I am always on the lookout for ways to improve memory and boost brain function. Ever since my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998 at the age of twenty-two, I have been aware of potential cognitive changes that can occur with the disease process. I have not had a full blown MS exacerbation in almost 17 years, but I absolutely have had episodes of what I would describe as “brain fog”.
My brain fog issues may or may not have been directly related to MS. I truly do not know. I am forty years old now though and I know a lot of people my age who have similar complaints. As a side note, I have always noticed a direct correlation between my cognitive function and stress levels, so I know for sure that I need to keep stress down (for me, this includes regular exercise) for my brain to function at its peak. In addition to controlling stress and exercising regularly, I also rely on various supplements and nutritional support to optimize brain health, improve memory and overcome the dreaded brain fog.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are something I include in my diet for added nutritional support benefiting brain function….
Improve Memory and MUCH More with Lion’s Mane
I have only recently added Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) extract to my brain health arsenal. Considering how long I have been researching and writing about nutrition for brain health, I cannot believe I am only now just learning about the benefits of this amazing “super mushroom”.
A natural nootropic, Lion’s Mane extract improves mental functions while doing no harm. Specifically, Lion’s Main has been shown to improve memory, motivation, attention, concentration and mood. It has been clinically demonstrated to enhance cognition and improve focus and attention – something practically every person can benefit from. You don’t need to have MS or any other neurological condition to benefit from improved brain function!
Unlike pharmaceutical nootropics (such as Adderall, Provigil, Lion’s Mane is non-toxic and so safe that in-the-know doctors even say it is safe to take during pregnancy. The only potential risk of taking Lion’s Mane would be an allergy, which could happen with any food.
What is Lion’s Mane?
Lion’s Mane is a medicinal and edible mushroom that has been shown to have both cognitive and nerve-regenerative properties. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Among all the medicinal mushrooms, Lion’s Mane is the top “super mushroom” for the brain and nervous system, hands down.
According to world renown fungi expert Paul Stamets, Lion’s Mane may be the first “smart mushroom,” providing support specifically for cognitive function, including memory, attention and creativity.
Lion’s Mane Can Potentially Help Your Brain Age Better
Lion’s Mane has been shown to stimulate synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). NGF is a protein that plays a major role in the maintenance, survival and regeneration of neurons in both your central and peripheral nervous systems. With many neurological disorders, the brain is unable to manufacture NGF—in fact, this is thought to be one of the primary mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease. NGF also decreases with age, so you don’t need to have a neurological disease to be negatively affected by declining NGF levels.
NGF also plays important roles in myelination, which should be especially intriguing for anyone with multiple sclerosis…
Lion’s Mane May Help Repair the Myelin Sheath in MS Patients
In 2003, Lion’s Mane extract was found to stimulate nerve myelination. This finding has huge implications for potentially helping individuals with multiple sclerosis, a disease characterized by progressive demyelination.
Lion’s Mane Might Make You Happier + Calmer
The influence of Lion’s Mane on brain function may also have other added benefits — making you feel good.
Lion’s Mane also shows potential in the treatment of anxiety and depression. In a 2010 study involving thirty menopausal women, the mushroom reduced depression and anxiety. The effects were particularly strong in lowering anxiety, reducing feelings of “irritation” and enhancing concentration.
By the way, if you are looking for a healthy and safe mood booster, be sure to check out the benefits of cordyceps too! (Cordyceps are another type of healing mushroom, by the way.)
What is the Optimal Dosage of Lion’s Mane Extract?
The dosage recommendations of Lion’s Mane depends on the potency of the extract. For a commonly available 10:1 extract (30% polysaccharide content), a typical dosage to experience its effects ranges from 500-3000 mg per day. Dosing higher should not cause any adverse effects, but there is no evidence that quantities over 3 g per day will result in any further benefits.
When choosing a Lion’s Mane supplement, make sure the one you choose uses a combination of both hot water and alcohol extraction to ensure that all the desirable medicinal compounds are successfully extracted from the mushroom. This type of dual extraction ensures that you reap the whole spectrum of natural benefits from Lion’s Mane such as stimulating the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and promoting neuroprotection.
I personally like Four Sigmatic brand of organic Lion’s Mane. They only use the fruiting bodies of Lion’s Mane, and they are grown on real wood … exactly as they would in the wild. This ensures proper nutrition for the mushrooms to become as effective as possible. They don’t use the mycelium (or the “roots” of the mushroom), but allow it to concentrate all of its power into an actual mushrooms before taking them through our state-of-the-art dual-extraction process.
Note: One packet of Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane = 1,500 mg
Adding Vitamin C to Lion’s Mane Boosts Absorption
The absorption rate of Lion’s Mane is greater when consumed along with vitamin C. I personally like to drink a packet of Lion’s Mane tea from Four Sigmatic and then add a teaspoon of camu camu powder (see photo left)
Camu Camu is Mother Nature’s Super C, containing a higher naturally occurring vitamin C content than any other food. One teaspoon has 1180% of your Daily Value for vitamin C! You can read more about the benefits of Camu Camu here.
Can You Take a Lion’s Mane Supplement in Capsule Form?
If you are not into the idea of drinking Lion’s Mane in the form of a tea, you can always just take it as a supplement in capsule form too. I have not personally tried this brand, but from the research I have done the one from Activa Naturals looks like a good one.
Can You Eat Lion’s Mane?
Considered the “Lobster of the Woods”, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are supposedly very delicious to eat. I personally have not tried them, but I definitely want to! The mushrooms are increasingly sold by gourmet food chains across the country.
Based on my online research, Pan-frying seems to be the best way to prepare Lion’s Mane mushrooms. If you are following an anti-inflammatory diet, I would suggest using organic, unrefined red palm oil for pan-searing instead of the butter most recipes call for.
Of course if you are consuming Lion’s Mane for its therapeutic effects, such as to improve memory, mood or cognitive function, then you probably want to go for the extract. Locating and preparing Lion’s Mane is considerably more time consuming than just opening a packet 😉 The benefits of Lion’s Mane no doubt are impressive, but you need to consume it regularly to really reap the full effects!
P.S. Cordyceps is another one of my favorite therapeutic mushrooms. Read more about the benefits of cordyceps (including how to make my Cordyceps Broth!)
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