What is Lion’s Mane Mushroom?
Lion’s Mane is an edible mushroom with medicinal properties. This fungus is known by many other names, including Hedgehog Mushroom, Monkey’s mushroom, Bear’s Head, Old Man’s Beard, Yamabushitake (Japanese), Houtou (Chinese) and Hericium erinaceus (Latin) [1, 2].
Components and extracts of Lion’s Mane have proven antibiotic, anticancer, neuroprotective, fat- and glucose-lowering effects. This mushroom also protects against stomach ulcers, improves anxiety, cognitive function, and depression, and has anti-fatigue and anti-aging properties [6, 2].
All of these beneficial effects are based on three important properties of this mushroom: it decreases inflammation, acts as an antioxidant, and stimulates the immune system .
Lion’s Mane can both increase and decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines depending on the context. In cancer patients, this fungus increases the Th1 response and pro-inflammatory cytokines. In inflammatory conditions, such as IBD, it decreases them.
- Lion’s Mane can both increase  and decrease TNF [7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12].
- Lion’s Mane can both increase  and decrease IL-1beta [11, 12].
- Lion’s Mane can both increase [13, 14] and decrease NF-κB [7, 15, 16].
- Lion’s Mane can both increase  and decreases NO [9, 15, 16, 12].
- Lion’s Mane increases IL-12 , IFN-γ  and activates NK cells .
- Lion’s Mane decreases IL-6 [8, 11, 12] and IL-8 .
- Lion’s Mane increases IL-10 .
- Lion’s Mane increases iNOS , LXA4 , PPAR alpha , HSP70 , CAT, GSH-Px, and GSH .
- Lion’s Mane can both increase  and decrease AP-1 .
- Lion’s Mane can both increase  and decrease SOD .
- Lion’s Mane increases nerve growth factor (NGF) .
- Lion’s Mane decreases VEGF, COX-2, 5-LOX , BAX , TLR4, JNK [8, 16], MDA [11, 21], PGE2 [15, 16], p38 MAPK and CHOP .
- Lion’s Mane decreases MMP-9 and ICAM-1.
Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane
Clinical trials in humans are few but promising. Therefore, many of the benefits below are based on animal studies and await confirmation in humans.
1) May Improve Brain Function
In 50- to 80-year-old Japanese men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, Lion’s Mane improved cognitive function. However, cognitive function decreased again after the termination of the treatment, and therefore continuous intake may be necessary .
2) May Help in Alzheimer’s
Levels of acetylcholine (ACh), a chemical that helps nerve cells communicate, normally decrease with age. However, in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, levels of acetylcholine can drop by as much as 90 percent. Many of the drugs that are currently used to treat this disease work to increase acetylcholine levels.
In a mouse model of Alzheimer’s, Lion’s Mane improved cognitive function and the brain cholinergic system function. It enhanced both acetylcholine and choline acetyltransferase (ChAT, an enzyme that produces acetylcholine) concentrations in the blood and in the hypothalamus .
In mice with Alzheimer’s, Lion’s Mane prevents the loss of spatial short-term and visual recognition memory .
In a similar setting, Lion’s Mane decreased the amyloid beta plaque burden in the brain. The plaque contributes to brain degradation in patients with Alzheimer’s .
It was shown that Lion’s Mane components protect neurons from amyloid beta-induced neurotoxicity .
3) May Help in Parkinson’s
In a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease, treatment with Lion’s Mane reduced dopaminergic cell loss and attenuated motor deficits, suggesting that Lion’s Main can slow down the progression of Parkinson’s Disease .
4) May Enhance Nerve Regeneration
Lion’s Mane also promotes nerve regeneration after limb injury in rats .
5) May Combat Depression and Anxiety
In a four-week study, menopausal symptoms such as loss of concentration, irritability, palpitations, and anxiety significantly decreased when treated with Lion’s Mane extract. This alleviation of symptoms also improved sleep quality .
Inflammation plays a role in depression, and Lion’s Mane compounds are known to decrease inflammation .
Amycenone, a Lion’s Mane component had antidepressant effects in mice .
6) Boosts the Immune System
Compounds found in Lion’s Mane improve immune function by enhancing both cell-mediated and humoral immunity. This mushroom activates macrophages and NK cells .
