Lion’s Mane Mushroom: Nootropic Benefits, Uses, Dosage, & Side Effects

A depiction of the nootropic effects of lions mane mushroom on the brain.

Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is a powerful nootropic and adaptogenic fungus with remarkable cognitive and health benefits

It’s known to improve memory, focus, and neurotransmitter activity in the brain while promoting nerve growth and reducing neuroinflammation.

This article discusses the cognitive benefits, mechanisms of action, potential health benefits, usage guidelines, and precautions associated with Lion’s Mane mushroom supplements.

What Is Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushroom (also known as Hericium erinaceus, Pom-Pom mushroom, Old Man’s Beard, Yamabushitake, Bearded Tooth Fungus, or Bearded Hedgehog) is an edible fungus belonging to the tooth fungus group.

Hericium erinaceus is a medicinal mushroom known for its distinctive appearance resembling a white, shaggy lion’s mane.

A photorealistic image of lions mane mushroom growing on a log.

It’s native to North America, Europe, and Asia, growing on hardwood trees like oak, maple, and beech.

Lion’s Mane has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and is now gaining popularity in the West for its potential cognitive and health benefits.

We could call this mushroom the ”king” of natural nootropics.

What Are the Different Varieties of Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushrooms come in several varieties, each with its own unique characteristics. The main varieties of Lion’s Mane mushroom include:

  1. Hericium erinaceus: The most common and well-studied variety
  2. Hericium americanum: Native to North America
  3. Hericium coralloides: Also known as the coral tooth fungus
  4. Hericium abietis: Found primarily in coniferous forests

Pro Tip: While Hericium erinaceus is the most widely used and researched variety, all types of Lion’s Mane share similar bioactive compounds and potential health benefits.

What Are the Nutritional Properties and Composition of Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushroom boasts an impressive nutritional profile, making it a valuable addition to a healthy diet. Its nutritional properties and composition include:

Low calorie contentApproximately 35 calories per 100 grams
High fiber contentAbout 2.4 grams per 100 grams
Rich in proteinContains all essential amino acids
Low in fatLess than 1 gram per 100 grams
Good source of antioxidantsIncluding phenolic compounds and flavonoids
Contains various vitamins and minerals eg. Thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin

What Is the Protein Content of Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane contains approximately 22.3 grams of protein per 100 grams of dry weight. This protein content is higher than many other mushroom species and includes all essential amino acids.

The protein in Lion’s Mane is composed of various amino acids, including:

  1. Leucine
  2. Valine
  3. Lysine
  4. Threonine
  5. Phenylalanine

What Is the Beta-Glucan Content of Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

 The beta-glucan content of Lion’s Mane mushroom is significant, ranging from 20% to 30% of its dry weight. Beta-glucans are a type of soluble fiber found in Lion’s Mane mushrooms.

These compounds have also been associated with health benefits, including:

  • Cholesterol reduction
  • Blood sugar regulation
  • Prebiotic effects on gut health

The high beta-glucan content of Lion’s Mane contributes to its potential as a functional food and nootropic dietary supplement.

What Vitamins Are Present in Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushroom contains a variety of vitamins that contribute to its nutritional value. The vitamins present in Lion’s Mane mushroom include:

VitaminAmount (per 100 grams)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)0.1 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)0.4 mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)6.1 mg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)1.0 mg
Vitamin DVariable amounts, depending on sun exposure during growth

What Minerals Are Present in Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushroom contains a range of essential minerals that contribute to its nutritional value. The minerals present in Lion’s Mane mushroom include:

MineralAmount (per 100 grams)
Potassium2,700 mg
Phosphorus1,100 mg
Magnesium120 mg
Calcium70 mg
Iron8 mg
Zinc7 mg
SeleniumVariable amounts, depending on growing conditions

Note: The amount of these minerals present may differ according to cultivation methods. More research is needed to fully understand how effectively the human body can absorb and utilize these minerals from Lion’s Mane mushroom.

What Are the Key Bioactive Compounds in Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

The key bioactive compounds in Lion’s Mane mushroom are responsible for its potential health benefits. These compounds include:

  1. Hericenones: These compounds are found in the fruiting body of the mushroom and have been shown to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis.
  2. Erinacines: Present in the mycelium, erinacines are diterpenes that also promote NGF production and have neuroprotective properties.
  3. Beta-glucans: These polysaccharides are known for their immune-modulating effects and potential anti-cancer properties.
  4. Polypeptides: Lion’s Mane contains various polypeptides that contribute to its antioxidant and neuroprotective effects.
  5. Sterols: These compounds, including ergosterol, may have anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering properties.

