If your health is not quite where you want it to be, you are probably interested in finding ways to help improve it. As someone with an interest in a natural way to do so, you might want to consider turning to lion's mane mushrooms. Hericium Erinaceus, otherwise known as lion's mane, is a mushroom native to North America, Asia, and Europe and consists of a cluster of 'spines' that are over a centimeter in length. This gives it the characteristic appearance similar to the mane of a lion, hence the name.
While it might seem peculiar to trust your health to a single fungus, the lion's mane has a wide range of benefits to your overall health. There are eight primary benefits to your health and well-being.
Benefit #1: Neurological Health
As we age, our brain's ability to form new connections begins to deteriorate and costs us our overall mental functionality. One of the most devastating mental conditions to arise from this deterioration is dementia. So how can a mushroom affect your neurological health in any way, much less when dealing with something as debilitating as dementia?
Well, lion's mane mushrooms are sources of Hericenones and Erinacines, compounds that our bodies use to stimulate the growth of brain cells. Consumption of lion's mane supplements can help counteract dementia that would otherwise develop from the brain's natural aging.
Another common mental ailment, Alzheimer's disease, may be impacted by the lion's mane mushroom. To this end, animal studies have been conducted on mice by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). These studies found that lion's mane extracts have reduced memory loss in the mice while simultaneously protecting against neuronal damage brought on by amyloid-beta plaques, a concentration of amino acids that buildup due to Alzheimer's. That said, thus far no studies have been conducted on human subjects suffering from the disease.
Even with the lack of human trials for Alzheimer's treatment, lion's mane has been found to induce cognitive benefits in humans. Specifically, another study conducted by the NCBI on mentally impaired adults found that the consumption of three grams of powdered lion's mane mushroom throughout 4 months improved mental functions. However, these results dissipated when they stopped taking the supplements.
The science behind the use of lion's mane in helping to reinforce your neurological health remains in its infancy. However, these initial studies are promising enough to encourage further study into how introducing the mushroom into your system might be of benefit.
Benefit #2: Mental Health
One of the most common issues in developed countries is mental illness. While you might be tempted to think of mental illness as conditions like Dissociative Personality Disorder (D.I.D.) or bipolar disorder, there are more common conditions that the people you know suffer from. Conditions such as anxiety and depression affect up to a third of the country and can be devastating if left unaddressed. One of the causes of these issues might simply be chronic inflammation.
The NCBI has conducted studies on mice using lion's mane extract that proved it as an anti-inflammatory. Once subjected to the extract, the mice's inflammation was reduced, and their recorded depression and anxiety dropped.
Even more, studies recorded that the lion's mane promotes the regeneration of brain cells and improves the hippocampus' functionality. Since the hippocampus is the region of your brain responsible for memory storage and emotional response, increasing its functionality helps to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression to a certain extent.
Another study conducted on menopausal women found that cookies baked with lion's mane reduced instances of irritation and anxiety over a month.
Ultimately, the effects of lion's mane on mental illness are not as effective as mainstream pharmaceuticals but might serve as an excellent natural supplement to help improve your overall mental health. The science on mental illness, like the effects on neurological health, is not yet thoroughly researched but equally as promising.
Benefit #3: Nervous System Recovery
Our nervous systems are a wondrous combination of our brain, spinal cord, and nerves that transmit signals across our body so we can control them. As a result, when something damages it, we are left scrambling to undo it. Fortunately, new research may have uncovered a way for lion's mane mushrooms to help cope with this damage.
Studies conducted by the NCBI have found that the lion's mane promotes the growth and regeneration of nerve cells. Lion's mane has been documented to speed up the process of healing your nervous system, with a test conducted on rats, showing that the time it took for nervous system injuries in the rats to heal was reduced by anywhere between 23-41%.
Lion's mane might also have a place in helping to reduce the long-term impact of brain damage. Another study found that rats who were given lion's mane extract immediately following a stroke saw less inflammation as a result. This reduced inflammation also decreased the size of stroke-related brain injuries by 44%.
Unfortunately, the effect of the lion's mane when it comes to the nervous system is still unconfirmed. No studies have yet been conducted on humans to any capacity, with the results only leading to promising future developments in treating injuries to the nervous system.
Benefit #4: Digestive Tract
The digestive tract is a much more sensitive part of our anatomy than you might think. The entire length of it, which runs from the stomach to the large and small intestines, is susceptible to developing painful ulcers. These ulcers, likely forming from an overgrowth of H. pyloribacteria or damage to the mucous layer of the stomach, can be frustrating to treat.
Lion's mane has been found to potentially protect against the development of these ulcers. A couple of studies conducted found that lion's mane can inhibit the growth of H. pyloriin the body and fortify the lining of your stomach against damage. Many test-tube studies have confirmed the lion's mane's ability to prevent the growth of H. pylori, though no such studies have been conducted to see if the effect is the same within the human body.
Conversely, animal studies have also been conducted that found lion's mane extract was more beneficial for preventing ulcers induced by alcohol consumption than traditional drugs were. It also had the added benefit of not causing any adverse side effects in the test subjects.
