Lion's Mane boosts nerve growth factor in the brain

Lion’s Mane

David Tomen
Author:
David Tomen
12 minute read
Lion’s Mane Mushroom is known for stimulating Nerve Growth Factor, improving cognition and memory, and relieving depression.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is unique in the mushroom family both in appearance and function. Lion’s Mane Mushroom is extremely effective at stimulating Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain.

Known for its powerful effects as a “brain tonic”, Lion’s Mane is said to have been used as a tea for thousands of years by Buddhist monks. To enhance brain power, and heighten their ability to focus during meditation.

Lion’s Mane as a nootropic, is a powerful catalyst for brain cell regeneration helping improve memory and cognition.

The primary active compounds in Lion’s Mane are hericenones and erinacines. Erinacines help your brain produce more Nerve Growth Factor. Erinacines easily cross the blood-brain barrier to boost the production of neurons.

Lion’s Mane helps:

  • Nerve Growth Factor. Lion’s Mane Mushroom prevents and treats nerve damage in the brain. Once past the blood-brain barrier, Lion’s Mane stimulates enzyme production that release Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Nerve regeneration helps relieve neurodegenerative disease symptoms such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Neurogenesis. Lion’s Mane stimulates the repair and creation of neurons. Boosting neurotransmitters and signaling that effects memory, learning, recall, and mood.
  • Brain Optimization. Lion’s Mane helps eliminate brain fog. Restoring memory and mental alertness. And improves anxiety and depression symptoms.

Overview

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a medicinal mushroom proven to benefit the brain, nerves and immune system.

Unlike other mushrooms sporting a cap and stem, Lion’s Mane has long, flowing, white tendrils. Resembling a lion’s mane. Other names include Monkey’s Head, Bearded Tooth, Pom Pom Blanc, Hedgehog Mushroom and Satyr’s Beard.

Lion's Mane Mushroom grows on trees
Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)

This parasitic fungus grows hanging off logs and trees. And is native to North American, Europe and Southeast Asia. In Japan, it’s called yamabushitake or “those who sleep in mountains”. Referring to the Shugendo sect of hermit monks and their long, flowing robes.

As a nootropic, Lion’s Mane has been shown to be particularly effective in stimulating Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain.

NGF is produced in the hippocampus throughout life. Modulating cholinergic receptors and neuroplasticity.[i] And is essential for learning.

Nerve Growth Factor are special proteins that function to regenerate neurons. Lion’s Mane contains two unique classes of NGF’shericenones and erinacines which easily cross the blood-brain barrier.

Lion’s Mane, like other medicinal mushrooms, contain high amounts of the antioxidant beta-glucoxylan and four other polysaccharides and polypeptides. Having a significant impact on enhancing your immune system. And decreasing tumor growth.

Lion’s Mane has also been studied in reducing amyloid plaques. These clumps of beta-amyloid proteins block signals between neurons. And are implicated in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Lions’ Mane is also used to treat Lyme’s Disease, and digestive tract issues.

Here we’re talking about Lion’s Mane Mushroom and its effects on brain health and chemistry.

Lion's Mane boosts nerve growth factor in the brain

How does Lion’s Mane Work in the Brain?

Lion’s Mane boosts brain health and function in several ways. But two in particular stand out.

  1. Lion’s Mane Mushroom stimulates the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). NGF is a protein that plays a major role in the maintenance, survival and regeneration of neurons.

NGF is required by your brain to keep neurons strong and healthy. When various neurological disorders occur, your brain is unable to produce its own internal source of NGF.

In a study done in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, scientists showed that Lion’s Mane extract induced NGF synthesis and promoted neurite outgrowth.[ii]

  1. Lion’s Mane is effective in reducing anxiety and depression. Some even call it the “smart mushroom” for its ability to improve cognition, memory and work as an anti-depressant.

A study by researchers in Japan worked with 30 women. The female subjects had been complaining about menopause, depression, sleep quality and other issues.

