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Mushrooms have long been revered within many traditional societies, both for being nutritional powerhouses and for their potent health benefits. Found growing naturally on dying and dead trees in Europe, North America, China, and Japan, Hericium erinaceus – also known as Lion’s Mane mushroom – is an edible fungus with a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for many stomach ailments, including stomach and gut cancer.
East Asian legends claim that consuming Lion’s Mane mushroom can confer “nerves of steel and the memory of a lion.” Ball-shaped, with cascading teeth-like spines from which white spores emerge, Lion’s Mane is also known as hedgehog mushroom, sheep’s head, bear’s head, and yamabushitake.
Once reserved for the refined palates of royal families, this nutritious mushroom is made up of 20% protein. It is considered to be a gourmet dish when prepared properly, with a chewy texture and taste similar to lobster and shrimp.
However, it’s not just traditionalists who are excited about this mushroom’s benefits for our health. According to Paul Stamets, author and a prominent advocate of medicinal mushrooms, Lion’s Mane may be the first “smart” mushroom known to man. Lion’s Mane mushroom is considered safe and edible with supportive properties against many different types of cancer, along with clear benefits for the brain and nervous system.
Research into the Health Benefits of Hericium erinaceus
Lion’s Mane has recently been the focus of many studies examining the medicinal properties of its bioactive compounds, including protein-bound polysaccharides – which are complex carbohydrates in which a number of sugar molecules are bound together – and many others.
In fact, early clinical trials with one type of polysaccharide found in Lion’s Mane known as beta glucans show that they have an immune-strengthening effect while being perfectly safe to consume, with minimal or zero side effects. This is potentially of great benefit to cancer patients, whose immune system is typically weakened both by their disease and by toxic anticancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Lion’s Mane has also been credited with protecting and promoting healthy nerve cells in the brain and nervous system (known as neurons), along with boosting mood and concentration.
But first, let’s take a closer look at its anticancer properties…
Lion’s Mane Mushroom – A Cancer Fighter?
In a promising 2011 laboratory study, extracts from Lion’s Mane were seen to reduce the weights of transplanted colon tumors in mice – while simultaneously doubling the numbers of natural killer (NK) cells, increasing macrophage activation, and reducing the number of blood vessels inside the tumors by half.
NK cells are a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system, whose job is to detect and attack infected and cancerous cells. Macrophages are another type of white blood cell that swallows and digests cellular waste, foreign materials, bacteria, cancer cells, and anything else that cannot be identified as normal, healthy body tissue.
Angiogenesis – the process by which new blood vessels form from old ones – is essential for tumors to become malignant. Unlike so-called “benign” tumors, malignant tumors are no longer self-limited in their growth, are capable of invading into nearby tissues and organs, and may even be able to spread to distant tissues, which is known as metastasis and is invariably fatal. Reducing the number of blood vessels inside tumors is known to prevent their malignancy.
Various compounds and extracts from Lion’s Mane have been shown in studies to be toxic to cancer cells in culture – including stomach cancer, colon cancer, and liver cancer – and block their rapid growth, known as proliferation.
Further, when these cancer cells were transplanted into mice, Lion’s Mane extracts were seen to attack the resulting tumors without causing any toxicity to the mice. In fact, the study researchers noted that these extracts were more potent and less toxic than 5-flourouracil (5-FU), a standard chemotherapeutic agent that is commonly used to treat many different types of cancer.
Similarly, Lion’s Mane extracts have been shown to induce programmed cell suicide (known as “apoptosis”) in leukemia cells in culture. In a 2015 study, a novel protein-bound polysaccharide purified from Lion’s Mane was shown to significantly block the rapid growth of stomach cancer cells in culture by triggering both apoptosis and cell cycle arrest.
Lion’s Mane extracts have also been shown to block the ability of cancer cells to metastasize, or migrate to other areas. For instance, in a 2013 study, one such extract prevented colon carcinoma cells from migrating to the lungs.
Lion’s Mane has also been shown to enhance apoptosis induced by doxorubicin in an aggressive type of liver cancer known as drug-resistant hepatocellular carcinoma. Doxorubicin is a standard chemotherapeutic agent used to treat many different types of cancers.
