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Lion's Mane, also known as Yamabushitake or Hericium erinaceus, is a dietary mushroom that grows on old or dead broadleaf trees that can be either eaten or supplemented as an extract – it has shown promising results as a cognitive enhancer and immunomodulator and is often found in pre-workouts or nootropic products.

What is it made up of?

The mushroom Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus) contains:

  • Hericenones A and C-H[5][6][7]

  • Erinacines A-K[8][9]

  • Orcinol derivatives (Mycelium)[10]

  • Sialic-acid binding lectin[11]

  • Sterols, such as ergosterol and beta-sitosterol.[12]

  • And a polysaccharide component (Hericium erinaceus)

Differing compounds in Lion's Mane appear to differently affect the immune system, with the polysaccharides appearing to be immunostimulatory (immunostimulatory substances stimulate the immune system by inducing activation or increasing activity of any of its components) but other molecules appear to suppress macrophage activation.

Are there side effects?

One relatively common side effect of lion’s mane supplementation is itchy skin. If itchy skin occurs, this can be related to an increase in Nerve Growth Factor and is normally considered benign unless accompanied by signs of allergy (Tanaka and Matsuda, 2005). It is not clear at what dosage this side effect becomes present and may not be dose dependent or present in all users.

What does the research say?

Currently, there are very few human studies, however, one human study used an oral dose of 1,000mg lion's mane (96% purity extract) 3x daily for a cumulative total of 3,000mg extract across a period of 16 weeks. While it’s unknown if this is the optimal dose or not, it appeared to be effective at reducing cognitive decline and irritability as well as enhancing concentration (Mori et al., 2009). Whilst lion’s mane is often used as a cognitive ‘enhancer’, it is worth noting that this study concluded that lions mane is effective in improving mild cognitive impairment as opposed to bolstering non-impaired cognitive performance.

Another study, conducted by Nagano et al., (2010) focused on lions mane ability to reduce symptoms related to depression and anxiety. They supplemented participants with 2g lion’s mane in the form of a cookie each day over a period of 4 weeks and found that there was a significant difference between groups on the measurements for concentration and irritability, favouring the lion's mane group.

Take away points

  • Lion’s mane is a bioactive mushroom that is often supplemented with to improve cognitive function and brain health

  • There have been limited studies on the efficacy of lion’s mane as a cognitive enhancer in humans, and even more limited (if any) peer reviewed studies within trained athlete populations.

  • There has not been adequate human study on lion’s mane to determine the optimal dose/kg and so it can be difficult to pick out a well dosed supplement (e.g. a pre-workout) purely based on the lion’s mane dose.


Mori, K., Inatomi, S., Ouchi, K., Azumi, Y. and Tuchida, T., 2009. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: A double‐blind placebo‐controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 23(3), pp.367-372.

Nagano, M., Shimizu, K., Kondo, R., Hayashi, C., Sato, D., Kitagawa, K. and Ohnuki, K., 2010. Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomedical Research, 31(4), pp.231-237.

Tanaka, A. and Matsuda, H., 2005. Expression of nerve growth factor in itchy skins of atopic NC/NgaTnd mice. Journal of veterinary medical science, 67(9), pp.915-919.

Wong, K.H., Naidu, M., David, R.P., Bakar, R. and Sabaratnam, V., 2012. Neuroregenerative potential of lion's mane mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers.(higher Basidiomycetes), in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury. International journal of medicinal mushrooms, 14(5).

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