[UPDATED: Jan. 2023]
Medicinal mushrooms seem to be everywhere these days. Whether you’re encountering
grow-your-own kits at the farmer’s market, taking a Cordyceps supplement, or watching
Fantastic Fungi on Netflix, it seems that these unique organisms are having a
renaissance—and Lion’s Mane is leading the pack.
Below, we break down how Lion’s Mane can offer you a range of health benefits and why
it might be a good alternative to microdosing.
The Emergence of Microdosing and the Medicinal Mushroom
We’ve all heard about Silicon Valley’s productivity hacks, with tech workers taking small
doses of psilocybin (the active compound found in psychedelic mushrooms) in order to
boost their creativity. These doses are intended to be sub-psychotropic and do not produce any psychedelic effects. Once upon a time, magic mushrooms were associated with hippies
dropping out or wild, hedonistic raves in the woods.
But these days, shrooms seem to be going mainstream. Michael Pollan’s groundbreaking
book on psychedelics “How to Change Your Mind” topped the New York Times
best-seller list when it came out in 2018, and several major institutions have recently run
clinical trials involving psilocybin.
This resurgence in popularity is backed up by science, too, with studies indicating that
psilocybin helps treat depression and improve cognitive flexibility. However, one thing
that can get lost in the enthusiastic buzz around psilocybin is that magic mushrooms
remain illegal in most jurisdictions and possession can bring severe punishments. Apart
from Oregon, magic mushrooms remain a Schedule I drug in most parts of America and
the penalties for being caught with them can range from fines to federal imprisonment. Although many states , provinces and countries are undergoing a “decriminalization” process, which is the first step to legalization, we are still years away from this.
Luckily, you don’t have to break the law if you want to experiment with the medicinal
benefits of mushrooms—and this is where a completely legal mushroom comes in: Lion’s
Mane. Although Lion’s Mane is not psychedelic (it won’t make you feel high, alter
perception, cause hallucinations, or drastically change your mood) it has been shown to
produce a range of benefits, including antidepressant effects and improved gut health.
If all this talk of microdosing has piqued your interest but you’re not willing to do anything
illegal, Lion’s Mane is an excellent option. Below, we describe some benefits of Lion’s
Mane and detail how you can incorporate it into your own health regime.
So, what exactly is the Lion’s Mane mushroom?
Named for its strange, shaggy appearance that closely resembles shaggy fur, the Lion’s
Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus for the botanists among us) grows naturally in the
Northern Hemisphere, usually on the trunks of dead hardwood trees. In the wild, these
mushrooms are common during late summer and fall and can form large, white, spiny
fruit bodies up to 10 inches in diameter.
What are the health benefits of Lion’s Mane?
Although western cultures are only just cottoning to Lion’s Mane’s uses, it has actually
been used therapeutically for centuries, both as an ingredient in cooking and as a
medicinal supplement. Traditional Chinese medicine has long made use of Lion’s Mane.
In China, it’s known as hou tou gu and is used to assist the functioning of the five most
important internal organs in Chinese medicine (liver, lung, spleen, heart, and kidney), to
promote good digestion, and to generally improve mood, vitality, and strength.
In recent years, academic studies seem to have confirmed what the traditional
practitioners have known for centuries—that this mushroom is rich in many
physiologically important components. This includes specific polysaccharides, which are
responsible for the mushroom’s anticancer, immunomodulating, antioxidant and
neuroprotective activities. Lion’s Mane has also been reported to have antimicrobial and
The benefits also extend to mental health, with research indicating that Lion’s Mane can
alleviate depression and anxiety as well as help protect against degenerative
neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
How can Lion’s Mane help with gut health?
In terms of your digestion, many gastrointestinal issues can be traced back to
inflammation; Lion’s Mane helps improve gut health with its anti-inflammatory effects.
Lion’s Mane has also been linked to improved immune function and it can contribute to
the balance of good bacteria in your gut.
One area where Lion’s Mane can be particularly beneficial is in the treatment of stomach
ulcers, which are often caused by the overgrowth of a bacteria called H. pylori, as well as
damage to the mucous layer of the stomach. Lion’s Mane may protect against the
stomach ulcers by both inhibiting the growth of H. pylori and helping to protect the
How should I consume Lion’s Mane?
If you’re lucky enough to live in a region where Lion’s Mane can be grown commercially,
you may find it at a local farmer’s market or a more boutique supermarket. If purchased
fresh, Lion’s Mane can be cooked like any other mushroom—sautéed, stewed in a soup,
or even eaten raw. However, most of us don’t have access to fresh mushrooms (and fresh
Lion’s Mane can be very expensive) so most people tend to consume powdered Lion’s
Mane in capsule form.
The newest trend emerging these days is “functional coffee”. Adding functional ingredients to your morning ritual has become the norm. Many people are adding in collagen, MCT oil and grass-fed butter aka BULLETPROOF® coffee to get more out of their favourite beverage. The newest addition to this trend is adding dried Lion’s Mane to their coffee. By doing this they are improving the energy curve and reducing the “jitters”, while improving cognitive function and optimizing their immune system. I cant think of a better way to start my day off than to feel energized and being more productive while strengthening my immune system.
The Bottom Line
The Lion’s Mane mushroom is considered safe to consume, even in large quantities.
However, despite its long-standing use as a natural therapy, the FDA has not yet
approved Lion’s Mane as an official supplement.
In general, you should always consult your doctor before adding Lion’s Mane
mushrooms—or any other supplements—to your diet, especially if you’re pregnant or
If you decide to try Lion’s Mane as a supplement, start with small doses (250mg) and work your
way up to larger quantities (1g – 3g) until you reach a dosage that’s just right for you.