Articles on Natural Paths to Wellness

Hericium Erinaceus Benefits for Brain Health

Traditional Research on Hericium Erinaceus Benefits for Brain Health

Hericium Erinaceus, also known as lion’s mane mushroom, has been used in Japan and China for centuries as both a food and tea. It actually has a delicious flavor when cooked, somewhat reminiscent of lobster. In both of these countries lion’s mane is known as a tonic for the brain, nervous system, and digestive system.

In Japan it is known as Yamabushitake, which translates as “those who sleep in the mountains.” This is a reference to a sect of hermit monks known as the Shugendo who practice a blend of Daoism and Buddhism. They are reported to use this mushroom and are deeply committed to protecting the natural environment where Lions Mane grows wild.

In China it is known as Monkey’s Head and is frequently used in cuisine to replace seafood. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is recognized as a medicinal mushroom and it is used by practitioners to improve the digestive tract, memory, and nerve force.

Clinical Research on Hericium Erinaceus Benefits for Brain Health

There are three particularly striking studies that were done with lion’s mane mushroom that are cited below.

Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium Erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment
OBJECTIVE: Hericium erinaceus, a well known edible mushroom, has numerous biological activities. Especially hericenones and erinacines isolated from its fruiting body stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) synthesis, which expects H. erinaceus to have some effects on brain functions and autonomic nervous system. Herein, we investigated the clinical effects of H. erinaceus on menopause, depression, sleep quality, and indefinite complaints.
STUDY DESIGN: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS AND AGE GROUP: 30 participants of both genders between 50 and 80 years old.
DOSAGE AND TRIAL LENGTH: 3g a day of dried mushroom powder for 4 months
CONCLUSIONS: At weeks 8, 12 and 16 of the trial, the Yamabushitake group showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group. Laboratory tests showed no adverse effect of Yamabushitake. The results obtained in this study suggest that Yamabushitake is effective in improving mild cognitive impairment.
See Study

Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to investigate those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in order to examine the efficacy of oral administration of Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus), an edible mushroom, for improving cognitive impairment, using a cognitive function scale based on the Revised Hasegawa Dementia Scale (HDS-R).
STUDY DESIGN: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
DOSAGE AND TRIAL LENGTH: 2g a day of dried mushroom powder in cookies for 4 weeks.
CONCLUSIONS: Trial showed significant improvements in regards to the parameters of anxiety, concentration, and irritation, as measured by depression/anxiety rating scales relative to placebo. Our results show that Hericium erinaceus intake has the possibility to reduce depression and anxiety and these results suggest a different mechanism from NGF-enhancing action of H. erinaceus.
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Nerve growth factor-inducing activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells
OBJECTIVE: In the present study, we firstly examined the effects of ethanol extracts of four edible mushrooms, Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake), Pleurotus eryngii (Eringi), Grifola frondosa (Maitake), and Agaricus blazei (Himematsutake), on nerve growth factor (NGF) gene expression in 1321N1 human astrocytoma cells.
STUDY DESIGN: In Vitro analysis.
CONCLUSIONS: Among the four mushroom extracts, only H. erinaceus extract promoted NGF mRNA expression in a concentration-dependent manner. In conclusion, H. erinaceus contains active compounds that stimulate NGF synthesis via activation of the JNK pathway; these compounds are not hericenones.
See Study


There is significant traditional and clinical research on Hericium Erinaceus benefits for brain health, particularly memory, nerve regeneration, and mood improvement. Thus this powerful medicinal mushroom deserves the title as a brain and nerve tonic.

Nature’s cornucopia of neurologically active superfoods, herbs, and mushrooms is a treasure trove that we can use to improve and sustain a lifetime of functional brain and nervous system health.

In my opinion this is not only beneficial on an individual level, but like the nature protecting Shugendo mentioned above, consuming lions mane mushroom may even help us have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with this beautiful planet that nourishes and sustains us. Not only do we need to protect our neurological health but we need to protect the environment in which we are embedded. Lion’s mane is an excellent choice to create this dual benefit.

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