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Lion’s Mane Mushrooms: Benefits, Uses and Side Effects

Lion’s mane mushrooms are also known as hou tou gu or yamabushitake. Its scientific name is Hericium Erinaceus and it’s characterized by its particular globe-like shape and by being covered by long, hairy spines that resemble a lion’s mane as it grows.

According to a publication in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it’s a widely used ingredient in Asian cuisines where it’s valued for its nutritional properties. You can use them both raw and cooked and in the form of tea.

What is it for? What are its side effects? Get all the details are right here!

Benefits of Lion’s mane mushrooms

Many of the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms have been documented in scientific literature. Specifically, some people attribute antibiotic, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, some believe it has the potential as an adjuvant against a wide variety of diseases.

1. Dementia

Two active compounds in Lion’s mane mushrooms, hericenones and erinacins, have been studied for their effects on brain health. Research reported in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that these substances help stimulate brain cell growth.

On the other hand, animal studies, such as one published in BioMed Research International, found that this natural supplement protects against Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the symptoms of memory loss and neuronal damage caused by beta-amyloid plaques.

While evidence in humans is lacking to corroborate such effects, for now, the findings are promising. Phytotherapy Research reported that supplements of this mushroom helped improve mental functioning in patients taking 3 grams per day for 4 months.

2. Anxiety and depression

Both anxiety and depression require personalized treatment with mental health professionals. Still, researchers are looking into supplements such as lion’s mane mushroom extracts as possible adjuvants to address these problems.

In this regard, an animal study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences reported that this supplement has anti-inflammatory effects that help modulate neurotransmitters associated with depressive disorders. In addition, other findings indicate that it improves the functioning of the hippocampus, the region in charge of emotional responses.

When considering humans, the evidence is still insufficient. A small study in menopausal women observed that those who consumed cookies with extract of these mushrooms for a month had less anxiety.

3. Heart health

Lion’s mane mushroom extract appears to lower the risk of heart disease. In animal research reported in Mycobiology, researchers observed that this ingredient stimulates fat metabolism and lowers high triglycerides.

Likewise, a test tube study determined that the substances contained in these extracts decrease the oxidation of cholesterol in the blood. Thus, it reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and serious cardiovascular events, such as myocardial infarction or stroke, is. We need more evidence, but the findings are promising.

4. Diabetes

Natural supplements shouldn’t be a first-choice treatment for coping with diabetes. Still, some have exhibited potential for lowering blood glucose levels. For example, lion’s mane extracts appear to block the activity of the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which breaks down carbohydrates in the small intestine.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, this ingredient confers anti-diabetic properties. However, we need more tests to prove these effects in humans.

5. Immune system

Food & Function reports that lion’s mane mushroom extracts are useful for strengthening immune system functions. In particular, it helps reduce inflammation and oxidation, two factors that compromise immunity. It also stimulates the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria.

6. Digestive health

The anti-inflammatory properties of lion’s mane mushroom act positively on the digestive system, especially in the case of inflammatory bowel disease. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology details that these supplements have antibacterial properties that improve digestion.

Among other things, it strengthens the intestinal microbiota, which reduces the risk of chronic diseases. In turn, it acts as a stomach ulcer preventative, according to experts from the Changchun University of Chinese Medicine.

7. Healing

Lion’s mane is also used in topical products. Its application to superficial wounds appears to aid the healing process. In a study on animals with neck wounds, research associated external application of lion’s mane extract with faster healing.

8. Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are linked to the onset of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, and heart conditions.

Research shared in Molecular Medicine Reports exposes that lion’s mane mushroom extracts concentrate antioxidants that inhibit the effects of these processes, reducing the onset of disease.

In fact, through Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it was determined that Hericium Erinaceus has the fourth highest antioxidant activity in a group of 14 mushrooms. Therefore, some people recommend it as a source of these molecules.

Possible Side effects

So far, lion’s mane mushrooms appear safe for most people. In Asia, people consume it in moderate amounts and  they haven’t reported any risks.

However, it’s unknown whether the derived supplements are safe and effective, given the lack of human studies. For now, no entity regulates them like other food and pharmaceutical products.

There’s some concern among patients with allergies and asthma, as it’s believed to worsen their symptoms. Therefore, it’s best to avoid consumption when suffering from these conditions.

Specialists also advise pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children to stay far away from these mushrooms. In case of diagnosed diseases, it’s best to consult a doctor.

Uses in cuisine

In Asian cuisine, lion’s mane mushrooms are cooked until the outer layer is crisp. This prevents the taste from being bitter.

In the West, supplements of this product are becoming increasingly popular. Right now, you can find them in capsules, liquids, tablets, and powder.

The dosage varies and you must follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Specialists recommended not exceeding this consumption, as this increases the risk of unwanted reactions.

What to remember about lion’s  mushrooms

Animal and test-tube research support many of the benefits attributed to lion’s mane mushrooms. However, we need more evidence is to support its use in humans. Therefore, extracts or supplements shouldn’t be a first-choice treatment for diseases.

In case of allergies or a history of asthma, it’s suggested to avoid consumption. It’s also advisable to consult a doctor before taking this type of remedy, especially if the person is taking other medications or if there’s a previous diagnosis of conditions.

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