Updated: Jan 29
In recent months this mushroom has been plastered over social media and promoted by the worldwide herbal community! When it comes to eating mushrooms for brain health, Lion’s Mane mushroom takes first place. The wide range of benefits this mushroom has to offer covers everything from daily stress, depression & anxiety, digestion, and brain health to say the least. Many studies have shown that Lion's Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) has also been shown to affect the immune system, enhance gut health, balance the nervous system, promote anti-aging, reduce inflammation, and increase antioxidant levels, making it a true superfood!
Identification & Harvest
Lions mane is found on dead or dying trees. On the east coast, it is most common to find them on hardwood trees while on the west coast it is more common to find them on conifers. However, this is just commonality. The most widespread species, H. erinaceas, the “true” Lion’s Mane grows on both hardwoods and conifers. It is normal to find them on dead stumps or logs on the ground and higher up completely dead or dying trees. Late summer through fall is the most customary time to find all the Hericium species and can be easy to spot in the fall in regions with primarily deciduous trees. When all the trees have lost their leaves, the bright white lump on the tree is eye-catching. However, there is some variance based on regions, climates, and species. On the west coast, you should keep looking in winter and spring. They won’t grow if it’s freezing, so northern folks won’t see them in winter.
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Also known as: Bearded tooth fungus, Mountain priest mushroom
This is the type species of the Hericium genus. It is commonly named and known and most people use this name to describe all species in the genus. Lion’s Mane mushrooms are distinctive, easy to identify, and one of the best tasting edible mushrooms.
This species is usually easy to differentiate from the other Hericium because it is the only one that forms a single clump without branching.
Region: across North America
Season: Late summer to fall, sometimes into winter
Habitat: Dead or dying hardwoods, preferring maple, oaks, and American beech trees
Size: 2-15.5 inches diameter
Shape: Rounded, compact, with .25-1.75 inch long spines and no branching
Color: White or cream
Notes: This species is red-listed in Europe due to poor germination and reduced habitat.
Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus (Hericium americanum)
Region: east of the Great Plains
Habitat: Dead and dying hardwoods, less frequently on conifers
Size: 5-11 inches wide
Shape: Many cascading branches, tightly arranged, with long spines
Color: White or cream
Notes: Looks very similar to Coral Tooth, but the spines of Bear’s Head are longer and the branching is not as outstretched
Coral Tooth Fungus (Hericium coralloides)
Also known as Comb tooth
Region: North America
Season: Late summer into fall, possibly winter
Habitat: Dead or dying hardwood trees
Size: 3-8 inches wide
Shape: Many wide delicate outstretched branches that grow in rows and short spines. Looks like many cascading short icicles.
Notes: The spines on this species look like snowflakes or coral growth – this sets it part from all the others.
Common health benefits of Lion’s Mane
Many studies have shown that Lion's Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) have neuroprotective effects—lowering cellular stress in the brain, increasing antioxidant activity in the liver, decreasing plaque formation that causes Alzheimer's and dementia, improve anxiety and depression, and improving cognitive function. It has also been shown to affect the immune system, enhance digestion and gut health, balance the nervous system, promote anti-aging, reduce inflammation, and increase antioxidant levels, making it a true superfood!
Terms to Know
Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) : Nerve growth factor is a neurotrophic factor and neuropeptide primarily involved in the regulation of growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival of certain target neurons.
Disease: the dysfunction or disturbance to homeostasis and optimal function, and inflammatory mediators and pathways drive dysfunction that causes symptoms (a sign that something is wrong) and disease formation.
Low levels of NGF causes synaptic degeneration, amyloid-beta plaque formation and
ND – neural diseases, Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease as well as being one of the only know plants to show real promise with Multiple Sclerosis. Lion’s Mane stimulate the release of NGF (nerve growth factor). This increased release of NGF promotes the repair and regeneration of damaged neurons and may reduce the risk for neurodegenerative disease and loss of brain function.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms stimulate the release of NGF–nerve growth factor– and may promote neurite outgrowth. Low levels of NGF driving synaptic degeneration, amyloid-beta plaque formation and ND – neural diseases, Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease
Improve concentration and memory
The Hippocampus is the portion of the brain that is in charge of storing and creating memories. When Lions Mane is consumed, NGF (nerve growth factor) levels in the Hippocampus increase, boosting memory. There are numerous reasons why we may lose focus or struggle to concentrate, including low iron levels, weariness, a lack of quality sleep, overthinking, a neurotransmitter imbalance, or simply not being interested or motivated.
