Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus, yamabushitake) – This fungus takes several names. Typically found in Europe, North America, and Asia, this therapeutic mushroom has been utilized in ancient Chinese medicine for years. According to studies, Lion’s Mane Mushroom is remarkably good at stimulating Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain, which plays an important role in learning & memory. [Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01280-3 ]
Recognized for its robust effects as a “brain tonic”, Lion’s Mane is believed to have been used as a tea for thousands of years by Buddhist monks. To boost brain power, and improve their capability to focus all through meditation.
Lion’s mane (referred to as Hericium erinaceaus) is a medicinal, edible mushroom comprising of many compounds, namely hericenones and erinacines.
How does it work to enhance memory?
Lion’s Mane Mushroom seems to primarily boost memory by 2 main mechanisms – stimulating the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), required by your brain to keep neurons strong and healthy, and reducing the effect of amyloid ß(25-35) peptide (an enzyme that has role in Alzheimer’s and triggers learning and memory deficits).
Exact mechanisms of action are still being elucidated, although a lot of biologically active metabolites have been extracted from Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) that provide nerve and brain health benefits.
Of specific interest are hericenones and erinacines, which are expected to be found only in Hericium spp. Hericenones are isolated from Lion’s mane fruiting bodies, and erinacines are extracted from the mycelium. Both hericenones and erinacines have low molecular weight and can cross the blood–brain barrier.
Preclinical studies have shown that lion’s mane seems to be protective against oxidative stress and inflammation and favorably affects blood glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol in animal models of diabetes. All these may have positive benefits on memory & cognitive function.
For most ideal optimization of Lion’s mane’s benefits, it’s advised to take this supplement along with other memory boosting ingredients like Bacopa Monnieri etc.
1. Lion’s Mane Mushroom encourages the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). NGF is a protein that performs a major role in the maintenance, survival and regeneration of neurons.
NGF is necessary for your brain in keeping neurons robust, healthy and balanced. When a variety of neurological disorders occur, the human brain can’t produce its own internal sourced NGF.
In a study done in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, scientists showed that Lion’s Mane extract induced NGF synthesis and promoted neurite outgrowth. [Source : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24266378 ]
Decrease in Nerve Growth Factor = Decrease in Long-Term Potentiation affecting long-term memory [Source : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9704997?dopt=Abstract]
- 2. Lion’s Mane is helpful in lowering anxiety and depression. It’s often referred to as “smart mushroom” for its potential to enhance cognition, memory and work as an anti-depressant.
A clinical study by scientists in Japan worked with 30 women. The female subjects had been complaining about menopause, depression, sleep quality and other issues. The scientists found that Lion’s Mane “has the possibility to reduce depression and anxiety, and these results suggest a different mechanism from NGF-enhancing action of H. erinaceus”. [Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20834180 ]
- 3. In one study, researchers examined the effects of Lion’s Mane on amyloid ß(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Amyloid ß(25-35) peptide is implicated in diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The results showed that Lion’s Mane prevented short-term and visual recognition memory reduction normally induced by amyloid ß(25-35) peptide.
- 4. Many instances of people starting to remember random old, long forgotten memories when taking NGF/BDNF increasing compounds like Lion’s Mane [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4567216/].
What exactly is going on when this is happening, are broken/damaged neural connections containing these memories being repaired in the brain. Repair is reorganization in a dynamic system like the brain. Really, you have to think of it as a living network of neurons with something ranging from 1000 to 10000 synapses each. Growth factors encourage the energy-intensive task of producing new synapses, leading to greater inter connectivity, which leads to the more commonly used parts of the brain regaining connection with less commonly used parts, such as the vagaries of childhood memory. Rhonda Patrick describes this phenomenon as “repairing damaged synapses“.
