Lion's mane mushroom is popularly and aptly nicknamed "nature's brain juice." This shaggy white mushroom is packed with bioactive compounds that help repair and regenerate nerve cells (neurons), a process known as neurogenesis.
Research shows that Lion's mane mushroom neurogenesis benefits can aid in decreasing the symptoms of dementia, depression, and anxiety and ease other neurological health problems.
Here, we will explore the clinical studies focusing on the mechanism behind Lion's mane neurogenesis. Read on to learn more about the research on the neurogenesis benefits of Lion's mane that's boosting this medicinal mushroom's popularity worldwide.
Let's jump right in!
Lion's Mane Mushroom Neurogenesis Benefits
Neurogenesis refers to the growth of new nerves and brain cells. Scientists thought our brain cells could never grow after adulthood a few decades ago. But, cut to the modern day, research has shown that our brain cells are incredibly adaptable.
Natural supplements like Lion's mane organic mushroom powder have taken center stage due to their ability to stimulate neuron regeneration. So, then what are Lion's mane nerve growth benefits?
Lion's mane mushroom extract neurogenesis benefits(1) seem to aid in the following:
- Recovery from nervous system injuries
- Improvements in cognitive functions and maintenance of cognitive health
- Protection against mild cognitive impairment as well as dementia
- Reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety
- A decline in nerve pain and associated inflammation
- Reduced neurodegenerative symptoms in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease
Read More: See how Lion's aids Alzheimer's treatment.
Let's take a closer look at some of these conditions that benefit from Lion's mane neurogenesis property.
In the following section, we will look at research studies showing how Lion's mane mushroom extract neurogenesis aids in treating the conditions mentioned above. This should help you know why Lion's mane is considered one of the best mushrooms for brain health.
1. Depression And Anxiety
Lion's mane neurogenesis property may have beneficial effects on anxiety and depression. Fighting anxiety and depression, the mushroom improves the quality of life for people suffering from these conditions.
Read More: See how Lion's mane fights anxiety.
Recent evidence from some research sources suggests that brain areas in people with depression(2) show signs of atrophy and neuronal loss. However, several antidepressant medications, like fluoxetine (or Prozac), increase neurogenesis in the brain with continued use under the guidelines of a health practitioner.
This mechanism has also been studied in a 2021 study(3). Hericium Erinaceus were given to animals with depression for four weeks. These animals were screened for symptoms of anxiety and depression. Researchers then conducted genetic testing and evaluation of proteins to probe the role of neurogenesis in the therapeutic effects of Lion's mane.
The results showed that four weeks of treatment with Lion's mane ameliorated depression in the study animals. There was also an increase in the genes and proteins related to neurogenesis, including BDNF.
Researchers concluded that Hericium Erinaceus exerts antidepressant effects by promoting neurogenesis and reducing inflammation in the brain. While this study was performed on animals, Lion's mane product can also generate and develop human brain cells, resulting in depression benefits.
Read More: See how Lion's mane fights depression.
Similar results were also obtained in another study from 2018(4). The research article noted that extracts of Hericium Erinaceus were given to mice once a day for four weeks. Researchers found that chronic administration of Lion's mane showed anxiolytic and anti-depressant-like effects, possibly by enhancing neurogenesis in the adult brain.
Frailty is an aging-related decline in both locomotor and cognitive functions. However, while mild cognitive impairment is expected in the elderly, this brain health condition can affect younger people.
Animal studies have helped researchers confirm that Lion's mane mushroom improves memory in aging mice—this benefit is thought to be a result of Lion's mane neurogenesis.
Read More: See how Lion's mane fights memory loss.
Increasing the nerve growth factor NGF levels, the lions mane mushroom extract can prevent memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. In addition, these studies show that Lion's mane can be used as an alternative medicine for mild cognitive impairment in older adults.
In this study(5), Hericium Erinaceus oral extracts were given to the aging animals for two months which reversed the age-associated decline of memory. This was attributed to the lions mane neurogenesis property.
3. Neurodegenerative Conditions
The ability of Hericium Erinaceus to prevent neurodegenerative processes(6) has been demonstrated in a 2021 study on animals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
TBI is a disruption in the brain's normal function caused by external trauma like a blow, bump or jolt to the head. It has also been shown to be a risk factor for neurodegeneration, leading to diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Hericium Erinaceus mushroom (along with Turkey tail mushroom) restored alterations in the study animals' behavior. In addition, the mushrooms were also able to prevent neuroinflammation and oxidative processes typically found in Parkinson's disease.
Read More: See how Lion's mane treats Parkinson's disease.
Results of this research suggest that TBI may trigger Parkinson's and that nutritional fungi such as Lion's mane may be important in preventing the progression of such diseases.
In another study investigating Lion's mane as one of the best neurogenesis mushrooms, Hericium Erinaceus mushroom mycelia were found to potentially reduce amyloid plaque growth(7) (found in Alzheimer's disease) in the brain of aged rats.
In this eight-week study, the researchers found that the mushrooms' bioactive compound for neurogenesis penetrated the blood-brain barrier and improved brain cell generation and development. This facilitated Lion's mane brain repair resulting in a reduced risk for Alzheimer's.
How Can Lion's Mane Help Regenerate Nerve Cells?
While minimal human clinical trials confirm the potential health benefits of mushroom Hericium Erinaceus on nerve regeneration, evidence gathered over the years suggests that the mushroom might be able to deliver these benefits. Lion's mane, therefore, might be able to repair damaged nerve cells.
In the early nineties, scientists made a fascinating discovery while studying the Hericium Erinaceus mushroom. The researchers found two unique, organic compounds: "hericenones" and "erinacines."
Hericenones were typically found in the fruiting bodies, while erinacines were isolated from the mycelium of the medicinal mushroom. In addition to hericenones and erinacines, Lion's mane mushrooms contain other bioactive compounds. Below, we have listed all the bioactive compounds that provide the benefits of Lion's mane:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Digestive enzymes
- Prebiotic fibers
Taking a Lion's mane supplement puts the above extremely vital compounds in your body.
Read More: Learn how to use Lion's mane supplements.
Some of the compounds in Lion's mane extracts—the Hericenones and Erinacines—can easily cross the blood-brain barrier. Moreover, these beneficial bioactive ingredients in Lion's mane mushrooms stimulate the creation of two essential proteins involved in neurogenesis: nerve growth factor (NGF) and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
Nerve Growth Factors (NGF)(8) are special types of proteins that boost positive brain and nerve-health-related activities. They also play a critical protective role in the survival and development of different types of neurons. This helps promote nerve growth, improving the mushroom user's overall health.
Research suggests that NGF is produced in the brain's hippocampus and is essential for memory, learning, and neuroprotection following brain injury. The medicinal mushroom Hericium Erinaceus stimulates the hippocampus to produce NGF.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF)(9) are molecules that play an essential role in the survival and growth of neurons. It also tempers the neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry signals from one part of the brain to another. Taking Lion's mane boosts BDNF production, which helps boost the body's cognitive function.
Read More: Are you thinking of taking Lion's mane for the first time? See the best Lion's mane dosage for different benefits.
BDNF is also a key molecule(10) involved in brain changes related to learning and memory. In addition, changes in BDNF expression are associated with neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases. Therefore, the more BDNF Lion's mane helps your body generate, the lower your risk of these diseases.
Lion's Mane And Neurogenesis: What The Research Says?
Only a few human studies directly look at the impact of Lion's mane neurogenesis. Likewise, very few studies look at the relationship between different types of mushrooms and neurogenesis. However, research data suggests that Lion's mane products have potent neurotrophic properties.
For instance, a 2021 study(11) isolated four major compounds from Lion's mane medicinal mushroom: hericerin, isohericerinol A, N-de-phenylethyl isohericerin, and corallocin A. These were derived from the fruiting body of the fungus. Among them, isohericerinol A is a newly reported molecule.
When these compounds were further investigated, isohericerinol A increased the production of NGF significantly. This was followed by corallocin A and hericerin. Increased NGF production by these compounds promoted the outgrowth of neurons and the production of BDNF.
This study's results support that the bioactive compounds of Lion's mane mushroom aqueous extract show great potential for memory improvement and overall brain health.
Can Lion's Mane Mushrooms Repair Nerve Damage?
Research has found that Lion's mane may help repair nerve damage. Lion's mane nerve damage benefits can be attributed to the stimulation of Nerve Growth Factors (NGF).
These are proteins that promote neurogenesis which helps repair damaged nerves. However, the exact mechanism by which it does so remains unclear.
What Does Lion's Mane Mushroom Extract Do For The Brain?
The health benefits of Lion's mane—especially for brain health—are numerous.
The bioactive compounds in Lion's mane mushrooms protect the brain and aid in regenerating neurons. They are also beneficial in reducing the symptoms of many neuronal diseases like stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, depression, anxiety, and dementia.
Minimal human studies have been done on Lion's mane and neurogenesis. However, the available animal research strongly favors the brain-regenerating actions of Lion's mane mushrooms. For example, Hericium Erinaceus has been found to improve depression, anxiety, and memory loss symptoms.
Studies have also found that Lion's mane mushrooms may exert a protective effect against the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's after traumatic injuries to the head. More research is, however, needed to conclusively determine how Lion's mane helps human brains grow new cells.
Have you used Lion's mane to boost your brain health? What were the results? Let us know in the comments.
- Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines, (1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5987239/
- Neurogenesis and The Effect of Antidepressants, (2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3155214/
- Neurogenesis-dependent antidepressant-like activity of Hericium erinaceus in an animal model of depression, (3) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34876186/
- Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain, (4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29091526/
- Hericium erinaceus Improves Recognition Memory and Induces Hippocampal and Cerebellar Neurogenesis in Frail Mice during Aging, (5) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30934760/
- Hericium erinaceus and Coriolus versicolor Modulate Molecular and Biochemical Changes after Traumatic Brain Injury, (6) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34199629/
- Absolute Bioavailability, Tissue Distribution, and Excretion of Erinacine S in Hericium erinaceus Mycelia, (7) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31022946/
- Nerve Growth Factor: A Focus on Neuroscience and Therapy, (8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4812798/
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its clinical implications, (9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4697050/
- Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological Brain, (10) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fncel.2019.00363/full
- Neurotrophic isoindolinones from the fruiting bodies of Hericium erinaceus, (11) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0960894X20308258