Lion's Mane may help boost concentration by promoting neuronal health and protecting the myelin sheaths - the fatty substance that surrounds each neuron and accelerates the speed of nerve impulses, enhancing learning, retention, and memory. Furthermore, NGF strengthens neuronal networks and pathways, allowing us to generate new ideas, consolidate thoughts and memories, and boost connective pathways inside the brain.
Lion's Mane Tincture : TrulyMindful's single mushroom double extraction tincture. The benefits of a whole plant medicine in the convenience of a dropper in the palm of your hand.
Inflammation is the primary cause of all disease. Lion's Mane is a highly effective anti-inflammatory mushroom. Its anti-inflammatory qualities help to regulate the immune system by reducing the generation and activation of pro-inflammatory pathways like NF-KappaB and cytokines like TNF-a and IL-6, which are all raised in disease states like Alzheimer's, Dementia, Parkinson's, depression, and anxiety. The anti-inflammatory properties of Lion's Mane mushrooms serve to diminish neuroinflammation and promote overall brain health by inhibiting the activation of these pathways.
Stomach and digestive problems
Lion's Mane mushrooms are a prebiotic and anti-inflammatory fungus that promotes a healthy gut and microbiome. Stress, whether physical, psychological, emotional, or environmental, disrupts the balance of bacteria, reduces the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, and causes the formation of gaps between enterocytes (gut cells), resulting in leaky gut and a chronic, systemic low grade inflammatory response and digestive issues. Lion's Mane can aid stomach and digestive issues by buffering the stress response and strengthening the adrenal glands and nerve system.
Reduces anxiety and depression
According to research, the pathophysiology of anxiety and depression involves an unbalanced immune response and the activation of inflammatory pathways in the body. Inflammation in the brain, like in the stomach, increases the permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This "leakiness" that begins to occur leads undesired chemicals to float across the space, provoking an immunological response, the loss of neurons, and changes in the structure and function of the brain and its microglia. Chronic exposure to inflammatory indicators has also been linked to changes in neurotransmitter levels and neurocircuit function, which are linked to and noticed in depressive and anxious states. Additionally, anxiety and depression are frequently fueled by stressors in whatever shape they take. The Lion's Mane mushroom is a powerful antioxidant and anti-stress herb that can help to mitigate the stress response that causes inflammation.
Eliminates free radicals
Free radicals are renegade cells produced by regular biochemical pathways and environmental contaminants that cause DNA and RNA damage in cells. Oxidative stress increases the production of free radicals, which causes inflammation, mitochondrial malfunction, and cell death. Antioxidants serve to counteract and balance free radicals by giving themselves and preventing cellular DNA damage and hence cell function.
Naturally, our bodies require free radicals in order to activate our immune systems and keep us healthy. However, illnesses can emerge when the amounts of free radicals become too high and overwhelm the antioxidant system.
Lion's Mane is a powerful antioxidant, which aids in the elimination of free radicals and the prevention of imbalances, pain, and disease.
The Lion's Mane is called 'Yamabushitake', after the Yamabushi Buddhist monks. The name means 'those who sleep in the mountains' and very much reflects the solitary nature and unique look of this mushroom as well as describing the practices of the monks.
Ayales, Adriana. Adaptogens: Herbs for Longevity and Everyday Wellness. Sterling Publishing Company, Incorporated, 2019.
Hedley, Eliza. “Top 3 Medicinal Mushrooms for Brain Health.” Teelixir, 4 February 2021, https://teelixir.com/blogs/news/mushrooms-for-brain-health#3best. Accessed 14 January 2023.
“Lion's Mane Mushroom: Identification, Foraging, and Recipes.” Mushroom Appreciation, 2 December 2022, https://www.mushroom-appreciation.com/lions-mane.html. Accessed 14 January 2023.