New Lion's mane users often wonder whether they can consume Lion's mane mushrooms without cooking them. Yes, you can eat fresh Lion's mane mushrooms raw. However, these fungi are better when cooked.
Raw Lion's mane mushroom has a tough and fibrous texture that can be difficult to chew and digest, making it less palatable and potentially causing gastrointestinal discomfort. Moreover, cooking or heat-processing Lion's mane mushroom can break down its rigid cell walls and release more bioactive compounds that benefit your overall health.
There are distinct benefits (yes, lots of them!) of cooking the mushroom rather than munching it raw. The ones we mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg—we have more in the following sections.
Eating Lion's Mane Raw vs. Cooked: Why It's Better to Cook Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Lion's mane mushrooms are safe to eat raw. However, there are more benefits to cooking this functional mushroom. Below we have mentioned some of the benefits of cooking Lion's mane mushrooms:
1. A Better Lion's Mane Mushroom Taste
Cooked Lion's mane tastes better than raw! When eaten raw, they may have a mildly bitter taste, but when cooked, they make an excellent main meal substitute for meat or seafood.
2. More Health Benefits
Cooking enhances the beneficial properties of Lion's mane mushrooms. However, some people may believe that cooking Lion's mane mushrooms will destroy the essential nutrients, much like how cannabidiol (CBD) behaves when heated to a high temperature.
However, this is not true for fresh Lion's mane mushroom. The main component of the mushroom's cell walls, chitin, is destroyed during cooking. By doing this, you improve the fibrous and woody texture of the mushroom and help your body access all the nutrients that would otherwise be more difficult to digest.
The brain health benefits of Lion's mane mushrooms become more accessible with cooking as the body can better access hericenones and erinacines, two compounds that promote neurogenesis(1). Neurogenesis fights anxiety, depression, and neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
3. No Cleanliness Concerns
Lion's mane mushrooms can be dirty! So, for example, if you find Lion's mane mushrooms in the market, consider how many people have handled that Lion's mane medicinal mushroom before it reaches you.
Even after washing, they can be tricky to completely clean, and given that their outside is fuzzy, you can only imagine how difficult it is to get into all the nooks and crannies. Therefore, if you eat Lion's mane mushrooms raw, there is always the risk of consuming unwelcome substances.
4. Reduced Risk of Digestive Discomfort
Lion's mane mushroom has a tough and fibrous texture that can be difficult to chew and digest when consumed raw. Cooking or heat-processing the mushroom can help break down its tough cell walls and make it easier to consume and digest.
Eating raw Lion's mane mushroom can cause digestive discomfort, including bloating, gas, and stomach pain. Cooking the mushroom can help reduce the risk of digestive distress.
How To Identify Lion's Mane Mushroom
Lion's mane mushroom is a distinctive-looking "toothed" fungus that grows naturally on dead or dying trees in temperate woods worldwide but more commonly in North America. Although it might be included in your guidebook under a different name, such as "Bearded Tooth" or "Japanese Yamabushitake," its scientific name is Hericium erinaceus.
The pom-pom mushroom differs from your average stem and cap mushroom in appearance. Instead, the fruiting body has long, tooth-like structures that hang down from the main body, giving it the appearance of a snowball. These "teeth" serve as the gills of these shaggy mushrooms, facilitating spore dispersal.
These fresh mushrooms have not only a distinctive appearance but also a distinctive smell. The smell of the medicinal fungus is much softer and has a seafood undertone, while it is still earthy like other mushrooms. The flavor also exhibits this aroma, with many people comparing the taste of Lion's mane, a meaty fungus, to crab or lobster.
When foraging for fresh Lion's mane, be cautious. This will help you avoid bringing home Lion's mane look-alikes, which may be poisonous or lack the same health benefits as the medicinal mushroom.
Where To Find Lion's Mane Mushroom?
Apart from foraging the mushroom wild in the woods, your neighborhood health food or farmer's market is the best spot to start your search for fresh or dried Lion's mane mushrooms. But, you may not always see the fresh mushroom in the produce section.
Fresh Lion's mane mushrooms have a short shelf life. In addition, if handled harshly, the fruit is readily bruised and rendered unsellable. That is why Lion's mane is famous as a supplement, including Lion's mane powder and capsules that are more palatable and have a longer shelf life.
Now if you want mushroom supplements, you can try ordering them online if you're having trouble finding them locally. Organic mushroom powders are available online and in some health food stores. But it's crucial to ensure you purchase the best powdered Lion's mane to ensure maximum health benefits.