Other Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom
#1. Keeping the brain healthy. Bioactive compounds known as hericenones and erinacines in Lion’s Mane have been shown to activate a protein peptide in our bodies known as “nerve growth factor,” or NGF. NGF is critically necessary for the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells in our brain and nervous system, known as neurons.
These naturally occurring Lion’s Mane compounds also trigger a process known as re-myelination, which helps to keep neurons healthy and maintains their ability to conduct electrical signals efficiently.
Health experts believe that this ability of Lion’s Mane to protect, heal, and regenerate nerve cells will one day make it very useful for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, senility, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological conditions.
#2. Supporting memory and cognition. In laboratory experiments, Lion’s Mane was seen to prevent damage to short-term and visual recognition memory. Short-term memory is our ability to keep a small amount of information in our minds in an active, readily available state for a short period of time. Visual recognition memory is our ability to recognize previously encountered events, objects, or people, to “remember” them.
Both of these types of memories are specifically lost in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. These results suggest that with further research Lion’s Mane may be used to slow down – and perhaps even prevent – these memory deficits from happening at all.
Indeed, in a double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial, Lion’s Mane consumption was seen to improve brain power scores in elderly Japanese men and women who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI can involve problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment. It is considered to be an intermediate stage between the normal mental decline seen with aging and the more serious brain function deficits seen in dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease
#3. Boosting mood & concentration – Lion’s Mane also makes us feel good by reducing our levels of anxiety and depression and improving our ability to concentrate. In fact, Asian Buddhist monks are known to consume Lion’s Mane tea before meditation to enhance their powers of concentration. In other words, Lion’s Mane can help support our mental agility, mood, and concentration as we age.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2017. It has been updated and republished in November 2019.
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Lion’s Mane is an edible fungus with a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine.
Clinical trials have shown an immune-strengthening effect, with minimal side effects.
Lion’s Mane has been shown to attack cancerous cells without any toxicity to the host.
Other health benefits of Lion’s Mane:
- Keeping the brain healthy
- Supporting memory and cognition
- Boosting mood & concentration
JEFF COLEMAN says
where can I get this?
Jeff Pearce says
Can not see how many dosages there is with this product 7M.
Lions mane is hard to find in the wild but don’t give up it is out there. I also like Chaga as it is anti-Cancer. On CanadianChaga.com they sell capsules of Chaga which is a great way to take it . Also there is directions how to get Ty Bollinger a Nobel Peace prize pease write to them.
Always enjoyed mushroom hunting in the fall with my extended Italian family…. Joyful living !
Nikki, Choosing Differently says
I love that not only does it increase cell death, reduce blood vessels, strengthen the immune system and reduce the spread of cancer, but it also enhances the effects of chemotherapy, so no matter what treatment path you take, you could benefit from taking Lion’s Mane. And as a bonus, you get a sharper mind as well! Thanks for the info.
Jeanie Bender says
My oncologist said last scan showed thickening in small intestines. What can I do to reverse the thickening? I am fighting Carcinoid Cancer stage 4 stable located on my gut. Was so happy to have TTAC show up in my life. I have been facing this using what God has provided.The answer, I believe is the cure can be found right in front of us…Herbs,spices, weeds, teas and tincture. I was diagnosed 2yrs ago. The doc talked about chemo. At that time all I kept thinking about…ok, I need to protect my pancreas. I knew I couldn’t live without it. This led my to the health food store. I went in and the sales lady was so sweet. I told her I wanted to get started on something because I was to start chemo the next week.schedule tried 2 different types of chemo. They only made me sicker so I added a few more supplements and told the doctor I would no longer take chemo. Everything I take is natural 25+ supplements. My doc is surprised that my labs are good.What can I do for my thickening. Intestines? Thank you so much…
Jeanie Bender says
The first supplement I tried was Graviola. Awesome immune support plus it works on you hair follicles the results are amazing.
I learned about BIoMedical clinic from TTAC. They saved so many lives!
