Lion’s Mane mushroom: Natural benefit for your brain and stomach.

Category: Digestion, Energy and mental well-being, Integrative Nutrition

Lion’s Mane mushroom: Natural benefit for your brain and stomach.

Dr. Nuria Roda, Alberto Tejero.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a mushroom known for its resemblance in colour and shape to the hair that surrounds the feline’s head. It contains various bioactive compounds including beta-glucans, hericenones, erinacines and natural GABA, which is a neurotransmitter related to depression. Due to these bio-molecules it has a neuroprotective effect to treat or prevent neurodegenerative diseases and as an antidepressant, as well as supporting inflammatory bowel disease by regulating immunity and intestinal microbiota.


Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a fungus that is widespread in the mountainous areas of the Asian territories from where it receives various names, although the best known is for its similarity in colour (pale brown or yellowish) and for its shape that resembles the hair that surrounds the head of the feline.

Hericium contains various bioactive components, including beta-glucans and hericenones, for their ability to regenerate mucosa and connective tissue, applicable to digestive and memory problems. . Another of its biomolecules to be highlighted is natural GABA, which is a neurotransmitter related to combating depression, and it is now known that microbiota is involved in its release, suggesting that intestinal flora can affect the brain and a person’s state of mind.1

It is currently increasing its popularity and is the subject of ongoing scientific research in:

Gastroenterology (gastrointestinal or digestive health): Hericium erinaceus is often used to improve gastrointestinal diseases. One of these on which its effectiveness was evaluated was to alleviate inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Significant clinical and histological changes were identified in animal models. Intestinal damage score, myeloperoxidase activity (an enzyme whose function is to phagocytose invading micro-organisms) and in the structure of the microbiota were improved. Further studies revealed that the polysaccharides in Lion’s Mane extracts may play a prebiotic role, while others show bactericidal and immunomodulatory effects. Taken together, they show that these extracts could promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and enhance host immunity in the in vivo IBD model, which shows clinical potential to alleviate damage in IBD by regulating the gut microbiota and immune system.2 Moreover, their use in the treatment of gastritis and gastric ulcers has also been proposed because of their antioxidant function being able to prevent oxidative stress and apoptotic death induced by peroxides in in vitro assays, as this radical is the main cause of these pathologies aggravated by stress.3

Immune system: following on from the previous point, the improvement in immunity would be due to an increase in the phagocytic activity of macrophages and NK cell activity, thereby increasing the adaptive immune response through humoral and cell-mediated immunity. These were the results of a study in which Lion’s Mane extracts were administered to mice (doses of 75, 150 and 300 mg/kg) and showed immunomodulatory effects attributed with a high degree of certainty to the effective regulation of intestinal mucosal immune activity. These data may indicate that H. erinaceus polysaccharides may possess an immunomodulatory effect useful in improving immune function, particularly in immunosuppressed individuals.4

Neurology-nervous system: its neuroprotective effect in treating or preventing neurodegenerative diseases, increasing concentration and as an antidepressant is noteworthy. In this field there are studies whose results indicate that the extract of this mushroom promotes axonal regeneration of injured nerves. It was able to promote functional recovery of the axonotmetic peroneal nerve after injury in rats, with the return of hind leg function and the toe-opening reflex improving faster in the treated group than in the placebo group at the end of the study. . These results suggest that the administration of Lion’s Mane may have a beneficial effect in the treatment of peripheral nerve injuries.5

Other trials show that these extracts have adaptogenic action against insomnia, depression and anxiety due to their anti-inflammatory effect. In one study, thirty women took Lion’s Mane and one took a placebo for four weeks. At the end of the trial, it was found that those women who took Lion’s Mane had better sleep quality and fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. . The effect of the hericenones and erinacines in Lion’s Mane may be responsible for these actions, which stimulate the synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF).6

Another study, but in mice, in which Lion’s Mane was supplemented for four weeks, showed similar results in reducing depression and anxiety by promoting hippocampal neurogenesis.7

In human trials, H. erinaceus has also been shown to stimulate monoaminergic modulation which would improve depression and symptoms of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Although treatment with H. erinaceus was found to have an anti-inflammatory response, the detailed molecular mechanism is still unknown and it would be interesting to examine whether the bioactive compounds act as agonists or inhibitors of monoamine neurotransmitter receptors.8

In summary, Lion’s Mane is a mushroom whose functions include its neuroprotective effect in treating or preventing neurodegenerative diseases and as an antidepressant, as well as supporting inflammatory bowel disease by regulating immunity and gut microbiota. In addition, both human and animal studies have shown an improvement in humoral immunity and a reduction in anxiety and depression due to the anti-inflammatory effect of its polysaccharides.

Bibliographic References:

  1. Gómez-Eguílaz M, Ramón-Trapero JL, Pérez-Martínez L, Blanco JR. (2019). El eje microbiota-intestino-cerebro y sus grandes proyecciones. Rev Neurol 2019;68 (03):111-117
  2. Diling, C., Xin, Y., Chaoqun, Z., Jian, Y., Xiaocui, T., Jun, C., Ou, S. y Yizhen, X. (2017). Los extractos de Hericium erinaceus alivian la enfermedad inflamatoria intestinal mediante la regulación de la inmunidad y la microbiota intestinal. Oncotarget, 8(49), 85838–85857.
  3. Wang, M., Kanako, N., Zhang, Y., Xiao, X., Gao, Q., & Tetsuya, K. (2017). A unique polysaccharide purified from Hericium erinaceus mycelium prevents oxidative stress induced by H2O2 in human gastric mucosa epithelium cell. PloS one, 12(7), e0181546.
  4. Sheng, Xiaotong; Yan, Jingmin; Meng, Yue; Kang, Yuying; Han, Zhen; Tai, Guihua; Zhou, Yifa; Cheng, Hairong (2017). Immunomodulatory effects of Hericium erinaceus derived polysaccharides are mediated by intestinal immunology. Food Funct., 8(3), 1020–1027. doi:10.1039/c7fo00071e
  5. Mejora de la recuperación funcional después de una lesión del nervio peroneo de roedores por el hongo melena de león, Hericium erinaceus (2012) (Bull.: Fr.) Pers. (Aphyllophoromycetideae),4f53a14232dd0d 51,2faf43d457970ed7.html
  6. Nagano, M., Shimizu, K., Kondo, R., Hayashi, C., Sato, D., Kitagawa, K. y Ohnuki, K. (2010). Reducción de la depresión y la ansiedad a las 4 semanas de ingesta de Hericium erinaceus. Investigación biomédica (Tokio, Japón), 31(4), 231–237.
  7. Ryu S, Kim HG, Kim JY, Kim SY, Cho KO. (2018). Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain. J Med Food. 2018 Feb;21(2):174-180. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2017.4006. Epub 2017 Nov 1. PMID: 29091526.
  8. Chong, P. S., Fung, M. L., Wong, K. H. y Lim, L. W. (2019). Potencial terapéutico de Hericium erinaceus para el trastorno depresivo. Revista internacional de ciencias moleculares, 21(1), 163.


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