lion's mane mushroom mycelium extract could restore levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play fundamental roles in depressive and anxiety disorders . Scientists have also suggested that the anti-depressant effects of Lion's mane mushrooms are linked to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Improves cognitive health and mental clarity
Phytotherapy research suggests that Lion's mane mushrooms can improve neuronal functions and cognitive health due to their neuroactive compounds that promote neuronal growth and brain activity. Dietary supplementation with lion's mane powder improved cognitive function in adults with mild cognitive impairment . Lion's mane mushrooms' neuroprotective and neurostimulating benefits are not restricted to pathological conditions but can also boost neuronal function in healthy individuals .
Lion's mane mushrooms contain many compounds with immunomodulatory activity. These compounds act on different immune pathways to boost the immune system . One such pathway involves the regulation of the gut microbiota, which then leads to improved immune function. For this reason, the lion's mane mushroom extracts have been suggested as a possible therapy for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) . In addition, extracts of Lion's mane mushrooms have been shown to have antimicrobial activity against antibiotic-resistant bacteria .
Protects the digestive tract
In traditional Chinese medicine, the lion's mane mushroom has frequently been used as a tonic to prevent and treat digestive tract diseases, including ulcers and chronic gastritis. Studies report that Lion's mane extract protects against gastric ulcers through multiple mechanisms, such as triggering the mucus barrier defense system, immune modulation, and anti-oxidant activity . In addition, ethanol extracts from the lion's mane mushroom have also been shown to successfully inhibit Helicobacter pylori activity .
Reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes
Lion's mane helps reduce the risk of heart disease by improving metabolism, reducing triglyceride levels, and inhibiting the oxidation of cholesterol. One study suggests that lion's mane extract improved lipid metabolism, leading to less weight gain and lower triglyceride levels in rats kept on a high-fat diet .
Another study found that lion's mane extract inhibited the oxidation of cholesterol . This process leads to the formation of plaques, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. Finally, lion's mane mushrooms also have anti-thrombotic activity due to hericenone B . This compound decreases blood clotting, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Lion's mane mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for the management of diabetes. Studies have found that its extract can lower blood sugar levels and protect against liver, pancreas, and kidney damage . Other studies have reported that lion's mane mushrooms effectively relieve neuropathic pain, a frequent and chronic complication of diabetes .
Help combat cancer
Lion's mane mushrooms are reported to have anti-cancer activities, which involve several different mechanisms of action. The most important one is possibly modulation of the immune system. These medicinal mushrooms contain compounds with anti-tumor and immunomodulatory activities. One study showed that extracts obtained from lion's mane mushrooms slowed the spread of pulmonary cancer cells .
Lion's mane mushrooms can induce cell death . This mechanism is lost in cancer cells and leads to the formation of tumors and metastasis. As a result, many cancers have been studied, including lung, blood, colon cancer, among others.
Is Lion's Mane Safe to take?
There have not been any extensive safety studies for the consumption of Lion's mane mushrooms done in humans. There have been reports of skin rashes and difficulty breathing, but these are thought to be caused by allergic reactions.
Animal studies suggest that there seem to be no dangerous side effects of lion's mane, even in high doses [21,22].
It is important to note that anyone who has previously experienced any allergic reaction to mushrooms should avoid consuming them or other types of mushroom products and supplements . Unfortunately, the food and drug administration did warn the public against using Lion's mane mushroom as a dietary supplement. Before taking any dietary supplements for a health condition or medical condition, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional and be medically reviewed.
How to take Lions Mane?
Lion's Mane Extract Powder
You can consume lion's mane supplement in the form of powder extract.
First, its bioactive properties are extracted using alcohol, water, or a combination of both (recommended). Lion's mane mushroom extract has increased bioavailability. By extracting its compounds from the cell walls, you can be sure that you will reap the full benefits.
The extract is made into a powder by freeze-drying. The powder can then be added to any food or drinks as a supplement.
Lion's Mane Mushroom Capsules
Lion's mane capsules contain lion's mane powder. As a result, they might be more convenient for oral purposes, as you will not have to measure powder before taking it. Some capsules may also have extra compounds that boost absorption, increasing the benefits obtained from the supplement.
Lions mane mushrooms have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years in traditional medicine for a wide variety of health issues, from diabetes and neurological conditions to gastric problems.
Recently, more and more scientific studies support the use of lion's mane, showing that compounds extracted from these fungi can modulate multiple biological functions, from immunity to cognitive function and even metabolism. So don't forget, the mushroom supplement aids in good brain health too.
For those who want to live a healthy lifestyle, the lion's mane mushroom is an excellent supplement due to its neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing properties, as well as immunomodulatory activity. Additionally, as more scientific research is carried out on the benefits of lion's mane mushrooms, they will become prime candidates for developing new therapies based on natural compounds.
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