The women randomly received Lion’s Mane-laced cookies or a placebo for 4 weeks. The researchers found that Lion’s Mane “has the possibility to reduce depression and anxiety, and these results suggest a different mechanism from NGF-enhancing action of H. erinaceus”. [iii]

How things go bad

Science once believed that the brain could not grow new brain cells. That once our brain developed during childhood, and we reached adulthood, we had all the brain cells we’d ever have.

Now we know that neurons can regenerate. But that doesn’t mean they will regenerate. A number of health issues can contribute to neurodegeneration.declining nerve growth factor

↓ Decrease in Nerve Growth Factor = Decrease in Long-Term Potentiation affecting long-term memory[iv]

↓ Brain cells die and are not replaced

Neuroplasticity declines resulting in poor memory

Neurotransmitters decline resulting in anxiety, poor mood and depression

All of these age-related changes are contributing factors to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and others. And anxiety, depression and mood disorders that affect quality of life.

Lion’s Mane benefits

At least a dozen peer-reviewed studies have been published on Lion’s Mane benefits to brain health since 1991. Dr. Kawagishi of Japan was first to identify Nerve Growth Factor properties in Lion’s Mane Mushroom.[v]

In one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers in Japan worked with 50 – 80 year old men and women. All suffered from mild cognitive impairment.

The trial subjects received four 250 mg tablets containing 96% of Yamabushitake (Lion’s Mane) dry powder three times a day for 16 weeks. The men and women were tested at 4, 8, 12 and 16 weeks.

At each of the testing periods, the subjects who had used Lion’s Mane showed a significant improvement in cognitive scores. And their scores were increasing while on Lion’s Mane supplementation. But 4 weeks after stopping Lion’s mane supplementation, their cognitive scores decreased significantly.

The researchers concluded that Lion’s Mane Mushroom is effective in improving mild cognitive impairment.[vi]

How does Lion’s Mane feel?

You may not experience the effects of supplementing with Lion’s Mane Mushroom immediately. But many users report with continued use of Lion’s Mane, a boost in mood and mental energy.

Lion's Mane boosts moodSome report it increases depth perception. And an improvement in sense of smell.

Others testify to improved decision-making, the ability to solve problems and learning. Likely due to Lion’s Mane ability to improve neuroplasticity.

The overall consensus is Lion’s Mane Mushroom’s ability to lessen anxiety, reduce depression, and improve concentration.

Lion’s Mane Clinical Research

Lion’s Mane Mushroom has been used as a food and herbal medicine since ancient times in East Asia. And it has been reported in scientific research that Lion’s Mane promotes Nerve Growth Factor both in the petri dish as well as in animal and human test subjects.

Lion’s Mane Prevents Cognitive Dysfunction

In this study, researchers examined the effects of Lion’s Mane on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice. Amyloid β(25-35) peptide is implicated in diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Mice were injected with the peptide on days 7 and 14 of the trial. And they were fed a diet containing Lion’s Mane over 23-days of the experiment. The results showed that Lion’s Mane prevented short-term and visual recognition memory reduction normally induced by amyloid β(25-35) peptide.

They concluded that Lion’s Mane Mushroom “may be useful in the prevention of cognitive dysfunction”.[vii]

Lion’s Mane Induces Nerve Growth Factor

In this trial, mice were fed Lion’s Mane 5% freeze-dried powdered extract for 7 days. Researchers found an increase in the level of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the hippocampus of the mice. Concluding that Lion’s Mane “contains active compounds that stimulate NGF synthesis”.[viii]

Lion’s Mane Repairs Nerves

In this study done with rats, Lion’s Mane extract was able to promote neuron regrowth after injury. Rats with gluteal nerve damage were able to walk again after consuming water containing Lion’s Mane extract.

The researchers concluded that Lion’s Mane regenerates damaged nerve cells. In this case, the reversal was so profound, the rats went from being totally disabled to walking again.[ix]

Lion's Mane prevents cognitive dysfunction

Lion’s Mane Dosage

Wondering how much Lion’s Mane to take? Dosing of Lion’s Mane Mushroom depends on the strength of the extract.

For Lion’s Mane 10:1 extract (30% polysaccharide), daily dosage is 500 – 1,000 mg taken 1 to 3 times per day. This means that if you choose a daily dose of 1,000 mg of Lion’s Mane extract, you should take 500 mg in the morning, and another 500 mg at noon.