1. Preclinical studies suggest that Lion’s mane may reduce inflammation and biological markers of Alzheimer’s (i.e., amyloid plaques), improve cognition, and increase the release of nerve growth factor, a protein that can increase the length of nerve cell processes
- Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease-related pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice
- Erinacine S, a Rare Sesterterpene from the Mycelia of Hericium erinaceus
- The Cyanthin Diterpenoid and Sesterterpene Constituents of Hericium erinaceus Mycelium Ameliorate Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Pathologies in APP/PS1 Transgenic Mice
- Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid beta(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice.
- Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells.
2. A 2021 study looked at the effects of four compounds found in Hericium erinaceus on brain health, and the results suggest the mushroom shows great potential in memory improvement.
3. Hericium erinaceus promotes the formation of new neurons. This mechanism may be at the root of the medicinal mushroom’s mental health benefits. Neurogenesis, the process of new neuron formation in the brain, may have an anti-depressant effect. [Source : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3155214/ ]
4. A study looked at the effects of lion’s mane neurogenesis properties on depression in animals.
5. Human studies (such as the one on the effects of Hericium erinaceus on mild cognitive impairment in Japanese adults) show promising results, but the body of evidence is not sufficiently robust to conclusively say that lion’s mane promotes nerve regeneration in humans.
6. A 2019 study concluded that lion’s mane supplementation significantly improved recognition memory in aging mice.
7. According to a 2020 double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, lion’s mane mushroom extract significantly improved overall cognitive function in people with early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. [Source : https://internal-journal.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2020.00155/full ]
8. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food looked at the effects of the Hericium erinaceus mushroom extract on symptoms of depression, including brain fog.
9. Oral supplementation with Lion’s mane induced a statistically significant improvement in spatial short-term and visual recognition memory in wild-type mice. [Source: Int J Med Mushrooms. 2018;20:485–94. Dietary supplementation of Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), and spatial memory in wild-type mice. Rossi P, Cesaroni V, Brandalise, F, et al.]
10. A dose of 250 mg of 96% Lion’s mane dry powder three times a day for 16 weeks was associated with significant improvement on a dementia rating scale in subjects with mild cognitive impairment. [ Source: Phytother Res. 2009;23:367–72. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, et al.]
11. Lion’s mane or an extracted molecule (Erinacine A), has also been reported to increase NGF expression and secretion, lower inflammation, prevent amyloid beta toxicity, protect against ER stress, increase myelination, and protect against oxidative stress. (Kuo 2016; Chen 2016; Mori et al, 2008; and Kolotushkina 2010)
12. Use of lion’s mane or Erinacine A, a compound extracted from the mushroom, protected neurons and reduced infarct volume after induced stroke in mice, and also reduced oxidative stress and inflammation (Lee et al, 2014). In rodent models of diabetes, treatment with lion’s mane has also shown to be effective against inflammation in the brain, liver oxidative stress, the misfolded protein response and in lowering blood glucose, weight gain and triglyceride (Trovato 2016, Jang 2010, Liang et al, 2013, Wang 2004 and Hiwatashi et al, 2010).
13. A 2021 animal study examined the effects of polysaccharides found in the lion’s mane mycelium on oxidative stress, nerve regeneration, and neuronal health. The compounds significantly improved the cognitive behavior in mice. Lion’s mane alleviated oxidative stress in the brains of mice with Alzheimer’s disease by regulating calcium levels in the brain.
14. Amyloid plaques are the most common pathological hallmarks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins accumulate in the brain and kill neurons, causing the various symptoms of the illness.
A study that measured Lion’s mane’s effects on “Amyloid plaques” gave evidence that H. erinaceus mycelium enriched with its active compounds is capable of delaying neuronal cell death in rats with neurodegenerative diseases, such as ischemic stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.
Moreover, results have indicated that administration of H. erinaceus mycelia enriched with its active compounds can promote functional recovery and enhance nerve regeneration in rats with neuropathic pain or presbycusis. Despite that more clinical research is needed to fully understand the potential applications of erinacine-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium, the majority of preclinical data strongly suggests that it is safe and offers much-needed neuroprotective applications.
