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Can Lion's Mane Help with Anxiety? A Scientific Exploration

Anxiety is a disorder that affects 1 in 13 people globally. The World Health Organization says anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide, the most common being specific phobias, major depressive disorders, and social phobia. 

In fact, it’s a funny joke across teens and professionals that they’d rather spend a boring day at home than go out and meet people because of social anxiety.

However, anxiety is anything but funny. It can unfortunately have many negative consequences such as poor sleep quality, impaired cognition (brain fog or problems with memory retention), high blood pressure and can even lead to heart disease.

The Lion's Mane mushroom is a medicinal fungus that has been used in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. It has been used mostly for its cognitive health boosting abilities, and has since also gained popularity for being a possible natural remedy for anxiety. 

How does Lion’s Mane help with anxiety? Read on to find out.

1. Lion’s Mane Possesses Anti-Inflammatory Properties

It’s no secret that many of the diseases affecting the human body are partly due to chronic inflammation. 

From heart disease and diabetes to joint disorders and even some cancers, being the root cause of many diseases is the reason so many treatments revolve around controlling inflammation. In fact, studies show increased inflammation may be a large contributor to anxiety.

Inflammation can access the brain, which can enhance pro-inflammatory cytokine levels. This has been shown to cause direct and indirect neurotoxic effects.

Lion’s Mane is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and has been cited to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in studies. [1]

2. Lion’s Mane Boosts Nerve Growth Factor

The Nerve Growth Factor gene (NGF) is used by our body to produce NGFβ, a protein critical for neuron development and survival, particularly those in charge of transmitting pain, temperature, and touch. Lion’s Mane has been shown to help boost the body’s production of NGF, which is important when citing the mushroom's brain benefits.

NGF supports and promotes cognition and memory, and plays an essential role for hippocampal plasticity and learning. One study showed that by promoting hippocampal neurogenesis, lion's mane helped reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. [2]

Anxiety can also be caused by a lack or insufficient production of neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation and cognitive function, including acetylcholine, dopamine, and GABA.

A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science proposed Lion’s Mane can significantly ameliorate symptoms of depression and anxiety, primarily by improving neurotransmitter production and anti-inflammatory pathways. [3]

3. Lion's Mane Has Potent Anxiolytic Compounds

The unique medicinal compounds of the Lion’s Mane mushroom - hericenones and erinacines are what give the mushroom its cognitive health abilities.

For anxiety specifically, hericenones have been shown to stimulate the release of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF plays an integral part in maintaining mood balance and memory function. [4]

Studies have also shown that sesquiterpenoids, compounds known for their calming properties, are responsible for anti-stress activity, as well as being able to suppress Anxiety-related behaviour patterns. This compound is also found in Lion’s Mane and has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in older adults when taken daily for four weeks. [5]

Anxiety can affect everyone, and people may not know they have it until it’s at its worst state. There are many ways to manage symptoms of anxiety, and according to studies Lion’s Mane may be one of them. Lion’s Mane has been shown to help with anxiety through its anti-inflammatory properties, boosting NGF, and by means of its active compounds hericenones and erinacines. 

The potential of Lion’s Mane only grows with each new published research paper, and they only prove this mushroom’s amazing long-term health benefits. 


References: 

1. Yao W, Zhang JC, Dong C, Zhuang C, Hirota S, Inanaga K, Hashimoto K. Effects of amycenone on serum levels of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-10, and depression-like behavior in mice after lipopolysaccharide administration. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2015 Sep;136:7-12. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2015.06.012. Epub 2015 Jul 4. PMID: 26150007.

2. Ryu S, Kim HG, Kim JY, Kim SY, Cho KO. Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain. J Med Food. 2018 Feb;21(2):174-180. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2017.4006. Epub 2017 Nov 1. PMID: 29091526.

3. Chong PS, Fung ML, Wong KH, Lim LW. Therapeutic Potential of Hericium erinaceus for Depressive Disorder. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;21(1):163. Published 2019 Dec 25. doi:10.3390/ijms21010163

4. Li IC, Lee LY, Tzeng TT, et al. Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. 2018;2018:5802634. Published 2018 May 21. doi:10.1155/2018/5802634

5. Chen J, Zeng X, Yang YL, Xing YM, Zhang Q, Li JM, Ma K, Liu HW, Guo SX. Genomic and transcriptomic analyses reveal differential regulation of diverse terpenoid and polyketides secondary metabolites in Hericium erinaceus. Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 31;7(1):10151. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-10376-0. PMID: 28860534; PMCID: PMC5579188.