lion's mane supplements

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is able to induce NGF / BDNF secretion directly in the brain. This has a positive effect on neurogenesis, cognition, memory, mood and aging.


NGF = Nerve Growth Factor.

BDNF = Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor.

gloved hand holding Lion's Mane mushroom

The bio-active compounds responsible are thought to be mainly hericenones (in the fruiting body) and in particular erinacines (in the mycelium).

Some research however states hericenones have no effect on NGF/BDNF production at all, suggesting other, yet unknown substances or synergistic combinations of substances present in the fruiting body are responsible for the observed effects. As usual, research is ongoing and discovering new information all the time.


The fruiting body is also rich in beta-glucans, which have an effect on normalising immunity, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and gut health. The immune activation might also support the improvement of cognitive functions; macrophages play an important role in neuro-regeneration processes according to some research. Apart from that, a healthy body is the best support for a healthy brain, says logic.

Wikipedia about Beta-Glucan

Traditionally Lion’s Mane was used for its positive effects on digestion and gastritis in particular.

I have collected the existing relevant information and copy/pasted that below with my remarks, doing my best to be objective.


So here is a brief outline of what Lion’s Mane is.

Lions Mane Mushroom

The information is based on research papers

Lion’s Mane is an edible medicinal mushroom with some distinct properties. It contains a range of over 30 bioactive compounds known as hericenones(in the fruiting body) and erinacines(in the mycelium). These unique compounds have shown the potential to stimulate the production of the so-called Nerve Growth factor(NGF).

Another distinct property is that these compounds appear to support and speed up formation of the myelin sheath (which protects nerve fibers and improves their 'processing speed'). The process of 'myelination' is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system but declines with age.


Unfortunately, the NGF production itself is declining with age as well and science so far has not been able to come up with an answer for that.

Blood Brain Barrier explained

NGF cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier(BBB) and needs to be injected directly into the brain to be effective. This is not an effective method. A safer approach would be a compound that could be administered orally, pass through the BBB and induce NGF synthesis directly inside the brain.

The NGF-promoting hericenones and erinacines discovered in Lion’s Mane are alcohol-soluble terpenes with a low molecular weight, which allows them to pass the blood-brain barrier easily. Because of this they are currently the subject of intensive research. So far one of the main hurdles is that the complexity of these natural compounds and their poor pharmaco-kinetic profile makes synthesis and clinical use difficult.


Hot water extraction is the most common and the cheapest way to optimise the poor bioavailability of the bioactive compounds present in medicinal mushrooms, but this method was developed for and is focused on isolating and concentrating water-soluble compounds with a high molecular weight: mainly beta-glucans.

Beta-glucans have no direct effect on NGF production, but do stimulate macrophage production. Macrophages do have an effect on NGF production.

The alcohol-soluble bioactives(including the NGF-inducing compounds - sterols / hericenones / erinacines) will not be present in concentrated hot water extracts, only in unfiltered 1:1 water extracts*.*

A 1 : 1 extract is a dry powdered version of the fruiting body but with improved and guaranteed bioavailability. Most people cannot digest mushrooms very well, meaning the bioavailability of non-extracted mushroom powder is always unpredictable.

Recent research clearly indicated that the erinacines in the mycelium are the most abundant and the most powerful NGF-inducing compounds(in particular erinacine A). Erinacines were found to have 4 - 10 times the effect of hericenones.


Testing for specific erinacines and hericenones is problematic because with a few exceptions no 100% pure reference material exists to test against. Also, there are about 30 different erinacines / hericenones to test for, making it expensive. There is a US lab called RINP that is currently issuing test reports for erinacines/hericenones. They have reported impossible results such as erinacines in the fruiting body and hericenones in the mycelium.

These RINP reports can be considered fake and therefore meaningless.

The Best Supplements and How they Work

To be in line with the research the following supplement types are potentially relevant if the goal is NGF/BDNF-induction and/or slowing down cognitive decline.

-dried fruiting body powder, dosage 2 - 3 grams daily. Disadvantage: bioavailability is poor and not guaranteed.

-unfiltered 1 : 1 fruiting body water extract, has the advantage of guaranteed bioavailability and therefore lower dosage: 0.5 - 1 gram daily. Should specify at least beta-glucans (not polysaccharides!)

-dried alcohol extract of fruiting body and / or mycelium(liquid grown mycelium only, never myceliated grains/rice/biomass). Should specify at least alcohol soluble terpenes. Dosage ± 10 mg per kg bodyweight daily (based on in vivo research results)

-a dual extract of the fruiting body is also relevant but it might not contain all potentially interesting bio-actives. It is also diluted so the dosage should be adjusted to be in line with the research. Should preferably specify beta-glucans and (di-)terpenes as a minimum. 