Other retail extract dosage of Lion’s Mane ranges from 300 mg to 3000 mg dosed 1 – 3 times per day. Check the label and see what the manufacturer recommends. And when first using the supplement, start with the lowest dose and see how your body reacts.

Lion’s Mane Side Effects

Lion’s Mane Mushroom is non-toxic and considered very safe. So there are very few side effects reported.

Some neurohackers report itchy skin from higher doses. Likely attributable to a boost in Nerve Growth Factor.

Lion’s Mane has been tested in animals showing no side effects or toxicity even up to 5 grams per kilogram.

Best type of Lion’s Mane to buy

Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) as a nootropic supplement is usually offered as an extract. In powdered form, or in a capsule.

MindLab Pro with Lion's ManeLion’s Mane Mushroom can be found in some of higher quality pre-formulated nootropic stacks. For example, Mind Lab Pro® contains 11 brain enhancing nootropic compounds including Lion’s Mane with the full fruit spectrum including hericenones and erinacines.

I recommend Mind Lab Pro® because it addresses all aspects of anxiety resistance, memory and cognitive enhancement, stabilizes mood, brain repair, and maintenance.

This premium nootropic stack is designed to affect neurotransmitters, cognitive energy, brain waves, neuroprotection, and regeneration. See my Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed report.

When choosing a Lion’s Mane supplement, there’s debate over the best form of extraction to achieve the mushroom’s full medicinal benefit. Some say your best option is a hot water extraction. Another says alcohol extraction. Another claims both are necessary.

But when it comes to mushrooms, saying that one is “more potent” than another is just too simplified to be true. This is as much an art as it is science.

Much more important is choosing a supplement that includes the mycelium of Lion’s Mane Mushroom. In this mushroom, the fruiting body does not contain erinacines which is the compound that boosts Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).

The nootropic benefits of hericenones only found in the fruiting body or top of the mushroom help support your immune system and get rid of Amyloid β(25-35) peptide implicated in diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The challenge is getting a Lion’s Mane Mushroom extract that contains the full spectrum found in both the mycelium and fruiting body. But the mushroom must be grown in liquid and not a solid substrate like grain. Otherwise you’ll get ground up grain without the important erinacines needed for increased NGF.

Look at the manufacturer’s literature and marketing material and find out how their Lion’s Mane is grown. And read the reviews on shopping sites as well as forums.

Types of Lion’s Mane available:

  • Plain Lion’s Mane: Pure, powdered mushroom. Often freeze-dried, and the cheapest form available. Can be added to water, juice or smoothies.
  • Lion’s Mane Extracts: A more potent form of mushroom. Often presented as 14:1 or 10:1 extracts (14 pounds or 10 pounds reduced to 1 pound of extract).

You will get 500 mg Lion’s Mane full spectrum extract in Mind Lab Pro®.

If you want a standalone Lion’s Mane Extract, I recommend Real Mushrooms organic Lion’s Mane Extract

  • Standardized Lion’s Mane: Processed to provide exact levels of active ingredients. You can get Lion’s Mane standardized to 30% and 50% polysaccharides (including the active secondary metabolites hericenones and erinacines).
  • Lion’s Mane tea: Since this is a popular mushroom in the kitchen, the taste is acceptable. But it’s hard to get a handle on how much actual active ingredient you’re getting.
  • Amycenone®/PLM-Fraction: This “branded” product is standardized to Hericenones 0.5%, Amyloban 6%. It seems to target a lesser-known Lion’s Mane active ingredient–Amyloban–which is positioned as a mushroom compound that fights beta-amyloid proteins. Originating in Japan, it is extremely expensive, and may be found in a supplement called Amyloban®3399.

And if you decide to pick your own, before consuming any wild mushroom, make sure that it is accurately identified. Mushroom poisoning is a real problem if you pick the wrong one.

For a full list of Mycology societies that may be able to help you, go to the North American Mycological Association website (www.namyco.org).

Nootropics Expert Recommendation

Lion’s Mane 500 – 2,000 mg per day

Nootropics Expert Tested and ApprovedI recommend using Lion’s Mane as a nootropic supplement.