Lion's mane's anti-inflammatory properties also come into play when it comes to intestinal health. This effect can reduce the inflammation around the intestines and prevent tissue damage to them. This has led to a hypothesis that lion's mane mushrooms can be used to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
A study was conducted on ulcerative colitis patients that were provided a supplement that contained 14% lion's mane extract. The result had the subjects experiencing reduced symptoms after 3-weeks.
The benefits of lion's mane on the digestive tract might serve as an excellent reason to introduce the mushroom or supplements containing its extract to your diet. More human trials are needed, but the ultimate result is that the lion's mane can be an excellent tool in the fight against ulcers.
Benefit #5: Heart Disease
The most common factors for heart disease are obesity, high triglycerides, and high cholesterol. All of these are ordinarily fought through improved diet and exercise. However, research shows the potential for lion's mane mushrooms to help reduce the risk for heart disease.
There have been studies conducted on rodents that found lion's mane extract bolsters the metabolism and increases the processing of fat, and lowers triglyceride amounts. Rats were fed high-fat foods while also being given supplements containing lion's mane extract daily. The result was a 27% decrease in triglycerides and a 42% decrease in weight gain over 28 days.
Additionally, test-tube studies have found that lion's mane extract can prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Since oxidized cholesterol molecules attach to arterial walls, they harden and spikes the risk of heart attacks and strokes as a result. Reducing this oxidation serves to help prevent such issues, though proper diet and exercise are still highly recommended. Lion's mane is also a source of Hericenone B, a compound known to decrease the rate of blood clotting that might induce cardiac issues.
The use of mushrooms can be an amazing way to increase your health, and not just lion's mane. Lion's mane comes in many forms aside from its edible base state. Adding it to your diet can help to improve your overall cardiac health, regardless of whether it's in mushroom form, powder, or capsule.
Benefit #6: Diabetes
Diabetes hinders your body's ability to control its blood sugar levels and causes it to be consistently elevated. This elevated blood sugar causes major issues like kidney disease and nerve damage.
However, several animal studies have found that lion's mane mushrooms might help regain regulation of your blood sugar levels. Some of these studies found that blood sugar levels can be significantly reduced, as documented in diabetic mice with even small doses of 2.7 mg per pound. The way lion's mane can reduce blood sugar concentration is through the hindrance of the alpha-glucosidase enzyme, which is responsible for the breakdown of carbohydrates in the small intestine. When this enzyme is prevented from functioning, your body cannot digest these carbohydrates effectively and, as a result, lowers your blood sugar.
Lion's mane might also be useful in reducing nerve pain induced by diabetes. In another study on mice, a 6-week regimen of daily lion's mane mushroom extract reduced nerve pain in the mice and even showed signs of increasing antioxidant levels.
These effects have not undergone sufficient human testing to confirm the efficacy for our use, but the results shown in mice are certainly a cause for optimism.
Benefit #7: Cancer
Possibly the most uncertain benefit of lion's mane mushrooms, it is possible that they might serve as a supplement for those who have cancer.
Test-tube studies conducted on lion's mane mushroom extract mixed the fungus with human cancer cells. The result was the rapid death of the cells for liver, colon, stomach, and blood cancer. While 1 study failed to recreate the results, this is a promising demonstration of how the mushroom might be beneficial in the fight against cancer.
Another reason lion's mane might prove beneficial is that it might be able to slow the spread of the disease to other parts of the body. Another study, this time on mice, found that lion's mane extract slowed the spread of cancer through the mice's bodies by 69%. One of the studies found that lion's mane was more effective than traditional anti-cancer treatments at slowing the rate of growth of cancerous tumors in the mice.
The research on lion's mane's effect on cancer is still unproven in humans as no human trials have yet been conducted. While you can use lion's mane as a supplement, don't avoid medical treatment if you have cancer, and consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
Benefit #8: Immune System
Our immune system protects us from the pathogens that cause the most common diseases and issues we suffer from. So, when this system is weakened, we are left vulnerable to illnesses we might otherwise overcome.
Tests conducted on animals have found that lion's mane mushrooms can bolster the immune system's ability by increasing its level of activity. This protects the body from the pathogens that are inhaled or unwittingly consumed. The reason for this bolstering effect likely stems from the changes to intestinal bacteria we produce that stimulate our immune systems.
Another study found that lion's mane supplements administered to mice daily, nearly quadrupled their lifespan after being injected with salmonella bacteria that ordinarily prove lethal. The effects of the lion's mane on the immune system are the least researched of all the others and require much more testing. However, if the trends continue, the mushroom could prove to be one of the most effective tools to increase our resistance to pathogens.
The Bottom Line
Lion's mane is more than just an interestingly shaped mushroom. While it is an edible mushroom that has been around for a long time, its potential benefits to our overall health are still being researched. While this research is still in its infancy, we might soon enjoy many benefits that will make us happier and healthier than we were before we began to consume it. Fortunately, if you are eager to begin your journey with the lion's mane mushroom, it is easily purchased in supplement form.