Lion's mane mushroom, also known as Hericium erinaceus, has a long history of use in East Asian medicine. It contains powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help reduce the impact of chronic illness. Lion's mane may improve nerve development and function, protect nerves from becoming damaged, and protect the lining in the stomach.
It may also help reduce inflammation and improve cognitive and heart health. Lion's mane is commonly used for Alzheimer's disease, dementia, stomach problems, and other conditions. Lion's mane can be consumed or taken in the form of tincture for best absorption.
1. Could protect against dementia
The brain’s ability to grow and form new connections typically declines with age, which may explain why mental functioning worsens in many older adults. Studies have found that lion’s mane mushrooms contain two special compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines.
Additionally, animal studies have found that lion’s mane may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disease that causes progressive memory loss. In fact, lion’s mane mushroom and its extracts have been shown to reduce symptoms of memory loss in mice, as well as prevent neuronal damage caused by amyloid-beta plaques, which accumulate in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease .
A 2020 study of people with mild Alzheimer’s disease found that supplementation with 1 gram of lion’s mane mushroom daily for 49 weeks significantly improved cognitive test scores compared with a placebo.
The ability of lion’s mane mushroom to promote nerve growth and protect the brain from Alzheimer’s-related damage may explain some of its beneficial effects on brain health.
2. Helps relieve mild symptoms of depression and anxiety
Up to one-third of people living in developed countries experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. While there are many causes of anxiety and depression, chronic inflammation could be a major contributing factor. Animal research has found that lion’s mane mushroom extract has anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice.
Other animal studies have found that lion’s mane extract can also help regenerate brain cells and improve the functioning of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that processes memories and emotional responses. Researchers believe that improved hippocampus functioning may explain the reductions in anxious and depressive behaviors in mice receiving these extracts.
3. Reduces risk of heart disease
Major risk factors for heart disease include the following:
- high triglycerides
- large amounts of oxidized cholesterol
- an increased tendency to get blood clots
Research shows that lion’s mane extract can influence some of these factors and reduce the risk of heart disease.