Everyone knows that certain ‘shrooms possess certain mind-altering properties. But, typically, such psychedelic ‘shrooms are reserved for a very niche interest in, ehm… “cognitive enhancement,” if we want to call it that.
Perhaps “consciousness enhancement” is the more accurate phrase here.
Nonetheless, the type of mind-altering mushroom we’re discussing here has nothing to do with psychedelics or transcending consciousness etc., etc. — though, if we’re being honest, we do hope this article enhances your consciousness somewhat, education-wise.
We’re talking, of course, about Lion’s Mane Mushroom.
As one of the only known mushrooms associated with brain-regenerative (read: NGF-boosting) properties, lion’s mane mushroom is only increasing in popularity among nootropic nerds, as well as general health and fitness enthusiasts.
But what exactly is lion’s mane mushroom? What does this nootropic fungus actually do? How much Lion’s Mane should you take, and are there any side effects to be wary of?
In this guide, we cover these answers and more. So, let’s get started!
What is Lion’s Mane Mushroom?
Known as Yamabushitake mushroom in culinary circles, Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) has been around for literally thousands of years. While, today, we’d classify this mushroom as an “emerging nootropic,” its use as a food item and natural performance enhancer long predates our modern understanding of nootropics.1
With over 2,000+ fungus species used in traditional herbal health practices, most “medicinal” herbs are typically appreciated for their immune support benefits. However, Lion’s Mane mushroom is unique in that it seems to more directly improve brain health — and by that token: brain performance.
And it seems to do this primarily by boosting nerve growth factor (NGF) activity.
What Does Lion’s Mane Mushroom Do?
When we say a certain natural herb or fungus is “emerging” onto the nootropic scene, typically we mean that “we know this herb/fungus does something, we’re just not 100% sure how.” In the case of lion’s mane, this means we know that:
- Lion’s mane mushroom boosts nerve growth factor (NGF) but the exact biomechanics are unclear.2
What we know so far: lion’s mane mushroom has several bioactive constituents called hericenones and erinacines, in addition to some amylobans that might also be important here.
Exactly which of these bioactive constituents are most important to boosting NGF remains unclear, hence why it’s generally advised to take a full spectrum form of lion’s mane mushroom lest you lose out on its full benefits.
Regardless, Lion’s Mane mushroom’s NGF-boosting properties position this natural brain-booster as a healthy, effective support supplement for structural brain support, neurogenesis, and neuroplasticity.
The Relationship Between Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and Cognition
As the name suggests, nerve growth factor (NGF) assists with the growth of nerve cells, or neurons, the basic cellular units of nervous tissue. Along with BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), another key brain-building factor, NGF plays a key role in the following cognitive pathways:3
- Promotes growth, development, and survival of brain cells
- Differentiates “blank” stem cells into specialized neurons
- Organizes and maintains neurons throughout the nervous system
- Regulates synaptic plasticity and other key structural activities related to memory and learning
Of course, as we age, NGF activity naturally declines and, with it, so does our memory and learning capacity. This makes lion’s mane mushroom’s NGF-boosting benefits particularly exciting among those interested in cognitive longevity. (Which is virtually all of us, right??)
Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits
By promoting such a foundational brain health factor as NGF, lion’s mane mushroom’s benefits are potentially wide-reaching. There’s no denying the long-term advantages of healthy ongoing NGF activity, hence why both young and old supplement users are interested in lion’s mane mushroom.
With that in mind, lion’s mane mushroom does have some more specific research-backed benefits. According to research, supplementing Lion’s Mane may help assist with:
In a double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial performed on 50- to 80-year-old men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, a group of researchers observed the effects of lion’s mane mushroom on cognition during a 16-week period.
The subjects were tested using a cognitive function test based on the Revised Hasegawa Dementia Scale (HDS-R) before supplementation and intermittently throughout the study.
- Compared to placebo, the researchers observed an increase in cognitive performance scores among the lion’s mane group, with a sharp decrease in performance after supplementation stopped. The researchers’ conclusion: “Yamabushitake [lion’s mane] is effective in improving mild cognitive impairment.”4
Depression and Anxiety
In addition to NGF-boosting properties, Lion’s Mane mushroom may also possess anti-inflammatory effects.
The combination of NGF enhancement and inflammation regulation potentially explains why lion’s mane is also associated with improvements in depression and anxiety, which are affected by chronic inflammation.
- Noted in one 4-week study on the effects of lion’s mane on depression and other cognitive complaints among women aged 40+, lion’s mane supplementation demonstrated significant improvements in depression symptoms and concentration, leading the researchers to conclude that “[lion’s mane] intake has the possibility to reduce depression and anxiety and these results suggest a different mechanism from NGF-enhancing action of H. erinaceus.”5
As the brain and body develop during infancy, NGF plays an important role in healthy development. Beyond full maturation, NGF is still important to brain health maintenance and recovery — even repair after an injury to the brain and/or spinal cord.
- In one key study on the protective effects of lion’s mane mushroom performed on an animal model of ischemic stroke, lion’s mane demonstrated a decrease in size of stroke-related injury by 44%.6 These findings pair well with another animal study that observed a reduction in recovery time by 23-41% with lion’s mane when given to rats with nerve injury.7
Lion's Mane Dosage Notes
How much Lion's Mane should you take?