Lion’s Mane polysaccharides increase T cells and macrophage levels in mice .
Lion’s Mane also induces the maturation of human dendritic cells (antigen-presenting immune cells), which might reinforce the host innate immune system. Maturation of dendritic cells is an important process in the initiation and regulation of immune responses .
7) May Prevent Scarring
In rats, wounds treated with Lion’s Mane extract scarred less and contained more collagen .
8) Has Anti-Cancer Properties
Lion’s Mane polysaccharides also activate macrophages, and it is known that macrophages participate in the defense against tumor cells .
Lion’s Mane inhibits blood flow to cancer cells and migration of tumor cells to other organs (metastasis). In mice, Lion’s Mane extracts induced cancer cell death and inhibited metastasis to the lungs [37, 38, 38].
9) May Protect Against Bacteria
Lion’s Mane promotes the anti-bacterial immune response. In mice infected with a lethal dose of Salmonella typhimurium, Lion’s Mane extended lifespan and protected against liver damage .
10) May Inhibit HIV Activity
11) Decreases Inflammation
In mice with acute gut inflammation, Lion’s Mane improved symptoms and decreased intestinal bleeding .
In rats with brain injury, Lion’s Mane extracts reduced infarct volume and decreased the levels of inflammatory cytokines .
12) Has Antioxidative Properties
13) May Improve Cardiovascular Health and Metabolism
Similarly, in mice on a high-fat diet, Lion’s Mane decreased body weight gain, fat weight, and blood and liver triglyceride levels .
Cholesterol-lowering effect of Lion’s Mane may be related to increased bacterial short-chain fatty acid production in the large intestine, and the accelerated rate of degradation of cholesterol to bile acids or the reduced ability to absorb fat [2, 47].
14) May Lower High Blood Glucose
Lion’s Mane reduced blood glucose levels in both normal and diabetic mice by nearly 50% .
Lion’s Mane also increased glucose tolerance in diabetic mice .
15) May Help with Diabetic Neuropathy Pain
In rats with diabetic neuropathy pain, Lion’s Mane significantly increased pain threshold while also improving glucose levels .
16) May Improves Circulation
Lion’s Mane alcohol extracts can prevent blood clots. A component called hericenone B found in the mushroom inhibits human and rabbit platelet aggregation caused by collagen .
Alcohol extracts of Lion’s Mane inhibit the production of excess blood vessel cells in rats. Excess blood vessel cells contribute to atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries) .
17) May Protect the Gut
18) Inhibits H. pylori Growth
19) May Protect the Liver
A component of Lion’s Mane protects mice from chemically induced liver damage .
20) May Help with Fatigue
In mice, Lion’s Mane extended the exhaustive swimming time, increased tissue glycogen content and antioxidant enzyme activity, and decreased biochemical parameters related to fatigue, including blood lactic acid, urea nitrogen, and malondialdehyde .
Lion’s Mane increases the flying ability in flies .
21) Can Be Good for the Skin
Lion’s Mane has anti-aging effects on the skin. Polysaccharides found in this mushroom enhance antioxidant enzyme activities and increase collagen levels in aged rat skin .
22) May Be Anti-Aging
Lipofuscin is a waste product of human and animal aging metabolism. It is constantly accumulating in as cells age, contributing to cell atrophy (wasting). In both mice and flies, Lion’s Mane polysaccharides significantly reduced lipofuscin content .
On the other hand, superoxide dismutase (an enzyme that converts reactive oxygen species O- into oxygen or O2) decreases significantly with age. Lion’s Mane polysaccharides can increase the activity of superoxide dismutase in the brain and the liver .
Lion’s Mane exhibited anti-aging properties in human cell cultures .
23) May Increase Bone Density
24) May Help Adjust Circadian Rhythms
Lion’s Mane extracts decreased wakefulness at the end of the active phase in mice. Furthermore, some components of Lion’s Mane can advance the sleep-wake cycle .
Side Effects & Safety
Lion’s Mane may stimulate the Th1 immune response, so you should avoid it if you suffer from Th1-dominant autoimmune problems.
Lion’s mane is a Th1 stimulant, so be careful if you’re Th1 dominant.
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