Hello dear readers! I am working on filming the latest episode of the Soma Supplement Seminar Series which is going to feature the Lion's Mane Mushroom. You may have heard about Lion's Mane in the context of being a nootropic; as in being a substance that provides benefits from a cognitive standpoint. It has been receiving a lot of attention lately because of it being known as a "smart mushroom". For myself, I love Lion's Mane mushrooms! It's actually a star ingredient of both our Formula 1 and Formula 2 Soma Supplements. So let's get to know all about Lion's Mane mushrooms!
What is Lion's Mane Mushroom?
Lion's Mane is also known as Yamabushitake, the monkey head mushroom, or its scientific name Hericium erinaceous. It looks absolutely beautiful with it's fruiting body resembling both a majestic lion's mane and a brain at the same time. Known as an ancient medicinal mushroom, it has been leveraged as a digestive tonic in Chinese medicine for about two thousand years. I have covered many of the benefits of Lion's Mane in our past Soma Supplement Seminars, but the research and potential benefits it can provide our human family are well worth the time to specifically highlight Lion's Mane.
How does the Magic of Lion's Mane Mushroom work?
A main mechanism of action as to how the Lion's Mane mushroom is able to provide it's brain boosting and nootropic benefits is that it stimulates NGF, which is otherwise known as Nerve Growth Factor. NGF are proteins that play a major role in the maintenance, regeneration and re-myelination of neurons, keeping the nervous system running at optimal levels. Two nerve growth factors, Hericenones and Erinacines, have been identified in this mushroom and are known to stimulate the biosynthesis of NGF. As a result, this can explain how Lion's Mane is truly the king of Nootropics.
Health Optimization Applications of Lion's Mane Mushrooms
A double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial was performed on 50- to 80-year-old Japanese men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in order to examine the efficacy of oral administration of Lion's Mane Mushroom. At weeks 8, 12 and 16 weeks of the study - the group taking the Lion's Mane mushroom showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group. What this research shows is the promise of Lion's Mane to improve cognition over time, even in an older age group. In addition, there is research from a perspective of being able to improve wound healing across all body parts - including one's neurons.
Both the mycelium and the fruiting body contains several bioactive compounds, which are available when the mushroom is heated or prepared as a hot water extract. Lion’s Mane is rich in some physiologically important components, especially β-glucan polysaccharides, “which are responsible for anti-cancer, immuno-modulating, hypolipidemic, antioxidant and neuro-protective activities of this mushroom." A 2014 study published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that the mushroom’s extract to be effective against three gastrointestinal cancers; liver, colorectal and gastric cancers. The study also noted that the extracts are more effective and less toxic compared to 5-FU or fluorouracil, common anti-cancer drug.
Lion's Mane versus Caffeine as a Nootropic
Nootropics are defined as any substance that improves cognitive performance. This exotic term for so-called smart drugs derives from the Greek word “noos” (mind) and “tropein” (towards). That being said, this classification and type of NLP is is still relatively new. According to Psychology Today, there are three types of Nootropics:
Stimulant Drugs - These include drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall and the main mechanism of action is by stimulating the release of Dopamine in the brain. *Note: I have some issues with these drugs and I will get into that with later posts.
Synthetic Compounds - Act on the neurotransmitters glutamate and acetylcholine. These include Noopept (not currently available in the US) and racetams such as piracetam.
Natural Compounds - These include substances such as caffeine, ginseng, and our star supplement friend of this article: Lion's Mane.
I won't get into the challenges I have with number one and two. Instead I will focus on the final type of Nootropic - the natural compounds. With out Soma Supplements I have noted that due to the Lion's Mane there is an especially increased sensitivity to caffeine. I, myself, an ex-stimulant junkie have now come down in my coffee intake.
I don't even take a pre workout anymore, simply Formula 2 before I workout. You can check out more information about that here.
Caffeine works by pretending to be the neurotransmitter adenosine, which accumulates to promote sleep and suppress arousal. Caffeine binds to those receptors, called A1 receptors, which blocks adenosine and prevents people from feeling tired. Comparatively, Lion's Manes effects neurologically are likely through the digestion process and the release of NGF precursors. So what this means is that any effects of your neurological system will be amplified. This includes usage of caffeine, alcohol as well as anything else that would alter your neurological state.
Essentially Lion's Mane acts like a bit of a sensitizing agent. So my recommendation is when you are supplementing with Lion's Mane try removing your caffeine intake at the same time - only adding it in if you "need" to. I have found that if you keep your regular caffeine intake the same - but then add in Lion's Mane there can be increased feelings of anxiety and almost a feeling of too much caffeine. Which, quite honestly, us as a society have a total caffeine addition. However, that is a topic for a future time!
Please look for the next Soma Supplement Seminar Series on Lion's Mane dropping this weekend! For now you can catch the past episodes on Maca and NAC and Ashwagandha below:
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.
Zhang CC, Yin X, Cao CY, Wei J, Zhang Q, Gao JM. Chemical constituents from Hericium erinaceus and their ability to stimulate NGF-mediated neurite outgrowth on PC12 cells. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2015 Nov 15;25(22):5078-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2015.10.016. Epub 2015 Oct 16. PMID: 26481911.
Li G, Yu K, Li F, Xu K, Li J, He S, Cao S, Tan G. Anticancer potential of Hericium erinaceus extracts against human gastrointestinal cancers. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Apr 28;153(2):521-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.03.003. Epub 2014 Mar 12. PMID: 24631140.