Lion’s mane mushroom – near magical superfood or just a load of social media hype? If you spend any time lost on Tiktok or Instagram and you’ve been reeled into “healthtok” then you’ve almost certainly seen more than one video touting Lion’s mane mushroom as a magical remedy for all things cognitive.
There are so many health benefits of lion’s mane mushroom touted in the press and on social media that it’s easy to get swept away with it and start ordering your own right this very second! But as we all know, not all health benefit claims we find online have much science behind them (I’m looking at you raspberry ketones and weight loss).
So what’s the deal with lion’s mane mushroom? Is it really something that can have a notable impact on your health? Or just another viral fad?
Let’s take a look at the science and a bit of the background.
What is lion’s mane mushroom?
Lion’s mane mushrooms are a type of mushroom that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. They’re known for their long, shaggy appearance that resembles a lion’s mane.
Lion’s mane mushrooms contain a variety of compounds that may have health benefits, including (here come the long words) hericenones and erinacines, beta-glucans, and triterpenes.
These compounds are thought to help improve cognitive function, reduce anxiety and depression, boost the immune system, and reduce inflammation.
Scientific Studies into the Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
There have been a number of scientific studies into the health benefits of lion’s mane mushroom. Here are some of the most significant:
|Title of the study||Year||Participants||Findings||Link|
|Lion’s Mane Mushroom Improves Cognitive Function in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial||2022||60 participants aged 50-80 with mild cognitive impairment||Lion’s mane mushroom extract improved cognitive function, including attention, memory, and executive function, in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.||Link|
|Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom Improves Neurocognitive Function and Protects against Neurodegeneration in an Alzheimer’s Disease Model||2021||30 mice||Lion’s mane mushroom extract improved neurocognitive function and protected against neurodegeneration in an Alzheimer’s disease model.||Link|
|Lion’s Mane Mushroom Extracts Reduce Inflammation and Improve Mood in People with Major Depressive Disorder||2021||58 participants with major depressive disorder||Lion’s mane mushroom extract reduced inflammation and improved mood in people with major depressive disorder.||Link|
|Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia in RAW 264.7 Macrophages||2020||RAW 264.7 macrophages (cells – lab conditions)||Lion’s mane mushroom mycelia exhibited anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in RAW 264.7 macrophages.||Link|
|Neuronal Protection of Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane Mushroom) Extract against Amyloid-β-Induced Neurotoxicity in Cultured Cells and Mice||2017||Cultured cells and mice||Lion’s mane mushroom extract protected against amyloid-β-induced neurotoxicity in cultured cells and mice.||Link|
So in short, there is indeed some scientific evidence to support lion’s mane mushrooms as beneficial for cognitive function (brain power) and the treatment of mild to moderate anxiety and depression symptoms.
Let’s take a look in more detail.
Lion’s Mushroom for Improved Brain Function
It has been studied both as a means of preventing cognitive decline and also in reversing cognitive decline. Perhaps the most interest study was that of 60 older people with mild cognitive impairment (a 2022 study which was placebo controlled) which showed lion’s mane extract to be effective in improving brain functions like attention and memory.
But these are relatively small studies and there’s plenty more research to do.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom for Depression
Depression is a growing problem in the UK and globally. And this is a mental health condition that can affect anyone of any age and range from mild to absolutely debilitating.
So of course, for those who are suffering depression, seeking out an accessibly treatment that doesn’t have any side effects is important.
A 2021 study of 58 participants (again a relatively small study) who had serious depressive disorders concluded that Lion’s Mane Extract did 2 things:
- Reduced inflammation in the body
- Improved mood
This is no insignificant finding. But of course, it’s vital we see more research in these areas before we start considering this as a treatment for depression.
What does the Doctor say?
We spoke to Dr Nazreen Morley who told us:
“The research into Lion’s Mane mushroom is no doubt exciting. But we always have to urge caution when it comes to positioning these things are miracle cures. The research shows some promise but we have so so much more research to do yet.
That said, unless you have an allergy, Lion’s Mane extract or mushroom itself isn’t going to have any side effects or cause any harm. So try it.
Even if you don’t find it helps you particular case, this is still an incredibly healthy food with properties that help to reduce the risk of blood clotting, heart attacks and helps to regulate blood sugar.”
So, what does the science say in summary?
It’s all looking promising for this superfood as a possible mood booster and brain enhancer. But much more research is needed.
However, a daily dose will do no harm and you could even reap the benefits of the fact that this particular mushroom is a healthy food in general.