Lion’s Mane for Mental Health
Lion’s mane for mental health
Studies are now confirming what ancient cultures have long believed to be true — lion’s mane mushroom may be good for mental health.
Chances are, you’ve probably never seen lion’s mane out in the wild. You’d know it if you did —they’re not your classic looking cap-and-stem variety. Thanks to its bushy and round appearance, lion’s mane has adopted a long list of nicknames — from “sheep’s head” to “pom-pom” to our personal favourite “old man’s beard”.
But appearances aside, lion’s mane has a long list of health benefits. One 2015 study even stated it’s “antibiotic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, anti-fatigue, antihypertensive, anti-senescence [anti-aging], cardioprotective, neuroprotective, and improves anxiety, cognitive function and depression.” That’s a rather impressive resume.
We could go on about this list of benefits, but what lion’s mane is particularly known for is its impact on brain health and cognitive function. From supporting cognitive function and improving memory, to helping ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, the potential mental health benefits of lion’s mane are nothing short of astounding (well, we certainly think so).
Let’s take a closer look at lion’s mane for mental health.
Lion’s mane may help to improve memory
Hate sudoku? Well, there may be another way to improve memory.
In a ground breaking 2023 study, scientists identified new active compounds in lion’s mane that have a significant impact on the growth of brain cells and memory.
In the study, scientists found the active compounds not only promoted neuron growth (and helped them to connect with other neurons), but also increased the size of ‘neurotic growth cones’ within the hippocampus. Wait, what?
Growth cones are extremely important for brain cells as it helps them sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain. So, after being exposed to the compounds within lion’s mane, hippocampal neurons grew more efficiently and formed more connections — both things that ultimately help improve memory.
But it didn’t just stop at laboratory tests. Within the same study, researchers also performed memory tests on mice that had been fed these compounds. In these tests, the mice were exposed to a variety of different types of mazes. In all instances, the mice that were given Lion’s Mane extracts demonstrated significantly improved spatial memory over their control-group friends.
While these tests were limited to laboratory and animal experiments, it didn’t stop the scientists from being enthusiastic about the results, claiming that the discovery could be used to treat and protect against neurodegenerative disorders (like Alzheimer’s disease) in the future. Wow.
Lion’s mane for overall cognitive function
Sorry to be the ones to say it, but your brain naturally slows over time with age. Memory loss and lack of focus are all caused by factors within the nervous system, like shrinking neurons and damaged brain cells.
The good news? Animal studies have shown that lion’s mane can support brain health by stimulating the creation of two super important compounds: nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
To keep it short, NGF and BDNF are proteins that stimulate the production of new cells while simultaneously strengthening existing ones. While NGF helps to form the protective sheath around the nerve cells within the brains (keeping them protected while they do their job), BDNF increases brain plasticity which helps brain cells stay resilient and strong throughout stress or ageing.
Less brain cell damage equals better neurotic functioning, meaning a slower cognitive decline during the ageing process.
Lion’s mane to help with focus
As it turns out, lion’s mane may also boost focus, too.
Lion’s mane is rich in a bunch of antioxidants and carbohydrates, with one specific type called ‘oligosaccharides’ that’s attributed to having anti-inflammatory properties. While this is great for soothing chronic inflammation (that can lead to a whole bunch of nasty business within the body), it’s also great for the brain.
Reduced inflammation improves blood flow, which gives the brain more oxygen. More oxygen means better brain performance, which can alleviate brain fog and improve focus. Pair this up with the mushroom’s ability to strengthen memory, and you’ve got yourself a pretty powerful brain!
Lion’s mane for anxiety and depression
Improves memory? Check! Supports cognitive function? Check! Helps with focus? Check! What’s the icing on the cake? Well, lion’s mane could also have some positive effects on symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Pretty sweet, huh? And the best part is yet to come — it actually works to help in a variety of different ways, across a variety of different symptoms.
Firstly, the anti-inflammatory properties of lion’s mane can help alleviate chronic inflammation — a cause of depression and anxiety. Secondly, remember those compounds that assisted in increasing neurotransmitters in the hippocampus? Well, that, plus reduced brain inflammation equals antidepressant effects.
There was 2018 study on stressed-out mice (aw). Don’t worry about the little guys though, they were given lion’s mane extract which seemed to have an antidepressant effect after 14 days.
Lastly (but definitely not least-ly), lion’s mane has been linked to sleep improvement. In a 2019 study, patients with mood disorders were given lion’s mane supplements for eight weeks. Not only did the patients experience overall decreased depression and anxiety symptoms, but also reported improvements in sleep quality.
Ready to try lion’s mane for yourself?
In addition to supporting mental health, lion’s mane may also…
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Aid digestion and protect against ulcers in the digestive tract
- Help to manage symptoms of diabetes
- Help to fight off or prevent cancer
- Assist in wound healing
Learn more about the long list of benefits here.
At Natura Mushrooms, we have Lion’s Mane Mushroom Powder and Lion’s Mane Liquid Extract to make reaping the benefits of lion’s mane easy. Add them to your smoothie, coffee or main meal.
We recommend taking: