Benefits Of Lion’s Mane Mushroom: Nootropic That Helps Prevent Cancer

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The lion's mane mushroom, also known as Satyr’s beard, Pom pom mushroom, and Bearded tooth mushroom, isn’t your usual mushroom.

Modern-day researchers continue to discover its beneficial properties, most of which have been touted by practitioners of traditional medicine.

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lion's mane mushroom on a table

In the following sections, we will discuss the crucial aspects of what makes it one of the most sought-after mushrooms in countries stretching from Asia to North America and Europe.

We will provide information about its origins, workings, and benefits as well as the recommended dosage, stacking, and side effects. 

What Is It?

The lion's mane extract sold as a nutritional supplement obviously comes from the bearded tooth mushroom (Hericium erinaceus), an edible mushroom native to Asia, North America, and Europe.

As a member of the tooth fungus group, it is characterized by its long dangling spines, usually greater than 1 centimeter in length, which can grow as a single clump.

With its appearance like cheerleader pompoms that grew out of hardwood trees or like the beards of the mythical satyrs, the origin of its names become clear.

In the wild, the mushroom can be found on several hardwood tree species, particularly American beech, with their peak season being the late summer and autumn.

But when it’s cultivated commercially, it’s grown on hardwood logs and sterilized sawdust. When sold in Asian grocery stores, it’s available in fresh and dried forms. 

But since not everybody can add it to their daily diets, nutritional supplements containing its extract as the active ingredients are the best alternatives.

These products are also considered just as effective as regular and proper consumption of the mushroom itself, although following the manufacturer’s recommended dosage is a must for best results.

Furthermore, nutritional supplementation with the best lion’s mane mushroom-based product should be combined with a healthy diet and exercise program.

 A healthy lifestyle is always necessary when on any dietary supplement for, indeed, it’s exactly what it says it is – a nutritional supplement so it isn’t the be-all and end-all of enjoying a healthy, happy and long life. 

How Does It Work?

Lion's Mane mushroom has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Modern-day scientists continue to add to the mounting evidence that, indeed, it has numerous health benefits ranging from faster wound healing and slower aging of the mind and body.

In several studies, the mushroom contains several polysaccharides including B-glucan, heteroxylans, and heteroglycans, as well as several cyanthane derivative triterpenes like Erinacine and Hericenone, among others.

These chemical compounds are believed to be responsible for its neuroregenerative effects, which basically means that it can facilitate cell regeneration.

The satyr’s beard mushroom also has threitol, palmitic acid, and D-arabinitol, which are believed to have antioxidant or anti-aging effects.

These compounds may also have crucial roles in the regulation of blood lipids and in the reduction of blood glucose levels, both of which are important in the maintenance of overall health.

In a review of research studies conducted in 2013, researchers concluded that the bearded tooth mushroom has several medical benefits.

 

how mushroom works meme

According to their observation, it has abundant levels of certain beta- glucan polysaccharides that have potent properties including:

  • wound healing
  • anti-cancer
  • anti-microbial
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    antioxidant
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    anti-hypertensive
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    anti-diabetic
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    immuno-modulating
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    neuroprotective
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    hypolipidemic

In another 2014 scientific review about the mushroom’s therapeutic benefits, the researchers concluded that it may have useful applications in a wide range of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Lion’s mane has different mechanisms of action from other nootropics, too. Instead of regulating neurotransmitter production, the medicinal mushroom improves cognitive function by increasing the brain’s nerve growth factor (NGF) levels.

But what is NGF? This is a small secreted protein, or neurotrophin, which is necessary for the growth, survival, and proliferation of neurons in the brain.

But studies have shown that it isn’t just present in the brain, aside from the fact that it’s also secreted in the organ, but it may also be present in the entire body! 

For this reason, scientists believe that it may likely be essential in the body’s ability to sustain a stable internal environment by adopting appropriate responses to external conditions.

Studies have also shown it to be among the primary building blocks for the maintenance of brain health including neuroplasticity.

When there’s a sufficient level of NGF, the brain experiences enhanced cognitive function mainly by stimulating proper growth and expansion of axons.

The axons, by the way, are the threadlike nerve cell extensions where impulses are transmitted. So the more abundant and active they are, the better for the brain’s function.

But when there’s an insufficient level of NGF, the brain’s cognitive function becomes impaired. In turn, it can result in the decay and death of the nerve cells.

Again, the more healthy axons there are, the more efficiently and quickly impulse transmission can take place – and inadequate NGF levels are detrimental to it.

When you take food and dietary supplements that increase NGF levels, you will observe increased overall function in general and enhanced cognition in particular.

What Are Its Benefits?

Many of the numerous touted lion's mane mushroom benefits have been proven by modern science with more evidence being discovered.

 Emphasis must be made that lion’s mane doesn’t produce beneficial effects that can be immediately felt.

Instead, its health benefits can only be enjoyed with regular and proper use over time, usually in a few months.

But even with such a delayed impact, it’s considered as among the most effective nootropics because of the significant improvements observed by most of its users.

lion's mane for healthy brain

1.Stimulates NGF production and nerve regeneration:

As previously mentioned, lion’s mane contains chemical compounds that stimulate NGF synthesis, thus, its outstanding neuro-protective powers.

These compounds include hericenones and erinacines, which are found in the mycelium of the mushroom.

The erinacines found in it are among the most potent inducers of NGF known to modern science, thanks to their ability to enhance new neuron production in the brain.

