If you are anything like me and my forgetful brain, you can most certainly relate to the struggle of continuously misplacing the smallest yet most important things in your life like your car keys or cell phone, forgetting important dates, names and simple information, or forgetting what you had for dinner the other night. Whatever it is, memory loss or the inability to focus can take a major toll on your life. Although cognitive impairment becomes more common as we age, some herbal supplements can help avoid and, in some cases, even reverse memory loss as well as aid in the ability to focus. One of the best herbal supplements for memory and focus is lion’s mane mushrooms.
What are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a type of medicinal mushroom that truly resembles the mane of a lion with long, shaggy, cascading white spines. Like many other medicinal mushrooms, lion’s mane has long been used in traditional Chinese cuisine and medicine. This edible mushroom is quite delicious and, when lightly seared with some butter, resembles a texture similar to that of crab or scallops. This mushroom is as flavorful as it is healthy. Asian countries have used this mushroom for centuries as a tonic for supporting overall health and longevity. While lion’s mane has a multitude of medicinal properties such as reducing anxiety, depression, high cholesterol and inflammation, this mushroom is best known for its ability to significantly improve all cognitive and neurological functions.
The Science Behind Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s mane is acclaimed for its ability in supporting brain function, memory, mood, and focus. In a multitude of clinical studies in mice, it has been found that taking lion’s mane supplements increases the levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the hippocampus—a protein that regulates growth, development and the regeneration of neurons. The production of NGF is vital to keeping neurons strong and healthy. When various neurological disorders occur, the brain is unable to produce its own source of NGF. Since lion’s main can increase and maintain healthy levels of NGF, it is the perfect supplement for those with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
A 2009 clinical trial in Japan gave lion’s mane mushroom supplements to 50-80 year old men and women with mild cognitive impairment. The study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial and participants were instructed to take either a placebo or actual lion’s mane supplements three times a day for 16 weeks. The results of this trial showed that participants receiving the lion’s mane had significantly improved cognitive scores than those receiving the placebo, concluding that lion’s mane does in fact promote NGF gene expression which can ultimately improve mild cognitive impairment in humans. For those of you who love science-based articles, you can find this full study HERE.
As a result of this mushroom’s anti-inflammatory properties, lion’s mane can also improve focus and concentration. Reduced inflammation improves blood flow which provides the brain with more oxygen. As a result, the brain is able to perform better cognitively, allowing for an increase in focus. In fact, lion’s mane can even help those who have severe trouble focusing their attention on a single task for long periods of time such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While lion’s mane may not be as effective as Adderall—a prescription drug used primarily to treat ADHD—it nevertheless still provides some marginal help and can be an attractive alternative to the addictive pharmaceutical drug which has a long list of side effects, some of which are serious and can have severe mental and physical consequences.
As we age, it is normal for certain cognitive functions to decline and it becomes more difficult to form connections in the brain, learn new skills, retain information, and recall memories. In some cases, this goes even further and some people eventually develop a neurological disease such as Alzheimer’s. However, many neurological and cognitive disorders can be prevented with exercise and dietary management. So why not add lion’s mane supplements to your dietary routine? As world-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets states, “lion’s mane may be our first ‘smart’ mushroom. It is a safe, edible fungus that appears to confer cognitive benefits on our aging population.” With that, lion’s mane may be the best herbal supplement for memory and focus and may prevent neurologically degenerative diseases before they can even develop. Now, that really is mind-boggling.
Paredes, Rebecca. “How Lion’s Mane Mushroom Benefits Memory, Focus and Mood.” Bulletproof, 5 Jan. 2021, www.bulletproof.com/supplements/dietary-supplements/lions-mane-mushroom-benefits/.
Primal Herb. “ADHD & Autism: Can Herbs and Mushrooms Help?” PrimalHerb.com, 19 Sept. 2020, primalherb.com/mushrooms-and-herbs-that-will-help-people-with-adhd-autism/.
Sabaratnam, Vikineswary, et al. “Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help?” Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, Jan. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924982/.