In addition to its many other benefits, lion's mane appears to promote nerve growth, and may even repair damaged nerve cells.
We read through dozens of clinical trials to get a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind the neuroprotective and neurogenic properties of lion's mane.
Here's what we found.
What are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
Lion’s mane mushroom,Hericium erinaceus, yamabushitake. This fungus goes by many names. Commonly found in Europe, North America, and Asia, this medicinal mushroom has been used in ancient Chinese medicine for a long time.
Lion’s mane feeds off dead tree debris, more specifically the organic matter found in tree bark called detritus. Still, the adaptogenic mushroom can feed off living trees as well, in which case it kills the tree over the years of living as a parasite on it.
Lion’s Mane Benefits
Research on the health benefits of lion’s mane indicates the mushroom has significant potential to promote neurogenesis, prevent and repair nerve damage, as well as alleviate dementia, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and neuropathic pain, among other neurological health properties.
Hericium erinaceus seems to aid in:
- reducing anxiety and depression symptoms
- cognitive function improvement and cognitive health maintenance
- protection against dementia and mild cognitive impairment
- 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 neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease
Lion’s Mane Vitamins and Minerals
The lion's mane mushroom contains plenty of vitamins, including thiamin, biotin, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6. It also contains important minerals for health, such as:
Lion’s Mane Bioactive Compounds
In addition to vitamins and minerals, lion’s mane mushrooms contain bioactive compounds, such as:
- prebiotic fibers
- digestive enzymes
Does Lion’s Mane Cross the Blood-Brain Barrier?
Yes, lion’s mane compounds can pass through the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier serves an important function, screening sensitive brain tissues from toxins carried in the blood.
While protecting your brain from toxins, the blood-brain barrier also keeps out many beneficial substances as well.
However, hericenones and erinacines—bioactive compounds found in fruiting bodies of many functional mushrooms, including lion’s mane—can cross the blood-brain barrier quite easily. These beneficial compounds stimulate nerve growth factors (NGF) that can provide many benefits, including brain injury protection, nerve regeneration (neurogenesis), and myelination.
Lion’s Mane and Neurogenesis
Although there are only a few human studies on the effects of Hericium erinaceus on neurogenesis, available lion’s mane research suggests the fungus has potent neurotrophic properties.
A 2021 study looked at the effects of four compounds found in Hericium erinaceus on brain health, and the results suggest the mushroom shows great potential in memory improvement.
Hericium erinaceus promotes the formation of new neurons. This mechanism may be at the root of the medicinal mushroom’s mental health benefits. Neurogenesis, the process of new neuron formation in the brain, may have an anti-depressant effect.
A study looked at the effects of lion’s mane neurogenesis properties on depression in animals. The results show that Hericium erinaceus exerts anti-depressant effects, as it reduces inflammation in the brain and promotes the formation of new nerve cells.
Is Lion’s Mane a Nootropic?
Nootropics are compounds that support the brain’s natural cognitive functions and protect the nervous system, and studies suggest that lion’s mane mushrooms are loaded with these helpful compounds.
A 2012 paper looked at the nootropic potential of amycenone, a compound found in Hericium erinaceus. Amycenones can pass the blood-brain barrier, meaning that they can provide benefits to brain cells through the bloodstream.
Although more research is needed, anecdotal evidence suggests that this medicinal mushroom compound can aid in the treatment of sleep apnea and other sleep-related breathing disorders, as well as increase alertness. Additionally, there is strong evidence of amycenones restoring cognitive function in mild cognitive impairment.
Can Lion’s Mane Reverse Brain Damage?
Brain cell damage can be caused by oxidative stress, inflammation, stroke, and various other factors. Several studies suggest that lion’s mane mushrooms have the ability to aid in nerve regeneration and reverse nervous system injuries.
An animal study looked at the effects of Hericium erinaceus on brain injuries caused by an ischemic stroke. Researchers gave rats that suffered an ischemic stroke an aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus. The brain damage significantly improved in rats who were taking the lion’s mane supplement, compared to those who didn’t.
Does Lion’s Mane Promote Nerve Growth?
Clinical studies suggest that one of the properties of the lion’s mane mushroom is its ability to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF for short) proteins. These proteins aid in the growth and proper development of nerve cells.
Lion’s Mane Promotes Nerve Regeneration in Animals
An in vitro study looked at the effects of Hericium erinaceus on NGF-mediated neurite outgrowth. The study examined the effects of hericenone K in particular and found that the compound stimulated the production of NGF proteins. This, in turn, promoted neurite overgrowth (the fundamental process in neuron differentiation).
Based on the above results, it appears that the mushroom Hericium erinaceus definitely does promote neurogenesis, at least in animals.
Lion’s Mane May Promote Nerve Growth in Humans
Human studies (such as the one on the effects of Hericium erinaceus on mild cognitive impairment in Japanese adults) show promising results, but the body of evidence is not sufficiently robust to conclusively say that lion’s mane promotes nerve regeneration in humans.
What We Can Say Conclusively About Lion’s Mane and Neurogenesis
Here’s what we know to date regarding Hericium erinaceus and nerve growth:
- Animal studies evidence is strong in favor of lion’s mane prompting brain regeneration, including growth of new neurons.
- Human studies are few and far between on the effects of lion’s mane and neurogenesis. The ones that exist indicate a positive correlation between the consumption of lion’s mane, and improved cognition (which hints at neurogenesis).