Lion’s mane’s anecdotal evidences on memory benefits
1. I was pleasantly surprised with my experience
I did a 45 day experiment to see if they actually work. I was pleasantly surprised with my experience. I played memory games before, during and after and the results would suggest that lion’s mane absolutely does work for memory!
2. I feel like I remember a lot more details
I started taking lions mane and red rishi. It’s not a remotely scientific test since I went ahead and threw in a LOT of other unrelated variables… But I definitely feel pretty great and I feel like I remember a lot more details of both recent and past events.
3. Lion’s Mane bringing back forgotten memories
Every time I start up lions mane, I start recalling little things I had totally forgotten about.
Things like what I had for lunch at work 10 years ago and flashbacks of meaningful dreams I’d forgotten.
It’s weird, but they just pop into my stream of consciousness. I’ve cycled onto lions mane 5-6 times now and it always happens.
Anyone else experience something like this? Makes me believe it’s doing something positive in my brain.
4. Helped with my thesis
Initially, the plan was to take LM while I wrote my thesis because I thought it would help me learn how to write better (in academia, your writing automatically sucks. If you know, you know). My understanding of NGF is that it helps grow new neurons, but the new neurons need to be sustained with brain intensive tasks like writing/learning new skill/ etc. Over time, you get better at the skill because you build more efficient pathways.
5. Effects might be exaggerated
I’m a female in my late 20s I bought some lions mane coffee and just plain lions mane from four sigmatic. I drank one serving in the morning (250mg per serving) and I really liked how it felt. Better than coffee alone. It enhances focus but I think the whole cognitive enhancement effects might be exaggerated.
6. May be causing neuroplasticity
I think a common suspicion is that the lion’s mane shifts your brain into a period of higher neuroplasticity, which not only helps you learn new habits, skills and information, but can help extinguish old habits and processes which are not reinforced strongly during the period that you are consuming it.
I think this is a property which shows promise for things like treating addiction, etc, but presents a dark side in causing you to unlearn good habits and ingrained behaviors.
7. Improvements in energy levels, memory, math skills
I’ve been taking small amounts of lions mane every day for 8 months along with other variants of mushrooms. My energy levels have increased, my memory has increased, for some reason my math skills got better, like adding up numbers in my head and subtracting, multiplication. To combat the sleep issue I have now, I practice SOMA breath techniques and meditation. Back to sleeping like a baby 🙂 Maybe lions mane is not right for everyone and maybe it’s the doses being taken per day. But for me I take small amounts consistently. I’ve never up my Doses due to the results I’ve gotten this far.
8. Vastly improved my short term memory, and mental stamina and recovered lost long-term memories
Lion’s mane has been a godsend. It is nothing short of a small miracle. I’ve had cognitive issues and pain issues for 11 years since my last major TBI. I was improving due to a stack of nootropics. Adding Lion’s Mane to my stack has vastly improved my intellectual capacity. Today is my one month anniversary on Lion’s Mane. My mental capacity has improved to a level I could only have dreamnt of! It has improved my cognition, vastly improved my short term memory, and mental stamina. I would no longer be exhausted after reading a few pages of books. I no longer gets headaches when encountering difficult scientific words (which I often do reading this sub or the scientific papers attached to articles). It has greatly improved my ability to learn and remember. I am recovering bits and fragments of lost long-term memories. Am I all the way back to my former intellect? No, but I am increasingly confident I will. Many years ago doctors couldn’t help me. I asked the universe for help. My prayers are being answered. I am ever so grateful.
9. It worked for me
Lions Mane is known to work more/better the longer you take it. I felt it the very same day I started taking it. I’m simply saying the max results took about a month for me. Yes, I am 100% sure it’s the Lions Mane. It is the only thing I have changed in my routine in the last 1yr. I am sleeping, eating and doing the exact same things I have done, except the LM. If you knew how bad my memory was and how it is now you would get it. I only take 1000mg one time in the morning.
