Lion's mane mushroom is a mushroom to remember! And quite literally so! The mushroom has been making noise about its health applications for dementia, and few experimental studies have shown promise.
Worldwide, around 55 million people have dementia. Unfortunately, there are currently no drugs available that can slow, stop, or reverse the progression of Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia. Scientists are also looking for alternative treatments like Lions Mane to combat the disease.
Hericium erinaceus, an adaptogenic fungus, has a distinctive, shaggy appearance that mimics a lion's mane. It is a gourmet mushroom that is frequently consumed in Asian countries without causing any significant side effects.
So, how can Lion's mane help dementia? And what is the link between Lion's mane mushroom and dementia?
The fruiting body and the mycelium are the two edible parts of Lion's mane mushroom which contains ericenones and erinacines, respectively. These organic compounds may have therapeutic effects on the central nervous system (CNS) and can act as stimulants(1) of nerve growth factors (NGF). In the CNS, nerve growth factors perform a supporting role and are essential for providing sufficient protection for both surviving and developing neurons.
Let's examine why the mushroom gets a lot of buzz for its effects on cognition and memory and Lion's mane mushroom dementia benefits.
Lion's Mane Mushroom For Dementia
We want to discuss research that has explored the relationship between consuming Lion's mane and dementia improvement.
A group of Japanese researchers examined the effects of consuming powdered Lion's Mane Mushroom on mild cognitive impairment in 2009(2). The early stages of dementia and Alzheimer's disease are also referred to as having mild cognitive impairment.
The researchers divided two groups of trial participants—one receiving the mushroom powder and the other a placebo. For 16 weeks, the researchers gave the test volunteers either the mushroom powder or a placebo. Then, on a "cognitive function scale" with a range of 0 to 30, they assessed their cognitive function both throughout the 16-week period and four weeks later.
Testing for cognitive impairment was conducted. The most outstanding result (the least degree of cognitive impairment) is a score of 30, while the worst outcome is a score of 0. (the most cognitive impairment).
So, what were Lion's mane dementia effects?
The group that consumed the mushroom powder displayed less cognitive impairment, which translated to a much higher score. By week 16, two of the subjects who took the mushrooms achieved the top score of 30. Most of those who consumed the mushrooms scored 26 or higher. But no one in the placebo group scored higher than 26.
The group who consumed the mushrooms saw a 14% increase in their average score. Meanwhile, the group who received the placebo only saw an increase of 3% in their average score,
For 16 weeks, the study participants who consumed the mushrooms took four Yamabushitake (Lion's Mane Mushroom) dry powder tablets, each containing 250 mg.
They consumed Lion's mane mushroom powder totaling 3000 mg every day.
How did the Lion’s Mane mushroom improve dementia symptoms?
Patients with Alzheimer's disease and other causes of dementia have noticeable cholinergic neuronal abnormalities in their brains. NGF protein influences cholinergic neurons and encourages their survival. However, because the NGF protein cannot traverse the blood-brain barrier, delivering NGF through medications is challenging.
Compounds found in Lion's mane mushrooms encourage the synthesis of NGF, which aid in the survival and differentiation of cholinergic neurons in the brain.
Increased numbers of healthy cholinergic neurons in the brain improve cognitive function and lessen Alzheimer's and dementia symptoms.
The study's findings demonstrate the usefulness of Lion's mane mushroom in treating and preventing dementia.
In another study(3), rats given erinacine A for three weeks had higher levels of homovanillic acid and noradrenaline in the hippocampus than those who did not receive the mushroom. They also displayed signs of an overall rise in NGF levels, particularly in the hippocampus of the brain.
In addition to raising blood sugar levels and breaking down fat to encourage greater energy, increases in homovanillic acid and noradrenaline also result in better memory retrieval and increased alertness. These findings suggest that erinaceus A supports nerve and brain health in animals.
Likewise, a pilot study(4) investigated the efficacy and safety of three 250mg Lion's mane mycelia capsules, each containing 5 mg/g erinacine A active ingredient per day, for the treatment of patients with mild Alzheimer's Disease.
In this study, eligible patients were randomly divided to receive either three 5 mg/g mycelia capsules per day or identically appearing placebo capsules for a 49-week treatment period. Cognitive assessments, eye examinations, and images of the brain were taken throughout the study period.
After 49 weeks, a significant decrease in the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument score was noted in the group that did not receive the mushroom. However, there was a considerable improvement in Mini-Mental State Examination scores in the group treated with the mushroom. Researchers concluded that Lion's mane mycelium is safe, well-tolerated, and may be crucial in achieving neurocognitive benefits.
Does Lion's Mane Reverse Dementia?
Current treatments, including Lion's mane mushroom, cannot reverse the damage caused by dementia. However, the superfood fungi can instead help improve the symptoms.
Does Lion's Mane Mushroom Help With Alzheimer's?
Results of clinical studies have shown that Lion's mane mushroom significantly improves cognitive function in Alzheimer's disease.
What Are The Negative Effects Of Lion's Mane?
Lion's mane mushroom appears to be safe, even in higher dosages. However, some reported side effects are digestive issues and allergies.
Can Lion's Mane Mushroom Improve Brain Function?
Lion's mane mushroom improves focus, memory, and cognition while clearing brain fog. It is called nature's brain juice for these reasons!
Lion's mane mushroom may help improve the symptoms of dementia by stimulating the growth of neurons in the brain. The bioactive compounds in Lion’s mane stimulate the production of NGF, which crosses the blood-brain barrier and enhances neuron proliferation, survival and differentiation. If you are interested in experiencing Lion's mane mushroom dementia benefits, speak to a healthcare provider to work out a dose that is best suited for you.
- Hericenones and erinacines: Stimulators of nerve growth factor (NGF) biosynthesis in Hericium erinaceus, (1)https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240235316
- Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, (2)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844328/
- Erinacine A increases catecholamine and nerve growth factor content in the central nervous system of rats, (3)https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US201301034408
- Prevention of Early Alzheimer’s Disease by Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Pilot Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study, (4)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7283924/