The Lion's Mane dosage you use will depend on your goals and the quality of the extract in question. Lion’s mane mushroom comes in a wide variety of dosages, ranging anywhere from 300mg to 2000mg per serving.
For general brain health support and cognitive performance enhancement, a daily allotment of 500mg to 750mg Lion’s Mane Mushroom Full Spectrum Extract is best.
However, clinical trials are somewhat lacking on lion’s mane mushroom, so there is no definitive “best recommended” lion’s mane mushroom dosage… yet.
Although, of course, the ideal lion’s mane dosage depends upon which type of lion’s mane supplement you’re taking.Different Forms of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
- Raw Lion’s Mane: many enjoy straight-up uncooked lion’s mane mushroom, which is tasty — though oddly seafood-like.
- Plain Powder: scoopable lion’s mane powder that may be added to water, coffee, juice, smoothies, etc.
- Lion’s Mane Extract: a more potent form of lion’s mane supplying (ideally) a full spectrum concentrate of this mushroom’s bioactive constituents
- Lion’s Mane Std. Extract: depending on the supplement, lion’s mane extract may be standardized anywhere from 30% to 50% (or more) polysaccharides, namely hericenones and erinacines.
- Lion’s Mane Tea: as lion’s mane mushroom increases in popularity, you’re apt to see more consumable-type forms of this awesome mushroom, such as lion’s mane teas, liquid drink mixes, etc.
Note that the ideal lion’s mane mushroom form supplies a full spectrum of lion’s mane’s bioactive constituents at a potent bioavailable concentration.
Of course, consuming Lion's Mane Mushroom itself will deliver benefits, but not to the same extent or as quickly as using a full spectrum, concentrated extract. This is why we recommend using a smaller dose of a much more potent extract.
Should you take Lion's Mane every day?
Is it beneficial to take Lion's Mane Mushroom daily?
The answer is yes, you should take Lion's Mane every day if you want to see the biggest improvements in learning, focus, and memory function. Using Lion's Mane daily produces the biggest increases in NGF, and thus the biggest increases in neuron growth.
Most of the clinical trials showing significant results from Lion's Mane supplements used a full spectrum mushroom extract daily for several weeks. In our experience, this is exactly how to get the most out of Lion's Mane.
Are There Any Side Effects With Lion's Mane Mushroom?
Either as food or as a supplement, Lion’s Mane mushroom is widely consumed and generally considered safe. Both in clinical research and anecdotal reporting, lion’s mane mushroom has little to no significant reports of side effects; however, some reviews have noted occasional gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort.
This may be due to dosing errors or poor manufacturing, the latter being a fault of the supplement manufacturers and not necessarily a characteristic of Lion’s Mane mushroom itself.
Conclusion: Should you use Lion's Mane Supplements?
If you could grow a new brain, you would, wouldn’t you? After all, two brains are better than one, right??
Of course, Lion’s Mane mushroom’s regenerative properties aren’t that effective. However, all the same, they are impressive enough to do some significant upkeep and maintenance with the brain you already have.
By stimulating nerve growth factor, Lion’s Mane mushroom supplements help keep your nervous system structurally intact and your cognition sharp, well beyond the natural dip in NGF we all inevitably experience with age.
And the best part: Lion’s Mane mushroom is remarkably safe.
Sure, there are plenty of other awesome effective mushrooms for general health and fitness upkeep. But none benefit cognitive performance quite as well as lion’s mane mushroom. If you’re curious to see this fungus in action, start by adding 500-750mg Lion’s Mane mushroom to your daily routine.
Your brain will thank you for it.
Mind Lab Pro® Stack Strategy: Lion's Mane + Phosphatidylserine (PS) for Brain Building
Lion's Mane Mushroom supplies unique nootropic support for nerve growth factor, which in turn stimulates neurogenesis: The creation of new brain cells. Phosphatidlyserine (PS) supplies phospholipid nutrition that is a required building block for the formation of new brain cells, especially cell membranes.
- Together in Mind Lab Pro®, Lion's Mane Mushroom and PS supply complementary nootropic support that promotes both the growth and proliferation of new brain cells and healthy, flexible brain cell membranes -- promoting the ideal brain structure for sharp cognitive performance and long-term brain health.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
- Li IC et al. Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. 2018; 2018: 5802634.
- Lai PL et al. Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013; 15(6): 539-54.
- Conner JM et al. NGF Is Essential for Hippocampal Plasticity and Learning. Journal of Neuroscience. 2 Sep 2009; 29(35): 10883-10889.
- Mori K et al. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother res. 2009 Mar; 23(3): 367-72.
- Nagano M et al. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomed Res. 2010 Aug; 31(4): 231-7.
- Lee KF et al. Protective effects of Hericium erinaceus mycelium and its isolated erinacine A against ischemia-injury-induced neuronal cell death via the inhibition of iNOS/p38 MAPK and nitrotyrosine. Int J Mol Sci. 2014 Aug 27; 15(9): 15073-89.
- Wong KH et al. Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae). Evid based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 580752.