Your body does not make Lion’s Mane on its own. So you need to take it as a supplement.

Lion’s Mane is especially helpful for regenerating brain cells. It prevents neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

And it boosts long-term potentiation for memory and mental sharpness. By stimulating Nerve Growth Factor.

Lion’s Mane also helps boost mood, tame anxiety and relieve depression. For a better quality of life.

We suggest starting with a dose of 500 mg daily. The best human study used 3000 mg per day. But another researcher found lower concentrations may stimulate NGF better than higher concentrations.[x]

Start at 500 mg per day and see how it works for you. If you don’t experience a benefit, boost Lion’s Mane in small increments of 250 mg per day until you notice an improvement. And make sure you are using a supplement containing the mycelium and fruiting body that is grown in a liquid medium.

You can buy individual Lion’s Mane supplements. Or you could try my favorite pre-formulated nootropic stack Mind Lab Pro® which includes the full spectrum including hericenones and erinacines found in Lion’s Mane Mushroom.

Mind Lab Pro contains a synergistic blend of 11 brain enhancing nootropics covering all aspects of cognition and brain health. See my full Mind Lab Pro review for more.

Lion’s Mane is a great compliment to a nootropic stack including Aniracetam, Alpha GPC and Omega-3’s for an immediate cognitive boost.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may also contain other affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

[i] Conner J.M. et. Al. “NGF Is Essential for Hippocampal Plasticity and Learning” The Journal of Neuroscience 2 September 2009, 29(35): 10883-10889 (source)

[ii] Lai P.L., Naidu M., Sabaratnam V., Wong K.H., David R.P., Kuppusamy U.R., Abdullah N., Malek S.N. “Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 2013;15(6):539-54. (source)

[iii] Nagano M., Shimizu K., Kondo R., Hayashi C., Sato D., Kitagawa K., Ohnuki K. “Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake.” Biomedical Research. 2010 Aug;31(4):231-7. (source)

[iv] Kelly A., Conroy S., Lynch M.A. “Evidence that nerve growth factor plays a role in long-term potentiation in the rat dentate gyrus.”Neuropharmacology. 1998 Apr-May;37(4-5):561-70. (source)

[v] Kawagishi H., et. Al. “Erinacines A, B and C, strong stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF)-synthesis, from the mycelia of Hericium erinaceum” Tetrahedron Letters Volume 35, Issue 10, 7 March 1994, Pages 1569–1572 (source)

[vi] 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.”Phytotherapy Research. 2009 Mar;23(3):367-72. (source)

[vii] Mori K., Obara Y., Moriya T., Inatomi S., Nakahata N. “Effects of Hericium erinaceus on amyloid β(25-35) peptide-induced learning and memory deficits in mice.” Biomedical Research. 2011 Feb;32(1):67-72. (source)

[viii] Mori K., et. Al. “Nerve Growth Factor-Inducing Activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 Human Astrocytoma Cells” Biology Pharmaceutical Bulletin September 2008 31(9) 1727—1732 (2008) (source)

[ix] Wong K.H., Naidu M., David P., Abdulla M.A., Abdullah N., Kuppusamy U.R., Sabaratnam V. “Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Following Crush Injury to Rat Peroneal Nerve by Aqueous Extract of Medicinal Mushroom Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae).” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2011;2011:580752. (source)

[x] Sabaratnam V., Kah-Hui W., Naidu M., David P.R. “Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help?” Journal of Traditional and Complimentary Medicine 2013 Jan-Mar; 3(1): 62–68. (source)

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Join The Discussion - 384 comments

Alan
October 17, 2023

David,

Is the Lion’s Mane offering from Real Mushroom beneficial for the nerve growth factors?

    David Tomen
    October 18, 2023

    Alan, good question and the answer is yes. Those guys are pioneers in medicinal mushrooms and the reason why I recommend them.

Nick
September 22, 2023

Hello! Could you please tell me what the quality of the Host defense Lion’s mane supplement is? I have a choice between this company and Swanson. Other companies are not available to me. Thanks a lot!

