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Can Lion's Mane really make me smarter?

How does Lion’s Mane Work?

As a supplement, Lion’s Mane is prized for its ability to boost brain function, putting it in the same category of other brain supplements called nootropics. 

Studies show taking Lion’s Mane can help stimulate the growth of two essential brain compounds: Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). These two compounds are proteins used by the brain to stimulate the production of new brain cells as well as strengthen existing ones. 

BDNF boosts brain plasticity or neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to remain capable of adapting to stress or ageing. This is the brain rewiring itself or modifying its connections in the face of new information. Neuroplasticity is also necessary for the human brain to grow and develop from infancy through adulthood and recover from brain injury. 

NGF is a significant factor in myelin formation. Myelin is an insulating layer or sheath that forms around our nerves, and allows electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently along these nerve cells. If the myelin is damaged, these electrical impulses slow down, resulting in slower response time regarding real-world activities e.g., having difficulty catching something being tossed at you.

Lion’s Mane can help the brain produce BDNF and NGF, leading to long-term brain health and resilience to symptoms of brain ageing. 

How does Lion’s Mane stimulate BDNF and NGF you wonder? Through two active compounds called hericenones and erinacines. 

Hericenones and erinacines 

Hericenones and erinacines are two natural compounds isolated from the fruiting body and mycelium of Lion’s Mane mushroom. These two compounds have been cited to help stimulate NGF synthesis and stimulate BDNF release. 

One reason why both hericenones and erinacines are so potent for brain health is how they easily cross the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is a semipermeable border of endothelial cells that protect our brain against circulating pathogens and toxins while only allowing vital brain nutrients. 

Furthermore, studies suggest both hericenones and erinacines are the very compounds responsible for protecting our brain from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Experts say these compounds reduce oxidative stress against stroke, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and brain ageing. [4]

Can Lion’s Mane Make Me Smarter?

While there is no definitive answer to this question, several studies suggest the affirmative. 

In 2009, a study found that taking Lion’s Mane boosted cognitive function in elderly subjects. [1]

Another study with rodents suggested that the mushroom can protect brain cells, enhance memory, and even promote neuron production. Neurons are the basic units of the brain responsible for receiving sensory input from the outside world and what our brain uses to communicate with our muscles. [2]

Experts also say Lion’s Mane’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce biological markers of neurodegenerative diseases by reducing amyloid plaques. [3]

An amyloid plaque is a type of protein that destroys healthy brain cells and neurons, leading to impaired cognition. The presence of amyloid plaques also increases your chances of acquiring neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

As per the studies, Lion's Mane has shown incredible results in being able to promote brain cell health and a more efficient neural connectivity.

How to use Lion's Mane?

Lion's mane can be consumed via a capsule or in powdered form. The recommended dosage is 1/2 - 1 tsp daily which equates to 4-6 capsules. There is no difference in terms of health properties between the capsule or the powder. The only difference is the preferred method of use.

If you wanted to give the powdered extract a try, one of the main ways people love incorporating lion's mane into their daily routine, is by adding it into their morning, coffee, tea, and/or matcha and smoothies.

Check out our recipes page for some delicious ideas.

References:

1. Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009 Mar;23(3):367-72. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2634. PMID: 18844328.

2. Brandalise F, Cesaroni V, Gregori A, et al. Dietary Supplementation of Hericium erinaceus Increases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:3864340. doi:10.1155/2017/3864340

3. 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

4. Li IC, Lee LY, Tzeng TT, Chen WP, Chen YP, Shiao YJ, Chen CC. Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. 2018 May 21;2018:5802634. doi: 10.1155/2018/5802634. PMID: 29951133; PMCID: PMC5987239.