Lion's Mane Mushroom: Benefits and Nootropic Properties Explained
Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) is a medicinal mushroom with profound benefits. Lion’s Mane has about 70 characterized actual and potential bioactive secondary metabolites to help as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, boosting the immune system, increasing cognitive health, neuroprotective, reducing anxiety and depression, heart health, aiding in digestion, wound healing, increasing nervous system recovery, and potential for treatment in diabetes, cancer, and various neurological disorders.
The beneficial compounds found in Lion’s Mane range from polysaccharides (Beta-Glucans), aromatic compounds, terpenoids, diterpenes, sterols, fatty acids, and more. This article will discuss the major compounds and how they are responsible for giving Lion’s Mane its powerful nootropic properties.
Compounds in Lion's Mane: Hericenones
The first major compounds to discuss are the Hericenones, which there are currently 8 of – named Hericenone A-H respectively. Hericenones are a class of aromatic compounds exclusively found in the fruiting body of Lion’s Mane. Each of these Hericenones have been shown to produce Neural Growth Factor (NGF) to varying extents, with Hericenone D being the most potent, increasing NGF to comparable levels as epinephrine(1). The major difference in activity of the Hericenones depends on the nature of the fatty acid side chain – the long chain on the right side of the molecule following the double bonded oxygen. Figure 1 depicts a few of the Hericenones and how their structures differ.
Figure 1: The Hericenones
Compounds in Lion's Mane: Erinacenes
Erinacenes belong to a class of compounds called cyathin diterpenoids, and have only been found in Lion’s Mane. There are many different Erinacene compounds, with 15 different structures shown in Figure 2 of Erinacenes A-S. Like Hericenones, Erinacenes also have been shown to increase NGF in humans. Erinacenes are found in the mycelium (stem and root) of the Lion’s Mane mushroom.
Erinacenes have been shown in studies to be more effective than Hericenones at increasing NGF, and were up to 4 times stronger at increasing NGF than epinephrine. NGF has been attempted as treatment for neuronal disorders, but since exogenous NGF is a large protein, it is unable to cross the blood brain barrier(1). Since Hericenones and Erinacenes are low molecular weight compounds and are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, they are showing promise in the treatment of degenerative neuronal disorders such as Alzheimers.
Figure 2: The Erinacines
Compounds in Lion's Mane: Beta-Glucans
Another major component that give Lion’s Mane its medicinal properties are the Beta-Glucans. Beta-Glucans are abundant only in the fruiting body of the mushroom, and more than 35 different Hericium Erinaceus polysaccharides (HEP) have been extracted(2).
Beta-Glucans have been shown to have important medicinal properties such as treating cancer, microbial infection, hypercholesterolaemia, and diabetes. There are many variations in the structures of beta glucans which will have different affinities towards receptors, and thus generate different responses(3). Four of these polysaccharides: xylans, glucoxylans, heteroxyloglucans, and galactoxyloglucans – show promising antitumor activity(4).
The water soluble polysaccharide HEF-P is able to upregulate expression of cytokines(5), which are responsible for immune function, reducing inflammation, increasing blood cells, and increasing NO (nitric oxide) – showing the benefits of Lion’s Mane to be used not only as a nootropic, but for exercise; increasing athletic performance, and fighting fatigue as well. A number of these beta-glucan polysaccharides are newly isolated from Lion’s Mane, and their benefits are still being researched(6).
Compounds in Lion's Mane: Sterols
Sterols are steroid alcohols that show benefit in reducing cholesterol, help preventing heart disease, heart attacks, and used for stomach, colon, and rectal cancer. Ergosterol: a precursor to vitamin D2 and a compound that aids in treating ulcerative colitis(7) is the most abundant sterol found in Lion’s Mane. There are still many more compounds being isolated from Lion’s Mane and need to be researched for their specific benefits (8).
Figure 3: The Sterols
Lion's Mane: Water vs Ethanol Extract: Which is Superior?
Water is necessary to use in order to extract the many beta-glucan polysaccharides in Lion’s Mane, which are responsible for immune function, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, increasing red blood cells and NO production. Ethanol extraction is necessary to obtain the Hericenones and Erinacenes, which are responsible for many of the nootropic properties; as well as obtaining the sterols for their further general health and anti-microbial benefits(9). In summary, both water and ethanol extraction are essential for a well-rounded Lion’s mane supplement with complete benefits.
Lion's Mane: Fruiting Body vs Mycelium
While the mycelium portion of Lion’s Mane mushroom is the only portion that Erinacenes are found (so far), the mycelium is still a poor source of Hericenones, Erinacerins, Sterols, Beta-Glucans, and most of the other active compounds which are responsible for the powerful properties of Lion’s Mane that are found in the fruiting body of the mushroom. When looking for a proper Lion’s Mane supplement, it is important to get an extract that is derived from either the fruiting body or both fruiting body and mycelium, but not solely a mycelium extract. Our Premium Nootropic, Leviathan Nutrition Zenith has been extracted from the fruiting body using both ethanol and water in order to attain as many beneficial properties as possible.
Lion's Mane: Use and Dosing
The use of Lion’s Mane to increase NGF is possibly the single most effective use for this mushroom, and has many different positive effects. One effect of increasing NGF is that it will more neurite growth and synapse formation in the brain, meaning long term use of Lion’s Mane will provide a more positive nootropic benefit over time. Increasing NGF is what causes nerve regeneration and growth, both in the body and in the brain (10).
Lion’s Mane has also been found to reduce anxiety and depression in humans (11), what is interesting about this effect is that it seems to not be caused by the increase in NGF which Lion’s Mane is known for; meaning that the compounds causing these benefits have not yet been studied, and likely have more to offer.
Doses for the extract of this mushroom are still undergoing research in human clinical studies, but currently the known range for benefits is from 500mg to 3000mg of Lion’s Mane daily. This will also vary depending on the quality of the extract, how it was extracted, and what part of the mushroom the extract is provided from.
Our Premium Nootropic, Leviathan Nutrition Zenith has 1000mg of Organic Lion’s Mane per serving that has been dual extracted from the fruiting body in order to retain as many beneficial properties as possible. Using this type of Lion’s Mane at 1000mg per day has been shown to be very potent for nootropic effects.
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.