Australian Brands

Flow State Lion's Mane $ 0.75 p/gram - dual 10:1 extract; capsules. Fruiting body based. Claims Beta-glucans. Third party test report.

Oriveda $1.15 per gram, combination of 2 separate supplements; 1:1 fruiting body water extract and mycelium alcohol extract in capsules, specifies beta-glucan, terpenes, erinacines, hericenones and polyphenols. Third party test report.

Life Cykel $ 0.50 per gram, claims to be dual fruiting body extract, powder, no specifications, no test reports.

CYOS 1 : 1 ± $ 0.25 per gram / bulk offering $ 0.17 per gram - Nammex 1:1 water fruiting body extract powder, specifies beta-glucan. No objective test report

CYOS 8 : 1 ± $ 0.55 per gram - Nammex 8:1 fruiting body dual extract powder, specifies beta-glucan. No objective test report.

Note:CYOSclaims 0 mg of carbs and 25% of beta-glucans at the same time. Beta-glucans are carbs, so there should be 25 grams of carbs minimal p/100 grams...

Not recommended are Paul Stamets' Host Defense products and all private labels supplied by Aloha Medicinals. That includes most US offerings such as OM, Onnit and Swanson.

All these products are based on myceliated grains/rice instead of mushrooms and are not extracted. The percentage of active ingredients such as beta-glucan is extremely low according to independent research. In fact, if the label claims "US-grown" you can be sure it is non-extracted myceliated grain/rice, not mushroom. Best avoided.

Recently an interesting research paper popped up, reporting a high level of erinacines in grain-grown LM mycelium. However, the method described in this report is using a very specific substrate followed by extensive alcohol extraction and purification of the myceliated grain, resulting in a 100% pure product. It is incomparable to the ground up substrate as sold by Host Defense and similar vendors. This ground up substrate is 60-70% rice powder and was not extracted.

6 Benefits of Lion's Mane info Graphic

Some highlights about Lion’s Mane:

"As the water soluble extract seems to be less potent than other fractions, it may be best to take Yamabushitake with meals if in supplemental form"

Remark: Indeed alcohol and fat-soluble active compounds like the terpenes in Lion's Mane are best taken with food.

“Currently, the only human study has used an oral dose of 1,000mg Yamabushitake (96% purity extract) thrice daily for a cumulative total of 3,000mg extract. While it is unknown if this is the optimal dose or not, it appeared to be effective.”

Remark: This 2008 case-study did not use an extract but powdered dried mushrooms in a cookie. Not extracted, not pure. Since then 3 more case studies were published.

"Yamabushitake ethanolic extract appears to increase NGF mRNA levels, and this has been confirmed following oral administration to mice"

"Secretion of NGF from astrocytes has been noted to be increased with incubation of Yamabushitake ethanolic extract"

"[The alcohol-soluble mero-terpene known as] Hericenone B appears to potently and specifically inhibit collagen-induced platelet aggregation, with other hericenones not having much of an effect and other forms of aggregation not being significantly affected. The concentration this occurs at suggests that it is biologically relevant. [Hericenone B is only found in the fruiting body]"

Remark: The information on needs updating. The research from the past 5 years in particular has been focussing on the NGF-inducing effects but is missing from Several interesting papers have been published in the past 5 years.

When writing this 5 human case studies were available.

Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial

2008 - involves 30 aging people, using 2 grams fruiting body powder daily

Effect: Improvement of cognitive functions. The effect disappeared after discontinuation.

Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake.

2010 - involved 30 menopausal women using 2 grams fruiting body powder daily

Effect: Improvement in mood, anxiety and sleep quality

Improvement of cognitive functions by oral intake of Hericium erinaceus.

2019 - 31 aging people taking 3 grams fruiting body powder daily (follow-up of the 2008 case study)

Effect: Improvement of cognitive functions

Hericium erinaceus Improves Mood and Sleep Disorders in Patients Affected by Overweight or Obesity: Could Circulating Pro-BDNF and BDNF Be Potential Biomarkers ?

2019 - involved 77 people, using 80% mycelium / 20% fruiting body extract; 1.5 grams daily.

Effect: Improvement in mood disorders of a depressive-anxious nature and sleep quality, lasting 8 weeks after discontinuation.

Prevention of Early Alzheimer’s Disease by Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Pilot Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study

2020 - 49 people with mild Alzheimer's taking 3 x 350 mg powdered alcohol extract daily for 1 year standardised for 0.5% erinacine A.

Effect : Significant improvement in cognitive abilities