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Lion's mane; a high-potential supplement for brain health, depression disorder and chronic inflammation.

Mushrooms have been gaining in popularity in the west over the past few decades and a few of them are superstars. Lion's mane, in my opinion, is one of those that stand out. This mushroom has been used for centuries in China and Japan for medicinal purposes and is found on the table at haute cuisine restaurants around the globe. One of the first documented uses of this mushroom for medicinal purposes dates back to 450 BCE when the Greek physician Hippocrates described the observed anti-inflammatory properties of this fungi. One of the primary uses of this mushroom in ancient times was for its use in wound cauterization.

The take-home message

Although I may go into some of the more technical aspects of Lion's mane in this article, what is important is this:

  • There is a strong body of knowledge in the scientific community about the benefits of taking lions mane supplements.

  • Three of the main reasons that Lion's mane works is that it is

    • extremely high in anti-oxidants

    • extremely high in anti-inflammatory compounds

    • it increases the levels of nerve growth factors in the body which support brain health

  • Lion's mane has shown a role in improving mood and alleviating symptoms of depression in menopause and obese patients.

  • Lion's mane studies show that it can protect and repair neural connections in the brain in cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and dementia.

  • New studies looking at the effect of Lion's mane in healthy patients show potential benefits in the general population which support the taking of supplements.

  • Some people have allergic reactions to Lion's mane, otherwise the supplement is generally seen as very safe.

  • It is always important to be able to trust the supplier of a supplement so that you know the quality of the product and the exact ingredients that are in your supplement.

Lion's mane, oxidation and inflammation

One of the very important features of Lion's mane is it's exceptionally high antioxidant activities and very high anti-inflammatory actions. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress is very tough on the overall health of the body and are known to increase the likelihood of many diseases, notably cancer development.

Lion's mane and the brain

Lion's mane, with its impact on nerve growth factor levels, may contribute to safeguarding against degenerative brain conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and depressive disorder. Lion's mane is classified as a nootropic which means a supplement which "is used to enhance memory or other cognitive functions" . Research studies contain a significant amount of data which supports its role in generating an increase in the production of proteins called 'neurotrophic' factors which both protect and repair cognitive functioning.

While research suggests benefits for both memory and cognitive function, it is still early in the overall understanding of its mechanism of action. Past years have focused , for the most part, on cognitively impaired individuals, however, a 2023 double-blind, parallel group study (basically, a study that is well setup) in the Nutrients Journal looks at cognitive function, stress and mood in 41 young adults which begins an encouraging trend to also look at supplementation in healthy subjects. Results were promising, supporting the potential of Lion's mane use as a preventative supplement in healthy subjects.

An interesting research article published in the Journal Antioxidants in 2021 presents encouraging findings on the potential use of lion's mane for individuals recovering from traumatic brain injury (TBI). The study highlights that both lion's mane mushroom and coriolus versicolor (also known as turkey tail), demonstrate neuroprotective effects, mitigating inflammation and oxidative stress commonly associated with TBI. Traumatic brain injury-induced neurodegeneration (the progressive breakdown of nerve cells) is a precursor to conditions such as Parkinson's disease. Utilizing lion's mane in treatment could possibly attenuate the impact of brain trauma and alleviate complications like Parkinson's disease arising from TBI.

Lion's mane for depression and mood disorders

There are a tremendous amount of studies ongoing and completed in the past decade on the benefits and anti depressive activity of lion's mane supplementation in menopause as well as obese subjects. The results are extremely promising and our understanding continues to improve as time goes on. This mushroom is one of those which are subject to quite a lot of research both in vitro and pre-clinical. Laboratory studies have been increasing in number, building a strong baseline of knowledge and moving towards better sized, better setup clinical trials. Further research will dive into the more specific mechanisms of action underlying the antidepressant-like activities which are complex. Luckily for us, the use of Lion's mane fruiting body has shown few if any side effects as a supplement.

Are their known side effects from consuming Lion's mane?

Although lion's mane is typically well-tolerated; if a side effect is present it may include gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, and a skin rash. As always, in the event of any side effects, it is recommended to cease consumption of lion's mane until consulting with a healthcare provider. It is suggested to refrain from consuming a regular lion's mane supplement during pregnancy and lactation due to insufficient research on its safety in these conditions.

Supplements and supplementation

Lion's mane comprises two main parts: the visible fruiting body, resembling a mushroom, and the mycelium, a root-like structure, both of which contain compounds that may offer various health benefits. It is important to be aware of the fact that that most research has focused on the above-ground portion of lion’s mane as opposed to the mycelium which grows underground, The proportion of fruiting body to mycelium in supplements have not yet been standardized. As with many supplements, what we get in the bottle may not be exactly what we find inside it. In an interesting analysis, ConsumerLab. com, an independent testing laboratory of supplements, found that two out of eight lion’s mane products claim to contain the mushroom (above ground part) but are actually mycelium, as confirmed in their testing. As always, consumers need to be sure they are getting a product that contains what they are expecting.

At Happy Hollows, at this time, we work uniquely with the fruiting body of the mushroom and process it into powder or a dual extracted tincture.

If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to reach out.

Check out our freshly prepared Lion's Mane Powder and Lion's Mane Tincture.


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