The 2 powerful effects Lion's Mane has on neural health and cognitive ability.

Lion's Mane

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a highly distinguishable, edible and medicinal mushroom found in North America, Europe and Asia. The potential health effects of Lion’s Mane, despite long been used in traditional medicine, has gained much attention in western science for one of its many potential health benefits: Neural health. Lion’s mane has been proven to show distinct promotion of neural growth, health and increased cognitive function.

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The fundamental functional cell of our nervous system is the neuron. Neurons send and receive signals that communicate messages throughout our nervous system. This includes cognitive, motor and sensory information. 98% of neuronal tissue is found in the spinal cord and brain.

It was previously thought that you were born with all the neuron cells you would ever have, give or take some neuronal growth in childhood. We now know that as incorrect, and the brain shows incredible signs for plasticity and growth.

On the downside, the nervous system is also capable of degeneration. The neuron cell can experience atrophy (reduction in cell size), and loss of function. This is typical in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s Disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Batten disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Neurodegeneration also occurs naturally on a low level with factors such as age and oxidative stress.

Unfortunately there is no cure for chronic neurodegenerative disease yet. There is, however, very promising research into natural preventative therapies, such as the widely reported therapeutic, and cognitive enhancing effects of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane).

1. Neural Growth Stimulation

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Lion’s Mane has gained considerable attention in the last 10 years mainly for its incredible ability to promote Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). NGF, in short, is produced to regulate the growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival of nerve cells. Without NGF nerve cells have been shown to die.

A study by Mori, et al. (2008) found that Lion’s Mane extract promoted NGF in human cells (in vivo). More (2008) concludes that “H. erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) contains active compounds that stimulate NGF synthesis”. This study confirms that Lion’s Mane as a dietary supplement has a promotional effect on neuronal health, which has exciting prospects for potentially preventing or treating nerve disease. 

With Lion’s Mane’s potential to increase nerve health, growth and function, there have been promising studies into the effects if Lion’s Mane on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Zhang et al. 2016 published a study testing the effectiveness of Lion’s Mane on mice, finding that there is “evidence that [Lion’s Mane] may provide neuroprotective candidates for treating or preventing neurodegenerative diseases.” [4]. 

Strong indication of nerve growth stimulation were also observed in an in vitro study by Lai et al., 2013, where 60% nerve cell growth was observed when introduced to Lion’s Mane extract. This preliminary study is very promising in terms of neural health as the promotion of neural growth is key to populations with cognitive and neural issues. 

Takeaways: Lion’s Mane in dietary supplement form has been shown to promote nerve growth and is suggested to provide neuroprotective properties. These findings are highly promising for promoting and preserving neural health.

2. Increase Cognitive Performance

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Significantly increased performance of cognitive processes (thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving) is one of the many studied biological activities of Lion’s Mane dietary supplement.

Subjects who took dietary supplements of Lion’s mane showed “significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group” in a Japanese study (double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial) [1]. The study concluded with the finding that Lion’s Mane is effective in improving mild cognitive impairment. This suggests that Lion’s Mane could be an effective supplement for not only regaining mental function, but boosting existing mental function.  

A study by Brandalise et al. (2017)  using dietary supplements of Lion’s mane on mice showed “a significant improvement in the recognition memory and [increased brain activity in the hippocampus]” [2]. The conclusion of this study states that “we have produced a series of findings in support of the concept that H. erinaceus induces a boost effect on neuronal functions also in non pathological conditions.” 

Takeaways: Due to the neuroactive properties of Lion’s Mane studies have shown definite increased cognitive performance. These findings are important for regaining and maintaining cognitive processes.