Lion’s Mane or Hericium erinaceus is an edible mushroom that can be identified by its white color, globe shape, and long dangling spines. It’s most often consumed in dietary supplements for its potentially beneficial properties or in gourmet dishes where the fruiting body is utilized for its lobster-like flavor. 

While more high-quality clinical research into Lion’s Mane is still needed, animal studies and some clinical data suggest it may offer a trove of benefits for heart health, reduced inflammation, and improved cognitive function, among others. Learn more about the latest findings and ways in which these fungi may impact your health with our list of the four biggest Lion’s Mane benefits.

Brain Health

Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain hericenones and erinacines, two compounds known for their neurotrophic properties. A study published in 2013 found that these two compounds, when isolated from the medicinal mushroom Hericium erinaceus, were shown to induce nerve growth factor synthesis in nerve cells. 

The implications of these findings could lead to more research for Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients who could benefit greatly from a natural method to promote growth and form new connections in the brain. In animal studies using behavioral pharmacological methods including the Y-maze test and the novel-object recognition test, mane mushroom extracts were shown to prevent impairments of spatial short-term and visual recognition memory.

Digestive Health

Stomach ulcers affect 4.6 million Americans annually, with H pylori infections accounting for 70-90 percent of gastric ulcers and 90 percent of duodenal ulcers. While Lion’s Mane has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat chronic superficial gastritis, we still don’t completely understand the pharmaceutical mechanism behind its effects. However, in laboratory studies, researchers have determined that Lion’s Mane ethanol extracts are able to prevent the growth of H pylori, a bacterium that’s especially adept at penetrating the stomach’s mucous lining to establish an infection.

In an animal study published in 2017 involving rats, researchers suggest that the fungi can be applied as a protective agent in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome thanks to its ability to promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and improve the host’s immunity.

Heart Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, affecting most racial and ethnic groups in America. While there are many factors that contribute to poor heart health, obesity and atherosclerosis are especially damaging. 

One study involving mice found that including Hericium erinaceus extract with a high-fat diet over 28 days improved lipid metabolism resulting in a significant decrease in body weight gain, fat weight, and serum and hepatic triacylglycerol levels. On average, weight gain was 42 percent lower in the Lion’s Mane treated mice than in the control group.

In a 2014 study investigating the build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in the artery, walls, researchers concluded that Lion’s Mane “possesses prowess” for preventing low-density lipoprotein — something that’s been strongly suggested as the key factor in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Their findings could help medical researchers in preventing oxidative stress-induced atherosclerotic pathogenesis, a significant step for the millions of people suffering from cardiovascular complications and strokes.

Mental Health

In 2020, researchers at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Biomedical Sciences critically reviewed the existing pre-clinical data and limited clinical trials on the Therapeutic Potential of Hericium erinaceus for Depressive Disorder. 

  • A 2010 clinical study exploring the effects of Lion’s Mane for menopause, depression, and sleep quality in women showed promising results. Participants ingested cookies containing 0.5 g of fruit body powder for four weeks and reported the treatment alleviated symptoms of anxiety, depression, frustration, and palpitation.
  • A 2019 clinical study examined the effects of H. erinaceus on anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and sleep issues with 77 overweight or obese subjects. Participants ingested three capsules containing 80 percent mycelium extract and 20 percent fruiting body extract daily for two months. Researchers found. They concluded that Lion’s Mane “significantly reduced depression and anxiety,” with participants also reporting improvement on sleep disorders after the eight-week regime.  

Based on current findings, researchers at the University of Hong Kong were able to conclude that “H. erinaceus significantly ameliorates depressive disorder through monoaminergic modulation, neurogenic/neurotrophic, and anti-inflammatory pathways, indicating the potential role of H. erinaceus as a complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of depression.” While the research noted is far from conclusive, it does serve as a strong indicator that Lion’s Mane may be a viable option for alleviating the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Lion’s Mane Benefits — Final Thoughts

While high-quality clinical studies on Lion’s Mane are still lacking, the results from what’s been published so far certainly warrant more rigorous research. In order for the health benefits and side effects of Hericium erinaceus to become fully understood, we need robust clinical trials and approval by agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Always seek medical advice from a licensed healthcare provider before making any changes to your health regime.