Does the Lion's Mane Mushroom Battle Alzheimer's? What the Science Says

The lion's mane mushroom gets a lot of buzz these days for its effects on cognition. Clinical trials do show impressive benefits of the mushroom on brain health.

But can lion's mane slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease? Maybe even reverse the effects?

Let's take a careful look at the current state of the science on Hericium erinaceus and its effects on Alzheimer's.

What is Lion’s Mane?

Lion's mane mushrooms, also known as pom pom and bearded tooth mushrooms, are medicinal fungi found in Europe, Asia, and North America. Although western medicine is just starting to learn about their many abilities, these amazing mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.

Hericium erinaceus is a saprotrophic fungus, meaning it feeds on the organic matter known as detritus. More specifically, lion's mane most often feeds off dead tree debris. However, it can also be a parasitic fungus and feed off living trees, killing them in the process.

What are the Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?

Research on the health benefits of lion’s mane indicates the mushroom has significant potential to promote neurogenesis, prevent nerve damage, as well as alleviate dementia, depressive disorders symptoms, and neuropathic pain, among other neuro health properties. Hericium erinaceus seems to aid in:

  • anxiety and depression symptom relief
  • cognitive functions improvement
  • protection against dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • inflammation and nerve pains reduction
  • fighting various forms of cancer
  • apoptosis of cancer cells
  • immune health improvement
  • nervous system injuries recovery
  • lowering blood sugar levels
  • reducing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Bioactive Compounds of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Lion's mane mushrooms contain plenty of vitamins, including thiamin, biotin, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6. They also contain various minerals, such as:

  • calcium
  • iron
  • phosphorous
  • zinc
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • copper
  • selenium
  • manganese

Additionally, lion’s mane mushrooms contain polysaccharides, polypeptides, beta-glucoxlan, prebiotic fibers, digestive enzymes, hericenones, and erinacines.

Does Lion’s Mane Cross the Blood-Brain Barrier?

The blood-brain barrier protects your brain from certain toxins found in the blood. Sometimes, however, this barrier doesn't let through compounds that may be beneficial to your brain. 

However, hericenones and erinacines, bioactive compounds in many mushrooms, including lion’s mane, can cross the blood-brain barrier quite easily. These beneficial compounds include nerve growth factors (NGF) that can provide many benefits, including brain injury protection, nerve regeneration (neurogenesis), and myelination.

lion's mane alzheimer's research

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia and a progressive brain function disorder. There are two types of Alzheimer's disease, early-onset, which starts between the ages of 30 and 60, and late-onset, which starts after 60. 

The disease starts slowly and worsens over time, destroying memory and cognitive skills. No matter the type, the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are similar and include memory loss, confusion, mood swings, problems speaking or writing, and a shortened attention span.

How Does Lion’s Mane Affect the Brain?

Hericium erinaceus contains several biological compounds that can be beneficial for the brain. Studies have shown that the mushroom has two important sets of compounds that support brain health: nerve growth factor stimulants and brain-derived neurotrophic factor stimulants. 

Nerve growth factor, or NGF for short, is a protein that aids in neuron regeneration and maintenance. Compounds found in lion's mane, such as erinacine A, were shown to increase NGF synthesis in rats. The mycelia enriched with erinacines seems to have an overall positive effect on the central nervous system, stimulating the growth of new brain cells and preventing cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Brain-derived neurotrophic proteins also play a major role in cognitive health. They promote nerve cell survival by aiding in the maturation and growth of these cells. A 2021 study looked at the effects of lion's mane compounds on the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF for short). A western blot analysis showed that H. erinaceus increased the production of BDNF proteins.

Is Lion’s Mane Good for Alzheimer’s Patients?

According to research, aiding in Alzheimer's treatment seems to be a part of the many benefits of lion's mane. For one, polysaccharides found in the adaptogenic mushroom seem to protect the brain from beta-induced neurotoxicity. 

A study looked at the effects of lion's mane fruit bodies extract on neurological health. The ethanol extraction showed promising neuroprotective properties in mice. More specifically, the polysaccharides found in the mushroom fruit bodies reduced the damage of nerve cells caused by neurotoxic chemicals.

Another study examined the neurotropic properties of lion's mane mushrooms. An aqueous extract, which contained isolated hericenones and erinacines, was shown to induce nerve growth factor synthesis. Even though more research is needed, this study suggests lion's mane has great neurotropic potential.

Lion’s Mane and Memory

Research shows great potential when it comes to using lion's mane for memory boosting. A study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms investigated the effects of lion's mane on spatial memory in transgenic mice. 

The animals were fed a lion's mane supplement for two months. Although there were no significant changes to the spatial memory in the mice, their recognition memory did improve.

Another animal study examined the effects of lion's mane mushrooms on memory and cognitive deficits in mice. The mushroom prevented impairments of short-term spatial and visual recognition memory.

Although more research is needed, these findings indicate that lion's mane mushrooms may be useful in cognitive function improvement.

Lion’s Mane and Mild Cognitive Impairment

Hericium erinaceus seems to be quite beneficial in repairing cognitive issues. A double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study examined its effects on mild cognitive impairment in Japanese adults. The people ranged from 50 to 80 in age. Half of the participants in the Japanese study were given lion's mane supplements for 16 weeks, while the other half were given a placebo.

The participants who were taking the mushroom extract showed increased scores in their cognitive functioning. These significant increases suggest that lion's mane supplements have the potential to aid in neuronal health and functioning.

alzheimer's disease

Lion’s Mane and Alzheimer’s

A 2020 study looked at the effects of lion's mane supplements on early Alzheimer's disease symptoms. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study lasted 52 weeks, and it consisted of two parallel groups. Both groups exhibited symptoms of early Alzheimer's. 