Richard D. Mullock says
Try using Arm & Hammer baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Dissolving a level teaspoon in a glass of water and drinking this mixture twice a day will help to restore PH levels in the body and combat cancer, Bicarbonate also helps the body in so many ways. Indirectly it kills cancer cells. The problem is that drinking this mixture is not very palatable, even for me. But I recently ordered bicarbonate in pill form. Much easier to ingest when taken with water and the benefits are the same. I highly recommend the book, “Sodium bicarbonate; Nature’s Unique First Aid Remedy”, by Dr. Mark Sircus. You will learn so much! Amazon is a great resource for books as well as everything else. Richard.
I have been taking lions mane for a month now and can attest to the statement that it doesn’t seem to have any side effects. I am trying to reverse known neurological damage in my brain due to a lifetime of migraines.
Can someone please answer the question from Danny regarding cooking Thanks
I’m not gonna eat that scuzzy looking thing. You can have my share.
I agree with you Danny, it “may help” doesn’t mean it will.
One of the primary reasons someone may say that mushrooms are hard to digest is because they contain a fibre called chitin (pronounced “kai-tin”). This is a natural fibre that is found throughout nature (for example crab shells and other exoskeletons have lots of it), and it is very hard for the human digestive tract to breakdown and digest. Many of the active compounds in mushrooms are locked up in these fibrous strands so this is why the (now old) process of hot water or steam and/or alcohol extraction was necessary to release and make the active compounds bio-available. Depending on where you live you can now get very high potency, Certified Organic, full spectrum mushrooms from a company called Purica out of British Columbia, Canada. They micronize their mushrooms and this method breaks down the fibres and other compounds into very small molecular sizes and make digestion almost 100%. The micronization technique is common in pharmaceuticals to ensure absorption, and you can also find other natural supplements, for example BCAAs, that are micronized.
So, in summary, yes raw mushrooms are hard to digest and if you eat mushrooms be sure to cook them and chew them well if you want to get the nutrition out of them. But also remember that wild grown and farmed mushrooms are not grown with the premise of maximizing the powerful, medicinal polysaccharide and other a active compounds – this is where high potency, lave grown mushrooms comes in. Also, extracts do contain higher percentages (again, compared to grocery store bought) of the active compounds, but the extraction process makes them, well and extract and they no longer contain all parts of the mushroom…… and similar to, say, animals where the muscle meat is very different in nutrient composition than the organ meats and adipose tissue…. and so you the spectrum of active compounds is not as broad as something that is truly full spectrum like from Purica. Also important to note is that Purica mushrooms are 100% lab grown making them extremely pure and free of any environmental toxins.
Yes purica is a great company.I’m 63 tomorrow and have taken purica mushrooms for 5 years plus I use the Chaga protein powder in my smoothies daily.I use Zensations every night. I use Immune 7 with my super greens and my macro reds. I don’t get sick for long such as right now the flu is every where around me and I still recover and go like a 30 something The greens are from another great Canadian company called Genuine Health here in TO.Most folks call me lucky to be so big and strong at 63 with a six pack and when I tell them you can rebalance and heal with nutrient dense mineral rich super foods they mostly just think “Well that’s cute Nicholas.” My family and friends watch me do this Daly and still don’t do it for themselves. Amazing.
Is this product safe on children that have a poor neurological development due to emotional and physical neglect?
Customer Support says
Hi Ces –
We appreciate you reaching out to us about this.
Unfortunately, we are unable to give any kind of medical advice. The best advice we can give you is to consult with one of the doctors we interviewed in the Global Quest series so they can guide you based on the child’s specific condition.
Please note that we are not able to select an expert for you.
We’ve created a page with the experts’ contact info as it was available to us.
Here’s the link to the actual webpage:
We do have one more resource you may be interested in. During our Live Event 2017 series, Dr. Patrick Quillin suggested contacting The Institute of Functional Medicine to locate a practitioner in your area.
If you are interested, here is the link to search for a Functional Medicine Practitioner in your area: https://www.ifm.org/find-a-practitioner/
Blessings and love!
How came you get Lion Main Mushrooms I live in Australia. I eat a variety of mushrooms types all readt would be good to add this to my selection.
Silvia Logan says
Can Lion Mane mushrooms be available in your local grocery store in Ottawa, Canada?