- More research is needed to say conclusively that lion’s mane helps human brains grow new nerve cells.
- Given that there is no downside to consuming lion’s mane–and given its relatively low cost and high availability–it may make sense to integrateHericium erinaceus into one’s diet as a complementary and alternative medicine for neurogenesis, based on existing evidence.
When to Take Lion’s Mane
While you can take lion’s mane mushrooms any time of the day, we suggest taking them in the morning or early afternoon. Taking lion’s mane later in the day may make you feel restless, as the adaptogenic mushroom can act as a natural stimulant. Therefore, it’s best to take the mushroom before you start your workday, so you can reap the mental clarity and focus benefits lion’s mane provides.
Is it Safe to Take Lion’s Mane Every Day?
Taking lion’s mane mushrooms is completely safe, and can be quite beneficial to take them every day. Frequent use has a cumulative effect, meaning you’ll start noticing the effects of the mushroom sooner. However, the dosing on lion’s mane extracts varies greatly depending on the potency, so make sure not to exceed the dose recommended by the manufacturer.
How Does Lion’s Mane Make You Feel?
Lion’s mane does not have psychotropic properties, so you won’t “trip” on this mushroom. However, you can expect to feel more alert, awake, and focused. With regular use, you may even start to see an improvement in your overall mood, especially if you experience milder symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Interested in Taking Lion’s Mane for Neurogenesis?
If you want to try lion’s mane for neurogenesis, it’s important to go with a premium quality supplement that contains high levels of helpful compounds. Our Forij Superfood Granola contains a hyperconcentrated extract of the fungus, meaning you’ll get 10-15 times the nutrient density you would get in a mushroom powder—with none of the mushroom taste.
In addition to containing lion’s mane extract, our granola also has hyperconcentrated cordyceps and chaga mushroom extracts, it’s vegan, gluten-free, and made completely out of clean ingredients you can pronounce. Who knew your morning bowl of cereal could be this tasty?
Lion’s Mane and Neurogenesis FAQ
Does lion's mane make you smarter?
While it doesn’t necessarily make you smarter, one of the many benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms seems to be memory improvement. Although human studies on this effect of the medicinal mushroom are still scarce, some animal studies suggest that lion’s mane can improve memory. For example, a 2019 study concluded that lion’s mane supplementation significantly improved recognition memory in aging mice.
Does lion's mane lower testosterone?
There are no studies to suggest lion’s mane mushrooms decrease testosterone production. Quite the contrary, one of the effects of adaptogenic mushrooms, including lion’s mane, is often an increase in levels of testosterone in the body. Taking lion’s mane may or may not improve your testosterone levels—but certainly won’t lower testosterone.
Can lion's mane prevent dementia?
Research suggests that the adaptogenic mushroom Hericium erinaceushas a positive effect on the mental functions of people with memory loss and dementia.
According to a 2020 double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, lion’s mane mushroom extract significantly improved overall cognitive function in people with early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you want to learn more about the mechanisms behind the dementia-preventive properties of this mushroom, check out our detailed post on lion’s mane and Alzheimer’s.
Can lion's mane replace Adderall?
Lion’s mane mushrooms can aid in memory and focus enhancement, and some people find that lion’s mane mushrooms help them eliminate the need for Adderall. However, always consult with your physician or psychiatrist before making medication changes. Alternatively, you can take lion’s mane in addition to Adderall, as the fungus won’t interfere with the effects of the drug.
Does lion's mane increase serotonin?
Although lion's mane does not increase total serotonin levels, research suggests that the mushroom has the ability to stabilize blood serotonin levels, as well as levels of other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine.
Therefore, the medicinal mushroom may increase levels of serotonin in people with naturally low levels of the neurotransmitter but not in those with normal levels. This can be quite helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression caused by neurotransmitter imbalances.
Does lion's mane help with brain fog?
Yes, both anecdotal and research-based evidence seems to suggest that lion’s mane can improve symptoms of brain fog. The lion's mane supplement has been reported to be effective in treating brain fog caused by insomnia, Lyme's disease, and migraines after only a few weeks of regular use.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food looked at the effects of the Hericium erinaceus mushroom extract on symptoms of depression, including brain fog. Results suggest that the medicinal mushroom improved these symptoms by promoting brain cell growth and regeneration in the brain of an adult mouse.
Can you take lion's mane and reishi together?
Yes, you can take lion’s mane mushrooms with any other type of medicinal fungus, including reishi and shiitake mushroom varieties. When it comes to adaptogenic mushrooms, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, so the benefits of reishi mushrooms can only be improved upon by taking them with lion’s make and vice versa.
Can you take cordyceps and lion's mane together?
Yes, you can take cordyceps and lion’s mane together, and you will reap more benefits of both fungi by doing so, which is why we included both mushrooms, in addition to chaga, in our granola. Forij granola combines the cancer-fighting properties of cordyceps with the nootropic effects of lion’s mane and the immunity-boosting properties of chaga.
Is lion's mane a blood thinner?
Lion’s mane mushrooms are anticoagulants, which means they decrease blood clotting. While the adaptogenic mushroom won’t act as a blood thinner on its own, it may aid in the blood-thinning properties of certain medications. Therefore, if you are on blood thinners, it’s best to consult your doctor before you start taking lion’s mane supplements.
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).