A tasty and highly nutritious mushroom popularly eaten in Asian countries which may have some mood stabilizing effects, and currently does seem to improve cognitive performance with daily consumption.
History and Culture
Although popularly known as Lion’s Mane, the official name for this edible mushroom is hericium erinaceus. It is found in North America, Europe, and Asia - although it is now red listed in Europe as it is becoming more scarce in the region. Historically, it was primarily used as a food source, in part due to its rich umami flavor, tasting very similar to lobster. It is especially commonly eaten in Asia in place of meat, and has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine primarily for digestive issues, of which there is some evidence it may aid with in current modern research .
Lion’s Mane is exceptionally high in protein, having an average of 22 grams of protein per 100 grams of dry mushrooms. It is also an incredible non-animal source of essential amino acids. In an analysis on the nutritional composition of Lion’s Mane, which is an ingredient in our Nourish My Brain blend, the total essential amino acid composition averaged 44.25 amino acid/100 grams of crude protein compared, to 51.3 grams amino acid/100 grams for high-quality egg protein, suggesting that the nutritional quality of these mushrooms is quite high and that the content of essential amino acids approaches that of egg protein. For vegans, or those wanting to consume less animal protein, a mushroom like this can become an integral part of your diet.
Effects on Anxiety and Depression
There have been multiple studies that have begun in the last decade looking more closely at this mushroom's potentially mood improving abilities due to the findings of previous research into the molecular properties. Interest in potential cerebral effects first started when certain studies discovered that hericium erinaceus contained compounds which seemed to contribute to stimulating nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis.Thus, studies have been done to see if this mushroom could possibly be used to treat severe depression and/or anxiety. Further research has concluded however, that although it cannot be used to treat severe depression or anxiety, it does potentially have a very mild sedative effect that can help with milder forms of anxiety and irritation. More research is currently pending however to see exactly how much of an effect Lion’s Mane can have on mood, and to ensure that current results are not from external factors, so keep an eye out for updates in regards to Lion’s Mane mushrooms and it's effects on mood in the future.
Cognitive Function Effects
As mentioned previously, hericium erinaceus contains compounds which seem to contribute to NGF synthesis. One of the main things NGF synthesis is known to directly affect is cognitive function -- this is why we use Lion's Mane Mushroom as an ingredient in our Nourish My Brain blend. And in this, there is one double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial that was done in Japan that shows promise. A trial was performed on thirty 50-80 year-old Japanese men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in order to examine the efficacy of oral administration of hericium erinaceus (which they call Yamabushitake in Japanese). They were split into two groups of 15 people at random, with one group receiving a placebo and the other receiving four 250 mg tablets containing 96% of dry Lion’s Mane powder three times a day for 16 weeks. They were then tested using the Revised Hasegawa Dementia Scale (HDS-R) at week 8, 12, and 16, as well as 4 weeks after discontinuing use of the supplement. The results showed statistically significant gains in cognitive performance compared to the placebo, with performance increasing steadily over time the longer the Lion’s Mane was taken:
Interestingly, cognitive performance dropped very rapidly after discontinued use of the Lion’s Mane supplement, with performance dropping to around the same score as week 8 of taking the supplement only 4 weeks after stopping administration of the Lion’s Mane. This indicates that to maintain the cognitive benefits gained from this mushroom, one would require a constant daily intake. It is believed the reason Lion’s Mane has a positive effect on cognitive function while it’s taken is because, by stimulating NGF synthesis with compounds the mushroom has, cerebral neural connections are able to strengthen and partially repair, or in some cases perhaps somewhat reform (although this has yet to be verified and would require far more testing). Still, this trial indicates there is great potential that the mushroom can improve cognitive function - provided the mushroom is eaten or taken in supplement form daily without stop.
Overall this mushroom is a great addition to a diet for it’s nutritional value alone. It is overall safe to eat without restrictions or interactions, although diabetics may want to make sure their blood sugar doesn’t drop too much if taking medication, since the mushroom might have a slight anti-hyperglycemic effect as well  (which can actually be a benefit to those whose blood sugar has been edging on the higher end). If you are a vegan or someone with a similar diet, or trying to cut down meat consumption while maintaining high levels of protein, this mushroom would be a top level addition to your diet. The added cognitive performance would certainly be an added bonus!
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