Last updated: May 13, 2017
In 2015 famed writer, Michael Pollan, wrote The Trip Treatment  about the medicinal effects of psychedelic mushrooms. While the psychedelic variety are becoming popularized with less stigma attached to them, many traditional cultures and nootropics users have been using medicinal mushrooms for many years. Lion’s mane mushroom is in a class of fungus used for improving general health and cognitive performance.
Lion’s mane mushroom is a promising supplement for combating symptoms of anxiety, can decrease feelings of depression , and can help prevent some aspects of cognitive decline . The medicinal mushroom can also improve some aspects of neurogenesis and act as a neuroprotective compound .
The mushroom is also known to be an immune booster with healthy adults and those who are suffering from cancer . While these studies are inconclusive and few, the preliminary evidence seems promising.
Beyond the brain benefits of lion’s mane, there are many other heart and cholesterol related enhancements, which make this a general health tonic in many traditional cultures.
Also Known As
Hericium erinaceus, Lion's Mane, Monkey's Head, Houtou (infrequent), Igelstachelbart, Pom Pom Blanc, Hedgehog Mushroom, Satyr’s Beard
Editors’ Thoughts on Lion’s Mane
I’ve never tried lion’s mane mushroom, but the popularity on nootropics communities is far greater than the research would suggest. I cannot guess why it is more popular in the community than is warranted based on the research, but if I had to then I would suggest it has something to do with the fact it is a medicinal mushroom with mood enhancing (or at least anxiety reducing) effects.
A lot of people swear by lion’s mane, but some people also have strong reactions that seem more intense. Perhaps this is a result of taking extracts rather than simply the medicinal mushroom itself.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
Benefits of Lion’s Mane
The main cognitive benefits of lion’s mane seem to be related to anxiety, depression, and the prevention of cognitive decline (i.e: neuroprotection). The evidence is a bit lacking, but predominantly looks at anxiety and depression. In one 4 week study, doses of lion’s mane were given to 30 participants and found significant improvements in feelings of anxiety and depression .
Aside from anxiety, lion’s mane can improve the cognitive performance of those who are already in decline. A 16 week trial of 50 – 80 year olds showed improvements in their cognitive abilities with lion’s mane mushroom . While this study shows some evidence of neuroprotection, it isn’t very convincing. More compelling evidence exists on the interactions within the brain, however.
For example, lion’s mane mushroom can increase the expression of nerve-growth factor (NGF) in some regions of the brain (such as the hippocampus, but not the cortex) . This increase in NGF can support neurogenesis and general cognitive health. It may even be able to support the regrowth of neurons after injury, which has been replicated in a single rat study . This doesn’t mean anyone with brain injuries will instantly recover, but it is a theoretical possibility.
What is most interesting about these lion's mane mushroom benefits is how they correlate together. Although no studies explore the connection, neurogenesis (the growth of new cells) is supposed to be an effective way to reduce anxiety and depression. A lions mane mushroom extract can increase nerve-growth and studies suggest it reduces anxiety. One potential cause for reduced anxiety and depression is the increased neurogenesis of lions mane mushroom.
How Does Lion’s Mane Mushroom Work?
Like many other medicinal mushrooms, lion’s mane is filled with bioactive compounds (usually called polysaccharides), which alter brain chemistry. These compounds can change things (such as mRNA expression), which have downstream effects like reducing anxiety, depression, or increasing NGF.
These same polysaccharides are responsible for stimulating the immune system, which can be so powerful they inhibit the metastasis of cancers by up to 66-69% . While lion's mane mushroom health benefits are many, the immune boosting and cancer reducing effects are common of many within the medicinal mushroom family (including chaga, reishi, and others).
This suggests that although the lion's mane nootropic might work uniquely compared to other medicinal mushroom products, there are commonalities within the polysaccharides. These are often referred to as “beta-glucans”, which are the main psychoactive ingredient in medicinal mushrooms. In fact, they are so important, most of the products are standardized to beta glucans so that you know the percentage.
Side Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Many of the side effects of lion’s mane mushroom are not documented in scientific journals or literature, but instead through the active and avid nootropics community. Some people complain of headaches from taking lion’s mane. Other people anecdotally report having increased heartbeat as well.
There are many confounding variables, but one case study in a 63 year old man found that 4 months of lion’s mane may have been to blame for respiratory failure . However, this may have just been related to allergies. Attributing this to lion's mane alone is not feasible.
Finally, some people claim lion’s mane side effects include itchy skin, but this may be a sign of increased nerve growth factor as opposed to any negative reaction . Unless it is accompanied with other signs of allergies, this should not be a problem.
The lion's mane mushroom side effects will vary by the person and the dose. Those taking a high lion's mane dosage might find they experience a headache, but this is usually caused by the extract rather than the product itself. Remember, people have been using lion's mane mushroom for thousands of years.
Lion’s Mane Dosage
Lion’s mane research is scarce and the dosage recommendations are guesswork. The human study that exists used a dose of 1,000 mg with 96% purity extract three times a day (total of 3,000 mg extract). This is considered to be an effective dose of lion's mane.
A good place to start is 500 – 1,000 mg of lion's mane extract.
Keep in mind, this will depend heavily upon the psychoactive beta-glucans. If your lion's mane supplement has 10% beta-glucans, you will need double the dosage compared to a 20% beta-glucan product.
How and Where to Buy Lion’s Mane Mushroom
When dealing with mushrooms and their extracts, it can be pretty difficult to find the right product. There may be lion’s mane mushroom for sale in your local grocery store as it is approved by the FDA, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the best product there. Most are not standardized for optimal doses and the online marketplace is a much better place to go.
An important feature when you buy lion’s mane is to make sure that you have lion’s mane mushroom that is standardized to the right extract. Also, given the high volume of pesticides on many conventional products, it is best to find an organic solution if you can.
Lion's Mane Mushroom Extract: Fruiting Bodies vs. Mycelium
Another reason we are big proponents of Nammex (and their partnership with Pure Nootropics and Nootropics Depot) is because of the importance of getting products with fruiting bodies as opposed to mycelium growth medicinal mushrooms. The main lion's mane mushroom health benefits come from the fruiting bodies, which is where all the psychoactive ingredients are located.
The mycelium is the root of the mushroom, which has few (if any) real benefits. The biggest problem is that most lion's mane supplement products have the mycelium rather than the fruiting body as the source. Even the biggest brands on Amazon have unfortunately fallen to this problem and plenty of unsuspecting customers have purchased unknowingly.
Ensure your lions mane (and any other medicinal mushroom you purchase) is made with fruiting bodies and not the mycelium. As we have indicated, we believe lion's mane from this vendor is the best.
Selected Community Experiences
“The taste isn't that bad, a bit like marmite/vegemite really. The effects were very strong mental stimulation. Increase in mental alertness. I used it everyday for about a week, until half way through a game of tennis, my heartbeat wouldn't slow down (tahcycardia) for the rest of the night.”  – se7endays
“17th day of taking Lion's Mane. I feel no noticeable results. In fact, I'm afraid it exacerbates some mood and sleep problems.”  – MrZeratul
Lions Mane Mushroom Reviews
The selected community experiences we have added above are indicators of how the nootropic can impact healthy adults. Many of the studies on lions mane mushroom are done on patients with some form of disease or illness rather than people aiming to enhance their cognitive performance.
While a scientific approach is great to understanding the underlying mechanisms that make lion's mane work, it is important to also look at anecdotal evidence and support in order to get a clearer picture of the lion's mane mushroom benefits for you specifically.
- References (Click to Expand)
- Other Scientific Resources (Click to Expand)