These can also cross the blood-brain barrier, thus, increasing the efficacy of their neuroprotective quality.

These are crucial qualities in the treatment of neurological disorders (such as Alzheimer’s disease) which are characterized by the brain’s inability to produce sufficient amounts of NGF.

Even when the body receives external sources of NGF, such as from dietary supplements, these cannot cross the blood-brain barrier while the myelin sheaths also prevent the body from accessing them.

The result: The brain neurons suffer from progressive deterioration so the symptoms also worsen over time.

Lion’s mane may also have beneficial effects on people with multiple sclerosis. Researchers have discovered that its extract can stimulate nerve myelination via its impact on NGF production; NGF plays essential roles in the process of myelination.

Multiple sclerosis, by the way, is partly caused by the progressive demyelination so when myelination occurs, its symptoms can be reduced.

Of course, appropriate medical interventions are a still a must for the effective management of Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

The use of lion’s mane supplements, nonetheless, can contribute to the efficacy of these conventional interventions.

2.Reduces the growth of beta-amyloid plaques:

Beta-amyloid plaques, which are the proteins found in fatty membranes surrounding nerve cells, are believed to be among the reasons for the progressive worsening of symptoms in people with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Studies suggest that lion’s mane can reduce the growth of beta-amyloid plaques and, thus, decrease the severity of its related symptoms.

Lion’s mane may also work in the reduction of symptoms in these diseases in another way. As people age, their levels of acetylcholine decreases; acetylcholine is a chemical compound with important roles in nerve cell communication.

In people with Alzheimer’s disease, their acetylcholine levels drop by as much as 90%, so the current drugs prescribed for patients are formulated to increase them to more normal levels.

The mushroom’s extract appears to increase the levels of acetylcholine in the body resulting in improved cognitive function, as well as in the enhancement of spatial and visual recognition memory.

This also increases production of choline acetyltransferase, an acetylcholine-producing enzyme, concentrations in the brain and body.

3.Decreases the symptoms of anxiety and depression:

Studies also suggest that lion’s mane has an excellent potential for the treatment of depression and anxiety.

Its effects seem to lie mainly in decreasing feelings of irritability, lowering levels of anxiety, and improving concentration, even in the improvement of sleep quality.

When patients are less anxious, they enjoy better sleep quality that, in turn, contributes to their improved mood during the daytime.

In depressive people, their brains appear to be inflamed. Lion’s mane contains compounds that decrease inflammation thus its positive impact on the symptoms of depression.

4.Possible anticancer property:

Several studies also strongly suggest the potent anti-cancer property of lion’s mane through several mechanisms of action including:

  • Induce the death of cancer cells, particularly in cancers of the blood, liver, colon, and breast.
  • Inhibit angiogenesis
  • Promote Th1 response, an important process in fighting tumors.
  • Activate macrophages, via its polysaccharides; macrophages perform essential roles in defending against cancer cells.
  • Inhibit blood supply to the cancerous cells
  • Reduce metastasis, the migration of cancer cells to other places in the body.

Emphasis must be made that lion’s mane supplements shouldn’t be used as anticancer medications as is! The cancer treatment program recommended by oncologists and their team of medical professionals should be followed.

The use of dietary supplements should be part of a holistic lifestyle plan designed to reduce the risk of cancers. Their use as part of a cancer treatment program should be with the approval of doctors for safety and efficacy reasons.

5.Reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases:

healthy man running

Lion’s mane also has cardiovascular benefits because of observed properties like: 

  • Inhibits the aggregation of collagen-induced platelets
  • Acts as a mild ACE inhibitor
  • Decreases triglycerides levels and increase LDL and HDL levels
  • Enhances the expression of fat metabolism-related genes

Other health benefits that can come from the regular and proper intake of lion’s mane supplements are:

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    Enhances immune system function
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    Facilitates wound healing and prevents scarring
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    Increases protection against bacterial infections
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    Inhibits HIV Activity
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    Delays signs of aging
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    Delays signs of aging
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    Lower high blood glucose
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    Help with diabetic neuropathy pain
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    Improves blood circulation

Again, lion’s mane supplements aren’t designed to substitute for doctor-recommended medications as well as replacement for a healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle program. These should be consumed as part of such program for improved overall health.

What Are Its Side Effects?

The lion's mane mushroom side effects are few and far between, if any, because it’s such a safe edible mushroom. But be sure to follow the recommended dosage since even good things taken in high quantities can be toxic. 

What Is Its Recommended Dosage?

The recommended lion's mane dosage largely depend on the strength of its extract. If you purchased a lion’s mane extract with 20% beta-glucan level, you will get the most benefit from a daily dosage of 500 to 1000 milligrams (mg) per day. You will need a higher dosage in case of a weaker form.

What About Effective Stacking?

Yes, you can add lion’s mane to a nootropic stack plan, which can include fast-acting nootropics like aniracetam, oxiracetam, piracetam, and pramiracetam.

You can also add it to choline supplements, which are important in acetylcholine transformation resulting in improved cognitive function.

Where to Buy It?

Lion’s mane supplements can be purchased from online shops, health food stores, and supermarkets selling dietary supplements. These are available in capsules and bulk powder form, which can be safely taken by relatively healthy adults.

These also come with the manufacturers’ recommended dosages so we suggest following them for best results.

The lion's mane mushroom looks like the lush beard of an old yet still spry person, especially when seen from a distance.

Your decision to take it on a regular and proper basis will likely contribute to your goal of living to such a ripe old age with little of the aches that come with it. 

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