10. Being able to recall much better
It’s weird, when I take it the same day I get this really big effect of being able to recall words or other “tip-of-the-tongue” things much better. It’s incredibly consistent for me.
11. Helps my short term memory & verbal fluidity
I am a server, now working towards a Doctorate, and have been supplementing Lion’s Mane on and off for about 3 years. There is no doubt it helps my short term memory, but another thing I realized is it increases my verbal fluidity as well. When I cycle off, I can truly feel my verbal fluidity decrease (messing up speaking here and there), and I won’t be able to mentally recall a longer drink order as well.
12. Slight increase in my memory recall and general concentration
I was taking ginkgo for memory, and recently stopped that and switched to lions mane – I started taking ginkgo to help with my memory mostly as I have great trouble with it. I think maybe it helped a little bit? It’s hard to say as I’ve also done a lot of other things to help my memory so I’m not sure. Anyway, I figured out ginkgo was causing me to have panic attacks ( ironically figured this out through Reddit) and I haven’t had one in over a year and couldn’t think of why they came back. So I stopped taking ginkgo and switched to lions mane mushroom. I haven’t been taking them for very long, but I’ve noticed a slight increase in my memory recall and general concentration. A lot of people have no problem with ginkgo, although it took about 6 months of taking it for me to notice the anxiety it caused me. The lions mane I think has helped me more than the ginkgo, and it’s supposed to help with anxiety too so I guess it shouldn’t cause it for me. Oh, and since I stopped ginkgo I haven’t had a panic attack. I’m still a bit anxious, but not to the degree I was.
13. Memories started coming back
There was a guy on “r/nootropics” telling his story, how he had a brain injury, lost all memory and everything, had to re learn how to tie his shoes, this was 10 years ago
He started supplementing lions mane 4 months ago, 2 month ago memories started coming back (from 10 years ago all lost!!!) and now he remembers stuff. It is really strong
14. Make sure you have good gut microbiome and eat proper amounts of B vitamins
As a key thing to remember, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about that lions mane needs B vitamins to work properly, and a number of people reported to be deficient of B vitamins (especially 12) because they did not have proper gut flora to digest those substances. – Also a lot of people report B vitamin deficiency being gone after probiotics, sometimes neurologists write it up when B vitamin supplementation does not increase the levels.
So make sure you have good gut microbiome and eat proper amounts of B vitamins while supplementing to get the proper benefits from lion’s mane.
15. I would probably not buy it just as a nootropic. It’s milder than Noopept
Thoughts and ideas seem more fluid and there is a decrease in brain fog. When talking to people I am able to string together sentences and make sense of other people with way less effort. Usually, social contact tires my brain and I become lazy using only few words or saying as less as possible. I noticed this same effect when trying Noopept some years ago. Lions Mane’s nootropic effect however is mild and only secondary to the anxiety/depression benefits. I would probably not buy it just as a nootropic.
Product I used & Dose: Mushroom Wisdom, Super Lion’s Mane, 120 Veggie Tabs
16. Helped with my father’s Parkinson’s disease
My father, who has cognitive impairment due to Parkinson’s started doing his crosswords again (which is huge in his case), after I started giving Lion’s Mane’s capsules. So, yeah, I do believe in its nootropics effects. No placebo in his case, since other supplements didn’t have the same effect, and he doesn’t know exactly what I give him. I can’t tell first hand if it has nootropic effects on healthy subjects, but many anecdotes online do point in that direction.
17. My memory is beginning to feel better
New to nootropics in general, but over the last couple years I’ve suffered from frequent brain fog and poor memory. I still don’t know what causes or exacerbates it, but I think it began around the time I was on a course of Accutane to clear up my skin, which is known to carry some undesirable and stubborn mental side effects that can last for a long time even after the course has ended. Over the last six months or so I’ve been taking lion’s mane regularly (Samsara Herbs Lions Mane Mushroom 20:1 Extract Powder (2oz/57g)) and my memory is beginning to feel better. I’m currently in school and have a fast-paced restaurant job, so the benefits have been noticeable. I capsule it up in 0’s since I can’t stand the taste, and take a couple in the morning before breakfast. I wasn’t expecting it to actually help, but feels like one of the only successful things I’ve tried so far.