    David Tomen
    September 22, 2023

    Nick, neither one of those are “full spectrum” even though the Swanson product claims to be. Scroll up to “Best type of Lion’s Mane to buy” and see paragraphs 7 – 9 for what you get with a supplement that includes the fruiting body AND mycelium.

Claudia
September 11, 2023

Hi David,

I am planning on occasionally using Lion’s Mane as a tea.
For this I can buy organic powder in my country (in the EU) which consists of 30% Polysaccharides, 100% from fruiting bodies. I’m very much confused if this is actually a good product since it does not contains the mycelium?
Thank you for all that you do

    David Tomen
    September 13, 2023

    Claudia, see my article on medicinal mushrooms here: https://nootropicsexpert.com/the-nootropic-benefits-of-medicinal-mushrooms/. And scroll down to the section called “The nootropic value of mushrooms: beta-D-glucans”.

      Claudia
      September 21, 2023

      For some reason I can’t understand the mushroom information, even after reading through it several times. This is completely my fault, as your information is well written and cohesive. This subject just isn’t for me I suppose. But I want to thank you for your always kind, fast and intelligent replies.

        David Tomen
        September 22, 2023

        Claudia, in plain English to get the full benefit from Lion’s Mane you need a supplement that is “full spectrum” that uses both the fruiting body and mycellium.

Michael
August 21, 2023

Hello David,

I use MLP every day but wanted to ask about the difference between tinctures, like lifecykel full spectrum or Nootropics depot new LM product called Erinamax which is the liquid culture mycelium in tablet form. I’d like to add an additional dosage but an curious about the various types available today…..thanks

    David Tomen
    August 21, 2023

    Michael, the primary active compounds in Lion’s Mane are hericenones and erinacines. The nootropic benefits of hericenones only found in the fruiting body of Lion’s Mane. And erinacines are found in the mycelium of Lion’s Mane. Which must be grown in a liquid substrate because otherwise you would not be able to separate or extract the erinacines. You need both active compounds to get the full benefits from Lion’s Mane which is what is found in Mind Lab Pro. Not sure about the Nootropics Depot product but that is the criteria you are looking for.

Lis
July 2, 2023

There are new data on the effect of lion’s mane on neurotransmitters and enzymes, I hope you will add this to the review?

    David Tomen
    July 8, 2023

    Lis, please point me to the peer-reviewed clinical studies you are referring to. And I’ll be happy to update this review. Thanks.

Liliana
June 27, 2023

I have 2 questions:

I bought Lion´s Mane through amazon and when it was just delivered the bottle was warm. It probably got warm during transportation.

1. If that could have affected the quality of the product?

2. Is it ok if I take Lion´s mane together with Noopept?

Thank you!

    David Tomen
    June 29, 2023

    Liliana, 1. possibly but of greater concern is the contents of that bottle. There is a LOT of mushroom garbage on the market. And there are only a couple of companies that make a high quality Lion’s Mane supplement.

    And 2. yes you can.

Melissa
May 23, 2023

Hi David I have been taking Mind Lab Pro for a about a month & am definitely starting to feel overall cognitive improvement. I usually take 2 capsules in the morning & 1 -2 mid afternoon. I am still struggling a bit with memory issues & low mood as well as weakness in my legs & feet. Do you think that adding more lions mane with mind lab pro could be beneficial?

    David Tomen
    June 5, 2023

    Melissa, I personally use 1,000 mg Lion’s Mane extract twice per day. So it could help. You could also likely use more dopamine so I would add another 250 or 500 mg L-Tyrosine each time you use Mind Lab Pro.

      Melissa
      June 9, 2023

      Thank you so much David. I will give that a try. Thank you for all of your insight. It’s has been truly helpful.

      Melissa

John
April 20, 2023

I read that lion’s mane can restore the myelin sheath of neurons, I don’t know of any nootropic that could do the same, maybe lion’s mane can help people with multiple sclerosis.

    David Tomen
    April 21, 2023

    John, it very well could help with MS. But there are others that also stimulate the product of myelin as well as keep in healthy. Use the search field top right above and search for “myelin” and see what else turns up.

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