The Secrets of Lion's Mane Mushroom
The past two to three years have seen an uptake in mushroom popularity. In 2022 psilocybin was legalized in Oregon and there have been several start-ups founded on research that it can help with depression. Grocery stores are carrying more fresh exotic mushrooms than the standard sliced baby bellas and shiitakes. Health food stores are carrying products and supplements featuring cordyceps and today’s feature, Lion’s Mane Mushroom. Today there’s a decent amount of research that supports many benefits of Lion’s Mane mushroom for digestive and cognitive support and its uses are still being explored. Lion’s Mane mushroom has been a Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It’s traditionally used for digestive ailments, and today it’s touted for its cognitive strength, anti-fatigue, and immunity benefits. Recently more studies have supported many benefits of Lion’s Mane as a supplement, and it’s worked its way into the culinary scene. Today it’s a key ingredient in newcomers like the Mud/WTR (the mushroom coffee alternative) or Rritual (the elevated supplement experience).
What Is Lion’s Mane: Lion’s Mane is a nootropic or acts as a “smart drug”. Nootropics are natural or synthetic mental stimulants that include caffeine, ginseng, and amphetamines. Since CBD hit the shelves, there’s been an increase in marketability of labels that advertise focus, energy, and memory that aren’t caffeine. It is also considered an adaptogen, meaning that it helps create balance. Studies have shown that it promotes NGF (nerve growth factor). NGF is the foundation of a “family of secreted growth factors responsible for the growth, survival, and developmental plasticity of neuronal populations in the vertebrate peripheral and central nervous system.” (Science Direct)
Is Lion’s Mane Magical?It’s not a magic mushroom, but it might have magical strength as a supplement. Lion’s Mane is full of polysaccharides and nutrients, making it a dense and nourishing wintertime support. Lion’s Mane’s special compound is B-glucan. It’s not the only source of B-glucan, it can be found in yeast, algae, seaweed, nuts, and some grains. However, in all these forms it can take on different molecular shapes which does change how it’s digested. Some supplement brands will focus on “activated” Lion’s Mane, meaning its cell walls have been broken down in a way to make B-glucan more accessible to digest. There are benefits to cooking with or eating Lion’s Mane in its full form, not processed into a supplement that seems to carry the same benefits. As with all supplements it’s important to choose a trustworthy brand. Lion’s Mane can be paired well with St. John’s Wart and Ginkgo extract for a mental clarity blend. Some brands carry it in a pure powder form from several reputable herbal and supplement providers. You can also grow it countertop. You can substitute any mushroom (dried or fresh) with Lion's Mane or add it the extract into juices or smoothies for an extra focus boost.
Brooke’s Take: What I haven’t found direct research on is Lion’s Mane interaction with the mind/gut axis. Developing research shows more of a correlation between the gut microbiome and cognitive health. Lion’s Mane benefits both digestive and neurological pathways, if anyone has information on this please send it in.