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Lion's Mane: How this brain food improves cognitive function

Posted by Tyler Broth on

Lion’s Mane is a mushroom that has been used by humans for thousands of years as a food source and for traditional medicine. Its mild flavor and surprising cognitive effects have drawn more health-conscious consumers towards it in recent years. It is one of the six key brain nutrients that can be found in IQBARs and we wanted to give you some background on this special fungus that explains how it can give you a brain boost, improve your cognitive and physiological function, and even make you happier.

 

What is Lion’s Mane?

Lion’s Mane, also known as Hericium erinaceus, is an edible mushroom that’s been used for millennia in traditional Chinese medicine practices for its health benefits. Its distinctive look lends the fungus its many inventive nicknames including: the bearded hedgehog mushroom, the monkey head mushroom, the pom pom mushroom, the satyr’s beard mushroom, and (the less delicious sounding) bearded tooth fungus.    

Consumption of this unique brain food has been linked cognitive benefits including improved brain function, reduced inflammation, and protection against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, among other feel-good effects on the mind and body. 

 

How is Lion’s Mane Good For The Brain?

The most compelling research on Lion’s Mane lies in its ability to boost nerve growth factor (NGF) production in a host of animal studies. [1] [2] [3] NGF is one of the most essential proteins for brain health. It plays a role in the generation of new neurons, the growth, maintenance, and survival of existing neurons, and the reversal of nerve damage caused by injury. [4] [5] 

In vitro studies have also shown Lion’s Mane to promote neurite outgrowth, which is a process by which neurons create more expansive cellular connections. [6] [7] [8]

The nervous system is much like a bustling urban city center. As cars, people, and materials travel along highways in a city, informational electric signals are transmitted across neurons in the nervous system of the human body. [9] Like city infrastructure workers are necessary for a robust highway network, NGF and neurite outgrowth are critical components of a healthy brain.

Lion’s Mane has also been shown to have strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or diminish the damage caused by free radicals to DNA, cell membranes, and other components of cell function. Several recent in vitro studies have shown the fungus to be capable of antioxidizing activity and reducing gene expression of inflammatory chemicals. [10] [11] [12]

Studies have also shown Lion’s Mane to reduce anxiety and depression, in part due to its antioxidant capabilities. [13]

 

Can Lion’s Mane make me smarter or help me focus?

Lion’s Mane’s cognitive benefits have been evaluated in many studies, but one of the most exciting findings came in 2009. When a group of 50 to 80-year-old Japanese men and women with mild cognitive impairment regularly consumed Lion’s Mane tablets for weeks at a time, they scored significantly higher than a control group in cognitive function testing. [14]

A 2017 trial found that mice demonstrated superior spatial short-term and visual recognition memory after consuming the mushroom. [15] Perhaps the strongest animal research on Lion’s Mane is that which has shown Lion’s Mane to protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. [16] [17] [18] [19]

 

Does Lion’s Mane give me energy?

Beyond Lion’s Mane’s physiological benefits for cell function as an antioxidant and brain-boosting properties, the fungus has also been shown to possess physical anti-fatigue qualities. Mice treated with the mushroom were able to tolerate high exercise and had better endurance than untreated mice. In addition, the treatment showed a decrease in many biological indicators of exhaustion (blood lactic acid, serum urea nitrogen, etc.) and an increase in tissue glycogen content. [20]

 

Could Lion’s Mane help me get better sleep?

Lion’s Mane can alleviate anxiety and depression, which may contribute to poor quality sleep. [21] In addition, an in vivo mouse model in a 2016 study on the fungus’ effects on circadian rhythm showed that treatment with Lion’s Mane decreased wakefulness. This suggests potential applications for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and delayed phase sleep syndrome. [22]

 

Where can I find Lion’s Mane?

The good news is that Lion’s Mane Mushrooms aren’t all that rare and can be found in forests in North America, Europe, and Asia. If you would like to trek out into the wilderness and forage for them yourself, expert mushroom hunters recommend looking for dead or dying hardwood trees like beeches and maples where conditions are a little on the cool and damp side.

Fresh lion’s mane mushrooms are edible and are highly sought after by professional and home chefs. In their fresh form, these mushrooms are said to have a mild flavor that is almost akin to certain seafoods like lobster. The fruiting body of the fungi can be consumed raw, dried, steeped into tea, or as a supplement. When dried and ground into a powder, it loses most of its taste and is easily covered up by other flavors.

 

Lion’s Mane in IQBARs

Each IQBAR has Lion’s Mane Extract listed in the ingredients. It is one of the six key brain nutrients that make IQBARs the delicious little brain boosters they are. Using the extract means that we can ensure that you get all the benefits of this Lion’s Mane without any of the taste that it’s recognized for.

 

Learn more about all six of IQBAR’s brain-boosting nutrients here:

  • Lion’s Mane
  • MCTs
  • Omega-3s
  • Flavonoids
  • Vitamin-E
  • Choline

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