Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium Erinaceus) is a non-psychoactive fungus which in studies has been shown to increase and stimulate Neuro Growth Factor (NGF). Scientists claim this increase improves growth and maintenance of the nerve cells in the brain. There seems to be a wealth of evidence which supports this idea and I have broken this down later in the research section of this post.
Anyway….if you’ve come across this post you are probably looking for some answers on what taking Lion’s Mane Mushroom supplements regularly feels like, and as I grow my own Lion’s Mane Mushrooms at home and create my own tinctures as I detail in my post here. I believe I am in a good position to comment on what others may feel if they were to start supplementing with Lion’s Mane Mushroom. Because I grow and extract my own Lion’s Mane fruiting bodies, I know I am supplementing with a viable supplement containing the bio-active compounds.
The first few days after taking the consuming Lion’s Mane tincture I normally don’t feel anything at all, but after around a week of supplementation there are 5 things I notice:
My focus has improved A LOT, I can sit down at the start of a workday and work through until lunchtime without opening a browser and procrastinating.
This concentration is produced without a stimulating feeling and I never have trouble sleeping after using Lion’s Mane as I have with other nootropics supps.
Writing technical reports for my day job seems like a breeze, I can sit down and put words on paper almost instantly. It is as if I no longer have to think about formulating my sentences and they can just flow onto paper.
Alongside this, I believe my conversation skills have improved, no longer do I think of the perfect rebuttal 2 hours after the conversation. I can come up with solutions, jokes and small talk on the spot.
Reduction in anxiety
I feel a reduction in anxiety and this may be the reason why my conversations flow easier or when the conversation doesn’t flow I may not be noticing or obsessing about it anymore.
However, my anxiety is very mild and only relates to small things like making small talk or taking phone calls I’m not expecting, but I definitely notice some anxiolytic effects.
My reading has improved (obviously due to increased focus), but actually, I feel like absorbing the information, analysing it, digesting what I have learned, and then using it in practical examples is easier.
Again, this could be down to a reduction in anxiety and “brain fog” but also the apparent neurogenesis which is documented in the studies.
Other General Cognitive Improvements
Now this one is very anecdotal.
I’m a clumsy person, my girlfriend would attest to that, as a result, I’m banned from getting good glassware out of our cupboards. Somehow last week I opened our fridge which had: bread, Naan bread and Tin Foil stacked over the door.
All three fell towards the floor and like spiderman, I caught all of them (my girlfriend was in awe). Weeks earlier I would have gotten a look of disapproval as I was picking up all the items off the floor.
I’ve heard the benefits before! But what does it actually feel like?
The only way I can describe it is, imagine a mirror which has accumulated dust on it over some time. Now if you took a duster and wiped the mirror clean off the dust, that is how my brain feels on Lion’s Mane supplements.
I can stop taking it and the dust will slowly return (without me even realising it has returned), but then when I start supplementing with Lion’s Mane mushroom again it’s like the dust has been cleaned off again.
There is a clean feeling to my streams of thought and perception; however, if you are looking for some sort of buzz you may be disappointed.
The Research behind the claims.
Firstly and most importantly, a study from 2019 proved that the Lion’s Mane Mushrooms active compounds are capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier in mammals.
This is important because the barrier is highly selective, meaning it only allows certain substances to cross from the bloodstream into the brain, in this case, Hericenones and Erinacines.
Anxiety and depression
A 2019 study on which looked at Lion’s Mane effect on depressive symptoms in patients with binge eating disorders and obesity found similar results. However, the study group was small and lacking control groups.
A 2018 study concluded that supplementation with Lion’s mane mushroom extract “reduces anxiety and depressive behaviours by promoting hippocampal neurogenesis in the Adult Mouses’ Brain” creating anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects.
Alongside this, 2015 study mice which were fed lion’s mane extract displayed fewer depressive symptoms, had lower levels of inflammation and blood markers which indicated a reduction in depression.
And…a 2010 study on a small group of females in japan showed that after 4 weeks of Lion’s Mane supplementation a reduction in depression and anxiety was felt, this is theorized to be due to the NGF-enhancing actions on the brain.
So far, the evidence is mounting that the Lion’s Mane mushroom has neuroprotective properties in mammals. I have listed below several studies (not extensive but most recent) which point to evidence that the Lion’s Mane Mushroom has neuroprotective properties and can be beneficial in nerve regeneration in mammals.
Due to the crisis with Alzheimers across the world, you can understand why a lot of the more recent studies are focusing on these Lion’s Manes properties.
It should be noted that most of the neuroprotectants require an alcohol extraction so look out for products marked “dual extraction”.
A 2020 study concluded that Erincacine A, a compound obtained through ethanol extraction of Lion’s Mane “may be a potentially valuable neuroprotective and therapeutic agent that could be used to improve pathological conditions and behavioural deficits during Parkinsons disease treatment.”
In this 2019 study concluded that “H. Erinaceus mycelia can be a candidate to prolong life expectancy by reducing oxidative stress and increasing antioxidant defences”.