Results suggest that lion’s mane mushroom extract significantly improved cognitive function in the participants that were taking the Hericium erinaceus supplement. The participants didn't exhibit any side effects, suggesting that the mushroom is safe and well-tolerated for Alzheimer's patients.

Another recent study came to a similar conclusion. The 2021 animal study examined the effects of polysaccharides found in the lion's mane mycelium on oxidative stress, nerve regeneration, and neuronal health. The compounds significantly improved the cognitive behavior in mice. The mushroom alleviated oxidative stress in the brains of mice with Alzheimer's disease by regulating calcium levels in the brain.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Side Effects

Although no human studies have examined the side effects of lion's mane mushrooms yet, they appear to be completely safe. However, you may experience an adverse effect in the form of digestive issues if you consume too much lion’s mane at once. Therefore, it's best to start slow and talk to a healthcare professional if you notice any digestive discomfort.

Does Lion’s Mane Interact With Medications?

There are no studies that suggest that taking a lion's mane extracts interfere with medication. However, a lion's mane mushroom extract was shown to slow down blood clotting. Although this property can be quite beneficial, it can lead to problems if you're already on anti-clotting medication.

Who Should Not Take Lion’s Mane?

Although lion's mane is safe for consumption, you should avoid it if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Since there are no studies on the safety of the mushroom on pregnant people, it's best to err on the side of caution. If you're prone to allergies, especially to fungi, mold, or yeast, make sure to take extra precautions if you plan on using a lion's mane supplement.

Is Lion’s Mane Addictive?

No, lion's mane mushrooms aren’t addictive. You won't experience any side effects if you stop taking the mushroom, even if you do so abruptly. 

Interested in Trying Lion’s Mane for Alzheimer’s?

If you're interested in trying lion's mane for Alzheimer's, Forij Superfood Granola is an excellent option. You won't have to think about whether you've taken your supplement for the day, as you'll get your daily dose of lion's mane with your breakfast.

Forij granola comes in various flavors, so you'll surely find one you enjoy. The vegan, gluten-free granola contains a hyperconcentrated extract of lion's mane, along with cordyceps and chaga. Reap the benefits of all three mushrooms without having to worry about supplements or the earthy taste of fungi you may not enjoy.

Forij superfood granola

Lion’s Mane and Alzheimer’s Disease FAQ

How do you test for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

Amyloid plaques are the most common pathological hallmarks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins accumulate in the brain and kill neurons, causing the various symptoms of the illness.

The Revised Hasegawa dementia scale is a cognitive function scale used to determine whether a person has dementia. This nine-question scale can also determine the stages of dementia and its severity. Those with dementia have significantly lower scores on the cognitive function scale compared to those without signs of dementia.

Are lion’s mane mushrooms edible? 

Yes, lion's mane mushrooms are fully edible. You can eat them raw, cooked, dried, or go for lion’s mane tinctures or capsules. Alternatively, you can make lion's mane tea if you want the benefits of this amazing mushroom without the seafood-like taste. Or opt for a fortified food, such as the Forij Superfood Granola, for all the lion's mane benefits in one bowl of cereal.

Is lion’s mane psychoactive?

While lion's mane mushrooms aren't psychedelic, you wouldn't be wrong if you said they were psychoactive. The mushroom does have the ability to influence the brain, as it can aid in memory and focus improvement. Since lion's mane affects your nervous system, it does have psychoactive properties. However, the mushroom doesn't make you high, meaning it is not psychedelic.

When to take lion’s mane?

Since the many benefits of lion's mane include its ability to boost your ability to focus, it's best to take the mushroom in the morning or early afternoon. Taking it before you start your workday is the best course of action, especially if what you're working on is mentally taxing. You can take the mushroom later, as well, but avoid taking it in the evenings, as it can make you restless.

How long does it take for lion’s mane to work?

Like most medicinal mushrooms, lion's mane doesn't start working right away. You'll need to take it consistently for about two weeks before you start noticing its effects. Of course, the longer you take lion's mane, the more notable benefits you can expect, so stick with it for at least a month, even if you aren't noticing any changes just yet.

How does lion’s mane make you feel?

Lion's mane may make you feel calmer and more focused. The mushroom will likely improve your mental clarity, meaning you'll be able to focus on cognitive tasks for longer. It will not make you feel high, but it will alleviate mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, making you feel happier overall.

Is lion’s mane scientifically proven?

Lion's mane research is still in its infancy. However, recent studies done on people, animals, and in vitro cells show promising results. The mushroom seems to protect against dementia, lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improve overall brain health, among other benefits.

Can lion’s mane make you sleepy?

Lion's mane won't make you tired or sleepy. On the contrary, the mushroom may give you a natural energy boost. The anti-anxiety properties of lion's mane may make you feel calmer overall, which may lead to you falling asleep more easily, but it will not cause you to feel sleepy in and of itself.

What happens if you take a lot of lion’s mane?

Lion's mane mushrooms appear to be safe, even at high doses. However, taking too much of the mushroom may lead to digestion problems. Therefore, it's best to start slow, especially if you've never had lion's mane mushrooms before, and work your way up to a higher dosage.

Is lion’s mane legal?

Yes, lion's mane mushrooms are legal to consume and to grow. They don't have any psychedelic effects and don't contain psilocybin. Hence, there is no reason for these medicinal mushrooms to be illegal.

Forij Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease or illness. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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