What Are the Cognitive Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

The cognitive benefits of Lion’s Mane include:

  1. Improved memory
  2. Enhanced focus and concentration
  3. Increased mental clarity
  4. Potential neuroprotective effects
  5. Possible mood-enhancing properties

These benefits make Lion’s Mane an attractive option for those looking to support their cognitive health naturally.

A photorealistic image of lion's mane mushroom capsules.

Pro Tip: The cognitive benefits of Lion’s Mane may take several weeks to become noticeable, requiring consistent use over time.

How May Lion’s Mane Mushroom Improve Memory, Focus, and Overall Mental Performance?

The primary way Lion’s Mane mushroom enhances cognitive function is by stimulating the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

These proteins play crucial roles in neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new neural connections and adapt to new information.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Koichiro Mori found that older adults with mild cognitive impairment who took Lion’s Mane supplements for 16 weeks showed significant improvements in cognitive function compared to the placebo group.(1)

The study used the Hasegawa Dementia Scale (HDS-R) to measure cognitive performance, with the Lion’s Mane group scoring an average of 31.2 points compared to the placebo group’s 27.8 points.

Additionally, Lion’s Mane contains hericenones and erinacines, which have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and directly stimulate NGF production in the brain.

This stimulation may lead to improved neural growth and repair, potentially enhancing memory formation and recall.

How May Lion’s Mane Mushroom Promote Nerve Growth and Regeneration?

Lion’s Mane mushroom may promote nerve growth and regeneration primarily through its ability to stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF).

NGF is a protein that plays a crucial role in the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons.

The mushroom contains bioactive compounds, specifically hericenones and erinacines, which have been shown to induce NGF synthesis.

A study by Kah-Hui Wong demonstrated that Lion’s Mane extract could promote neurite outgrowth in vitro by 60.6%.(2) This suggests that Lion’s Mane may have potential applications in treating neurodegenerative disorders and promoting nerve regeneration after traumatic brain injury.

Furthermore, Lion’s Mane has been found to stimulate myelination, the process by which a fatty layer called myelin forms around nerve fibers. Myelin is essential for proper nerve function and signal transmission.

A study by Kolotushkina et al. (2003) showed that Lion’s Mane extract increased the rate of myelination in vitro by approximately 20-30%.(3)

How May Lion’s Mane Mushroom Reduce Neuro-Inflammation?

Lion’s Mane mushroom may reduce neuroinflammation through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Chronic inflammation in the brain is associated with various neurodegenerative disorders and cognitive decline.

Lion’s Mane contains compounds that can help mitigate this inflammation and protect brain cells from oxidative stress.

A study by I-Chen Li found that Lion’s Mane extract reduced inflammation in the hippocampus of mice with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms by 30%.(4)

This anti-inflammatory effect contributes to the mushroom’s neuroprotective properties.

Additionally, a study by Naufal Kushairi demonstrated that Lion’s Mane extract exhibited strong antioxidant activity, with a free radical scavenging capacity of 78.3% at a concentration of 0.5 mg/mL.(5)

What Other Health Benefits Does Lion’s Mane Mushroom Offer?

Lion’s Mane mushroom offers several potential health benefits beyond its cognitive effects. These benefits include:

  1. Digestive health support
  2. Immune system support
  3. Potential anti-cancer properties
  4. Heart health
  5. Diabetes management

While these potential benefits are promising, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of Lion’s Mane on human health.

What Are The Side Effects or Precautions for Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplements?

Lion’s Mane mushroom supplementation is considered safe for most people when taken in reccomended doses.

A  depiction of neurotransmitters being impacted by lions mane mushroom supplements.

However, there are some potential side effects and precautions to be aware of:

  1. Allergic reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to Lion’s Mane, particularly those with mushroom allergies. Symptoms may include skin rashes, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat and tongue.
  2. Gastrointestinal discomfort: In rare cases, Lion’s Mane may cause mild digestive issues such as nausea, stomach discomfort, or diarrhea. These symptoms typically subside as the body adjusts to the supplement.
  3. Skin reactions: In rare cases, some people have reported itchy skin or rashes after consuming Lion’s Mane supplements.

It’s important to note that while these side effects are possible, they are generally uncommon.

What Medications Interact With Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushroom may interact with certain medications, potentially affecting their efficacy or increasing the risk of side effects.