Another 2018 study Concluded that “H. Erinaceus mycelium enriched with its active compounds is capable of delaying neuronal cell death in rats with neurodegenerative diseases, such as ischemic stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression”. Another interesting discovery in this study was how Lions Mane supplementation was effective in slowing hearing threshold deterioration.
And a 2011 study on using fresh fruiting Lion’s Mane Mushroom bodies increased the rate of recovery of rats which had a nerve in their leg crushed during an experiment. Basically, the rats treated with Lion’s Mane recovered more function in the damaged limb vs the control group.
One of the main takeaways from this section should be that Lion’s Mane appears to slow the decline of cognitive health which is a natural part of the ageing process in mammals.
Immune System, Bowel Function and Diabetes Studies.
A 2020 study found that a compound MMB found in Lion’s Mane “selectively induced immune cell activation and increased host-defence activity, including anti-viral effects”. So it’s fair to say supplementing Lion’s Mane can improve immune system function as well.
A 2017 study found that the polysaccharides derived from the Lion’s Mane Mushroom were beneficial to the gut microbiome and may play a prebiotic role. These results could suggest that Lion’s Mane may be a holistic treatment for IBD.
A 2015 study showed that the polysaccharides consumed from a Lion’s Mane Mushroom extract for six weeks improved the diabetic state for rats with induced diabetic neuropathy. The polysaccharides can be obtained through hot water extraction of Lion’s Mane Mushroom and do not require alcohol extraction.
So all these benefits show how Lion’s Mane supplementation may be beneficial for people with a range of ailments whilst also showing promise in the protection and prevention of diseases which affect the brain.
Where to get Lion’s Mane Mushrooms from?
As I mentioned earlier, if you can obtain Lion’s Mane Spawn then I recommended learning how to grow your own Lion’s Mane at home.
For me, growing the mushroom myself and creating the extract has been a lot cheaper than buying a product from a supplement company in the long haul. Alongside this, I can guarantee the product hasn’t been adulterated to increase profits.
Alternatively, if you live in a country where Lion’s Mane grows in the wild, are confident in identifying the mushroom and it is legal to forage, then it may be worth going out to hunt for the mushroom yourself.
Finally, If growing your own Lion’s Mane is too much hassle for you I would recommend buying a Dual Extracted supplement (as this should include alcohol extraction) preferably from a company which provides lab results for their products.
Stay away from amazon products and try to find small mushroom farms who grow their own Lion’s Mane to create tincture with, it may be more expensive but it is less likely to contain fillers.
How to consume Lions Mane Mushrooms?
There are a range of different products people create to consume Lion’s Mane, so here is a quick breakdown of what each of them is and what to look out for if your buying products:
Full Fruiting Bodies (the mushroom)
Consuming the Lion’s Mane fruiting body regularly as a food is a good way to get all of the benefits described in this article. Several studies featuring Lion’s Mane ground up into nutrient shakes and baked into cookies.
If you have access to buy the mushrooms then eating them is probably the easiest option, and they taste great!
In layman’s terms, this is a concoction where the good bits of the mushrooms have been dissolved into a liquid form, they are often then placed into a dropper bottle and a small highly concentrated liquid of mushroom compound is swallowed or absorbed under the tongue.
Tinctures are created by soaking mushroom fruiting bodies in alcohol or water (or both) to allow the chemical compounds to permeate the cell walls of the mushroom into the solvent (liquid).
It is also possible to buy Lions Mane Extracts supplements in capsule form. Sometimes you will see extract ratios such as 8:1. 5:1, 1:1 these are basic metrics on dose per pill. 8:1 contains 8 times as much of the extracted compounds in weight in comparison to the mushroom alone, so companies are selling 100mg capsules that would have used 800mg of mushroom matter to create the extract.
A 1:1 extraction just means no extract has been done and the whole fruiting body ground up has been placed into each capsule at a measured dose.
Note: It is important to ensure any products you are purchasing have been extracted in both alcohol and water (dual extract) for maximum benefits.
Currently, none of the studies reports any adverse side effects even amongst some pretty high doses in rats during the nerve crushing study.
However, anecdotes from people online (mostly Reddit) seem to point to itchiness in some people, but the doses some these users were taken were way beyond those considered “beneficial”.
So to summarise, supplementing with Lion’s Mane Mushroom has helped me keep a clearer head during my workday, lowered my levels of anxiety, improved my reading and writing skills and it possibly gave me reflexes like spider-man one time (although even I know that’s probably a bit of a stretch).
The research and studies described earlier on this page do show that Lion’s Mane shows promise as a neuroprotectant and anxiolytic when the Erinacine compound is extracted (using alcohol) or consuming the full fruiting body regularly. When the fruiting bodies are cooked in a hot water extraction it provides a boost to the immune system and microbiome.
When buying supplements ensure you research each product to ensure it has a good reputation however, I recommend learning the process and growing your own Lion’s Mane Mushrooms at home.