Lions mane (Hericium erinaceus) is natural nootropic. In other words, lion’s mane possesses a unique ability to support a variety of healthy brain functions, including memory, awareness, and goal-oriented behavior. It’s no surprise that this is gaining some buzz among health/fitness enthusiasts and self described “foodies”. My goal in this blog is to make sure all of this hype is matched with a high volume of substantive information!
Lion’s Mane in the Natural World
It’s important to first be aware that Lion’s Mane is also referred to as the Bearded Tooth (as well as Unbranched Herecium, Satyr’s Beard, and the Hedgehog Mushroom). You know, because one name just isn’t enough fun.
There are a number of other “tooth” mushrooms that are falsely identified as Lions Mane fairly often. Fortunately, this doesn’t have any dangerous implications. Quite the contrary -- each of these overlooked subspecies offers its own unique value when consumed. Still, it’s important to differentiate them, as their individuality is justified. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
1. Bearded Tooth / Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceous)
The bearded tooth is a round lumpy mass of white-yellowish color. It has hanging, hair-like tubes, or “teeth”. These teeth surround the mushroom in a single ball-like clump. It grows from August-November on living trees - primarily maple, oak, and beech.
2. Boar’s Head Tooth (Hericium americanum)
Grows from August-November. It’s often found on old logs and stumps of hickory, oak, beech, and maple. It is distinguishable from the others due to its short branching tufts of teeth.
3. Comb Tooth (Hericium ramosum)
The comb tooth is quite similar to Boar’s Head tooth but often larger, and can be recognized by noticeably longer branches with several off-shoots of white teeth. Grows on maple, beech, and birch trees from August-October.
4. Northern Tooth (Climacodon septentrionale)
The Northern tooth grows primarily grows on sugar maples in Northeast America from July-October. The teeth are much less obvious on this mushroom, as they shorter, and hide under floppy overlapping shelf-like clusters.
Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
1. Memory Retention
- A 2017 study demonstrated that wild mice supplemented with lions mane (orally) exhibited noteworthy increases in their spacial & short term memory, as well as recognition memory.
- Additionally, lions mane prevented impairment among wild mice who were subjected to amyloid β(25–35) peptide in an Alzheimer’s model. Furthermore, mice subjected to impairment without supplementation of lions mane were found to exhibit improvement once given lions mane post-impairment.
2. Regeneration of Nerve Cells
- Remarkably, one study showed that isolated human astrocytoma cells exposed to lions mane extract led to a 5x increase of NGF (nerve growth factor).
- Lions mane has also been proven to help repair the damaged myelin sheath protecting nerve cells, which is relevant for those suffering from MS.
3. Anxiety / Depression
- In another study, it was concluded that 30 females undergoing psychiatric questionnaires experienced a substantial decrease in levels of anxiety & depression after a 4 week period of consistent use of lions mane extract.
4. Awareness / Intelligence
- In an NCBI study, Mice supplemented with lions mane demonstrated a higher aptitude for object recognition.
- A study in Japan compared a group of 50-80 year olds suffering from mild cognitive impairment to a placebo group within the same parameters. After 16 weeks of using lions mane, the non-placebo group scored higher on cognitive function tests. Their scores dropped after they stopped taking the extract.
5. General Nutrition
- Lions Mane is one of the few healing mushrooms that is also considered a choice edible. It’s as delicious as it is beneficial. Lions mane contains 20.46g protein, only 5g. of fat and 375 calories. In a 100g. serving it gives us 57 IU of vitamin D, 61.8g of carbs. and 40.9g of complex carbs. With 39.2g dietary fiber, 11.8g niacin, 20.9g sugars, panthothenic acid, thiamine, potassium, calcium, B1, B5, riboflavin and selenium, this delicacy packs it in!
For more information, we recommend checking out this other blog about the benefits of lion's mane!
Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Mori K, Obara Y, Moriya T, Inatomi S, Nakahata N Biomed Res. 2011 Feb; 32(1):67-72. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237458/#B2
Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells. Mori K, Obara Y, Hirota M, Azumi Y, Kinugasa S, Inatomi S, Nakahata N. Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 Sep; 31(9):1727-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21383512/
Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Nagano M, Shimizu K, Kondo R, Hayashi C, Sato D, Kitagawa K, Ohnuki K Biomed Res. 2010 Aug; 31(4):231-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20834180/