18. My short-term memory is improving
I’ve been on Lion’s Mane (Purest Vantage brand) for a few months and my short-term memory is improving. Also my sense of smell is sharper.
19. Boosted ability to recall information
Overall, Lion’s mane seems to have boosted my ability to recall information. It seems like more stimuli can trigger the recall mechanism than before. I haven’t had any negative side effects from it, in fact, I was getting headaches often (about once every 2 weeks) and it seems like those have subsided while my lifestyle has remained the same (diet, sleep, physical activity, substance use, etc).
20. A lot of old memories have suddenly come back
After taking lion’s mane for two months a lot of old memories have suddenly come back to me. It’s interesting to see other people have experienced this.
21. Many instances of people starting to remember random old, long forgotten memories
Many instances of people starting to remember random old, long forgotten memories when taking NGF/BDNF increasing compounds like Lion’s Mane [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4567216/]. What exactly is going on when this is happening, are broken/damaged neural connections containing these memories being repaired in the brain. Repair is reorganization in a dynamic system like the brain. Really, you have to think of it as a living network of neurons with something ranging from 1000 to 10000 synapses each. Growth factors encourage the energy-intensive task of producing new synapses, leading to greater inter connectivity, which leads to the more commonly used parts of the brain regaining connection with less commonly used parts, such as the vagaries of childhood memory. Rhonda Patrick describes this phenomenon as “repairing damaged synapses“.
What dosage of Lions mane extract to use?
Lion’s mane is readily available over the counter as a supplement – in pills or powder form and as a food product. Clinical trials have tested up to 3 grams of Lion’s mane per day. These dietary supplements were produced from the fruiting body of the mushroom. Then again, several research projects have examined various formulations of the mushroom (e.g. the fruiting body, mycelium, etc.), and Lion’s mane supplements available over the counter are prepared in different ways.
The dose of Lion’s mane dried fruiting body encouraged for enhancing NGF production is 3–5 g per day. A medication dosage of 250 mg of 96% Lion’s mane dry powder 3 x a day for 16 weeks was connected with sizeable enhancement on a dementia rating scale in people with mild cognitive impairment.
For Lion’s Mane 10:1 extract (30% polysaccharide), daily dosage is 500 – 1,000 mg consumed 1 to 3 times per day. This implies that if you decide on a daily serving of 1,000 mg of Lion’s Mane extract, you should take 500 mg in the morning, and another 500 mg at noon.
Other retail extract dosage of Lion’s Mane varies from 300 mg to 3000 mg dosed 1 – 3 times per day.
It is advisable to obtain a Lion’s Mane Mushroom extract that offers the full spectrum present in both the mycelium and fruiting body.
Types of Lion’s Mane available:
- Plain Lion’s Mane: Pure, powdered mushroom. Often freeze-dried, and the most cost effective form available. Can be added to water, juice or smoothies.
- Lion’s Mane Extracts: A more concentrated form of mushroom. Usually sold as 14:1 or 10:1 extracts (14 pounds or 10 pounds reduced to 1 pound of extract).
- Standardized Lion’s Mane: Highly refined to produce exact levels of active ingredients. You can get Lion’s Mane standardized to 30% and 50% polysaccharides (along with the active secondary metabolites hericenones and erinacines).
- Lion’s Mane tea: A preferred mushroom in the kitchen, the taste is adequate. But it’s very difficult to tackle how much actual active ingredient you’re getting.
- Amycenone®/PLM-Fraction: This “branded” product is standardized to Hericenones 0.5%, Amyloban 6%. It is based on a lesser-known Lion’s Mane active ingredient–Amyloban–a mushroom compound that claims to be specifically fighting beta-amyloid proteins. Originating in Japan, it is quite steeply-priced, and is available as a product called Amyloban®3399.