Some medications that may interact with Lion’s Mane include:

  1. Anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs: Lion’s Mane may have mild blood-thinning properties, potentially enhancing the effects of medications like warfarin, aspirin, or clopidogrel.
  2. Diabetes medications: Due to its potential to lower blood sugar levels, Lion’s Mane may interact with insulin and other diabetes medications. This interaction could lead to hypoglycemia if not properly monitored.
  3. Antidepressants: While research is limited, there’s a theoretical possibility that Lion’s Mane could interact with certain antidepressants, particularly those that affect serotonin levels, due to its potential mood-enhancing properties.
  4. Immunosuppressants: Lion’s Mane may stimulate the immune system, potentially counteracting the effects of immunosuppressant medications used in organ transplant patients or those with autoimmune disorders.
  5. NSAIDs: There’s a theoretical risk that combining Lion’s Mane with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) could increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, although this interaction hasn’t been well-studied.

Who Should Avoid Using Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushroom should be avoided by certain individuals due to potential risks or lack of safety data. Those who should avoid using Lion’s Mane include:

  1. Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  2. Individuals with mushroom allergies
  3. Those with bleeding disorders
  4. People with autoimmune diseases
  5. Individuals taking certain medications
  6. Children
  7. Individuals with asthma or respiratory conditions

 How Can Lion’s Mane Mushroom Be Used as a Dietary Supplement?

Lion’s Mane mushroom can be used as a dietary supplement in various forms to potentially enhance cognitive function and overall health. Here are some common ways to incorporate Lion’s Mane into your diet:

FormHow to Use
Capsules or tabletsThis is the most convenient and standardized form of Lion’s Mane supplementation. Capsules typically contain a measured dose of dried mushroom powder or extract.
PowdersLion’s Mane powder can be added to smoothies, coffee, tea, or other beverages. This form allows for flexible dosing and easy incorporation into daily routines.
TincturesLiquid extracts of Lion’s Mane can be taken directly or added to drinks. Tinctures may offer faster absorption compared to other forms.
Whole mushroomsFresh or dried Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be cooked and eaten as a food. However, the dosage is less precise than with standardized supplements.
TeasSome companies offer Lion’s Mane tea bags or loose tea blends containing the mushroom.

What Are Typical Dosage Recommendations for Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplements?

Typical dosage recommendations for Lion’s Mane mushroom supplements vary depending on the form and concentration of the product. However, here are some general guidelines based on available research and common practices:

Dried mushroom powder500-3000 mg per day, divided into 2-3 doses
Standardized extract (30-50% polysaccharides)250-1000 mg per day, divided into 2-3 doses
Liquid extract (1:1 ratio)1-3 ml, 1-3 times per day

Note: Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking medications.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Using Lion’s Mane as A Dietary Supplement?

Using Lion’s Mane as a dietary supplement has both advantages and disadvantages:

Cognitive enhancementLimited human studies
Potential mood supportPossible drug interactions
Additional health benefitsInconsistent product quality
Natural and generally safeDelayed effects

Can You Stack Lion’s Mane with Other Nootropics?

Yes, you can stack Lion’s Mane with other nootropics to potentially enhance its cognitive benefits.

Popular nootropics to stack with Lion’s Mane include:

  1. Bacopa monnieri (for memory enhancement)
  2. Ginkgo biloba (for improved blood flow)
  3. L-Theanine (for relaxation and focus)
  4. Rhodiola rosea (for stress reduction)
  5. Alpha-GPC (for acetylcholine support)

Sources, Studies, and Scientific Research
  1. Mori, Koichiro et al. “Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 23,3 (2009): 367-72. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634
  2. Wong, Kah-Hui et al. “Neuroregenerative potential of lion’s mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (higher Basidiomycetes), in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury (review).” International journal of medicinal mushrooms vol. 14,5 (2012): 427-46. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v14.i5.10
  3. Kolotushkina, E V et al. “The influence of Hericium erinaceus extract on myelination process in vitro.” Fiziolohichnyi zhurnal (Kiev, Ukraine : 1994) vol. 49,1 (2003): 38-45.
  4. Li, I-Chen et al. “Prevention of Early Alzheimer’s Disease by Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Pilot Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study.” Frontiers in aging neuroscience vol. 12 155. 3 Jun. 2020, doi:10.3389/fnagi.2020.00155
  5. Kushairi, Naufal et al. “Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. Suppresses H2O2-Induced Oxidative Damage and LPS-Induced Inflammation in HT22 Hippocampal Neurons and BV2 Microglia.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 8,8 261. 1 Aug. 2019, doi:10.3390/antiox8080261

Jacob Kovacs is a cognitive neuroscientist and author at WholisticResearch, specializing in nootropics and neuroactive peptides. His expertise in neuroscience and psychopharmacology bridges cognitive science with drug development. Kovacs’ work focuses on enhancing cognitive functions and brain health through innovative, efficient neuroactive compounds that overcome traditional pharmacokinetic challenges. His contributions are pivotal in advancing the understanding and treatment of neurological diseases.