Read More: Learn what to look for when buying Lion's mane products.
Ways To Prepare Lion's Mane Medicinal Mushrooms
There are numerous ways to add fresh Lion's mane mushrooms to your diet. You can use these fungi in some of our hand-picked Lion's mane mushroom recipes. If you do not have time to cook foods or meals with Lion's mane, you can always dry them, grind them and use them to prepare Lion's mane tea. If the tea taste is unappealing, you can always use natural sweeteners like honey to improve it.
However, preparing Lion's mane might be a hassle, mainly because the full health benefits are usually felt a few weeks after regular consumption—that's a lot of effort and time spent cooking Lion's mane mushrooms!
We suggest Lion's Mane mushroom powder if you'd want a more efficient way to reach your recommended daily intake of mushrooms. Lion's Mane mushroom powder can be included in anything, from a mug of warm water to coffee or tea. These Lion's mane products can also be added to soups, smoothies, and broths to add more flavor and benefits.
In addition to Lion's mane powder, you may also want to consider another Lion's mane dietary supplement—for example, tinctures and capsules. The benefits of Lion's mane are generally more accessible in these supplements since they are more potent and carry more bioactive ingredients.
Potential Lion's Mane Mushroom Benefits
Whether raw, cooked, or as supplements, organic Lion's mane mushrooms improve overall health. Here are (some of the many) potential health benefits of eating Lion's mane mushrooms:
- Produces calming(2) effect
- Protects the neurons(3)
- Improves mental clarity and focus
- It may help lower blood sugar levels
- Improves gut health
FAQs About Can You Eat Lion's Mane Raw
How Much Raw Lions Mane Can I Eat?
Eating raw Lion's mane mushrooms is not recommended because of their tough texture, potential digestive discomfort, and risk of harmful compounds. However, limiting your intake to a small amount is essential if you consume Lion's mane mushroom raw. Start with a few thin slices, and gradually increase your intake if you do not experience any adverse effects.
It is important to note that Lion's mane mushroom is generally considered safe for consumption, but some people may be allergic or sensitive to it. If you experience any adverse effects, such as digestive discomfort, skin rash, or difficulty breathing, stop consuming the mushroom immediately and seek medical attention if necessary.
Read More: See our detailed Lion's mane dosage guide.
What Does Lion's Mane Taste Like Raw?
Lion's mane mushroom has a unique taste and texture when consumed raw. It has a slightly bitter and nutty flavor, with a chewy and crunchy texture that can be tough to chew and digest.
The texture of raw Lion's mane mushroom is often described as similar to seafood, such as crab or lobster, and it is sometimes used as a vegetarian or vegan substitute for these types of seafood. However, it is worth noting that cooking or heat-processing the mushroom can help improve its taste and texture and make it easier to consume and digest.
Is Lions Mane Addictive?
The available evidence suggests that Lion's mane mushroom is not addictive. Lion's mane mushroom is an edible mushroom commonly consumed as a food or dietary supplement. It contains various bioactive compounds, such as beta-glucans and ergothioneine, linked to multiple health benefits.
While Lion's mane extracts may benefit overall health and cognitive function, it does not contain any addictive substances or compounds known to cause addiction or dependence.
While you can eat Lion's mane raw, cooking this functional fungus is usually much better. This is because cooking Lion's mane makes nutrients and bioactive ingredients more accessible to your body. Moreover, when you source Lion's mane from local markets, you cannot trust their information about the mushroom's cleanliness. As a result, the raw mushrooms may carry germs that negatively impact your health and wellness.
Since cooking can be a hassle—hence the idea of eating raw mushrooms—you may want to consider Lion's mane extract or supplement. These are always ready to use—sprinkle a teaspoon of the powder on your food or pop a capsule and wash it down with water. Still, we recommend getting this traditional Chinese medicine from reputable sellers who always consider all the safety aspects of their products before putting them on the market.
Have you used fresh Lion's mane mushrooms before? Did you cook them or eat them raw? Please share your experience with us in the comments.
- Hericium erinaceus Improves Recognition Memory and Induces Hippocampal and Cerebellar Neurogenesis in Frail Mice during Aging, (1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521003/
- Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain, (2)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29091526/
- Neurotrophic properties of the Lion's mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia (3)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24266378/
- Improvement of cognitive functions by oral intake of Hericium erinaceus, (4)https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/biomedres/40/4/40_125/_article
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