The Complete Guide to Lion’s Mane
Whether you’re a culinary mushroom connoisseur, wild mushroom forager, or totally grossed out by the thought of mushrooms altogether, there’s no denying that there’s a reason these fleshy fungi are such a popular ingredient in culinary recipes and medicinal remedies alike.
Lion’s mane mushrooms may not be something you typically see while browsing your grocery store’s produce section, but their medicinal properties have been used for centuries, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and uses of lion’s mane mushrooms!
What is Lion’s Mane?
Lion’s mane, or Hieracium erinaceus, is a mushroom native to Europe, Asia, and North America—though it’s most commonly cultivated in Asia.
Also called “hou you gu,” “yamabushitake,” or “hedgehog mushroom,” lion’s mane is a large white mushroom characterized by its shaggy appearance that resembles a lion’s mane (or, depending on who you ask, a hedgehog)!
Lion’s mane mushrooms are often described as “seafood-like” in flavor, making them a tasty addition to a variety of recipes. However, these mushrooms are most commonly used for their health-boosting benefits, which is why you’ll likely have better luck finding them at your local health food store than you would at your regular grocery store.
Fun fact: lion’s mane mushrooms are a fairly rare species of mushroom. Because they grow higher up on trees rather than at the base, they’re especially difficult to come across during a wild mushroom hunt.
Lion’s Mane Benefits
With their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-boosting properties, it’s no surprise that lion’s mane mushrooms have gradually been making their way into the mainstream of nutritional supplements.
Some health-boosting benefits of lion’s mane include:
1. Boosts Cognitive Function
While more research is needed to fully understand the extent of lion’s mane on the brain, studies have shown promising results when it comes to treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
For example, one study found that lion’s mane was able to protect against memory decline and stimulate the growth of brain cells; another showed that these mushrooms may even help with regenerating damaged cells and boosting overall brain function in aging adults.
2. Supports Mental Health
While there are many causes of depression and anxiety, chronic inflammation is a common cause for some of those milder cases. Because of lion’s mane’s anti-inflammatory effects, it may help to treat some mood disorders.
One small study conducted in Japan found that menopausal women who ate cookies containing lion’s mane for 4 weeks reported reduced feelings of anxiety and irritability, and even had less trouble focusing.
3. Strengthens Immune System
By reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, lion’s mane mushrooms are also thought to boost the immune system.
Some research even suggests that lion’s mane may be helpful when it comes to treating various forms of cancer. While more research is needed at this time, it certainly doesn’t hurt to give your immune system an overall boost.
4. Promotes Heart Health
Some studies conducted on mice and rats show that lion’s mane can improve fat metabolism and lower triglyceride levels. Lion’s mane may also lower cholesterol levels, reducing one’s overall risk of heart disease.
How to Use Lion’s Mane
For those of us in the Western world, lion’s mane mushrooms typically aren’t readily available at the grocery store. If you’re interested in trying fresh lion’s mane, look at an Asian grocery market or even try growing your own mushroom crops.
Lion’s mane can be consumed in a few different ways: raw, cooked, dried, or even as tea.
However, it’s most widely available in supplement form: pills, powders, or extracts, for example. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the label, as this can vary depending on the combination of ingredients. As a precaution, it’s always best to start slow and work your way up when trying new supplements.
For a caffeine-free energy boost, try Hilo Energize Gummies. These tasty supplements are made with a blend of natural ingredients including beetroot, maca, rhodiola, and lion’s mane to reduce fatigue, improve focus, and enhance athletic performance.
Fortunately, lion’s mane is generally considered to be a safe ingredient, as multiple studies have found it to be non-toxic.
As with any ingredient, though, it is possible to develop an allergic reaction; there have been some isolated reports of symptoms such as respiratory issues or rashes and itchy skin, for example.
If you’re unsure whether lion’s mane is right for you, it never hurts to discuss it with your doctor.